Project Siena: Enabling Business Users to Create Mobile Apps for the Enterprise

The proliferation of mobile devices presents a great opportunity for the enterprise.  App experiences that simply weren’t possible before are appearing with more and more regularity. For example:

  • Apps to support conversations, where a customer can reach over and touch the employee’s screen, make changes and ultimately own the solution
  • Apps with the smarts to help users make on-the-spot decisions by offering choices first and allowing trade-offs later
  • Apps for tasks that involve capturing real world information through photos, videos and voice

What has emerged is a new, purpose-specific type of app. These are apps rich in media, distinctive in their look (generic looks simply won’t cut it), simple to use, yet loaded with custom intelligence and connected to high-value data.  To fully unlock the value of mobile devices for the enterprise, millions and millions of these purpose-specific apps will need to be authored in the coming years. To accomplish this, we must enable a broader class of people to author these apps.

Project Siena
Today, I’m excited to announce the availability of the beta release of Project Siena (code name). Project Siena is for business experts, business analysts, consultants and other business users with the imagination to conceive an app for today’s mobile devices.  Now, using little more than PowerPoint- and Excel-level skills, they can create a whole new category of powerful apps, often in a matter of minutes. These are apps for the device-first and cloud-connected world, with the potential to transform today’s business processes and customer interactions.

Siena provides a familiar and easy document editing experience: put your information on the canvas, compose and style it, and add custom logic and interactivity using the power of Excel expressions. The result is an immediately usable app with all the rich information, differentiated looks and purpose-specific intelligence expected of modern Windows apps.

Siena works well with corporate and web data: SharePoint lists, Excel and Azure tables, RSS feeds and REST services. The authored apps are IT-friendly. Since the output is just HTML/JavaScript, developers can also open up and extend them in their favorite HTML/JavaScript programming tools, if needed.

I'm excited about the potential for Project Siena to enable broad classes of business people to build mobile applications for the enterprise.  I encourage you to install Project Siena, watch one of the how-to videos on, and then build your own apps.


S. Somasegar, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft

Comments (51)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nevermind found the URL function is Launch("urlhere")

  2. Anonymous says:

    Is there any plan to make Siena apps cross platform so they run on iOS and Android mobile devices?

  3. Anonymous says:

    It seems you can install the Siena apps on WinRT, but there appears to be some conditions to this. I worked through the AdventureWorks tutorial and was able to install the app in fine using both the executable installer and powershell on my desktop with Windows 8.1. When install the app on my tablet (WinRT), I followed the instructions for powershell, but was also asked for a developer's license. I was able to provide the necessary information for developer's license since I do have one, but it is kind of odd to have individuals who do not develop Windows apps on regular basis whether for business or as a hobby for a developer's license. I hope Microsoft will take a look at this and provide possibly a simpler solution.

  4. Anonymous says:

    It should be possible to add links to websites.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I love this. Finally, an app dev IDE built for Windows 8. I hope you take this farther. I'd love to be able to double-click a control and start writing code (VB, preferably ). Visual Studio has become too big and complex. It's great for the enterprise, but the world needs a BASICA for Windows 8. This could be it. A platform easy enough for anyone to use, but powerful enough for professional developers to build serious apps. Keep going with this one, Microsoft. It's long overdue.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous (26 Dec 2013 12:24 AM): Once the excel file is imported, the data is static. If excel file is edited/updated after importing then there is a way refresh imported data with new changes by clicking on refresh button on Data sources page next to imported excel file. There is not a way to push data back to Excel file from Siena.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Super cool! Way to go.

  8. Anonymous says:

    A how to video on REST data source connections using WAAD would be appreciated!

  9. Anonymous says:

    how about SQL!!!!! i need sql data sources… from the cloud or from local database..

  10. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous (22 Dec 2013 8:11 PM) : a blog post on how to submit an app created with Project Siena to the Windows Store is coming soon.

  11. Anonymous says:

    A few queries:

    1. As the app on store says support for ARM, I assume that I would be able to install it on a Windows RT device and use it.
    2. The publish generates an executable installer, an EXE. Would I be able to install it on my Windows RT device?
    3. How can this app be published to the Windows Store?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this. Great service for the community

    Perfect for rapid prototyping and even full apps.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Very Nice ! Please, add support for SQL datasources or ODBC so we can use our sql adtabases.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Can you add support for consuming WCF Data Services (OData) ?

