There are many great articles that talks about how to configure your SharePoint 2013 farm for apps development. At the end of this article I will list a lot of these great references. I’m going to try to summarize the important things you need to know and also cover few FAQs along the way.

First of all, you need to know that there are two main types of SharePoint apps you can develop on prim in your local SharePoint 2013 farm:

  1. SharePoint hosted apps
  2. SharePoint provider hosted apps

The third type SharePoint Auto hosted (Azure auto hosted apps) is only available on SharePoint online tenants part of Office 365. Also it’s important to note that if you plan to publish your SharePoint app into the SharePoint store to make some money the above mentioned types (Hosted & provider hosted) are the only allowed ones as long as they don’t request full control permission. For more details about the submission requirements check this link.

In order to make your SharePoint 2013 farm ready to develop and deploy apps you need the following:

  1. Turn on\create required services and service applications
  2. Configure DNS records along with SharePoint Web Applications
  3. Configure required service applications
  4. Prepare your tools\environment

I’m going to go through the above steps quickly.

First: Turn on\Create required services and service applications

You need to turn on the following services:

  1. App Management Service
  2. Microsoft SharePoint Foundation Subscription Settings service

 

Next step is to create the following service applications:

1. App Management Service Application:

This service application is responsible of tracking app licenses and app permissions …etc. This service application can be created from Central admin or via PowerShell.

2. Subscription settings service:

This service is responsible of generating the apps url, it also maintains tenants subscriptions in a multitenant deployment. This service application cannot be created from Central Admin. You will need to use PowerShell commands to create it. Use the following commands <Source: TechNet Article>:

# Gets the name of the managed account and sets it to the variable 
# $account for later use

  $account = Get-SPManagedAccount "<AccountName>"

   # Create an application pool for the Subscription Settings service application.

# Use a managed account as the security account for the application pool.
# Store the application pool as a variable for later use.

  $appPoolSubSvc = New-SPServiceApplicationPool

   -Name SettingsServiceAppPool -Account $account

 

# Create the Subscription Settings service application, using the 
# variable to associate it with the application pool that was created earlier.
# Store the new service application as a variable for later use.

  $appSubSvc = New-SPSubscriptionSettingsServiceApplication

  –ApplicationPool $appPoolSubSvc –Name SettingsServiceApp

  –DatabaseName <SettingsServiceDB>

 

# Create a proxy for the Subscription Settings service application.

  $proxySubSvc = New-SPSubscriptionSettingsServiceApplicationProxy

  –ServiceApplication $appSubSvc

Where:

  • <AccountName> is the name of the managed account in the SharePoint farm.
  • <SettingsServiceDB> is the name of the Subscription Settings service database.

At the end of this step I want to mention that you *have* to start and create these two service applications to enable apps deployment and development in your farm. So this step is mandatory in case you are wondering.

Second: Configure DNS records along with SharePoint Web Applications

Since I’m talking about a development environment here, I’m going to assume that your dev box is hosted in your company’s domain or at your local virtual environment. So you will not need to purchase any domain names or anything. This step confuses a lot of developers specially the ones who don’t have a lot of experience in with windows domain and active directory services. To keep it simple I’m going to suggest a specific setup that you can follow.

There are two things you need to touch in this step:

  1. DNS manager
  2. Central Admin (probably)

First thing you need to do is to setup the required domain names you are going to use for your apps and SharePoint sites …etc. You will need a separate domain name for your apps (recommend to be totally separate and not a sub-domain of a domain you use to host SharePoint applications that will use the apps – this is for security physical isolation purposes). Let’s dig a little deeper into this:

I want to have one domain name created for my intranet:

DNS: Intranet.SWRanger.com

IP: 192.168.0.113

I want to have another domain name created for my apps:

DNS: Apps.com

IP: 192.168.0.113

Note: I’m using the same IP-address for both domain names since I only have one SharePoint box in my 2013 farm and one network card (NIC).

