A better alternative to the PA.c Launcher—PortableApps Compiler & Management
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README.md

PortableApps Compiler & Management


Welcome! This project started out as a modified variant of the official PortableApps.com Launcher. The creator of the original version left the project over 5 years ago and since then, all development and updates ceased completely and PAL became stagnant. PortableApps Compiler & Management (or Pac-Man for short), is an alternative solution to creating portable applications that still adhere to the PortableApps.com Format specification.

From the uninitiated software programmer wanting a reliable method for porting their programs portability, to the most loyal and dedicated PAF Developer who would love to finally see full-featured and reliable utility for developing PAFsPac-Man is a much better solution when it comes to creating a portable launcher for the more complex Windows applications. Even if a program seems to thread itself deep within the Windows registry and/or file-system, this utility will most likely have you covered.

While the techniques being implemented by this project are highly advanced, this can be used by beginners who are just starting out with portable programming, getting familiar with the practices of the official PortableApps.com Launcher will greatly improve your ability to understand the features being implemented in the project. Understanding the intricacies behind the advanced capabilities currently being used by this project.

With this branch you will find the coding practices of Chris Morgan, FukenGruven, Azure Zanculmarktum, and myself (daemon.devin). You will also see minor influence from contributors like LegendaryHawk, DoomStorm, and other fellow developers as well. So you can expect to see great things to come out of this experimental build.

Under Construction


The following is a list of things currently being worked on for Pac-Man so you can look forward too in this project. This list is a work in progress so come back later to see if these features have been added.

  • AiO GUI

Working on a nice all-in-one GUI that will enable the developer to quickly create the necessary configuration files for creating and generating a PA.c compliant portable application. After creation, than ask to compile.

  • AiO Compiler

Working on combining both the PortableApps.com Launcher with the PortableApps.com Installer. Basically, have a single GUI (including the config creator) which can be used to create and generate a portable application package from compiling the portable launcher to creating the PAF installer.

  • Etc. Etc. And So On

Other things could follow depending on our availability, interest.. and of course the interest and support from others.

Branches


There are two branches in which you may find in this project. The Master Branch (a.k.a. Stable Edition) and the Dev Branch (a.k.a. Development Edition). In the case for the stable variant (which you're currentlu browsing), you can rest assured you're building launchers with a (near)bug-free utility, but the latter case is meant for the cutting-edge of development. Don't expect the Dev. Branch to work-out-of-the-box as it is constantly under going revisions for testing new ideas and theoratical code. There will be bugs hidden throughout the experimental version.

Features


The following is a list of features that is currently available with PortableApps Compiler. Everything listed here has been tested and is in working order.

  • Everything that is available with PortableApps.com Launcher is also available with PortableApps Compiler.
  • Minipulating Windows Services.
  • Dealing with Windows Tasks.
  • Registering DLL files.
  • Registry redirection support.
  • File-system redirection support.
  • Automatic code-signing with the CompilerSigner
  • Font support for apps that make use of fonts.
  • Hidden Functionality
    • To skip the welcome page and bypass that first message, you can simply add SkipWelcomePage=true to the section under [LauncherCompiler] in the settings.ini file inside the Data folder.
    • More hidden extras soon to come!

Launcher.ini

Environment Variables

  • %PROGRAMDATA% has now been added and kept %ALLUSERSAPPDATA% for backwards compatibility. Both can be used anywhere you can use an evironment variable.
  • %PAL:CommonFiles% may now be used within the Launcher.ini configuration file. This environment variable will point to ..\PortableApps\CommonFiles if applicable. Can be used anywhere you can use an environment variable.

Example:

[Environment]
PATH=%PATH%;%PAL:CommonFiles%\AndroidSDK
JAVA_HOME=%PAL:CommonFiles%\Java64

Added new keys to the [Activate] section. They are as follows (a short description of what each key means or does can be found further below):

Note: You should only use the following keys if you need them, otherwise they should be omitted entirely.

[Activate]
Registry=true
RegRedirection=true
RegCopyKeys=true
Redirection=true
ForceRedirection=true
ExecAsUser=true
Services=true
RegDLLs=true
Tasks=true
Java=true
JDK=true
XML=true
Ghostscript=true
FontsFolder=true
FileCleanup=true
DirectoryCleanup=true
  • Registry: Add support for manipulating the Windows Registry.

  • RegRedirection: Enable support for enabling/disabling registry redirection.

  • RegCopyKeys: Enable support for copying registry keys to a special hive (HKCU\Software\PortableApps.com) before launching the application and restoring the keys after the application exits. See RegistryCopyKeys.nsh in the Segments directory.

