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SP App Catalog: a solution to shared applications
How to access and use it

If you are passioned about SharePoint and Microsoft products in general, you are in the right place. I will tell you about SharePoint on-premises, with a strong accent on App Catalog feature.

First of all, I would like to let you know that this is not an introduction to SharePoint, but it has some nice information for those with and without experience.  If you are a beginner, I suggest you to read this article before going forward.

Using SharePoint on-premises can be sometimes overwhelming. There are a lot of configurations and settings that you have to manage and pay attention to in order to perform actions, implement solutions and keep information safe. An advantage of this environment is that you have a lot of control over your solution and besides, it gives you a better perspective about how SharePoint works.

SharePoint on-premises was released in 2001 and the cloud version, SharePoint Online, was released in 2011. Some companies migrated to SharePoint Online, but for some of them the migration was too costly. That’s why in 2020 there are a lot of companies that are still using this approach.

SPO is another subject and we’re not going to talk about it right now. But, it’s good to know that you have more than one option when it comes to choose the solution for your business.

As mentioned, SharePoint on-premises comes with many functionalities to handle and one of these is App Catalog.

What is the SharePoint App Catalog?

It is useful? Should I use it, and if yes, how?

I hope this article will answer to all your questions and satisfy your curiosity in the same time.

If you are an Office 365 expert or at least a SP developer, probably you had the chance to use this tool, but still, let’s have a short introduction before everything else.

What is the App Catalog tool?

An app catalog is used for storing apps for your organization’s internal use.

Basically, it’s a site collection that has something more in its structure than a usual one. This gives you the possibility to upload an app that can be shared with all the site collections from a web application.

The App Catalog site is a private place where people in your organization can distribute and manage custom apps that others can add to their sites.

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The SP App Catalog can store small, stand-alone apps that solve a specific end-user or business need. Site owners can download apps for SharePoint from a public SharePoint Store or from their organization’s internal App Catalog and install them on their SharePoint sites.

Why would you need to use the App Catalog?

Let’s consider the following scenario: for safety reasons, your organization needs a functionality that offers the possibility to create a copy of a selected file.

How does it sound to have a functionality that does that by just one click?

There is the possibility to develop such an app, that once it is uploaded to the App Catalog, SharePoint automatically ads the app to all the site collections within that web application.

The site owner can find it by accessing add and app, under apps you can add section. By that, you just provided to all the site owners a functionality that is essential for your business.

What do you have to do in order to take advantage of that?

Here you can find some steps that can be a good guide in creating the App Catalog and deploying an app:

  1. Go to SharePoint Central Administration and from the left menu select Apps
  2. From Manage App Catalog create the App Catalog poster

    An alternative to this would be to write a script using PowerShell commands, that allows you to perform actions towards SharePoint.

    By just using a script like this, you can go through all your web applications and install an app catalog without doing it manually. PowerShell does that for you:

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  3. Access the App Catalog URL and upload your app file (created by you or downloaded from the store)

    After the App Catalog site has been created, you can use it to upload any custom apps that your organization has developed. Uploading custom apps isn't much more complicated than uploading a document to a library and setting some properties.

  4. At this point, all the sites from all the web application withing your farm will have the app in apps you can add section
  5. Write a script that helps you install the app on each site collection: poster

A possible problem during app installation:

Here I will share an example of what problem I encountered when I was trying to install an app. I was used to perform every kind of operation during the development process with a user from the Active Directory. This user was the one that created and configured the farm, so was a user with full rights in database (dbcreator, serveradmin, securityadmin, sysadmin).

These rights granted the possibility to create web applications and site collections. I thought that the user that created the farm will have the possibility to perform everything. But I was surprised to find out that a system account (a user that created the farm) cannot install or delete an app from a site collection even if the user has administrative permissions.

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That’s unexpected, because usually SharePoint allows database administrators to do almost everything: create and delete team sites, grant permissions etc. In this case, if the user is a farm creator, he cannot install the app. A simple explanation is that this is a security measure from SharePoint.

A solution might be:

A user having administrative permission on the site collection where the app has to be installed can perform easily this action. The user does not need to be marked as dbcreator in the database, but has to be added as administrator to the App Catalog. Otherwise this problem will be encountered like this:

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In conclusion

The user that created the farm can create the app catalog. The system Account can even deploy apps in the App Catalog, but he cannot perform the operations of installing and deleting the app to a site collection no matter what permissions are granted. Instead, give permissions to a user in both App Catalog and site collection.

SharePoint has indeed a lot of features, for sure that you will know where to find and how to use them after the first interaction. Features in SharePoint are pretty much intuitive.

Next time you try to deploy an app, just make sure that you have administrative permissions in the App Catalog and your user is not a system account. This is a simple solution that solves the access permission error.

The way your business is working, the way your employees have results and workflow efficiency depends on your decisions. Using SP App Catalog can be the one that will ensure a good organization of your business.