I will use my Intranet site (which is a team site) for developing my apps. So I will use the root site collection under that Sharepoint application to deploy and debug my apps.

In order to create these domain names you need to login to your domain controller and open DNS manager. First thing you need to do is to create the domain name for Intranet. To do this follow the steps:

 

  1. Expand Forward lookup Zones then select your domain SWRanger.com
  2. Then right click on the selected domain node
  3. Select net Host (A or AAAA)… option
  4. Enter the name Intranet
  5. Enter the IP-Address (SharePoint box IP address) 192.168.0.113
  6. Hit Add Host

Now the next step is to create the apps domain name and have it point to the SharePoint box, follow the steps:

 

  1. Right click on Forward lookup zones the select New Zone
  2. In the New Zone Wizard click Next.
  3. In the Zone Type page click Next.
  4. In the Active Directory Zone Replication Scope page, select the appropriate replication method then click Next (The Default setting is fine in dev environments with one DC).
  5. In the Zone Name page, in the Zone name box type the name for your new app domain name Apps.com, and then click Next.
  6. The New Zone Wizard shows the new domain name for apps.
  7. On the Completing the New Zone Wizard page, review the settings, and then click Finish.

Now you need to create a wildcard alias for the new apps domain name so that SharePoint can generate any alias (app instance id) under your domain and still resolve to your SharePoint server. Follow the steps:

 

  1. Expand Forward Lookup Zones
  2. Select your new Apps domain Apps.com
  3. Right click and select New Alias (CNAME)
  4. Type “*” in the Alias name field
  5. Under Fully qualified domain name (FQDN) for target host: Click Browse
  6. In the Look in field select your domain name that contains your intranet domain name
  7. In the Records section double click on the records until you find your Host (A) record pointing to your intranet site Intranet.SWRanger.com
  8. Select your intranet domain name Intranet.SWRanger.com
  9. Click OK
  10. Click OK

Now your DNS records are ready. All you need to do is to make sure that you have the appropriate settings on IIS\SharePoint so that IIS will listen on your apps domain name Apps.com and rout the request to a SharePoint application which will redirect your app accordingly.

Before we configure IIS\SharePoint you want to make sure that your DNS configuration for the App domain name is working properly. To test that, ping the new apps domain name with a random sub-domain for instance ping the following: abc1234567.Apps.com if you get a response back with the IP Address of your SharePoint box that means you are golden and ready to go to the next step.

In this step instead of changing IIS settings by adding more bindings to an existing site (if possible) we will just create a new SharePoint application on port 80 that doesn’t have a host name. This way this SharePoint application will work as a catch all for any DNS name created for the deployed app instances. Here are the important settings\configuration for the new SharePoint application you will create:

Name: Anything – I would call it something that identifies it as a catch all for apps requests

Port: 80

Host Header: <Empty>

Claims Type: Enable Windows Authentication | Integrated Windows authentication | NTLM (Note SharePoint Apps don’t support Claims\Kerberos combination)

App Pool: Use the same account as the one used for your SharePoint Applications that will use the apps or an account that has access to these SharePoint application’s content databases

Database Name: Anything – We will not create any site collections for this SharePoint application nor will need a content db. So make sure you remove this content database after the application is created

 

 

This step is complete now.

Third: Configure required service applications

Now you are ready to configure your App Management settings for the farm. Follow the steps below:

 

  1. Open Central Admin
  2. Navigate to Apps from the left nav then click on App Management | Configure App URLs
  3. Enter the App DNS you created in the previous step Apps.com in the App domain field
  4. Enter an App prefix, in my case I’m going to enter app
  5. Click OK

This step is complete. Now your farm is ready to deploy new apps.

