We are constantly exposed to the idea of ‘apps’ in more and more aspects of our life every day. From smartphones to our television and refrigerator, and now even in SharePoint 2013. While I think this is a move in the right direction by Microsoft, there is definitely some confusion in the community about what exactly a SharePoint App is, and when they should be used over a tradition SharePoint solution.
As a business user, what is an app?
From an end-user perspective, a SharePoint App is a program you can install in your site that performs a specific function. The presentation of an app can be a full webpage or more of a ‘widget’, known as an App Part. Depending on how the administrator has configured the app settings, users can install apps from the Microsoft Online store or from the organization’s own app store. This flexibility provides more control from an IT perspective and gives end-users the self-service flexibility for adding new functionality to their SharePoint site.
Examples of apps an end-user may install:
- Local Weather
- Company Twitter Feed
- Today’s cafeteria menu
- Stock Ticker
OK, but when should an app be used instead of a traditional Solution?
It is Microsoft’s recommendation that whenever possible, use an app! To make this simple to figure out, just remember that apps are designed to satisfy a single (generally speaking) requirement. Take the following as an example of when to use an app and when a solution is required:
1) Say you want to display the local weather on your company’s intranet home page. This is a perfect example of when an app would be the best option.
2) Now let’s say you want to set up a site as an event registration system with the following capabilities: event registration/withdrawal, registration waitlist, automatic notifications, advanced workflow processes, and ability to register for activities for an event. This example is not a case for an app and would require a full solution to be developed.
Pictures speak a thousand words
Hopefully the above descriptions, examples, and screenshots will help explain the new app model in SharePoint 2013. This post intentionally left out the technical details around the app model. This was because Microsoft has done a very good job documenting the technical ins and outs of all this. If you would like to learn more from a technical perspective, check out the links below: