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How do I build Apportals in Windows 8.1?

Windows Apportals let you put the applications certain user groups need right in front of them, but you need some development knowledge and a Windows Developer License if you want to build them yourself.

Apportals offer the enterprise a promising technology for giving users a more streamlined desktop experience, providing a customized interface to the applications and data users need most, while allowing them to sidestep the often cumbersome Windows 8.1 Start screen.

Companies have two options for building Apportals. They can get help from a Microsoft Partner or Microsoft Consulting Services, or they can build the Apportals themselves

For organizations taking the latter route, developers should have experience building Windows 8.1 applications using C# and the Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML). Developers should also be familiar with Visual Studio 2013, Active Directory integration and Windows Communication Foundation Data Services. In addition, Apportal development requires a Windows Developer License.

An Apportal consists primarily of XAML files and special query files used to parse specific types of data. Administrators can deploy their Apportals within the corporate firewall to use on-premises services such as content management systems, or they can deploy them to Microsoft Azure, where the Apportals can be integrated with third-party cloud services.

Microsoft provides the Windows Apportal Prototype Generator for creating and demonstrating example Apportals to proof out their look and layout. The Generator includes a wizard that walks developers through the initial prototype creation, however they can also customize the XAML files and further tailor the prototypes to meet their needs. As with building the actual Apportals, developers need a Windows 8 Developer License to use the Generator to build prototypes.

The Apportal promise

Despite promise of Apportals, it's unclear how many companies will implement them anytime soon. Shops have yet to fully warm up to the Windows 8.1 desktop, and many organizations are moving away from the traditional desktop model altogether.

The eventual release of Windows 10 only adds to the uncertainty. Will the new OS support Apportals? Will Windows 8.1 Apportals upgrade seamlessly to Windows 10?

Even if the answer is yes to both questions, many IT teams will want to wait to see what happens before making a commitment one way or the other. Chances are that Apportals alone are not enough incentive to get them to move to Windows 8.1 before they're ready, especially when Windows 10 is looming on the horizon.

This was last published in May 2015

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