Microsoft's SharePoint Framework Released to Preview
- By Kurt Mackie
- August 18, 2016
The new SharePoint Framework, which Microsoft unveiled in May with the general availability release of SharePoint Server 2016, is now available to test as a "developer preview."
Microsoft had previously promised that the coming framework would ease client-side SharePoint development, with access to open source tooling. It's also designed to have development hooks into the Microsoft Graph, which is the underlying fabric behind Office 365 services.
Now the SharePoint Framework is available for some testers, Microsoft announced Thursday. Initial documentation can be found at the GitHub repository here. Testers have to be an Office 365 developer tenant to use the preview.
SharePoint Framework Plans
Microsoft plans to update the SharePoint Framework at a rapid pace. The preview has Web Parts support, but Microsoft's plans include "delivering modern page editing experiences, enabling seamless access to data in other O365 workloads through the Microsoft Graph, streamlining the tools, and moving toward general availability," Microsoft's announcement explained.
The announcement also listed some long-term plans:
In the longer term, we'll expand the framework beyond web parts to custom pages and portals, as well as document library customization. We will expand support of the SharePoint Framework beyond Developer tenancies to the full set of Office 365 tenancies later this year. We will also make the SharePoint Framework available for SharePoint 2016 on-premises releases, targeting 2017. Keep an eye on this blog and @OfficeDev for updates.
The new SharePoint Framework isn't replacing the existing SharePoint add-ins model for client-side SharePoint development. The two approaches will be brought closer together, Microsoft's announcement emphasized.
"Over time, as we bring the add-in model to our latest auth platforms and integrate it with our modern user experience investments, we'll bring the add-in model and the SharePoint Framework closer together," Microsoft's announcement stated.
The developer preview of the SharePoint Framework is "still a fairly early preview and is rough around the edges," according to Mike Ammerlaan, a SharePoint product manager at Microsoft, in an Office 365 developer podcast published Thursday. Ammerlaan is a 17-year Microsoft veteran who started on the SharePoint team in 2003.
Microsoft is aiming to make the SharePoint Framework support modern Web development techniques and be more responsive, Ammerlaan said. While in the past, there was an emphasis on server-side rendering with Web development, today it's shifted to keep the server side more lightweight, he explained. Another "huge" factor for Web developers today is the tapping of cloud-computing resources, he added.
The developer preview currently has the following support capabilities, according to Ammerlaan:
- Yeoman tools support for standard starter templates
- Gulp run-time build support
- SharePoint Workbench support (a "miniature" version SharePoint that can be run on a local machine for dev-test purposes)
- New APIs for REST endpoints when building a Web Part
Visual Studio tooling is still to come. Right now, Microsoft is focusing on the lightweight dev tools, Ammerlaan said.
He also reiterated the idea that the SharePoint Framework will be complementary to the add-in development model.
"One thing I do want to clarify is that the SharePoint Framework is really designed to support building these rich client applications," Ammerlaan said. "I certainly wouldn't consider it the new model of SharePoint development."
The SharePoint add-in model might be used for iframes to add presentation layers. On the other hand, sometimes developers need full access to a SharePoint site. In that case, the SharePoint Framework works well for developers, Ammerlaan explained.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.