Choose Your Own Icons, Colors, and Text
Now available in tenants, Microsoft has added the ability to customize apps through the Manage Apps section of the Teams admin center. Not every app is customizable, but you can easily find which can by using the new Customizable column to sort the set of apps (Figure 1). Microsoft and ISVs have upgraded several apps to support customization. including the Yammer communities app.
Deciding if app properties are customizable and which app properties a tenant can customize is up to its developer. These details are part of the app manifest used to publish the app to Teams. To transform an app to your liking, select a customizable app and then Customize from the Actions drop-down (Figure 2). In this example, we’ll customize the Yammer communities app (customization supported since version 2.2.4, per message center notification MC257689 issued on July 1).
Setting Customizable App Properties
The full set of customizable properties are:
- Short name: a 30-character app name.
- Short description: an 80-character description of what the app does. You can also add a full description. The longest description I tested was 2,000 characters, which seems enough for anyone.
- Website URL. This is usually the URL for the main landing page of your company’s web site.
- Color and outline icons. The color image must be smaller than 1,000 KB and should be a PNG file sized at 192 x 192 pixels. The outline icon is 32 x 32 pixels. The color app shows up in the Teams app store. Teams displays the outline app in the app navigation bar.
- Accent color. A hex code defining the background upon which Teams displays the app’s color icon. Here’s a handy web site to help find the code for the background color.
As it happens, the set of customizable properties are exactly what Microsoft describes in how to create an app for Viva Connections when they first released Connections at the end of March. At that time, Microsoft hadn’t released a full-blown Viva Connections app for Teams but wanted customers to be able to use Connections in Teams, so they created a PowerShell script to create the necessary manifest to generate a customized line-of-business app.
Figure 3 shows the details pane and my attempts to customize the Communities app with some new descriptive text and a color icon. In many cases, making this level of change is enough for an organization. They might want to add some new text to the description to help their users understand why the app is available to them and customize the icon slightly, perhaps to add a corporate logo.
I didn’t use a 192 x 192 picture for the large icon. Instead, I took a regular-sized digital photo someone took of me with a Yammer logo on my face at an Ignite event and resized it using Paint. Teams didn’t complain about the height of the picture if its width matched the 192 pixel limit.
Publishing and Using Customized Properties
After saving the customized app properties, Teams publishes the new details to make them active. It can take up to 24 hours before the customizations become effective. If you make a mistake, you can reset the customizations to revert to the original settings.
Many organizations don’t allow end users to browse the Teams app store and install any app they like from the store. In these situations, you can create or update a Teams setup policy and include the app in the of pinned apps published to the left-hand app rail in the client (Figure 4).
You can expect a delay of a couple of hours (at least) before a new app shows up in the app rail or becomes available to users in the Teams app store. Figure 5 shows the customized version of the Communities app with the icons as they appear in the store (large) and app rail (small). Notice too that my customized title (“Communities Pro”) is only visible in the app store. This underlines the wisdom of using short app titles with the most important word appearing first whenever possible. Good examples of what I mean are “Teams”, “Files”, and “Chat.” Long titles like “Tasks by Planner” or even “Communities” don’t fit in the space available in the app rail.
Simple Change Worth Doing
Once its developer enables app customization, the process of making changes to the app properties to match corporate needs is quick and simple. Customizations should survive app updates, but that depends on the content of the app manifest. Time will tell if the theory holds true.
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