SharePoint 2013 Apps : An Introduction

After going through Introduction to Apps : A next generation of software applications, I think you are quite familiar about the Apps concepts in general. Lets move to our main business now - SharePoint Apps.

 Apps in Sharepoint

Prior to SharePoint 2013, the most preferred way to develop a solution was to write server side code and deploy on the farm. Although there were other ways to develop solutions using Client Object Model or Sandbox, they were less intuitive to developers. The problem with these solutions are similar to problems of a traditional software we discussed here.

SharePoint 2013 Apps possess almost all of the characteristics of ideal Apps we discussed here.. SharePoint Apps are actually standalone, self-contained applications running on web that add to the capabilities of a SharePoint website ( Unlike MSDN, I avoid call them Web applications as this terminology is reserved for IIS virtual directory extended with SharePoint ) .

A SharePoint app has few or no dependencies on any other software on the device or platform where it is installed, other than what is built into the SharePoint platform. Hence, SharePoint Apps can be installed simply and uninstalled cleanly. In general, Apps can have no custom code that runs on the SharePoint servers (except the Apps which use SharePoint API). Instead, all business logic runs on the cloud or remote servers and the presentation logic on client computers\devices.

The new App Model enables to develop and deploy Apps  - just like other platforms\devices like iPad\iPhone.The  App Model supports “Separation of Concerns“- a must characteristic of an enterprise software,  in which the app’s business logic, data, and user interface (UI) can be divided into separate components. An App’s presentation logic can be in HTML\ JavaScript that runs on the client and business logic can be in .NET\PHP and whose data can be stored in SQL Azure\MySQL.

SharePoint  App Hosting Model

A fully functional and feature-rich SharePoint App  can contain many logical or physical components. These components  can run on SharePoint or Remotely or both. For example,  a weather APP can be a webpart that runs on SharePoint and consumes remote service to get the information about weather.SharePoint components that can be part of an App are list templates, modules, workflows, site pages, Web Parts, and custom content types. Remote components are external to the SharePoint farm like cloud-based services.

As we know , App can have SharePoint-based or External(remote or cloud-based) or both kind of components. Below are the hosting options based on the kind of components an App contains:

SharePoint Hosted: Apps that include only SharePoint components and client-side logic in HTML\Jquery can be hosted in SharePoint itself.

Cloud Hosted: The cloud based hosting is mainly for Apps (or Apps components) that are External to SharePoint Farm (like web services).The Cloud based hosting can be Provider-hosting and Auto-hosting :

  • Provider-hosted: In this option, the Apps containing non-SharePoint components are deployed on an external server(not part of SharePoint farm) or Cloud.  As a developer, you have to provide installation(and UN-installation) scripts and instructions.
  • Auto-hosted: This option is for kind of Apps that uses resources and services from remote site hosted by  Windows Azure and also interacts with SharePoint 2013 components(or websites). Auto-Hosted Apps include a Windows Azure Web Site, and possibly also a SQL Azure database, that are automatically provisioned when the App is installed.


Sharepoint Apps hosting options


Additionally, SharePoint Apps can be delivered via the SharePoint Store and the App Catalog.

SharePoint 2013 Apps Programming Model

With Apps,  its now easy for any MS or non-MS( yes!)  web developer  to create standalone SharePoint solutions.

SharePoint Apps can be developed around common web standards like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Apps implementation relies on established protocols like the Open Data protocol (OData),  OAuth and REST. Developers can use any web development tools like Visual Studio 2012 or  ”Napa” Office 365 Development Tools-a new web-based tool.

What can be developed and deployed as a SharePoint APP?

1) Application that need to use Sharepoint components or list data

SharePoint Apps can contain simple features  like lists, web parts and leverage much advanced  features like Search, workflow, social networking, taxonomy, user profiles, and Business Connectivity Services (BCS). Below is the complete list:

  • Features (Web-scoped only)
  • Custom actions (including shortcut menu items and ribbon customizations)*
  • Remote event receivers*
  • Markup that references Web Parts, including app parts, that are included in SharePoint (but not custom Web Parts)*
  • Custom cascading style sheets (CSS) files for use by SharePoint pages
  • Custom JavaScript files for use by SharePoint pages
  • Modules (sets of files)
  • Pages
  • List templates
  • List and library instances
  • Custom list forms
  • Custom list views
  • Custom content types
  • Fields (of field types that are built into SharePoint)
  • Microsoft Business Connectivity Services (BCS) models (Web-scoped only), external content types based on the model, and external lists that use the content types*
  • Workflows*
  • Property bags
  • Web templates (but not site definitions)*

[Note: The above is an exhaustive list. So no other kind of SharePoint components can be deployed as an App.]

2) Application to surface external data\system

An app can surface any web based application  that is supported by the host. The application can be based on ASP.NET , LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP). App can also surface data from remote DBs using BCS (Business Data Connectivity)

Note also that the model for apps for SharePoint supports external event handlers.

3) Office Integration

Apps can be used to integrate SharePoint data into an office application and vice-versa.

4) Applications that don’t require business logic to run on SharePoint server

In some cases, you may want to offload your business logic to a remote server instead of SharePoint server.

For example, An app to display weather information will have the business logic that don’t require SharePoint. This business logic can be exposed as a web service or web page which in turn can be consumed by App in SharePoint.

6 Responses to “SharePoint 2013 Apps : An Introduction”
  1. Rene says:

    Very nice blogpost!

  2. Moe Kahiel says:

    I like how you introduced Napa and LAMP in this blog. Thanks

  3. This addition to SharePoint 2013 is huge. The new version includes many great benefits but this may be one of the most important ones. It’s all about making things easier for SharePoint users and developers.

  4. saravanan raj says:



    i need to use team store management (taxonomy) in sharepoint hosted apps. any knows share it.

  5. [...] The Claims authentication provides good answer to above problems. Using Claims authentication, the web based systems can acquire the identity information they need about users inside their organization, in other organizations, and on the Internet.It also provides a consistent approach for applications running on-premises or in the cloud, for example, SharePoint 2013 Apps. [...]

  6. Cynthia Duke says:

    Wonderful intro to apps for beginners like myself.

  7. Santhosh says:

    Thanks for giving this wonderfull intro :) ..

  8. [...] SharePoint 2013 Apps : An Introduction [...]

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