Teams Real Simple with Pictures: Bringing community blogs together in a personal app

This blog is part of a series on Teams. For more articles, check back often

Written: 30/08/2020 | Updated: N/A

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog covering how to install Microsoft 365 learning pathways into Teams. It was one I had intended to write for some time because I often recommend pathways to many organisations who I work with. It’s a great way of using Teams and SharePoint together – but I particularly like the ability to go on, once it has been deployed, to customise and add your own learning paths tailored for your own organisation and users. Now, during the writing of this blog and using App Studio, I realised how cool it would be if I could bring a lot of the content I read everyday into a single app within Teams. The content I am referring to here is blogs. There are a ton of great community writers out there – many of them are my friends – and it would save me a ton of time being able to have them all in one place where I am now doing most of my work. And before you say that I could just use the web app, I don’t want these to be Team specific – I want them on the App rail because this content is personal to me

So this blog will cover

  • How to build the app
  • How to publish this to Teams

Right from the very start there is some sites which don’t currently work in apps. Microsoft sites are examples. However, most community blogs use WordPress and Medium, which do work. I have raised to the Microsoft team to ask why this is and am currently awaiting a response. Eventually I would like to have all the sites I read regularly in a personal app not just personal blogs

WHY WOULD WE DO IT?

  • To have community blogs to hand
  • To not have to switch context to the browser from Teams

PREREQUISITES

To set this up

1.) Permissions to create and install custom apps. App Studio needs to be available within the App Permissions Policy

3.) Teams licence: usually provided with an Office/Microsoft 365 Licence to install directly into Teams. Teams Administrator permissions if the app is to be installed across the org

HOW

1.) In Teams, select (…) in the app rail. Search for and select App Studio

2.) Select Add

3.) Select Manifest Editor and then Create a New App

4.) In the first section App Details enter the following information

Short Name: Blogs
App ID: Generate an App ID
Package Name: myfavourite.blogs
Version: 1.0.0
Short Description: App for Blogs
Long Description: App to read my favourite blogs
Developer/Company Name: Your name/Your company name
Website: Your website
Privacy Statement: Your website
Terms of Use: Your website

Add a logo if needed. Leave the advanced options blank

5.) Select the section Tabs under Capabilities and then under Personal Tab select Add

6.) Enter the name of the blog you want, an entity ID which could be anything (but needs to be unique), the content URL which needs to be the URL of the blog and the website URL which is usually the same as the content URL. Select Save

7.) The blog is now added. Rinse and repeat for several blogs you follow

8.) Select Test and Distribute and then Install

9.) Select Add

10.) All should be working as expected

11.) Return to App Studio, select Manifest Editor and then select the Blogs app

12.) Depending on your permissions and role within the organisation you can either download the zip file and upload for yourself or you can can submit to your IT admin to publish it to the app catalogue (which can then be configured with an app setup policy if required)

HOW – DOWNLOAD AND UPLOAD TO TEAMS

1.) If using the app on an individual basis select Download and the zip will download

2.) Select Apps on the App rail

3.) Select Upload a Custom App and then Upload for me or my Teams

4.) Upload the zip previously downloaded

5.) Select Add

6.) The App is now uploaded and can be pinned on the app rail

HOW – PUBLISH TO TEAMS

1.) In the manifest editor select Publish

2.) Select Publish to Contoso App Catalog

3.) Select Submit

4.) The app is then submitted to your IT administrator. You can even see the status of the app

5.) The administrator will need to login to the Teams Admin Centre at https://admin.teams.microsoft.com and select Teams Apps then Manage Apps. As shown here 1 is waiting for approval

6.) Sort by publishing status. The submitted app will have a status of submitted and a status of blocked. Select the name of the app

7.) Change the publishing status dropdown to Publish and then select Publish on the pop up. The publishing status of the app is changed to published and the status of the app is changed to allowed. The app can then be configured according to app setup and permission policies

It can take a few hours to surface in Teams

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Our job here is done

This is a really simple way to bring blogs together in an accessible way and surface them all into teams for personal consumption. Since more of my time is spent in Teams this saves me having to use a browser or switching context. It also means at a single click I am in accessing the content I want to read about before a meeting, or jumping on a call all within the same app. However, there is a few things I would like to see and you will probably hit upon if you attempt doing this. First, it doesn’t appear that you can access Microsoft sites in personal tabs in custom apps. This isn’t an issue per se as most personal blogs are housed on WordPress, or Medium which all seem to work from my testing. It is still a limitation though because it would be awesome to pipe sites like the Microsoft Teams blog into it. Secondly, you can’t reorder the tabs in the app manifest which means you have to be conscious of the order you add them. For me personally, I don’t really care so much however others will who like ordering so in that case you add them last to first if doing them alphabetically.

How many will ultimately use this? I don’t personally know. It is a personal app for the case I use it for reading several blogs. You could apply it to Teams, you could apply it to event sites, you could apply it to a whole range of use cases but all of this is predicated on sites which work.

If all sites were supported imagine how powerful this would be

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