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Microsoft Makes SharePoint Framework Generally Available

Microsoft's SharePoint Framework is now ready for commercial use, having reached the "general availability" milestone on Thursday.

The release of the framework, announced here, is a big milestone for Microsoft as it is hoping to draw fresh developer support with it. The SharePoint Framework, previously available at the release candidate stage last month, adds client-side SharePoint WebPart developer support at this point. However, Microsoft is planning to broaden its support for SharePoint List and Site customizations in future releases.

The SharePoint Framework currently has support for SharePoint Online and Office 365 services. Support for SharePoint Server 2016 on premises is planned for later this year.

"The SharePoint team is looking to bring the SharePoint Framework to SharePoint 2016 on-premises in 2017," Microsoft's "SharePoint Framework (SPFx) Enterprise Guidance" document explained.

That document offers a very thorough grounding for IT pros, by the way, even though the topic is heavily developer focused. In Microsoft's conception, the framework won't just be used by independent software developers, but also will be used by developers within organizations (so-called "enterprise developers").

Microsoft hopes to attract developers, in part, through the framework's use of various open source tools. It's built based on Web developer tools such as the Yeoman scaffolding tool (which has starter templates), the Gulp run-time build system (based on Node.js) and REST-based APIs for building SharePoint WebParts (TypeScript/JavaScript, HTML and CSS). The framework also supports both the React and Angular open source JavaScript Frameworks. Lightweight dev tools use is favored with the framework, but Visual Studio support is also part of Microsoft's plans.

The older .NET server-side application development approach for SharePoint is still supported, but that's done via the current SharePoint add-in model. Microsoft killed off an older server-side sandbox approach to building SharePoint apps. It's still possible to use client-side JavaScript embedding to build SharePoint apps, but Microsoft argues that its complexity isn't keeping up with SharePoint's changes.

The new framework is typically described by Microsoft as a "full-trust model" that's complementary to the current SharePoint add-in model. It's not a replacement for the SharePoint add-in model, which still will be needed for some kinds of applications. For instance, the add-in model is needed for running proprietary code built by independent software vendors, Microsoft has argued.

The new SharePoint Framework will get rolled out gradually, but all SharePoint farms will have the framework "by sometime next week," according to the Microsoft's release notes on GitHub. There's also a delay because the framework code gets released to tenants in one stage and then the feature gets turned on in another stage. If the framework is not fully available, applications can still be tested using the SharePoint Workbench, which is a kind of built-in code-testing environment.

Microsoft's announcement contained links for those needing to get a grip on the new framework. For developers, Microsoft also has a Patterns and Practices portal at the Office 365 dev center. It's sort of an open source community hub, with links to code samples and guides.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.