SharePoint App License Management

So you’ve decided to get into the SharePoint app world, and are suddenly faced with a dilemma, how does one manage your app licenses once you’ve obtained an app?  There are several scenarios that one must be aware of, some more fun than others. 

We’ll start with the good ‘ol MSDN table – don’t worry, in a sec I’ll explain it to normal people.

What? An incomprehensible table?  Bring it on!

App license types for apps for SharePoint

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
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

The source for this is available here:

So essentially the above table boils down to this, if you have a license for everyone (either free or paid), then there’s no need to manage that license for individual users, and even though you still get (some) options on the management page (explained later), you can pretty much just safely let this app live on its own without managing it (unless you eventually need to purchase it after a trial expires).  However, if you obtain an app (be it free or paid), and that app is limited to a certain number of users (say 5), then someone will need to decide who those users are going to be.

Please show me a graphic that explains how to manage my user licenses!

As you requested, here’s that graphic.  (Source

SharePoint app purchase from Office Store

[MSDN wording]:

The above figure 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 catalogue hosted in your SharePoint environment. 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.

If you’re wanting more information about this whole process, click on the link above the image for a whole lot more detail.

** Basically, in the rest of this post we’re going to cover everything about step #3 in the above graphic.

What!? The user who buys the app is the one who dishes out/assigns the licenses?

Yes, that’s exactly the case!  They aren’t necessarily going to be the ultimate user of the app, but they’re the initial “License Manager” of that app.  As such, it would likely be wise to limit the total number of users who have the capability to do this to a very limited number.  Be aware, that if you have certain settings in Central Admin enabled, every site owner (in every site collection in a web application) will have this capability.

What? Doesn’t that introduce an unanticipated side effect?

Following on the point above, I am a site collection administrator of my own Sandbox in our environment (but not anywhere else in our farm). We have the setting in Central Admin set to allow end-users to be able to add apps (you still have to have at least Site Owner status to take advantage of this), and thus, I can add apps to my site.  The consequences of this however are that by virtue of me adding apps to my site, that app is actually added to the entire farm, and now anyone with sufficient permission can add that same app to any site in any site collection throughout the farm.  Adding an app to any site, basically means it’s now globally available everywhere – potentially a side effect depending on how you look at it.

What’s a License Manager, and how I do become one?

A license manager is a user who has the capability to decide who will ultimately be given a license to use an app.  If a user is not assigned a license to an app, it will not work for them – no if’s, and’s, or but’s.  As the original “purchaser” of an app, by default you’re given the role of “License Manager” of that app.  Any license manager can assign any other user as another license manager of that app (with all the same rights and privileges as the original purchaser).

Also note, a License Manager does NOT have to be a license assignee – someone who can user that app.  In other words, you can manage licenses to an app, without actually being able to use that app.

Is there any way to make another user a License Manager by default?

I haven’t found any way to do this.  The scenario I have in my head for this would be to imagine that you wanted the farm admin, or a site collection admin (or anyone else for that matter) to automatically become a License Manager of every downloaded app, regardless of who obtained it – so that way you’d at least have some “consistency” over who’s managing these 3rd party apps in your SharePoint environment.  Well, no, that does not appear to be possible with the current License Manager setup in 2013.

What if the App Manager is no longer able to perform their duties?

Let’s say that Bob was the sole manager of the app “Shine Your Shoes” (heh, see the pun there?) and Bob is no longer with the company, or has entered cryogenic sleep.  Who’s able to take control of the app(s) that only Bob is a manager of?  As it turns out, there’s actually a place in Central Admin for a farm administrator to manage the app licenses as well. Under the top level category “Apps”, in the section “SharePoint and Office Store”, choose the “Manage App Licenses” link. From there, someone with sufficient permissions in central admin can change the license managers, and perform all the same tasks as a license manager. It also shows you all the apps in your SharePoint farm in a nice tabular format, detailing the license type, users, any app expiration dates, and other relevant details.

What happens if I assign another user as a License Manager for an app?

1) They have just as many rights as you do to manage the app.

Scary, but true.

2) Can they remove my access to manage the app?

Yes!  Just ask my colleague, I assigned him as a license manager, and the first thing he decided to do was remove me as a license manager – nice, cordial thing to do.  Of course, this proved an important point… see #3

3) Is there any way to give another user License Management capability for my app, but restrict their ability to manage “License Managers”?