  15. Anonymous says:

    An obvious use for this would be as a channel app for youtube videos. Easy to get the data from an RSS feed. However, using the link from youtube as the source for a video player yields nada. Does the video player only play local video at this point?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Would be nice if the video will be available to winrt devices because of silverlight

  17. Anonymous says:

    This is cool

  18. Anonymous says:


  19. Anonymous says:

    Just downloaded and I really enjoy it. When can we expect the rest of the how-to videos? Would love to see more video tutorials. The one that is already posted is great…just keep em coming

  20. Anonymous says:

    is there some Kind of documentation anywhere on the web? i cannot find out how to set the text of a Label when clicking a button. do i overlook something? is dynamic assignment of values at possible at all? how do i work with collections?
    i didn't even find a Forum focusing on it.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Im assuming you cant publish an app to the store with this. The "publish app" option pushes out a custom manifest file that won't work with Visual Studio, thus wont work with the windows app store.

  22. Anonymous says:

    This is what LightSwitch should've been all along. Somewhere after the first or second release of LightSwitch, they forgot the mantra "create business apps without code". I've even said that learning C++ or VB.Net just isn't an option for basic monetary calculations for SMB app development from unskilled developers, and that Excel already has extremely easy-to-understand formulas. There is also no easy path for native touch-friendly app development in LightSwitch unless you know how to code an HTML5 app wrapper for an HTML-based LightSwitch app, and that's a shame because the table and layout features of LightSwitch were easy to understand too – until you have to do anything being just recalling basic data. By merging LightSwitch into the more expensive Visual Studio packages, it's clear this was doomed to be just a feature of VS from the start, instead of being a simpler app development method.

    Siena is what I've been waiting for. Please, PLEASE have some alt-platofrm porting help and/or web app publishing options too. Will the final version allow for publishing apps to the Windows Store? Why not merge this with the similar program that you have for Windows Phone too? It doesn't make a lick of sense to keep these separated for too long.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Would it be possible to have an SQL data connection in Excel, and Project Sienna to be able to pull/push data via the Excel file?

    Or does Project Sienna just see the Excel Spreadsheet as a static file?

  24. Anonymous says:

    Consuming REST data seems to work, however accessing the info inside a JSON array and mapping it to a listbox or gallery-'visual' doesn't. How would that work out?

  25. Anonymous says:

    This is reminding me of something I haven't used in a while. Kind of a VB7 for Windows 8.1? A little VB scripting here and there…know what I mean? I'm cautiously excited!

  26. Anonymous says:

    Attempting to put together a quick app with SharePoint as a data source and I have authentication issues. I have tried Office365 and an on-prem install of SharePoint and both seem to receive 401 Not authorized when trying to connect to lists.asmx. Siena does not seem to prompt for credentials. Any tip on how to get credentials into the Data Source?

  27. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous 7:39PM : UpdateContext should help with your scenario: Button1!OnSelect=UpdateContext({myLabelText : “Changed”}) Label1!Text=myLabelText. You can initialize context variable using Navigate(Screen2, “”, {myLabelText : “InitValue”}) or Screen2!OnVisible behavior.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I’ve tried creating a SharePoint Data Source and tested against Office365 and SharePoint on Prem. Both seem to generate an error message that states it can’t load the lists from the site. Using fiddler we can see a 401 error but there is no prompt for credentials.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Can it get data from SharePoint Online ? When Sharepoint online is doing SSO to ADFS ? It just ignores me when I enter a URL.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Do we have an ETA on when REST and RSS feeds will be live or at least have a manual refresh button of some sort?

    Lastly, is there any documentation on some of these variables? Like Transparency. What does that do? Any number above 0 makes it invisible entirely.

  31. Ben Hodes says:

    Thank you very much for trying out Project Siena! Could you please share with us what version of Windows 8.1 you're running (for example, Windows 8.1 Enterprise, Windows 2012 R2 Server, etc.)? You can find a list of supported SKU versions at The error you're describing happens when Windows does not have certain media-capabilities installed. Try installing the media pack found here:

  32. Anonymous says:

    Playing around with the “excel formulas” and I see we dont currently have “Search” for doing InString operations. Hope this comes soon.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Also I'm noticing you can't do HTML links. Or am I missing a syntax?

  34. Anonymous says:

    Is it possible for rss description content to import images? I am retrieving text only content. Thanks!

  35. Anonymous says:

    Hi everyone. Regarding the question about the Label color (I was theAnonymous!), just forget it – I was able to figure it out using a Context Variable. Just for you to know 🙂 Cheers!

