September 10, 2015 1:17 pm

Managing hidden apps, beta apps and visibility of in-app purchases in Dev Center

The unified Dev Center introduced several new options to manage the visibility of apps and in-app purchase. We have seen developers start to use these new capabilities and have sent us questions on how these options work in different operating systems, and how to manage betas in the new Dev Center.

In this post I’ll describe the different options available to show or hide an app, the capability of distributing apps only to testers, and the options that exist to remove an app and make it unavailable for purchase.

Defining the app distribution and visibility, and use this for beta testing

By default, your app will be available in the Store for all customers to find via searching, browsing, and a direct link.

Dev Center also offers several options to limit your app’s visibility and accessibility. During the app submission process, you will be asked to select the “Distribution and visibility” for your app. There are four options available:

1_distributionAndVisibility

Each of these options has a different impact on the app’s availability and visibility in the Store, as seen in this table:

Option Intended Use App is searchable in Store App is visible in Store (direct link) Customers that can use the app
1. “Anyone can find your app in the Store” General availability of app Yes Yes All customers (**)
2. “Hide this app in the Store. Customers with a direct link to the app’s listing can still download it, except on Windows 8.x” Limited distribution or testing of an app No Yes WP7.x, WP 8.x or Windows 10 customers with a link to the app
3. “Hide this app in the Store. Only customers with the email addresses you enter below can download it, via a direct link on Windows Phone 8.x” (*) Beta testing on WP 7.x and WP 8.x devices No Yes (only for customers on the beta list) Customers with a WP 7.x or WP 8.x, designated by you in Dev Center (via email address) and with a link to the app. Customers using Windows 8, 8.1 or 10 will not be able to download the app.
4. “Hide this app and stop selling.” Testing apps on Windows 10 devices using promo codes (for both free and paid apps); also used to “Delete” an app No Yes (listing is visible, but no new customers can download it) Customers that previously owned this app can download again, as well as new Windows 10 customers using promo codes can acquire the app

* This is exactly the same Beta capability available previously in the Windows Phone Dev Center. The same app can now be moved from Beta to public release, though can’t be moved back.
** WP 7.x, WP 8.x, Windows 8.x and Windows 10

Note: Any reference to Windows 10 in this blog refers to any device running Windows 10: PC, Tablet and Windows Phone.

Your chosen setting can be changed at any time, and the change will apply in 24 hours. Apps can be converted from WP beta (option 3) to any other option, but once changed, can’t be moved back to option 3.

Important: In all cases, including when hiding the app, customers may be able to see your app’s Store listing if they have access to the direct link. So if you are publishing a hidden app, or stop selling an app, and don’t want customers to find out information about your app, we recommend submitting description, screenshots and icon and, if possible, a name that won’t reveal confidential information about the app.

Read the Distribution and visibility documentation for more details.

Beta testing for Windows Phone 8.x users can be managed through option 3. Testing for Windows 10 users (Mobile or desktop) can be managed through option 4, along with the use of promotional tokens. You can read more in the beta testing and targeting distribution documentation.

In-app product (IAP) distribution and visibility

Dev Center also allows you to set a custom “Distribution and Visibility” option for in-app products. There are three options available:

2_iapOptions

Each of these options has a different effect, as seen in this table:

Option Intended Use Returned in the LoadListingInformation API? IAP Visible in Store app page** IAP can be acquired within the App
1. “Available for purchase. May be displayed in your app listing.” All IAPs available for purchase by customers. Yes Yes Yes
2. “Available for purchase. Not displayed in your app listing.” IAPs you want to make available from within the app, but not promote to new customers in your listing Yes No Yes*
3. “Not available for purchase. Not displayed in the Store app page. IAPs no longer available for purchase (except Windows 8.x) (**) No No Yes: Windows 8.x*No: Windows 10 and Windows Phone. Customers on any supported OS with a promo code can acquire the IAP.

* This feature is not supported on Windows 8.x: we recommend removing the IAP from your app code and re-publishing to remove the IAP for all customers.
** This information is visible in Windows 10 Store

Changing the visibility or distribution of your IAP will not impact customers that have already purchased it. The value set in the app submission can be changed any time, and the IAP’s visibility change will apply in 24 hours. For beta testing IAPs, we recommend including the IAP in the app, so beta testers can use it, and set the price to free during the test period.  Read the IAP distribution and visibility documentation for more info.

