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Group applications, users with Windows Apportals

With Windows Apportals, IT administrators can build custom environments -- which include specific applications and data -- for groups of users, which lets users skip the Start menu and get right to the tools they need.

Windows Apportals, a powerful yet often overlooked Windows technology, offer IT administrators an effective way to provide users customized environments to easily access the tools and data they need to do their jobs.

Apportals are integrated with the Windows 8.1 operating system and act as a mini Start screen. An Apportal contains groups of tiles that link to Microsoft and third-party programs, Web-based applications, graphics and reports, and other line of business (LOB) resources.

IT can tailor each Apportal to support a specific role, which provides users with an easy-to-navigate portal separate from the clutter of a typical Windows 8.1 Start screen. Any company with a Windows 8.1 license agreement can implement Apportals without incurring added fees (although additional licensing might be required for Visual Studio, PowerShell and other software for building Apportals).

Fitting the Apportal pieces together

An Apportal has the same "kiosk" feel as the Windows 8.1 Start screen, and it offers similar functionality -- except the tools and data target a specific role. To access an Apportal, a user clicks a live tile on the Start screen, which launches the Hub View, the Apportal’s homepage.

The Hub View contains a set of grid tiles, grouped together by functionality or types of information. For example, one tile grouping might provide access to a set of reports, another grouping to LOB applications, a third grouping to Office products and so on. Grid tiles are similar to the live tiles on the Start screen, except users cannot move or modify them.

Apportals support three types of tiles:

  • Static: Displays static content such as a logo or image;
  • Live: Displays changeable data or images, such as a real-time report or rotating pictures; and
  • Snap view: A live or static tile that provides access to applications such as Outlook or SAP.

An Apportal tile can connect to and display data from a wide range of sources, including webpages, data stores or other applications. Admins can also nest tiles to provide a multilayered environment that organizes resources hierarchically, much like a Windows Explorer folder structure.

Through an Apportal, users can access embedded enterprise applications, Windows 7 desktop applications or Windows 8.1 modern applications. In fact, an Apportal can link to any application that can run on Windows 8.1. Plus, it can provide access to Web-based applications through pinned links, as well as to a variety of other types of resources and data. Organizations can deploy and automatically update their Apportals via the Corporate App Store and deliver them to a wide range of Windows 8.1 devices, including Windows Phones.

Customizing Apportals

Although users cannot modify the Apportal environment, IT administrators have full control over how tiles are grouped, which tiles are included, and what applications and data are available to those tiles. Administrators can also customize the Apportal with company logos and images, and dictate the general layout and organization of the Hub View and its nested pages. Because an Apportal is designed to accommodate different Windows 8 environments, it can scale automatically to various screen sizes.

When implementing an Apportal, administrators can filter the resources available to users based on defined roles so those users see only approved applications, links and data. IT can deliver content specific to jobs, departments, locations, industries or other criteria. For example, an Apportal for a medical center might filter resources based on job titles -- such as doctor or nurse -- or based on departments, such as radiology or physical therapy.

Apportals deliver role-based content through integration with Active Directory, which controls access to the grid tiles as well as the back-end data sources. In this way, IT can target different data and applications to specific categories of users. Administrators can also use Azure Active Directory to provide role-based access to services.

Next Steps

Get your hands on the standard Windows 8.1 start screen

Key features in Windows 10

Empower admins and users with Windows 8.1 boot to desktop

This was last published in May 2015

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