What does this mean? Well, AppConfig is a way of sending data into an app. App config allows a customer to deploy settings into applications on iOS devices in much the same way that settings can be sent into a Mac app via the defaults command. This means an end user could get an app installed on their device from the iOS App Store, a custom app, or a B2B app and that app would have any settings the user might need to connect to servers or configure the experience.
So what is Managed App Config? At it’s most basic, you identify a label and a value in XML and send it to an iOS device that’s running iOS 7 or later (e.g. via Jamf 9 and up). The vendor who makes the app has to basically define what those settings are. Which brings up an interesting problem never fully addressed with defaults domains: standardization and ease-of-use (although MCX was close).
AppConfig.org is a consortium of MDM vendors and software vendors that maintain the emerging AppConfig standards around Managed App Config (within the confines of what Apple gives vendors) and then makes a feed of settings for apps that conform to those standards. Jamf is a founding member of Appconfig.org, along with MobileIron and AirWatch. Examples of what you could put into the AppConfig.org feed include
- Enabling certain features of apps
- Server URLs
- Logos (if they’re pulled dynamically)
- Text labels
- Language packs
To see a list of apps that are available, check out http://www.appconfig.org.
Managed App Config options are set by vendors at compile time within the code and then the XML sent with the app is parsed by the app at installation time. If you’re a software vendor who wants to get started with AppConfig, check out the Spec Creator from Jamf Research or get in touch with the developer relations team from any MDM vendor.
If you’re a customer of an app and would like to leverage Managed App Config and your vendor isn’t listed on the appconfig.org site, get in touch with them, as this is the future of app management and chances are that you won’t be the only organization looking to unlock this type of feature.
Let’s look at how this actually works. The Managed App Config options per supported app are available on a feed. The feed is available at http://d2e3kgnhdeg083.cloudfront.net. Here, as follows, you’ll see a list of all of the apps supported.
You can then copy the path for an app, such as com.adobe.Adobe-Reaser/1/appconfig.xml and append it to the end of the URL to get the feed for that specific app. You can test this using http://d2e3kgnhdeg083.cloudfront.net/com.adobe.Adobe-Reader/1/appconfig.xml to see output as follows.
Here, note that most of these fields are key value pairs defined by Adobe (in this example at least). You can enable or disable features of Adobe Reader using these keys. The same is true with a tool like Box that might want a more granular collection of settings than a feature like Managed Open In.
Once you have the XML, you can then copy it to the clipboard and paste it into the App Configuration tab of an app, as follows.
Finally, Apple has sample code available at https://developer.apple.com/library/content/samplecode/sc2279/Introduction/Intro.html.