Deleting apps

If you want to delete an app that you’ve never submitted to the Store, click the “Delete this app” link in the upper right corner of its App overview page. Once you confirm, the app will be removed from your dashboard. Keep in mind that this also releases the reserved name, and someone else could use it.

3_deleteThisApp

You can’t delete an app from your dashboard once it’s been published. If you want to “unpublish” an app and prevent any new customers from acquiring it, create a new submission and select “Hide this app and stop selling” in the Distribution and visibility section. This will hide the app’s listing and will prevent any new customers from acquiring the app. Customers that already own your app can continue to use the app, and can re-install it.

4_hideThisApp

You can’t delete an app from your dashboard once it’s been published. If you want to “unpublish” an app and prevent any new customers from acquiring it, create a new submission and select “Hide this app and stop selling” in the Distribution and visibility section. This will hide the app’s listing and will prevent any new customers from acquiring the app. Customers that already own your app can continue to use the app, and can re-install it:

4_hideThisApp

As we continue to roll out new features and tools for Dev Center, please let us know if there are issues ( via developer support) or new features you’d like to see included in future releases (user voice).

Updated October 8, 2015 10:27 am

Join the conversation

  1. Is it possible to submit a beta update to an existing app while still allowing the general public to download and install the previous (non-beta) version? It is unclear whether options such as “Hide this app in the Store” apply to only the new submission or the app in general. Thanks!

    • @Tim, the visibility applies to all the app, not to specific packages. So it is not possible to have a beta package and a published package for the same app.
      Bernardo Zamora
      Microsoft

  2. Is this functionality not finished yet?
    Since I am unable to get this to work.

    I have some apps in the Dashboard that has never been submitted to the Store, and thought I should do a clean up in the Dashboard.

    I am am certain that there are no submissions, since I see none in the Dashboard and see just the “Start your submission”-button.
    So this should be possible to delete right away as I understand the blog post.

    When I tap DELETE THIS APP, I first get the “Are you sure you want to delete this app…”.

    I click the “Delete”-button, and then I get a new popup with the title “Message from the webpage”, and the text “Operation is not valid due to the current state of the object”.

    • @Ronny, this feature is working. If you are seeing this error, please submit a support ticket to get it fixed and the app deleted.
      Thank you
      Bernardo Zamora
      Microsoft

  3. A request, let us delete apps that one has begun an submission for, but never completed it and never have published to the Store in any form.

    I see no logical reason in stopping us from removing such “unpublished but begun a submission at one time” apps?

    • @Ronny,

      Update: As long as the app has not been published, it should be able to be deleted. Try deleting the submission first, then delete the app.

      Bernardo Zamora
      Microsoft

      • I tested deleting a submission for an app that had never been published, and that went ok, sumission was deleted. But get same error when trying to delete the app. Have tried this on several unpublished apps I had in dashboard.

        I will contact support about this, no prob 🙂

  4. What is the recommended means of beta-testing an application update? Is this possible?

    All the visibility/distribution stuff in this post and in the documentation seems to only apply to the 1st release.

    -Jeff Weber
    @jeffweber
    Krashlander – Ski, Jump, Crash!

  5. Is there any plan to build out an improved beta to production experience? Something that would allow a single app within the store that could be used for both beta testing and production. I am looking to beta test builds with a narrow group and then after testing push that same build (under the same application) to all app users in production.

  6. Hi,

    We have problems with Windows Phone application visibility in store. The app was submitted with second option, hidden but accessible with link. However app is visible in store!
    Under what condition that can happen?
    What is the best option to fix this? Rename?

  7. My app has been published some days ago (>7 days) and I can see it ONLY if I search for exact name! If I try to search with a keywords, my app is not listed ! 🙁

  8. I don’t understand why I can’t hide and stop selling. I don’t have this option.
    I just have
    -“Hide this app in the Store. Customers with a direct link to the app’s listing can still download it, except on Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. ”
    -“Hide this app and make it available only to the people you specify below, who can download this app on Windows Phone 8.x devices. A promotional code may be used to download this app on Windows 10 devices”
    -“Hide this app and prevent acquisition. Customers with a promotional code can still download it on Windows 10 devices”

    I don’t have “Hide this app and stop selling”.

    I also think the post or even the documentations is not correct or need updated too.

    In ours the Distribution and visibility is hidden under a new Submission under ‘Pricing and Availability’.
    Why can’t on the main app overview page of the app, just put the “Hide From Store and Stop Selling” link or options directly there instead of having to create new submissions to remove or hide our app from the app store.