How app licenses work for apps for Office and SharePoint

apps for Office and SharePoint

Learn the technical aspects of how app licenses work, so that you can effectively implement licensing checks in your apps.

Last modified: March 13, 2014

Applies to: apps for Office | apps for SharePoint | SharePoint Foundation 2013 | SharePoint Server 2013

In this article
Understanding how app licenses work
Types of app licenses
How users acquire app licenses
App license tokens, duration, and scope
Additional resources

The licensing framework for apps for Office and SharePoint gives you a way to include code in your apps to verify and enforce their legal use. You can restrict access to your apps to only those users who have a valid license, or specify which features are available, how the app behaves, or other logic, based on the properties of that license. To write effective license checks in your apps, it is essential that you understand the types of licenses available, how users acquire licenses with their apps, and how app license work in terms of duration and scope.

The app license itself is a digital set of verifiable information stating usage rights of an app for Office or app for SharePoint:

  • The information is verifiable in that you can query the Office Store to check on an app license validity.

  • These usage rights include whether an app is for purchase or is free, whether the app is available on a per-user or site basis, and whether the app is a trial or full version.

For a detailed overview of how to include code in your apps that performs licensing checks, see Licensing apps for Office and SharePoint.

The app license categories used by the Office Store are based on how or whether you pay for them and on their scope. Payment categories include: Free, Paid (with or without a trial offer), and Subscription (again, with or without a trial offer). Scope categories include Per-User or Site.

Information specific to apps for Office

Zoom into the Office object model for content apps Zoom into the object model for task pane apps

For task pane and content apps, apps can be Free, Paid, or Subscription, and are offered on a Per-User basis only.

Important note Important

To help maximize the reach and adoption of your apps, as of Office 2013, Service Pack 1, task pane and content apps allow anonymous access. Microsoft will no longer require that a user be signed into Office with their Microsoft account in order to activate apps for Office. By default, if your app task pane or content app does not implement licensing checks, your app will present the same UI and functionality to anonymous users as it does to licensed users.

See App license tokens and anonymous access for apps for Office in Licensing apps for Office and SharePoint for more information.

Zoom into the Office object model for mail apps

For mail apps, apps can be Free, Paid, or Subscription priced, and offered on a Per-User or Site basis. Mail apps bought on a Per-User basis apply only to the person who bought them. Only administrators can buy apps on a site license basis and make them available to all of the users in their organization.

Information specific to apps for SharePoint

For apps for SharePoint, apps can be Free, Paid, or Subscription priced, and offered on a Per-User or Site basis.

SharePoint 2013 maps the license categories used by the Office Store to app license types, based on user access. The following table shows how the SharePoint app license types map to the classifications used by the Office Store.

SharePoint license type

Office Store license category

License applies to

Duration

Users

Cost

Perpetual all user

Free

Paid

Site

All users of a SharePoint deployment, with no expiration.

Perpetual

Unlimited

Free or paid

Perpetual multiuser

Paid

Per user, with no expiration.

Perpetual

N (per user)

Paid

Trial all user

Trial

All users of a SharePoint deployment.

Can have a set expiration date.

15, 30, 60 days, or unlimited

Unlimited

Free

Trial multiuser

Trial

Per user.

Can have a set expiration date.

15, 30, 60 days, or unlimited

N (per user)

Free

When a user acquires an app—either paid, free, or as a trial—that user is also acquiring the app’s license.

To acquire the use of an app, a user browses the Office Store, selects the app, and then logs into the Office Store using their Microsoft account. When the purchaser acquires the app—whether for free, payment, or as a trial app—the Office Store generates the appropriate app license and downloads a token representing the license to the purchaser’s environment, as described below.

Information specific to apps for Office

Zoom into the Office object model for content apps Zoom into the object model for task pane apps

For content and task pane apps for Office, the Office Store downloads the license token and stores it in the purchaser’s Office client application. The purchaser of the app can then access and use the app.

As of Office 2013, Service Pack 1, task pane and content apps allow anonymous access. See App license tokens and anonymous access for apps for Office in Licensing apps for Office and SharePoint for more information.

Zoom into the Office object model for mail apps

For mail apps, the app license token gets downloaded to the appropriate Exchange mailbox. For mail apps with a per-user license, the token is downloaded to the personal mailbox of the person acquiring the app. For mail apps with a site license, the token is downloaded to a special organization mailbox for the Exchange deployment.

For mail apps offered for free or as unlimited trials, no license is generated or stored by the Office Store, and so no license token is downloaded to Exchange.

Information specific to apps for SharePoint

For apps for SharePoint, the license token is downloaded and stored in the purchaser’s SharePoint deployment.

For apps for SharePoint, only site, tenant, or farm administrators can purchase app licenses, as only users with those roles have sufficient privileges to install an app in a site. Therefore, in many cases, the person acquiring the app is an administrator or purchasing agent, not the person who will actually use the app.

The app's purchaser can then manage the app license, assign those app licenses to other users within their deployment, and enable other users to manage the licenses. A user who is assigned an app license can access and use the app.

The Office Store retains a record of each app license for verification and disaster recovery purposes.

Acquiring an app license from the Office Store

Figure 1 shows the app license acquisition process for content and task pane apps for Office when the app is acquired directly from the Office Store. When the user acquires the app, the Office Store generates an app license, which it retains, and downloads a corresponding app license token to the Office application. The user can then access the app.

Figure 1.