  36. Anonymous says:

    Hi everyone. I am trying to update a Label's text with the click of the button but somehow I can't do it. I can do other things like Navigating away when clicking but not this. I have put this on the OnSelect event: Label1!Text = "changed" but it doesn't work. Any help? Thanks!

  37. Anonymous says:

    This is awesome! i'd like to use this to front end some elastic search projects and maybe even compete against Kibana for building dashboards. Can you guys integrate JSON data sources and also setup charts/graphs like Kibana? (just search Kibana and check it out, this app looks like it could do that and more!)

  38. Anonymous says:

    Hmmm. Windows 8.1 on my Del XPS 27 desktop and I can install the app, but, when I open it I get "Project Siena is not supported for this version of Windows…" When can I go to diagnose?

  39. Anonymous says:

    This tool is so cool, BUT, I created a quick app on my Surface 2 tablet and published it locally to run a test but it will not run on my Surface 2 tablet (win RT). Is there a way to publish the app to ARM format? Or is this functionality coming.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Azure Mobile services keeps coming back with 'undefined' as the only table it can see but appears configured correctly with zz_config table 🙁

  41. Anonymous says:

    This is a great new initiative from Microsoft, however, to be truly successful there will be a need for a lot more “blogging” and training around use cases. Lightswicth is very well supported in that sense, and it would be nice to see similar commitment from Microsoft on this new development.
    It is said the projects can be opened in standard dev tools, does this mean the projects can be opened in VS2013?
    Will it be possible to interface with realtime data sources using SignalR?

  42. Anonymous says:

    @Ben Hodes: You say “Video player media must point to a video file, however this file can be remote.” But I’m not seeing how this is the case. Could you elaborate?

    Also, it would be fantastic if a Video player instance could point to a SkyDrive hosted video. For example, if I posted a video publicly on SkyDrive, I could point directly to that file in the video player and it would playback within the app using the video player. In general, I’d love to see better integration between these ‘easy-to-make’ apps and SkyDrive, because it just makes sense. If I’m a Joe Schmoe playing around with the Windows Phone App Studio or Project Siena, it would be amazing if I could use SkyDrive as my ‘hosting’ service for media. It just makes sense.

  43. Anonymous says:

    James Milne: Office 365 auth is not supported in Beta. Support will be coming as a part of SharePoint Online support.

  44. Ben Hodes says:

    Thank you all for the comments! I'll attempt to answer many of your questions, but for the best place to find help topics, sample videos and more, please visit our TechNet site at In no particular order:

    Q: "An obvious use for this would be as a channel app for youtube videos. Easy to get the data from an RSS feed. Does the video player only play local video at this point?"

    Video player media must point to a video file, however this file can be remote.

    Q: "The publish generates an executable installer, an EXE. Would I be able to install it on my Windows RT device? How can this app be published to the Windows Store?"

    For instructions on how install your published app on a Windows RT device, please see "How do I install published apps on a different device?" at We do not currently support publishing Project Siena apps to the Windows Store in beta. For a full list of release notes please see

    Q: "Do we have an ETA on when REST and RSS feeds will be live or at least have a manual refresh button of some sort? Lastly, is there any documentation on some of these variables?"

    Data sources with more complex refresh capabilities are coming in the next several weeks and months ahead. Please see Looking Ahead ( for more information. For variable documentation, please see our Function Reference ( for a full list of functions.

    Q: "Would be nice if the video will be available to winrt devices because of silverlight"

    I agree! You can watch the Introduction to Project Siena video directly here:

  45. Anonymous says:

    Is there functionality to update Excel table data from a button "OnSelect"?

    Also, where is the best place to ask these questions? I checked the TechNet site, but there is no forum or Q&A section *that I could find*

  46. Anonymous says:

    This is a great idea. It has the potential to make the metro UI extremely relevant for business. The way I see Siena is that it should find its place along other Office Suit app as a very simple to use application comparable PowerPoint. Creating an app should be as simple, as accessible as creating a Word document or an Excel Spreadsheet. The entire interactivity of the application should be put in place without code. Microsoft, there is great opportunity here to make the app development something accessible to everybody.

    I also agree an SQL data source is a must.

  47. Anonymous says:

    A Project Siena pofonegyszerűvé teszi az elsősorban adatok megjelenítését végző programok építését

  48. Anonymous says:

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  49. Anonymous says:

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