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ClickOnce as an application delivery mechanism

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ClickOnce as an Application delivery Mechanism


ClickOnce is a mechanism for application delivery from Microsoft which was released with Visual Studio 2005. It is designed to operate in a similar fashion to Java Web Start, Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight technologies. The application itself is downloaded to the local machine from a Web URL location and run in a sandbox type environment. The goal is to mix the ease of deployment advantage of a web application with the flexibility of a thick client application.

The primary rationale for choosing Web based application development are accessibility and deployment. Using traditional thick clients installed by MSI the user can get a full application experience but software installation and updates can be difficult to manage. Using a web based delivery mechanism all you need is a browser pointing at the centralized URL to deliver the application to the user. This approach however presents its own challenges particularly trying to “webify” a traditional application as well as tracking transactional application state using web code. ClickOnce bridges the gaps between these two approaches allowing you to run traditional thick client applications via a centralized delivery mechanism.

The ClickOnce delivery methodology is particularly useful for applications that require frequent updates.

How it works

Application is created and published to a file server or web server
Users browse to the applications publish.htm file
Application is automatically installed on the users machine (c:\documents and settings\...)
Shortcut to the application published to the desktop/Start Menu as well as an uninstall mechanism in the add/remove programs.
Application is run locally by the user. Application code determines how the application operates (e.g. check for updates, available offline etc.)

Comparison of approaches

Web Deployment
Easy quick deployment
Centralized application repository
Requires application to be converted to a web enabled view

MSI Deployment
Controlled fully by administrators
Can be run as a thick client
Requires administrator intervention to install and update

Click Once deployment
Easy Quick Deployment
Centralized updates
Centralized Application repository
Runs in an isolated sandbox (does not affect other application)
Does not required administrator application
Can be run as a thick client
Needs to run from C:\Documents and Settings
Application cannot be uninstalled centrally
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