App purchase process from Office Store

Acquiring an app license from an app catalog

Figure 2 shows the app license acquisition process for apps for Office; this time the user acquires the app from an app catalog hosted on SharePoint 2013. When the user acquires the app, the app catalog contacts the Office Store for the appropriate app license. The Office Store generates the app license, which it retains, and returns a corresponding app license token, which the app catalog downloads to the Office application. The user can then access the app.

Figure 2.

Office app purchase process from corporate catalog

Acquiring an app license for a mail app

Figure 3 shows the app license acquisition process for mail apps when the app is acquired directly from the Office Store. When the user acquires the app, the Office Store generates an app license, which it retains, and downloads a corresponding app license token to the user’s Exchange deployment. For mail apps with a per-user license, the token is downloaded to the personal mailbox of the person acquiring the app. For mail apps with a site license, the token is downloaded to the organization mailbox of the Exchange deployment. For mail apps offered for free or as unlimited trials, no license is generated or stored by the Office Store, and so no license token is downloaded to Exchange. The user can then use the app.

Figure 3.

Mail app purchase from the Office Store

Acquiring an app license for an app for SharePoint

Figure 4 shows the app license acquisition and assignment process for apps for SharePoint. A user, who may or may not be one of the people who will actually use the app, acquires the app, either directly from the Office Store or an app catalog hosted on SharePoint 15. The Office Store generates the appropriate app license, which it contains, and downloads a corresponding app license token to the SharePoint deployment from which the app was acquired. The user can then manage and assign the license to one or more users, based on the license type.

SharePoint app purchase from Office Store

App licenses vary in duration, depending on their type. Also, app licenses for apps for Office differ from licenses for apps for SharePoint in terms of their scope, or where users can access them. Understanding these and other details of how app licenses operate will help you write more effective license checks.

App license duration and app license token expiration

When you acquire an app license from the Office Store, the Office Store downloads a version of that app license—an app license token—to your SharePoint installation, Exchange deployment, or Office application, as applicable. For security reasons, app license tokens expire and must be renewed periodically.

The expiration of the app license, stored in the Office Store, is determined by the terms of the app acquisition. For example, apps with a perpetual license type do not expire. Trial apps, however, do expire if they have a specified expiration date.

Information specific to apps for Office

Zoom into the Office object model for content apps Zoom into the object model for task pane apps

For content and task pane apps for Office, the Office application checks the license token each time the user launches the app, and renews the token if needed.

Zoom into the Office object model for mail apps

For mail apps, Exchange checks the license token each time Outlook loads the app manifest from Exchange, and renews the token if needed. Outlook loads the app manifests each time the user logs into Outlook.

Users can also manually renew or recover an app licenses from the myapps page of the Office Store.

Information specific to apps for SharePoint

For apps for SharePoint, the license token is renewed by SharePoint as part of a preset timer job.

Users can also manually renew an app license, for example, as part of a disaster recovery scenario.

App license scope in content and task pane apps for Office

Each app license applies to the specific user, for that specific app. For apps for Office, this means that a licensed user can access and use the app in any Office application instance that it applies to. For example, the user can use the app across multiple computers, each with a separate instance of the applicable Office application installed. When a user launches an Office application, and signs in with their Microsoft account, the Office application queries the Office Store for a list of the apps that user is licensed to use.

App license scope in mail apps for Office

For mail apps, each app license applies to a specific app for a specific Exchange deployment. A mail app with a site license is available to everyone in the same Exchange deployment as the administrator who acquired it.

For mail app licenses, the deployment ID is the primary authoritative mail domain for the Exchange deployment. For example, "CONTSO.COM". This deployment ID string is included in each app license token, and enforced in Exchange when apps are installed or loaded to Outlook. Exchange inspects the license token and verifies that the deployment ID matches the organization of the user. If it does not match, then Exchange blocks the app.

App license scope and the deployment ID for apps for SharePoint

For apps for SharePoint, each app license applies to a specific app for a specific SharePoint deployment. A user with a license for an app can use that app on any site for that particular SharePoint deployment. In general, for the purpose of app licenses, deployment is defined as the SharePoint farm for on-premises SharePoint installations, and the tenancy for SharePoint Online in Office 365.

Deployment scope can vary, however, based on the configuration of the on-premises SharePoint installation. App license tokens are stored in the App Management Shared Service; therefore, the actual scope of an app license is determined by the configuration of the App Management Shared Service. A given SharePoint installation could contain multiple web applications using different instances of the App Management Shared Service, and possibly using a federated service. In addition, an on-premises SharePoint installation might be configured for multitenancy, is which case a single instance of the App Management Shared Service might have multiple deployment IDs.

The deployment ID of the SharePoint installation to which an app license applies is included in each app license. The deployment ID is a GUID generated by SharePoint and recorded by the Office Store the first time anyone from a specific SharePoint installation visits the Office Store site.

For on-premises SharePoint installations, you can set the deployment ID via Windows PowerShell, for disaster recovery or test/production environment scenarios.

App license assignment for apps for SharePoint

For apps for SharePoint that have a per-user license, each app license can be assigned to the specified number of SharePoint users. The app license applies only to the specified SharePoint deployment and the specified users.

For apps with a site license, that license is assigned to all users on that deployment automatically.The purchaser of the app license can use the SharePoint user interface to manage the app licenses he or she acquired, including assigning licenses to users and designating other users who can manage the app licenses. You cannot programmatically assign app licenses.

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