Apparently not.  I have not found any way to add another user as a license manager to an app, without also giving them the capacity to also manage the license managers of that app.  In other words – you better trust who you give this level of access to, they may add people you didn’t intend, and (as demonstrated in #2) can just as easily take away your access.

Essentially what I’d think of here is a means of taking advantage of SharePoint’s already built-in permissions structure.  However, this new “license manager” role does not appear to be customizable at all.  It’s all or nothing – for better or worse.

4) If I remove myself as License Manager, and I’m the only manager remaining of that app, what happens?

I don’t know, try it and let me know.  I’m not THAT crazy! But chances are you could still recover the license managers in the license management page in central admin.

Show me the license page already!

Here’s an example of what the “manage licenses” page looks like.  To get here, go to the site settings menu (the cog-like icon), and choose “Add an App”, then from the left menu, choose “Manage Licenses”.  If you don’t see “Add an App” in your menu, you’re not in a location that allows this action, try some other page or site.


Regardless of where you are (in whatever SharePoint site collection you happen to be in), you’ll see all the licensed apps available to you to manage. In other words, if I add the app “CSV Uploader” in Site Collection A, and I am looking at “Manage Licenses” in Site Collection B, I’ll see “CSV Uploader” there too (it’s not limited to the site you added it to, the management of these licenses is farm-wide). This may not be true of “site” licensed apps, but I have yet to find one to try out, so I’ll reserve judgement on that until I do.

As you can see, one of my apps is a free, unlimited user licensed app, and another is a trial with 5 users.  Let’s look at each of these individually.

Free, unlimited user licenses for an app

As you can see below, there’s no mechanism by which I can manage individual users – makes sense, it would be pointless with this license.


Above, I can manage and add / remove any other “License Managers” for this app, but not much else.  In addition, the actions menu looks as follows.


What the above list of actions means is covered in this office article here. Essentially, recovering a license is a way of fixing an out of sync license, and also a way to move a license to a new deployment.

What happens if I remove a license?  Not what you’d think!

Well, removing a license does just that, it removes it.  However, for the test app that I did this on (Corporate News App – which Rocks by the way), it appears to have only removed the license, and nothing else.  In other words, I could no longer manage the license for this app, but the app part I installed still remained on the page I had put it onto, and I was still able to configure all the settings of the app.  Even after an IISReset, it was still not removed in any real sense.  I’m not sure there’s any way to remove the app from the environment completely.

Interestingly, according to the SharePoint Store, I can now re-add this app (Corporate News App) to my site, even though I “already have this on my site”.


Which differs from other apps (such as My Locations) which I have not previously removed (see below).


So I added it back in, and voila, it suddenly appeared as an app I could once again manage the license for.  Go figure.

Trial, limited user licenses for an app

This is what the page for a trial with a limited user license count looks like.


By default, the purchaser is automatically assigned a license to an app (so you only have 4 other licenses to assign in this instance, since it’s a 5 user trial).  Don’t worry, if you want, you can remove the purchaser from the list of assignee’s. 

When you click on “assign licenses”, you’ll get a nice little people picker.  Here you can add other SharePoint users to the list of users who will have licenses to this app.


Clicking on “buy” above will take you back to the SharePoint store, where you can then purchase 1 or more licenses to this app, converting it from a trial, into a fully paid application.

The page also informs you of the number of days left in your trial.

Trial, unlimited user licenses for an app

And here’s what an unlimited user trial app page looks like.


As you can see, no user management as anticipated, but you are informed of the # of days remaining in your trial.

That’s all folks!

That’s pretty much all there is to managing app licenses in SharePoint (as far as I can tell).  There’s plenty more to know about managing apps “from your organization”, dealing with the store and the related purchasing, and several other related topics, but those are different from local license management, which was the focus here.  Just because you asked, I’ll include a few links here for further reading, in case you’re interested in learning more.

2 responses to “SharePoint App License Management

  1. In case you’re wondering, I am not aware of any means to request access to an app already in your farm. In other words, if you can SEE that an app exists in your farm, but you don’t have access to a license to that app, I am not aware of any means to ask the License Manager for access to that app. In fact, I don’t know of any way at all to know who’s managing which apps. This could be a big mess in larger organizations.

  2. Hi,

    Is there any way to manage Add-ins license features vice?

    For example:

    I have released paid Add-ins version with A,B and C features.

    After sometime I have added another two feature D and E and release paid Add-ins version with extra cost.

    Now if users who have already purchased my Add-ins and want to upgrade the Add-ins with new features. In that case how I can manage the price for those users.


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