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New remote desktop client offers a shortcut for mobile users

There's a new remote desktop client on the block, and it integrates with Citrix XenApp. HopTo's Mobile App eXperience uses simple keyboard shortcuts to make Windows apps mobile friendly.

One of the emerging challenges of desktop virtualization is finding a remote desktop client that mobile device users will like, and one vendor's method of using keyboard shortcuts to improve the touchscreen experience on Windows applications could be the answer.

Many companies now need to deliver traditional Windows applications to mobile devices. One method is app refactoring, which allows you to transform any Windows application into a mobile app on the fly without modifying any code. But you need to redesign the entire mobile user interface (UI) from the ground up, and depending on the application that could be a long process.

That's where another approach comes in by a company called hopTo, which, instead of redesigning the UI, focuses on making the things that are hard to do without a keyboard and mouse easier to do with a finger. HopTo does this with a system of menus that correlate to keyboard shortcuts overlaid on top of a remote desktop session.

A different remote desktop client approach

Most applications still use keyboard shortcuts even if they aren't advertised as such. Take Office, for example. Ctrl-D still brings up the fonts menu, even if it doesn't explicitly say so in the ribbon and a font menu isn't readily visible.

Most applications still use keyboard shortcuts.

HopTo uses this feature to its advantage by allowing IT administrators to create customized, touchable toolbars for each application. Each toolbar can contain buttons that correlate to keystrokes, or menus that expose more buttons -- up to three levels deep. HopTo's mobile remote desktop client feature, called Mobile App eXperience (MAX) is part of its hopTo Work productivity platform, and it integrates with Citrix XenApp and its HDX remote display technologies to provide users with virtual apps on their mobile devices.

With hopTo MAX, users don't have to exit one application to start another. Also, when they edit a document in Word, hopTo does two things to make it easier to type text that most other mobile remote desktop clients don't: It automatically brings up the soft keyboard, and it makes sure the typing area is fully visible. Basically, the appearance of the soft keyboard will no longer require users to zoom out, find the cursor, and recenter it on the screen.

The toolbars are also pretty versatile. Admins can give users the ability to scan barcodes, insert pictures from phones, use Google Image search, or enable cloud storage services such as Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox and Box. HopTo is also about to release a feature called MAX-IE that renders Internet Explorer pages in the remote desktop session with the local device browser, allowing hopTo to provide mobile controls for desktop-oriented Web apps.

Until recently, hopTo only worked with Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol, but its new integration with HDX opens the company up to a much wider potential customer base, so it likely won't be flying under the radar much longer. This is another interesting tool for desktop virtualization admins to make Windows apps more usable on mobile devices.

Next Steps

What's new in Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop

App refactoring flew under the radar in 2015

Should businesses use HTML5 remote desktop clients?

Microsoft Remote Desktop app turns phones into thin clients

This was last published in February 2016

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What are the biggest shortcomings of using remote desktop clients on mobile devices?
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The small screen, and using a touch screen, are definitely challenges, just like with many mobile apps. Opening a remote desktop session is still something that's far more convenient on a laptop, but a mobile app works in a pinch. 
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