Fourth: Prepare your tools\environment

There are few things you need to know about before your start developing apps for SharePoint. The two main thing I would highlight here are:

1. Use a Developer Site for deploying and testing your apps or enable the Developer feature

Visual studio 2012 will complain about a missing feature Developer if you attempt to deploy an application to a SharePoint site that is not created with the “Developer Site” template since it will be missing required lists and content types. So if you for example try to deploy your app (Using Visual Studio F5) to a team site or a publishing portal you will get the following error in Visual studio’s Error List:

Error occurred in deployment step ‘Install app for SharePoint’: Sideloading of apps is not enabled on this site.

 

In order to overcome this issue you need to enable the Developer feature on your Site collection where you want to deploy and test your apps using Visual Studio. Since this feature is hidden you will not see it in the list of the site collection feature, so you will need to enable it using PowerShell:

Enable-SPFeature e374875e-06b6-11e0-b0fa-57f5dfd72085 -url http://Intranet.SWRanger.com

  

2. Don’t use Farm admin (System Account) to deploy and test apps

SharePoint will not allow you to install nor uninstall apps using the farm account (System Account). If you try to deploy your app using Visual Studio F5 you will get one of the following errors if you do it using System Account:

1. Error occurred in deployment step ‘Install app for SharePoint’: The System Account cannot perform this action.

 

2. Cannot perform this action

3. Sorry, something went wrong Please refresh the page and try again.

 

So avoid this issue you need to log in to SharePoint with a different account (not the farm admin) and\or running Visual studio with a different account other than the farm admin. Since in SharePoint 2013 we have removed the Sign in a different user menu option, you can get to it through the following URL:

/_layouts/closeConnection.aspx?loginasanotheruser=true

 

So the URL of our site should look like this:

http://Intranet.SWRanger.com/_layouts/closeConnection.aspx?loginasanotheruser=true

Check this link for a list of other handy SharePoint links

This will prompt you for credentials that allows you to switch users.

Here are some other issues you might encounter and how to address them:

1. When deploying an app through Visual Studio you get the following error:

In the Error List:

Error occurred in deployment step 'Install app for SharePoint': Failed to install app for SharePoint. Please see the output window for details.

 

In the output window:

CorrelationId: 7ec1dfb0-4a04-46f6-8b22-1f4f28f6dd0a

        ErrorDetail: There was a problem applying the web template for the app web.

        ErrorType: App

        ErrorTypeName: App Related

        ExceptionMessage: Feature with Id '23330bdb-b83e-4e09-8770-8155aa5e87fd' is not installed in this farm, and cannot be added to this scope.

        Source: AppWeb

        SourceName: App Web Deployment

Error occurred in deployment step 'Install app for SharePoint': Failed to install app for SharePoint. Please see the output window for details.

 

 That error suggests that SharePoint is trying to activate a web scoped feature called AppLockdown feature on the app web but it couldn’t find that feature installed in the farm in the first place. All you need to do is to install that feature to the farm using PowerShell:

Install-SPFeature Applockdown

 

 That is going to solve your problem.

2. When you try to deploy your app using a different developer account you used before or using a copy of the app VS project you get the following error:

Error occurred in deployment step ‘Install app for SharePoint’: The provided App differs from another App with the same version and product ID.

 

In order to overcome that issue, navigate to your target site collection and do the following steps:

1. Install the app if existed by navigating to Site Contents then hovering on the app and clicking Remove (Remember don’t do this with the System Account or it won’t work)

 

2. Navigate to Apps in Testing library and remove the app from there as well

3. Navigate to App Packages library and remove the app from there if existed

Lastly before I conclude here I would like to mention that you definitely want to plan to use SSL certificates to secure your SharePoint sites and apps traffic since they use clear text for the Auth tokens. It’s however not required, so your apps will work fine without SSL. That might be acceptable in in Dev environments but never acceptable in production. I’m planning to include the steps of configuring self-services SSLs in development environments soon.

With that you should have all the information you need to start developing SharePoint apps. If you have any questions please leave me a comment.

Good luck :)

 

Here are some great references: