Andrew Connell

SharePoint Online Modern App Catalog - April 2022

What’s new with the SharePoint Online Modern App Catalog experience, what’s coming in future updates, and what do we hope shows up in the future?

Microsoft introduced the tenant app catalog many years ago way for users to install, deploy, and acquire apps within their SharePoint Online environment. Unfortunately, it’s become quite dated and not kept up with the needs and demands of the product… until now!

In this episode, we’ll take a look at what Microsoft is rolling out to your SharePoint Online tenants with a new modern experience, a better story for acquiring, requesting, and approving apps from the app store and more. In fact, we’re getting an idea of what’s coming in the future.

First look: the modern App Catalog

At the time of writing this article, not everyone has the new modern App Catalog experience that I’m going to cover here. Some tenants may have it while others don’t - this depends if your tenant is set to receive update easy as a targeted release and when you see this post.

From the SharePoint Admin Center, if you go to the Active Sites page and select the app catalog, it will take you to the original “classic” view of the site. For example, my App Catalog exists at /sites/appcatalog.

To see the new modern App Catalog, you want to access the site a different way. From the SharePoint Admin Center, select More Features, then select the Apps option. If your App Catalog has received the updates, you’ll be taken to the new site and presented with a dialog welcoming you to the new experience:

'Welcome to the new Apps experience' dialog

'Welcome to the new Apps experience' dialog

After you click through the dialog, you’ll see the new experience

New App Catalog modern experience

New App Catalog modern experience

If you have this experience, notice the URL of the new modern app catalog. For me, that’s /sites/AppCatalog/_layouts/15/tenantAppCatalog.aspx/manageApps. This means we can get back to the classic App Catalog experience if some functionally hasn’t been ported over yet. I mean, it’s not like that’s never happened in the Classic-to-Modern migration in the last few years, right? 🤷‍♂️

What’s new here? Other than a refreshed modern experience, notice there’s a column that indicates what clients can support the app? In the screenshot above, it only shows SharePoint & Microsoft Teams under the Available for column, but in the future that will also include Viva Connections for apps that support that experience.

You can also manage how apps are deployed to your sites for those that support automatic installation. For example, let’s say you’ve deployed an app that is designed to be deployed to all sites automatically once it’s installed in the App Catalog. That means all new sites will receive the app (as indicated by the Added to all sites column in the screenshot above for the teamstab-client-side-solution app.

You can stop the app from being installed to sites created n the future from the App Catalog by selecting the app and then selecting the Stop adding to new sites button in the toolbar:

Stop adding apps to new sites

Stop adding apps to new sites

You can even do the inverse. If the app supports the capability to be automatically installed to all new sites, but it currently isn’t, that’s someting you can also change from the App Catalog using the Add to all sites button:

Add apps to new sites

Add apps to new sites

All the other capabilities are pretty standard thus far. Before looking at what chances they’ve promised are coming in the future, let’s look at what the experience is like for a site owner to request an app.

First look: requesting & approving app store requests by users

Site owners commonly don’t have access to acquire apps from the SharePoint Store. So, in order to get an app they have to request it and then have an admin approve the request so they can then install and start using the app.

To start the process, the site owner finds an app within the SharePoint Store and selects the Request button.

Requesting apps from the SharePoint Store

Requesting apps from the SharePoint Store

When they submit the request, they can include a message to the admin letting them know why they need it.

The admin then uses the SharePoint Admin center’s Pending requests page to view all submitted requests:

Pending app requests

Pending app requests

The admin can then view the request and approve adding the app to the tenant’s App Catalog. If the app requires additional permissions, such as access to Microsoft Graph, those permissions are listed before the admin confirms the approval of the request:

App request approval process - part 1

App request approval process - part 1

Adding the app doesn’t automatically approve the permission request. The admin will then need to head to the API access page to approve the permission requests.

App request approval process - part 2

App request approval process - part 2

Once that’s done, the site owner will see the app as approved in their My requests page so they can now install the app in their site

App request review process

App request review process

Info: Demo of new App Catalog experience
Want to see what this new app catalog experience looks like? Check out the following video that accompanys this article:

How do you get the Modern App Catalog in your tenant?

The modernized app catalog changes are currently rolling out so you might already have the new interface in your tenant depending on your tenant configuration for receiving updates and when you watch this video.

You don’t have to do anything to receive these updates as they’re being applied to existing app catalogs. If you don’t see these updates in your tenant yet, you’ll just have to wait until they show up. But if you do have the new experience, you’ll see a little welcome image with some tooltip callouts showing you the updates.

One thing that has changed is the app catalog creation process. If you have a brand new tenant, the tenant app catalog isn’t pre-provisioned until you try to navigate to it the very first time. So that initial first time experience is going to be a bit slower than normal while SharePoint Online provisions the app catalog for your tenant.

What’s next for the modern App Catalog?

While these modernization improvements are a nice improvement, they’ve they’ve been a LONG time coming. Thankfully Microsoft isn’t stopping with these improvements as they’re planning to keep investing and rolling more capabilities and features into the app store over time. This is just the This is the first step of modernizing the app catalog for SharePoint Online tenants.

So, what kinds of things can you expect?

While you can still upload custom solutions you create yourself, if you want to get a new app, for SharePoint or Viva Connections, you’re limited to the SharePoint Store. In the future, they’ll support acquisition of solutions directly from Microsoft’s App Source.

When it comes to Viva Connections, they’re also looking to add a separate app type and category for Viva Connections solutions to both the App Catalog and from Microsoft’s App Source.

For vendors, they’re also going to support automatic updates of SPFx solutions. So, if you install an app that you acquired from a vendor through the SharePoint Store, when that vendor updates the app in the SharePoint Store, your installations of the app will be automatically updated. This will be a nice update!

Microsoft is also planning to add additional metadata details for SPFx solutions in the modern app catalog.

What I’m hoping for in future updates of the modern App Catalog…

What I’m hoping to see in the future is more detail on the apps that are in my App Catalog as well as details on the app installation.

For instance, from the app catalog I’d like to see a list of all the sites where the app is installed, some analytics and telemetry about the app like how often it’s being used and by how many users.

As a developer, I’d love to have the ability to write logs from my app and be able to see these logs from the App Catalog in the SharePoint Admin Center.

Another thing I really want is app lifecycle events; I want Microsoft to let me know when my app is installed, upgraded, or deleted from a site or app catalog. I could then use these events so I could provision a list within a site that my app needs, or upgrade the list schema, create an API or external data store, or anything else. We had this ability to SharePoint add-ins, but we don’t have it with things like Microsoft Teams apps or SPFx solutions, and I think it would go a long way for us.

Learn why Microsoft is moving away from SharePoint Add-ins in my article [Why did Microsoft create the SharePoint Framework (SPFx)?]({< ref “spfx-5w1h-why-did-microsoft-create-sharepoint-framework.md” >})

What about you? As a developer of custom apps, what would you like to see Microsoft do to the app catalog, either as a change or adding something new, to improve the story? Let me know by dropping a comment on Twitter using the links below!

Andrew Connell
Developer & Chief Course Artisan, Voitanos LLC. | Microsoft MVP
Written by Andrew Connell

Andrew Connell is a web developer with a focus on Microsoft Azure & Microsoft 365. He’s received Microsoft’s MVP award every year since 2005 and has helped thousands of developers through the various courses he’s authored & taught. Andrew’s the founder of Voitanos and is dedicated to delivering industry-leading on-demand video training to professional developers. He lives with his wife & two kids in Florida.