To use this feature add the section [RegistryCopyKeys] to the Launcher.ini file. Each entry should be the path to the registry key to be copied back and forth. Example usage:

[RegistryCopyKeys]
1=HKCU\Software\MyProgram\ExtraCareNeededKey
2=HKLM\SOFTWARE\MyProgram\AnotherFragileKey
  • Redirection: Enable support for enabling/disabling file system redirection.

  • ForceRedirection: Checks using the variable $Bit to disable/enable file system redirection.

  • ExecAsUser: For applications which need to run as normal user but need the launcher to have elevated privileges. Read this for more information on this concept.

  • Services: Add support for handling Windows Services.

To use this feature add the section [Service1] (numerical ordering) to the Launcher.ini file. Each entry supports six keys which are as follows:

Key Value
Name The local/portable service name.
Path The path to the portable service executable. Supports environment variables.
Type Specify whether you are dealing with a service, a kernel driver or a file system driver, etc.
Choose from: own, share, interact, kernel, filesys, rec
Start Specify when the service is supposed to start.
Choose from: boot, system, auto, demand, disabled, delayed-auto
Depend List any dependencies here separated by / (forward slash).
IfExists If the service already exists, you can either skip it or replace it with the portable version of the service (the original service will be restored afterwards).
Choose from: skip, replace

Example usage:

[Service1]
Name=SomeServiceName
Path=%PAL:AppDir%\service32.sys
Type=kernel
Start=auto
Depend=
IfExists=replace

[Service2]
Name=AnotherService
Path=%PAL:DataDir%\service64.exe
Type=own
Start=demand
Depend=
IfExists=skip
  • RegDLLs: Add support for handling library (DLLs) file registration.

To use this feature add the section [RegisterDLL1] (numerical ordering) to the Launcher.ini file. Each entry supports two keys; ProgID (The DLL's ProgID) and File (The path to DLL. Supports environment variables). Example usage:

[RegisterDLL1]
ProgID=MyAppControlPanel
File=%PAL:AppDir%\controller.cpl

[RegisterDLL2]
ProgID=DynamicLibrary
File=%PAL:DataDir%\dynlib.dll
  • Tasks: Enable the TaskCleanup segment for removing any Windows Tasks that were added during runtime.

To use this feature add the section [TaskCleanup] to the Launcher.ini file. Each entry should be the Windows Task name to be removed. Example usage:

[TaskCleanup]
1=MyAppTask1
2=Another Task w/ Spaces
  • Java: Add support for the Java Runtime Environment.

  • JDK: Add support for the Java Development Kit.

  • XML: Add XML support.

  • Ghostscript: Add Ghostscript support.

  • FontsFolder: Allows the portable application to support fonts within the directory ..\Data\Fonts. Any fonts added in this folder will be added and are available for usage during runtime. Be aware, the more fonts to process the longer it will take for the launcher to load and unload these fonts.

Supported Fonts:

  • .fon
  • .fnt
  • .ttf
  • .ttc
  • .fot
  • .otf
  • .mmm
  • .pfb
  • .pfm
  • FileCleanup: Enable support for adding the section [FilesCleanup] in Launcher.ini. See FilesCleanup.nsh in the Segments directory.

To use this feature add the section [FilesCleanup] to the Launcher.ini file. Each entry should be the path to the file that needs deleting. Supports environment variables. Example usage:

[FilesCleanup]
1=%PAL:DataDir%\uselessUpgradeFile.xml
2=%APPDATA%\MyProgram\purposelessCfg.ini
  • DirectoryCleanup: Enable support for the sections [DirectoriesCleanupIfEmpty] and [DirectoriesCleanupForce] in Launcher.ini. See DirectoriesCleanup.nsh in the Segments directory.

AppInfo.ini

Added the section [Team] for use with code signing and application specifications. New keys are as follows (a short description of what each key means or does can be found further below):

Note: You should only use the following keys if you need them, otherwise they should be omitted entirely.

[Team]
Developer=demon.devin
Contributors=DoomStorm
Creator=FukenGruven
CertSigning=true
CertExtension=p12
CertTimestamp=VeriSign
  • Developer: The name of the developer that created the portable application.

  • Contributors: Specify here anyone who has helped with the creation of the portable application.

  • Creator: Specify here the original developer of the PAF if you're updating someone else's work.

I've added several new keys to the [Dependencies] section. These newly added keys act like on/off switches to allow support for certain plugins and/or macros/functions (a short description of what each key means or does can be found further below):

Note: You should only use the following keys if you need them, otherwise they should be omitted entirely.

