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SharePoint Framework: The Future

SharePoint Framework: The Future

At this month’s Future of SharePoint event, Jeff Teper announced several exciting changes to the SharePoint roadmap. This is all welcome news for a platform whose public momentum has slowed in recent years.

End-User Announcements

First and foremost, SharePoint will soon have a first-class app on iOS, Android, and Windows phone devices. Mobile SharePoint has usually been a frustrating experience due to unfriendly default interfaces, poorly-designed customizations, and frustrating authentication. Microsoft is eliminating many of those barriers by making lists, libraries, users, search, and Delve features available from a single-click on any device. I’m looking forward to testing it in the next month.

SharePoint is also getting a new homepage in Office 365. The new look closely aligns with Delve, showing your most frequently-accessed team sites in a clean tile-based interface. This might not be a welcome change for highly-branded intranets, but it will be an intuitive default for new users.

There are also new templates for team sites and document libraries, which have been controversial. Overall, the new team site design looks modern, flexible, and responsive for mobile devices. This was one of many templates sorely in need of a refresh, so it’s nice to see Microsoft revisiting user experience around the core SharePoint building blocks.

While each of those updates is great news for end-users, developers will be most excited about the new development model named “SharePoint Framework”.

SharePoint Framework

SharePoint Framework is yet another development model for SharePoint, following in the footsteps of farm solutions (yay), sandbox solutions (boo), the client-side object model (yay), and apps/add-ins for SharePoint (boo).

The good news is I think they’ve finally gotten it right! Microsoft acknowledges that JavaScript is eating the world and it has become the de facto standard for customization and integration. Developers want to use the same client-side skills across all of their applications without having to deal with proprietary tools. The SharePoint Framework openly embraces client-side development with clearer patterns and practices for customizing parts and pages.

Best of all, it’s implementation-agnostic. Developers can bring their favorite MV* frameworks and libraries, such as Angular, React, or Knockout. Solutions can be written in JavaScript or transpiled from TypeScript. The rendering engine doesn’t matter, as long as you adhere to the SharePoint Framework constructs for accessing data.

Many of the details are still to be announced this summer, but it seems to me that SharePoint Framework will be the preferred way to implement all customizations going forward.

SharePoint Framework: The Highlights

Summary: SharePoint Framework is a client-side framework for developing entire pages or reusable portions (similar to web parts). It:

  1. Eliminates many headaches from the App/Add-in model, such as the need to host code, cross-domain IFRAME issues, and complex troubleshooting.
  2. Supports any JavaScript/TypeScript development framework and leverages familiar deployment model.
  3. Facilitates common branding and business logic across applications (e.g., across SharePoint, CRM, ERP, and other SaaS platforms).
  4. Provides a seamless migration path from other client-side object model (CSOM) customizations.
  5. Shifts computationally expensive tasks from the server to the browser, eliminating hosting costs and outages.
  6. Is open source and follows the tenets of modern release management.
  7. Minimizes the barrier of entry to become a SharePoint developer.

Keep an eye out for more on SharePoint Foundation this summer.

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