Introducing the SharePoint Framework

Home » SharePoint Development » Introducing the SharePoint Framework

Introducing the SharePoint Framework

Posted on

Today Microsoft officially announced an exciting new set of technologies known as the "SharePoint Framework". Developers everywhere should be excited about this announcement as it means we (finally!) have a proper modern web development experience for SharePoint publishing both on-premises and in the cloud. To learn more about what the SharePoint Framework is and how it functions, have a look at the overview video and read this blog post​ from the SharePoint team.

At this point, things are still in motion and there is no official release date other than "sometime later this year" but there are already a number of things to get really excited about if you are a SharePoint developer. Here are my top five in no particular order:

1. Modern Web Development Experience. We can finally move out of the dark ages of classic server-side ASP.NET development for native customizations. No more WSP’s and endless IISRESET operations. We don’t even need a SharePoint server to preview our customizations as the new SharePoint Workbench utility provides a sandbox test environment right on our desktop. Everything – and I do mean everything – is HTML and JavaScript based, leveraging the remote API’s for platform integration and a whole new set of extensibility components for things like data management, caching and authorization. Even better, it’s all open source so developers can use any JavaScript framework they like for deep, natively-supported customizations. 

2. Everything Old is New Again. Unlike Add-Ins and Azure Apps, which are designed to run outside of the pages and parts users normally interact with, the SharePoint Framework has been built from the ground up as a proper publishing platform for in-context customizations. Developers will still be working with pages and web parts, only they’ll be doing it in client-side code that is responsive and mobile out of the box. There may be a bit of a learning curve for classic ASP.NET developers but the underlying artifacts are still very similar – build a web part, add it to a page, display data via the API’s. This should be much easier to grasp for the average SharePoint developer than things like provider-hosted add-ins and standalone web apps. The knowledge delta is more about tools than it is about components and that’s a good thing. Concerned about learning all this JavaScript stuff? Don’t be – there will be plenty of guidance to get you up to speed. Heck, the SharePoint team themselves had to learn it in order to to build the new site experience – if they can do it then so can you.

3. First Class Customizations. In the add-in model customizations were an afterthought at best, with poorly implemented integration points and barely functional shims. The SharePoint Framework was expressly designed to solve these challenges by making client-side code a first-class citizen within the rendering framework. This isn’t just a bolt-on it’s the core technology underlying many of the new UI experiences. Developers will be building customizations in exactly the same way the SharePoint team themselves are building them. It doesn’t get any more "supported" than that!

4. Microsoft Gets It. No, I’m not trying to be funny – they really do get it. Developers want to use modern frameworks like Angular, Reach, Knockout and so on. They don’t want to spin up full server virtual machines just to create a quick web part. The web has moved on from the old server-side days and it’s high time we caught up with what everyone else is doing. Nobody feels that pain more than the engineering team that has to build and maintain all that heavyweight legacy code in the first place. Internally, Microsoft is embracing the modern web and the greater SharePoint development community is the primary beneficiary of that change. And it’s only going to get better from here on out.
5. Customizations are Cool (Again). Remember way back in the day when the "in" thing was to make SharePoint not look like SharePoint? (Ok, so it wasn’t actually way back in the day – everyone still wants that)  Well, here we are in 2016 and all of a sudden deep customizations are back in vogue. With the SharePoint Framework, developers and designers can work together to build a completely customized intranet from the ground up with exactly the look and feel they want and have it run on-premises or in the cloud. Fully supported. No more fighting with the complexities of the SharePoint page structure, battling interdependent server controls or wading through mountains of conflicting CSS, either – mock it up, code it, style it and go. And you don’t even have to know all the aracane inner workings of SharePoint to make it functional. Now that’s cool! 

So there are my top five things to like about the new SharePoint Framework. No doubt there will be a ton of questions about the particulars as this gets rolled out to first release tenants later this year. But for now I think we can all be thankful that Microsoft has heard our concerns and given us an exciting new platform to build some really cool stuff on top of SharePoint. 

Eric Shupps Eric Alan Shupps eshupps @eshupps SharePoint Cowboy BinaryWave SmartTrack 
Take the trouble out of troubleshooting.  
Improve service levels and avoid downtime with