Simplify Publish to Appx package (Centennial)
Add Publish to Appx for Centennial button in VS. It should be <2 minute wizard with no CMD involvement if you want developers to add their software to the store. As simple as ClickOnce publishing. I do not want to convert MSIs
Thank you for your feedback. We are designing the tools needed to make the transition to appx easier, however it can not be as simple as adding a new button since the user needs to edit the manifest, associate to the store, etc.. If you are interested in providing feedback about this new feature, please contact me @ridomin
Ricardo Minguez (Rido) [MSFT]
Bogdan Mitrache commented
Advanced Installer, a Microsoft solutions partner (as mentione here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/uwp/porting/desktop-to-uwp-root#convert) provides now a GUI based extension for VS 2015 and VS 2017 which you can use to build AppX and MSI (for older platforms) packages and also you can enable your desktop app to be debugged inside of an UWP app container.
There is no direct access to the manifest file, that is generated automatically by the configurations you make in the GUI (a small part of the GUI in the VS extension, the majority the of the GUI is found in the Advanced Installer application, which you can use to edit the packaging project included by its extension in your VS solution).
Here is how the VS extension looks, with the debugging experience:
And here is how the full GUI support for AppX packages from Advanced Installer looks:
More details on the full support for Desktop Bridge package from Advanced Installer can be found here: http://www.advancedinstaller.com/uwp-app-package.html
Using the GUI means that you don't need worry about what structure the manifest has inside, the application takes care of this. You just define your files, application details, tiles, file type associations, and many more from the app user interface.
Months after creating this "idea" I have found the VS extension: "Desktop to UWP Packaging Project" that simplifies this process. Once I added it to my project, set it up, for each version I just need to compile and run two commands which I have .bat files for.
It turned out simpler than I thought, but there is still place for simplification. For example a GUI way to choose files to be included in package and their final location, field to specify output appx file, field to select pfx. A wizzard for makecert.
It is not hard but there is a room for error.
Thanks for your comments here. Yes, you are right, we are evaluating adding the Store Publishing Wizard to help the manifest edition and package creation, as we do for standard UWP projects. Please, let me know (@ridomin) if you are interested in providing feedback to the product group.
Ricardo Minguez (Rido) [MSFT]
Yes of course. ClickOnce too has a dialog where you enter a bunch of information but you do it once and then going forward you just press a button every release. There is no complex manifest file editing. The key thing here is that this should be done from Visual Studio not some command line utility which requires a win32 installer that I don't have or need. ClickOnce has no such installer so where am I going to get one.
So you say you are trying to make it easy but it is far from that now. Currently I have to first create a win32 installer for no other reason than that is the only input the converter takes. The other option is to create and edit a manifest by manually creating XML files that require a lot of reading and complex understanding of the AppX packaging, signing, etc.
This is too much to ask if you want developers to put their win32 apps to your store with minimal effort.
How about a form where dev can fill out all important information in the manifest, since we login to visual studio could make it so can pick appID to use and auto-fill some properties. Overall the process could be streamlined into a GUI like people are asking for after going through it myself as it exists today.
I totally agree. It should be as easy as it is today to publish my ClickOnce app. It takes a total of one click. Similarly there should be a "Publish to Store" button in my desktop VS project.
Right now it is way to tedious to convert my ClickOnce app to appx. Since a I have no installer, it requires manually creating a manifest, signing, adding resources, etc (only through CLI ?!?). It is a nightmare. I update my app at weekly. Imagine having to go though this every time.
I am holding out publishing my app to the store until Microsoft takes this seriously.