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Jun 25, 2021
9 min read
In-house apps are private apps custom-built for an organization, to be used by employees within the same organization. These applications can be developed in-house, or sourced from third-party developers. In-house apps are not meant to be pushed to public users and cannot be deployed on public app stores. These applications are exclusively used to fulfill specific business needs and help employees to increase their productivity.
A manifest URL is a link to an XML file that describes the package contents of an application and specifies where the app is located. In addition, this file defines essential information about the app, including its name, version and identifier, along with details on how to find, download and install the app from your secure web server.
A manifest URL is essentially a link to your app’s manifest file. The manifest file in turn, provides instructions on how to install your in-house app on the end user’s device. By uploading this manifest file to a secure web server (preferably one that’s only accessible to your authorized end-users), and providing the fully qualified https link to the manifest file, IT can seamlessly distribute apps via manifest URL to all their end-users.
Currently, there exist two ways to push your in-house apps to the authorized end-users:
To push in-house apps privately to your iOS, tvOS, macOS endpoints, you will first need to generate a developer certificate, a unique app ID, and a provisioning profile for your application. All of these can be obtained from the Apple Enterprise Developer portal.
Once you’ve obtained the provisioning profile, open Xcode and select your created provisioning profile from, App Target > Build Setting > Signing > Provisioning Profile. Set the build destination, depending on your end-users’ device platforms. Then, validate your app by navigating to Product Menu > Archive > Validate. On successful validation, push the app by selecting Distribute > Save for Enterprise Deployment.
You must check the ‘Include manifest for over-the-air installation’ checkbox.
Once you save the app package, Xcode will generate a manifest (.plist) file for your application.
Once you’ve created your in-house app and generated a manifest file, you must upload the app package and the (.plist) manifest file to a secure (https) server. However, in the case of Apple in-house apps, a few additional requirements must be met to upload and push your application successfully.
Now, when generating a link to download your application, do not provide the URL link to the app package location. Instead, provide the URL link to the location of the manifest (.plist) file.
Now, after the end-user installs the application and launches it for the first time, a pop-up will appear, which will prevent the app launch until they confirm the developer’s trust on their device. This must be done by navigating to Settings > General > Profiles and Device Management, and enabling the option to trust the developer.
If you’re using a UEM solution to push your in-house app, all you have to do is enter the URL of the .plist file in the UEM portal. The UEM portal will add your in-house app to the app inventory, following which IT can easily deploy the application to the end-users’ devices.
Unlike Apple, Android in-house apps do not require a separate manifest URL when distributing these applications outside the app store. Instead, the manifest file is bundled with the Android .apk itself. Once it is ready for deployment, all that your IT requires to push these apps, is the URL link to the .apk file.
Before providing the URL link to your app, make sure that it is uploaded on a secure (https) server. Now, when generating the link to download your application, provide the full URL link to the location of the .apk file.
Once an end-user clicks on this link, the download of your in-house app is initiated.
If you’re uploading your in-house app to your UEM app inventory, provide the app URL, along with its bundle identifier, version name and version code.
Similar to Android apps, Windows in-house apps do not require a separate manifest URL when distributing them outside the app store. Instead, the manifest file is bundled with the .msi itself. Once the application is ready for deployment, IT just needs the URL link to this .msi file to begin distribution.
Here too, you must make sure that the application is uploaded on a secure server, before providing the URL link to the location of the .msi file.
Once an end-user clicks on this link, the download of your in-house app is initiated. Even when uploading your in-house app to your UEM app inventory, you can use this same URL link to initiate the download.