Announcing the SharePoint Framework Extension for Visual Studio
When Microsoft released the first developer preview of the SharePoint Framework, they took a big gamble by introducing a core dependency on modern web development tools such as Node.js, Gulp and the Yeoman Generator. Such tools are largely unfamiliar to many classic ASP.NET developers and, by extension, most of the SharePoint development community. Although learning the “new way” of doing things really isn’t all that hard (after all, collectively these tools are really just a web server, templating engine and task runner), many enterprise development teams are unable to implement such drastic changes to their deeply-entrenched development, source control, test and ALM processes, many of which have been in place for years and exist to service a multitude of critical apps beyond the SharePoint sphere. In addition, the full version of Visual Studio remains one of the best IDE’s on the market and huge numbers of developers (myself included) are loathe to give it up in favor of lightweight editors such as VS Code that offer less functionality and far fewer integration and customization options.
If you or your team fall into one of those categories, then I have some great news to share. I am pleased to introduce the SharePoint Framework Extension for Visual Studio. Developed by the SharePoint community for the SharePoint community, and available for free as part of the Office Dev PnP initiative, SPFx-VS brings the modern SharePoint development experience back into the familiar confines of Visual Studio. It uses the same underlying components of the SPFx stack, including Node.js, Gulp and the Yeoman Generator, but overlays them with custom project and item templates, traditional solution/project structures, and the classic F5 debug experience. This means that developers can now include SPFx projects as part of larger, more comprehensive solutions, check it all into TFS, generate automated builds and deploy it all to Azure with just a few clicks.
Most importantly, because the scaffolding behind the scenes uses the native SPFx components, future enhancements to the tooling and API’s will be fully supported. It is important to note that we didn’t re-write what the SharePoint team produced, we simply made it compatible with Visual Studio using existing extensibility options. Best of all, because it’s an open-source project hosted on GitHub as part of the Office Dev PnP initiative, contributions from the community are welcomed and encouraged, ensuring that new features can be rolled out rapidly and customizations created for scenarios that we never envisioned at the outset.
To learn more about the extension, see a demo of it in action, and listen to some discussion on why we built it, watch the webcast we recorded with Vesa Juvonen for Office Dev PnP. To get an installable version of the extension, visit the release page on GitHub and read the associated Getting Started guide. While you’re there, feel free to browse through the code, suggest improvements or, better yet, clone the repo and add some cool new features for a pull request.