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(1) In SharePoint Online I see a place to upload Add-in (web part) packages at https://company.sharepoint.com/_catalogs/solutions/forms/allitems.aspx It seems the part uploads & installs okay but I'm unable to activate it, the tenant Admin also gets the grayed-out (disabled) "Activate" button.

(2) The recent (Dec 2017) SPFx tutorial talks about deploying to the App Catalog https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint/dev/spfx/web-parts/get-started/serve-your-web-part-in-a-sharepoint-page and the Admin followed the Microsoft Support Guidance attempting to create it without success.

What's the difference between (1) and (2)?

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With the recent update to SharePoint Online you can deploy SharePoint Framework solutions and add-ins either globally in the tenant app catalog, which will make them available in all sites, or locally in a specific site collection app catalog. Site collection app catalogs are not enabled by default and tenant administrators have to explicitly enable them on each particular site.

The main difference between the two is, that solutions deployed in the tenant app catalog are available across the whole tenant, while solutions deployed in the site collection app catalog are available only in that particular site collection.

  • The scope (visibility) of parts in an app catalog collection based on tenant level or site level is clear. What I'm trying to understand why there is a "built-in" Solutions catalog that accepted/installed the upload with no errors yet will not enable the Activate button to deploy. – Walt Sully Jan 26 '18 at 23:41
  • So the way it works is not self-explanatory, but here is some mechanics of how it works: when you first enable the site collection app catalog, it will provision the solutions catalog in the site and register it in the list of active solution catalogs. When you disable it, it will not remove the solution catalog, but merely remove it from the registration list and disable activating the solutions. So if you see the catalog and some packages, but can't activate any of them, it could be that the site collection app catalog has been disabled. – Waldek Mastykarz - MVP Jan 27 '18 at 19:57
  • Waldek, your explanation is understandable, yet as SharePoint Admin I'm unable to find any place to change any attribute of the Solutions catalog that is listed under Web Designer Galleries in Site Settings at the URL I specified in my original post above. The App catalog is a site itself as specified by the URL I gave for it above. I have my SPFx webpart uploaded and deployed from the App Catalog I created. All is well other than my confusion over the reason for two "catalogs" and the various meanings of the word "solution" in the MS documentation and public vernacular. – Walt Sully Feb 7 '18 at 11:58
  • So <site>/_catalogs/solutions points to the Sandboxed Solutions Gallery. Instead, you should be looking for <site>/AppCatalog which points to the new site collection app catalog. Please note that it becomes available only after enabling it using either the PowerShell or the Office 365 CLI. – Waldek Mastykarz - MVP Feb 8 '18 at 19:13
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Web part packages are managed through the solutions gallery (1), so things like site templates or custom theme packages would be monitored or deployed from there. It was also used before to install third party webparts or sandbox solutions.

My understanding of the App Catalog (2) is actually a separate site collection managed from the main SharePoint Administration Centre:

https://contoso-admin.sharepoint.com/_layouts/15/online/SiteCollections.aspx

Generally it's used to control access to apps from the app store and the policies guiding their usage (so for example users cannot install third-party add-ins from the store until it has been approved by an administrator of the app catalogue)

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