First Impressions: Development for SharePoint Framework

Mike BerrymanYesterday I attended a Microsoft Webinar introducting the new SharePoint Framework, and here are my first impressions:

For a few years now Microsoft has been encouraging developers to customize SharePoint with client-side technologies (Javascript, HTML5) instead of server-side (C#).  The new SharePoint Framework is another step in that direction.  Currently we 3 general options for customizing SharePoint.

  • Server-side code (not available in SharePoint Online)
  • Apps/Add-Ins
  • Directly customize/modify pages with SharePoint Designer

The Add-Ins customization path also consists of two sub-options: SharePoint-Hosted and Provider-Hosted.

With SharePoint-Hosted Add-Ins, you basically create a solution of purely client-side technology (Javascript, HTML5, CSS) and deploy it to SharePoint.  Usually you’re using the SharePoint REST API or CSOM to interface with SharePoint data.  To me, the SharePoint Framework looks like it’s going to be the replacement for this option.  SharePoint Framework seems to be the next logical step of creating purely client-side solutions, but with a lot more focus on the “slick” and “cool” factor that usually comes with client-side.  The webinar demoed how to use Node.js, Yeoman and Gulp to setup a development environment and create basic SharePoint Framework Web Parts (and as far as I could tell, you need to at least use Node.js and Gulp to work with Framework).  Afterwards I also read through this blog post from SharePoint Guru Chris O’Brien.  Between these two resources I feel like I’ve got a basic grasp of the SharePoint Framework.

Coupled with the SharePoint Framework is this new concept of a “modern” page, which doesn’t allow “normal” web parts that we’re used to, only these new SharePoint Framework web parts.  I’m not sure what the point of this new page concept is so I might be missing something here.

There’s also this new “Workbench” that allows you to run your Framework web part in a local mock-instance of SharePoint, specifically for development purposes.  The demo I saw on the webinar excited me if for nothing else than the prospect of NOT having to deploy/reload the entire SharePoint site every time I make a minor change to a web part.

Overall I feel like this is the next evolution of SharePoint client-side development.  SharePoint-Hosted Add-Ins may still exist but I really don’t see a point in doing that type of Add-In when the Framework goes live.  It feels like the everything SharePoint-Hosted can do, Framework will be able to do better.  Bottom line: interesting stuff is in the works for SharePoint development.

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