App Center Distribution

In my previous posts I showed how to get started with App Center and how to build an app on App Center.  In this post, I will demonstrate how to distribute your shiny new app to  your alpha or beta testers.



Return to App Center and confirm that your application has been built with the latest check in.  Next, create your distribution group.

Create A Distribution Group

To do so, click on Distribute Groups, where you will see a button in the upper right hand corner: New Group.

Create and name your group (e.g., Alpha Testers) .  You can allow public access , but then device registration won’t work (at least for now).  Leave this off, and enter email addresses into the box labeled Who would you like to invite to this group?

Each invited person will receive an invitation via email.

Once signed up, it is a simple matter to get your latest version to each participant.  Begin, as noted above, with a Build.  Once done,  click on Distribute, and in the upper right-hand corner, click Distribute New Release.

The Tricky Part

Careful here.  The main part of the next window asks you to Upload a build.  That is not what we want; we want to use the build we created in App Center.  To do so, look in the lower-left where you will find, in small print, a link that says Choose build from branch.  Click that link.

If you only have one branch, it will be shown here, and you can click Next; otherwise choose the branch you want and click Next.  The 5 most recent builds will be shown. Choose the one you want to distribute (typically the top (latest) build).  Click on that build and click Next.

You now have the ability to add release notes.  You can use markup to make this look nice; the only limitation is 5,000 characters.  Then click Next

If you’ve not already indicated which list to distribute to, you’ll be prompted to pick a distribution list now (e.g., Alpha Testers, Beta Testers, etc.).

Click next and you come to the distribution page. Click Distribute and hey! presto! the distribution is sent to all your testers, along with your release notes

Android and iOS

Just as you had to build your Android and iOS apps separately, so you must distribute them separately.  This is either a great convenience or an annoyance, depending on how often you want to distribute to both at the same time.  In any case, it isn’t terribly difficult.


We talked last time about provisioning for iOS. In theory, provisioning new users is a snap.  Just click on the distribution group you are interested in to be brought to the overview page.  There you will find four tabs: Overview, Testers, Releases, Devices.  Click on Devices and you’ll see all the users who do not have provisioned phones.

The simplest thing to do now is to check one or more of the testers (where status is Unprovisioned) and let App Center walk you through provisioning.  One key aspect is to indicate that you do want to re-sign your app. For this you will need the p12 file we created in the previous post.  Just drag that file onto the indicated space and fill in the rest of the fields.  This will cause the new devices to be provisioned for your app.

Note: at the moment there appears to be a bug that when you do an iOS distribution, many or all of your provisioned devices may become unprovisioned.  To fix this, just select those devices and re-register them.  App Center is aware of this bug and it should be fixed soon.  

Android Distribution

Android distribution is identical, without the need to provision devices.

This ‘n’ That

The overview page for distribution groups provides three tabs on Android or four tabs on iOS.  In either case, one is a list of your testers, and one a list of your releases.  The latter can be very useful for determining successful releases and how many have installed this latest (or previous) releases.


Once you have your app in the hands of testers, the Analytics tab (mentioned in the first post in this series) becomes much more valuable.



About Jesse Liberty

Jesse Liberty has three decades of experience writing and delivering software projects and is the author of 2 dozen books and a couple dozen Pluralsight & LinkedIn Learning courses. He was a Senior Technical Evangelist for Microsoft, a Distinguished Software Engineer for AT&T, a VP for Information Services for Citibank and a Software Architect for PBS. He is a Xamarin Certified Mobile Developer and a Xamarin MVP and a Microsoft MVP.
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