Software Center is getting close to awesome!

It’s almost been too long ago since I’ve done my latest post about Software Center. Luckily there are enough reasons introduced with Configuration Manager, version 1806,  to devote another blog post to Software Center, as Software Center is getting close to awesome. Yes, I deliberately say close to awesome, as we always need to leave options open for improvement. In this post I’ll focus on three great new additions to Software Center: 1) infrastructure improvements, 2) a custom tab and 3) maintenance windows.

No more application catalog website point and web service point required

Let’s start with the first and, in my opinion, best improvement related to Software Center. Starting with Configuration Manager, version 1806, available user-targeted apps can be made available in Software Center without using the application catalog website point and the application web service point. Both of these roles are no longer required. Software Center now relies on management points to get the information about available user-targeted apps. This also implies that the agent must be updated to provide the new functionality.

I’ve removed both of the mentioned roles. To completely clean up the configuration, especially from a Software Center perspective, also the Open the Application Catalog web site link must be removed (or actually be hidden) from Software Center. Otherwise it will still show a gray unneeded text. To achieve this, simply follow the next four steps.

1 Open the Configuration Manager administration console and navigate to Administration > Overview > Client Settings;
2 Now either open/create a new Custom Client Device Settings and select the Software Center section, or open open the Default Client Settings and select the Software Center section;
3 In the Software Center section, select Yes with Select these new settings to specify company information and click Customize with Software Center settings to open the Software Center Customization dialog box;
4

SC_Customization-GeneralOn the Software Center Customization dialog box, select the General tab and provide at least the following information;

  • Select Hide Application Catalog link in Software Center;

Note: In my example I’ve only selected to hide the Application Catalog link. Below is an example of the link in Software Center that will be removed. I deliberately left the link, to show that it’s not a link anymore and to show what will be removed;

SC_InstallationStatus

Custom configurable tab available for linking to a webpage

The second, also pretty good, improvement, is the ability to add a custom tab to Software Center. The administrator can define a name for the custom tab and the administrator can specify a URL that should be opened in the custom tab. It can be an internal webpage and an external webpage. The latter option would of course require an Internet connectivity. This also implies that the agent must be updated to provide the new functionality. To achieve this, simply follow the next four steps.

1 Open the Configuration Manager administration console and navigate to Administration > Overview > Client Settings;
2 Now either open/create a new Custom Client Device Settings and select the Software Center section, or open open the Default Client Settings and select the Software Center section;
3 In the Software Center section, select Yes with Select these new settings to specify company information and click Customize with Software Center settings to open the Software Center Customization dialog box;
4

SC_Customization-TabsOn the Software Center Customization dialog box, select the Tabs tab and provide at least the following information;

  • Select Specify a custom tab for Software Center;
  • Tab name: Provide a custom name;
  • Content URL: Provide a valid URL;

Note: In my example the custom tab is named Contact and it refers to the contact page of my blog. An example of the user experience is shown below.

SC_CustomTab

Next scheduled maintenance window is shown

The third improvement is a little bit smaller, but can provide really useful information to the end-user. The third improvement is the availability of the next available maintenance window within Software Center. Previously this required a little bit of custom scripting, but now the information is available within the Upcoming section of the Installation status tab in Software Center. This also implies that the agent must be updated to provide the new functionality.

SC_InstallationStatus

More information

More information about what’s new related to Software Center in the latest current branch version, please refer to this article about What’s new in version 1806 of Configuration Manager current branch – Software Center.

Super easy customizing Software Center

This week it’s time for a short blog post about customizing Software Center. And not without reason. About two years ago I did a post about setting the company logo in the new Software Center. I received many reactions on that post about why a Microsoft Intune subscription configuration was required to set a company logo in Software Center. I had no answer. Now that time is over! Starting with Configuration Manager, version 1710, it’s super easy to customize Software Center with Client Settings. Including the company logo! In this post I’ll walk through the available configuration options and I’ll show the end-user experience. Including an additional bonus about the Software Center icons.

Configuration

Starting with Configuration Manager, version 1710, it’s super easy to add company branding elements to Software Center and it’s super easy to specify the visibility of tabs in Software Center. An administrator can now add a Software Center specific company name, set a Software Center configuration color theme, set a company logo in Software Center, and set the visible tabs in Software Center. The following three steps walk through the available easy configuration options.

1 Open the Configuration Manager administration console and navigate to Administration > Overview > Client Settings;
2 Now either open/create a new Custom Client Device Settings and select the Software Center section, or open open the Default Client Settings and select the Software Center section;
3 In the Software Center section, it’s possible to configure the following settings;

  • Select these new settings to specify company information: Set to Yes to enable the Software Center customization settings;
  • Company name: Provide a valid company name;
  • Color scheme for Software Center: Select a valid color;
  • Select a logo for Software Center: Browse to the company logo;
  • Enable Applications tab: Set to Yes to enable the Application tab;
  • Enable Updates tab: Set to Yes to enable the Updates tab;
  • Enable Operating Systems tab: Set to Yes to enable the Operating Systems tab;
  • Enable Installation Status tab: Set to Yes to enable the Installation Status tab;
  • Enable Options tab: Set to Yes to enable the Options tab;

SC_ClientSettings

Note: The logo must be a JPEG or PNG of 400×100 pixels with a maximum size of 750 KB.

End-user experience

Now let’s have a look at the end-user experience. To show how the Software Center configuration relates to the actual look-and-feel, I would like to highlights the three sections as shown below.