[Dependencies]
ElevatedPrivileges=true
UsesJava=true
UsesGhostscript=true
UsesDotNetVersion=4.5
UseStdUtils=true
InstallINF=true
RegistryValueWrite=true
FileWriteReplace=true
FileLocking=true
Firewall=true
Junctions=true
ACLRegSupport=true
ACLDirSupport=true
RMEmptyDir=true
LocalLow=true
PublicDoc=true
CompareVersions=true
ConfigFunctions=true
CloseWindow=true
JSONSupport=true
RestartSleep=500
WinMessages=true
LineWrite=true
TrimString=true
CloseProcess=true
Include64=true
IncludeWordRep=true
GetBetween=true
  • ElevatedPrivileges: For launchers which need to run with elevated privileges.

  • UsesJava: Specifies whether the portable application makes use of Java Portable.

  • UsesGhostscript: Specifies whether the portable application makes use of Ghostscript Portable.

  • UsesDotNetVersion: Specify the minimum required version of the .NET framework the portable application needs. Values can be from 1.0 thru 4.7 (e.g. UsesDotNetVersion=1.1 or UsesDotNetVersion=4.6.2).

  • UseStdUtils: Include the StdUtils plug-in without ExecAsUser

  • InstallINF: Add support and macros for INF installation. Refer to the Services.nsh file in the Segments directory for reference.

  • RegistryValueWrite: If you're using [RegistryValueWrite] than set this to true otherwise the function is inaccurate.

  • FileWriteReplace: Enables the Replace functionality in [FileWrite]

  • FileLocking: Enable this to prevent ejection/unplugging problems for USB devices. Windows Explorer tend to lock application's DLL(s). Note: As of right now, this only enables support for using ${If} ${FileLocked} and/or ${IfNot} ${FileLocked} in the custom.nsh file. ToDo: Handle without the use of custom.nsh. (Got a couple ideas already. Check back soon.)

  • Firewall: Enable Firewall support.

  • Junctions: Enable support for Junctions (SymLinks) functionality.

  • ACLRegSupport: Enable support for AccessControl on registry keys.

  • ACLDirSupport: Enable support for AccessControl on directories.

  • RMEmptyDir: Enable the function RMEmptyDir. See the Core.nsh segment on line 1192 for reference.

  • LocalLow: Enable the function GetLocalAppDataLow. See the Core.nsh segment on line 1351 for reference.

  • PublicDoc: Enable the function GetPublicDoc. See the Core.nsh segment on line 1427 for reference.

  • CompareVersions: Enable the function Compare. See the Core.nsh segment on line 141 for reference.

  • ConfigFunctions: Enable Write(S) and Read(S) functions (4 total). See the Core.nsh segment on line 236 for reference.

  • CloseWindow: Enable Close function. See the Core.nsh segment on line 1288 for reference.

  • JSONSupport: Include the nsJSON plugin allowing nsJSON::Get, nsJSON::Set, and nsJSON::Serialize for use within custom.nsh.

  • RestartSleep: Set this to a numerical value (in milliseconds) to set a sleep value for applications that need to restart (i.e. Notepad++ after installing new plugins).

  • WinMessages: Include the WinMessages.nsh file.

  • LineWrite: Include the LineWrite.nsh file.

  • TrimString: Enable the function Trim. See the Core.nsh segment on line 1093 for reference.

  • CloseProcess: Enable the function CloseX. See the Core.nsh segment on line 1125 for reference.

  • Include64: Include the 64.nsh file.

  • IncludeWordRep: Include both WordRepS and WordRep functions. See the Core.nsh segment on line 608 for reference.

  • GetBetween: Include the GetBetween.nsh file.

Code-Signing


I have created a small, commandline utility (CompilerSigner.exe, source included) to help with code signing using dual signature hashing algorithm standards (SHA-2 and SHA-1). If you set [Team]CertSigning to equal true along with the other need information, than no further assistance is required on your part as this tool will handle the signing for you but refer further below for how to use this tool on the command line for other things you may wish to sign. I decided to use both because Windows 8 supports SHA256 certificates (SHA-2 hashing algorithm); whereas, Windows 7 may only support SHA1 certificates (SHA-1 hashing algorithm). It should be noted that Windows 10 has stopped accepting SHA-1 certificates and certificate chains for Authenticode-signed binaries (unless a timestamp marked the binary as being signed before 1/1/2016). You can visit this Microsoft Security Advisory article on the availability of SHA-2 code signing support for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 for more information about this topic. If you've got a certificate you wish to sign your launchers with than read the following for information on how to get started.

