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Does SharePoint have a desktop app?

There is no desktop application for SharePoint. However there is a lot of SharePoint loveliness you can do on the desktop, including making a SharePoint site in a browser appear to be a desktop app.

Back in 2020 I answered this Quora question based on the state of the art at the time. There have been a couple of technical developments that extend my answer so here the current position.

Does SharePoint have a desktop app?

Not in the way people probably mean, there is no app that replicates the browser experience. It’s questionable whether there is a need for such an app, in my opinion, but let’s explore what this means in reality.

How can SharePoint be used on the desktop

Just because there is no ‘SharePoint app’ doesn’t mean you can’t use SharePoint on the desktop. You can interact with SharePoint from the desktop in the following ways:

  • The OneDrive sync client also synchronises SharePoint libraries which allows files stored in SharePoint libraries to be accessed via Windows Explorer just as if they were your local files. Lots of people prefer this way of interacting with files. Even I do it and I really don’t much like folders. You can do this for multiple instances of SharePoint if you need to.
SharePoint and OneDrive can appear in your local file system (File Explorer)
  • Desktop Office clients (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote) etc. can access SharePoint documents etc. directly from SharePoint (not just the local sync above) without needing to open the browser. SharePoint is a location they can know about and treat as a known file location.
SharePoint locations are available directly in Office applications
  • Microsoft Teams has a desktop client. Teams uses SharePoint for its content and also allows SharePoint pages, libraries, lists etc to be added in tabs and accessed that way. You can now also use Viva Connections to embed even more of SharePoint in Teams. The Teams app is the closest thing to an actual SharePoint app on the desktop.
SharePoint can run in Tabs in Microsoft Teams

Office 365 app

You might also flirt with the Office 365 App for Windows. It tends to get installed when you install the Office 365 clients (Word, Excel etc.) and you can also get it from the Microsoft Store. It’s not really a SharePoint app, but it does provide access to files stored in SharePoint (and other Microsoft 365 locations). If content access is all you need this might serve that purpose; take a look at the Content button in the left navigation menu.

The Office 365 app can access SharePoint locations.

Mobile apps (and Windows 11)

Apps were originally a smart phone concept; it’s only recently that we have started calling everything an app (on the desktop they were generally called an application or just software). Unsurprisingly, SharePoint is available as mobile apps for Android and iOS. They lack the full sophistication and features of the browser experience, being more suited to content consumption (browsing and reading) than engaging in processes or creating new content. Windows 11 has (probably, by the time you read this) the ability to mount Android apps in Windows; as such you can effectively put a SharePoint app on your desktop if that’s what you want.

Appify

There is another approach if you have a need to give your staff a SharePoint desktop app, and that’s the ‘appify’ the browser version. Both Edge and Chrome (and possibly others, though I don’t use Safari, Firefox, Brave etc., so can’t comment – feel free to provide information in the Comments below if you know). Here’s how to do it.

Microsoft Edge

In Edge, click the ellipsis | Apps | Install this site as an app

Use the Microsoft Edge ellipsis to Install this site as an app

It will ask you for an app name, then give you a new window with just the SharePoint site. It’s still a browser but all the browser tools and menus are hidden so that you have a nice, clean experience and users aren’t distracted into going off into other sites etc.

The end result looks something like this:

A SharePoint site, fully appified

There are a small back button and a page refresh button lurking at the top left of the window top bar (which is one way you know it’s really a browser) and the ubiquitous ellipsis at the top right containing some of the hidden Edge features:

Core browser controls in Microsoft Edge’s ellipsis

Google Chrome

In Chrome it’s a little less intuitive but the result is the same.

From the Ellipsis, choose More Tools | Create Shortcut

Give it a name for your new app and select the Open as window checkbox, then Create

Appify in Chrome by creating a Shortcut

Once again you get a clean, app- like view of the SharePoint site. The window bar tools are much the same, though there are different options in the Chrome ellipsis:

Core browser controls in Chrome’s ellipsis

Keeping your apps

Don’t forget to pin your new app(s) to the taskbar, start menu etc. so that you can get to them in future.

Top Tips

If you have multiple SharePoint sites you use frequently then feel free to Appify each of them; you can have a range of ‘apps’ for different tasks, which you can open, close, move around as needed; each appears to be its own application, with its own icon. You should probably change the desktop icon to represent your new app(s), rather than it just being a SharePoint logo.

If you have multiple tenants/identities then create browser profiles and appify each of them; it’s a great way to avoid identity confusion.

By Simon Hudson

Simon Hudson is an entrepreneur, health sector specialist and founder of Cloud2 Ltd. and Kinata Ltd. and, most recently, Novia Works Ltd. He has an abiding, evangelical interest in information, knowledge management and has a lot to say on best practice use of Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and cloud technologies, the health sector, sustainability and more. He has had articles and editorials published in a variety of knowledge management, clinical benchmarking and health journals. He is a co-facilitator of the M365 North User Group Leeds and is Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Hull.

Simon is passionate about rather too many things, including science, music (he writes and plays guitar & mandola), skiing, classic cars, technology and, by no means least, his family.

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