1 The first section shows the configured Company name, the configured Color scheme and the configured Logo. This relates to the first section of the Client Settings shown above;
2 The second section shows the enabled tabs. This relates to the second section of the Client Settings shown above;
3 BONUS: The third section shows the updated Software Center icons experience. Software Center will no longer distort icons that are larger than 250×250. Administrators can now set an icon with a pixel dimensions of up to 512×512, and it displays without distortion.

SC_Custom

The Software Center experience is getting better and better

Throughout my blog posts I always think its important to mention the end-user experience. This blog post will be mainly focused on the end-user experience in Software Center. Software Center went, from an end-user experience, through a complete revamp. The best thing is, it’s only getting better and better. Except for a few items, related to the devices of the end-user, Software Center is becoming the one place for the end-user to be. In this post I want to go through the latest changes to Software Center and show the related end-user experience.

Changes

Now let’s start with the latest changes to Software Center. It all started with a new modern look for Software Center and it quickly evolved to a easy customizable app. Especially in combination with a Microsoft Intune subscription. With the latest update to the Company Portal app, with a little bit imagination, one might say that both apps are starting to look like each other.

Look-and-feel

A lot has changed for the look-and-feel of Software Center. Starting with the, at this moment, latest build of Configuration Manager, the branding of Software Center and the Software Center dialogs can be applied according to the following rules:

  • If the Application Catalog website point site server is not installed, then Software Center and Software Center dialogs will only display the organization name as specified in the Client Settings;
  • If the Application Catalog website point site server is installed, then Software Center and Software Center dialogs will display the organization and name and color as specified in the Application Catalog website point site server properties;
  • If a Microsoft Intune subscription is configuration and connected to the Configuration Manager environment, then Software Center and Software Center dialogs will display the organization name, color and company logo as specified in the Microsoft Intune subscription properties.

Another nice addition to  the look-and-feel of Software Center is the improvement help end-users understand what software is new. The new apps will show with a clear notification.

Nowadays the look-and-feel of Software Center also provides a better separation between Applications, Updates and Operating Systems. All with their own section. Updates can be installed all together and Operating Systems provide an additional company branded Software Center dialog. Another new section is about Device compliance. This provides the end-user with a clear insight about the device compliancy and the possible access to resources.

Functional

Besides only look-and-feel adjustments, Software Center also received many functional adjustments. It started by the great addition to add user-targeted apps to the Application section. The latest and greatest functional adjustment builds on that addition and is the addition of the application approval process to Software Center. The end-user can now use Software Center to request applications that require administrator approval.

Another nice addition to the functional adjustments, is more on the background. Starting with the, at this moment, latest build of Configuration Manager, the administrator can now also deny a previously approved application.

End-user experience

Now let’s end this post with a scenario that will cover as many as possible great additions to Software Center as possible. I thought that using an application request scenario would cover as many as possible of these great additions. The only thing not shown in this scenario is the company branded Software Center dialogs, but, believe me, it looks great!

During the following scenario the end-user and the administrator will touch the complete application approval process by using, request, cancel, approve and deny.

1 SC_AppsOverviewThe end-user opens Software Center and enjoys the beautiful icons and notifications about new apps.
2 SC_AppRequestThe end-user would like to install Notepad++ 7.3.5 and notices that the app requires approval. The end-user provides optional information and clicks Request.
3 SC_AppRequestSubmittedThe end-user immediately receives the message that the request was submitted successfully.
4 The administrator approves the app request.
5 Toast_AppApprovedThe end-user receives a toast message that a requested app is approved.
6 SC_AppRequestApprovedThe end-user opens Software Center and now has the option to install Notepad++ 7.3.5. The end-user installs the app, by clicking Install and is happy.
7 The end-user no longer needs the app and the app is uninstalled.
8

The administrator denies the existing app request.

Note: When an administrator denies an already approved app the app is not automatically uninstalled from the end-user device.

9

SC_AppRequestDeniedThe end-user opens Software Center again and notices that Notepad++ 7.3.5 can no longer be installed.

Note: At this moment it looks like information about approved apps is stored locally on the device.

10 SC_AppRequestAgainThe end-user gets a new assignment and requests Notepad++ 7.3.5 again by providing optional information and clicking Requests.
11 SC_AppRequestAgainSubmittedThe end-user immediately receives the message again that the request was submitted successfully.
12 SC_AppRequestAgainCancelledThe end-user changes its mind and cancels the request for Notepad++ 7.3.5 by clicking Cancel request.

More information

More information about what’s new in the different current branch versions, please refer to this article about What’s new in System Center Configuration Manager incremental versions.

Company logo in the new Software Center

SoftwareCenter_TwThis time a short blog post as an answer to one of my tweets of yesterday. I’m afraid this post will take away all the flair of that tweet. The picture in that tweet looked so cool, but is actually also so simple to configure. The new Software Center will actually just take the Company Logo as configured in the Microsoft Intune Subscription Properties.

Configuration

Now let’s quickly go through the configuration. Assuming a Microsoft Intune Subscription is added, simply perform the following steps:

  • MISPIn the Configuration Manager administration console navigate to Administration > Overview > Cloud Services > Microsoft Intune Subscriptions;
  • Select Microsoft Intune Subscription and click Properties;
  • Navigate to the tab Company Logo, select Include company logo, Browse to the JPEG or PNG that should be used and click OK.

End-user experience

Let’s end this post with showing the end-user experience again. The end-user will see the newly configured Company Logo in the top-left corner of the new Software Center. That makes sure that the end-user will experience a similar look-and-feel on all its devices. Here is an example of the new Software Center next to the Company Portal app on iOS.

New Software Center Company Portal app
SoftwareCenter_LF IMG_0004