  • CertSigning: If set to true, the Launcher.exe will automatically be signed

ATTENTION: As it is written right now, the PortableApps.comLauncherGenerator.exe expects the certificate file to be the developer's name (same as the [Team]Developer key's value) and located in ..\Other\Source\Contrib\certificates.

NOTE: If your certificate requires you to use a password, refer to lines 741 and 742 and input your password on column 62. Be sure it is similar to something like this: /p "PASSWORD" where PASSWORD is your password.

  • CertExtension: If the key CertSigning is set to true then this should be set to the certificate's file extension without the period (e.g. "pfx" not ".pfx").
  • CertTimestamp: Here you can choose which time-stamping service you would like to use. Refer to the table below for a small list of available services and their available hashing algorithms. I would recommend using a service which uses both signature hashes. Be aware that this key is case-sensitive. If this key is omitted, the compiler will default to using Comodo.
CertTimestamp=Value Timestamp Service Algorithms
Comodo Comodo Group, Inc. SHA-1 & SHA-2
Verisign Verisign, Inc. SHA-1 & SHA-2
GlobalSign GMO GlobalSign, Inc. SHA-1 & SHA-2
DigiCert DigiCert, Inc. SHA-1 & SHA-2
Starfield Starfield Technologies, LLC. SHA-1 & SHA-2
Entrust Entrust DataCard Corp. SHA-1 & SHA-2
SwissSign SwissSign AG SHA-2

CompilerSigner.exe

If you'd like to use CompilerSigner.exe outside the compiling wizard, you can use the following commandline parameters to do so. When you call this tool, be sure to call it from where it's currently located within the Other\Source directory because this tool assumes that the signtool.exe utility is in Contrib\bin\signtool. I'll update it to use a static file from inside the binary but until than, keep the stucture as is otherwise it will not work correctly.

CompilerSigner.exe --switch=value

	 --PFX= | Path to the certificate.
	--PASS= | If your certificate requires a password.
	 --TSA= | This can be any of the above Time-Stamping Authorities listed in the table above.
	--HASH= | Either SHA1 or SHA2 - NOTE: when using dual signing, be sure to sign using SHA1 first.
	 --EXE= | Path to the binary you wish to sign.
	--MODE= | When set to offline, this optional parameter will tell it to not add support for time-stamping.

For example:
	CompilerSigner.exe --PFX=MyCert.p12 --PASS=PASSWORD --TSA=Entrust --HASH=SHA2 --EXE=MyProgram.exe --MODE=

Documentation


I've begin a small website dedicated to documenting anything I've deemed invaluable in my findings while I've devoted my time to PAFing. You should know that the content you find there is (or will be over time) a collection of help files and guides mostly focused on the making of PAFs. In some circles it's considered the most complete guide to making PAFs with PAL. So I encourage any novice PAFers to give it a visit; you can read up on a wide range of related topics from Registry best-practices to making your own self-signed certificates to sign your PAFs with.

I've started this because the documentation which is supplied with PAL by PortableApps.com doesn't have, in my humble opinion, any solid information on the power and complexities it's framework has. So I've taken it upon myself to start working on jotting down this unofficial, but my official, guide to making a PAF with PAL. As time has gone by the website has taken on new meaning which now helps developers to better understand the inner workings of the PAL I'm working on here. Not only that but it also goes into great detail in explaining how certain applications and their components are used on a system; which will help you better understand what you're using in this project and why.

Because I am only just one man who has to live outside of my computer, the documentation project (like this project) will take sometime to finish (if ever) so please forgive me on it's incompleteness. This will also serve as a reference/cheat-sheet for those (I know I'll need it, which is partly why I've started it) who need a quick reminder on certain functions and macros for use within the custom.nsh file. As an added bonus, all (not yet but most) of the source code I've used here is outlined and better explained/documented there as well. For instance, visit this page for a short guide on registering DLLs and all the macros I used to create the RegisterDLL.nsh segment. You can visit this page for an exhaustive tutorial on dealing with Windows Services; plus it explains what each macro is and does within the Services.nsh segment and how to use them in action.

Visit the Docs: The PAF Docs

Contributors


This project has been started by demon.devin and hopefully maintained on a regular basis. However, if you would like to be a part of this then please do not hesitate on getting involved! I'm always open to new ideas and a willingness for the betterment of all things code. =)

Thanks to zodi for developing the GUI (coming soon). Thanks to DoomStorm for all the suggestions and heavily testing for bugs.

Thank you to the following people; Dave Green (RIP), HandyPAF, all those on the Discord Workbench and anyone else who makes use of this version to port and let portable!

A special thanks to FukenGruven. His codebase was the skeleton which was used to start this project.


=)