In a previous blog post called Predefining and customizing the Modern UI Start Screen on RDS 2012 I explained a way to predefine the contents and layout of a Start Screen in Windows Server 2012 and publish that to your users by creating and distributing the file appsfolder.itemdata-ms (with the read attribute either disabled or enabled).
As a quick recap, the new modern UI Start Screen can no longer be controlled by commonly used techniques (despite their downsides) like folder redirection, only the All Apps section can be controller. The Start Screen contents and look and feel are stored in a binary file as part of the users (roaming) profile. The previous article showed a step-by-step guide how to create a pre-defines start screen, publish that to your end users and be allow them to modify that pre-defined Start Screen to their needs.
So what's new?
As you might have heard Windows Server 2012 R2 was announced June 3rd 2013 at Tech Ed 2013 NA. During one of the sessions a new way to customize, predefine and distribute a Start Screen to end users got introduced. So it’s time for an update!
Note that Windows Server 2012 R2 has not been released yet, I too am not able to personally test this new mechanism until preview release, which will be later this month, so the screenshots and steps below are taken from the sessions held at Tech Ed.
After you have modified the Start Screen the way you want it to look for your end users, you can use the following PowerShell command to Export the Start Screen
You can then store that .XML file in a central location use the following Group Policy Object called “Start Screen Layout” which is inside:
User Configuration \ Polcies \ Administrative Templates \ Start Menu and Taskbar
To define the centrally stored .XML file
In case you’re wondering, this is the description of the GPO setting.
So the process became much easier compared to before! As it now seems this method will be supported on Windows Server 2012, Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1.