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MSIX Hero 2.0 – new features + UI + open source

After around 3 months of development, the newest version of MSIX Hero 2.0 goes public.

This release has four big changes:

  • New license model – code is now open-sourced on GitHub, and the application is licensed under GNU GPL v3.
  • New UI
  • Several new or improved features
  • The app is now requiring .NET 5.0 runtime (previously .NET Core 3.1 was required)

The code is now open-sourced

The full source code is available on GitHub:
https://github.com/marcinotorowski/msix-hero

GitHub releases page contains technical release notes and compiled binaries. You can use Discussions or Issues to report ideas and bugs. Also, contributions via pull request are welcome.

The builds available for the download on this page use the same codebase and build routines as the code from GitHub, with the only exception of digital signing for which the keys are not public.

New UI

After starting the app, the first and arguably the most visible change is the new UI. Classic ribbon has been deprecated in favor of a fresh and lightweight UI, which takes less screen space and thanks to the principles of Fluent Design better exposes available functions and places of interest.

The basic navigation patterns are the same – use the left menu with icons to change between Dashboard, Packages, Volumes, Events and System. Use the search bar to perform quick as-you-type filtering of the currently displayed list (if applicable). The most important options have dedicated buttons on the top bar, all functions can be also accessed from the context menu. You can toggle between USER and MACHINE packages by pressing the blue badge next to the search bar. Sorting, filtering and grouping is also available – to open the panel simply press the filter icon located over the package list.

Some less-frequently used options are available in drop-down menu, which can be access from the toggle button on the right.

By the way, several less-used menu items are now less prominently exposed, but still available by pressing the three dots menu on the right:

Dashboard

MSIX Hero 1.x had several useful tools for various purposes, but they were difficult to discover due to being effectively scattered over several places, ribbons and tabs. In this version, there is now a single place to see them:

Ability to start any entry point

In MSIX Hero 1.x it was possible to “start” an application. MSIX Hero would choose the most appropriate entry point and have it started. This might have been not quite what the user wanted in case of apps with many entry points. In version 2.0, things have been improved by the introduction of the new Start menu. To access it, select any app and click on the Start toggle button in the top action bar:

This menu consolidates several other menus from MSIX Hero 1.x. You have an option to pick any entry point (and the badge next to it shows the type of the app – whether it is a classic Win32 EXE, UWP or maybe even a Progressive Web App). The bottom part of the new menu shows the commands which can be executed in the package context. As always, you can customize the commands by visiting the Settings dialog.

Command-line generator

MSIX Hero has a command line interface which covers most of operations available through dialogs. In this build, some of dialogs support a new switch that shows the equivalent of the current settings with the use of silent command line interface. In the dialogs that already support this functionality, tick the following checkbox:

to reveal a command line textbox. You can continue to change the options and preferences, and the command line will be automatically recreated. For example, this is how signing command line can be automated:

If you prefer to first test the settings out, simply execute the action and wait for the confirmation screen to be shown. The command will be shown there:

Sorting and grouping by the installation date

In the main package list, MSIX Hero 2.0 displays installation dates instead of package architecture.

Additional sorting, filtering and grouping options have been added to change the view regarding each app’s installation date. To access the menu, locate the filter icon in the top right corner and press it to show all options:

New Event Viewer

The complete Event Viewer tab has been redesigned from scratch. It has now a common master-detail layout, and shows much more interesting information for each event. One benefit of using this list over a system viewer is that MSIX Hero extracts the names of affected packages, so that you can quickly locate events affecting particular products. Also in version 2.0, error codes (if any present) are extracted from the description and shown directly in the list:

Improved dependency analyzer

The dependency view uses now an improved algorithm, and due to several changes in captions and the new legend the relations are now much clearer.

Consolidated import and export of certificates from files

Actions like importing of a certificate file (.cer), trusting package publishers and exporting certificates from packages are now available from a single dialog (in MSIX Hero 1.x, these were available either separately or only from a command line). In this new dialog, the input file can be either a signed package or a certificate file – the choice of available actions depends on the input format. For example, when opening a signed package, the user can either extract the certificate or import it directly to the Trusted People store.

Other changes in 2.0

  • Improved performance and faster initial start.
  • Added toast notifications displayed after installing or removing an app.
  • It is possible to select the default screen that is opened when MSIX Hero starts (default is the Packages screen).
  • Many other minor fixes and optimizations.

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