SharePoint Development: How to start?

Introduction

There are two versions of SharePoint available:

  • SharePoint 2013 (SharePoint 2016 will available soon).
  • SharePoint Online (Hosted by Microsoft)

You can use either of those to develop SharePoint applications. There is one huge difference. Older SharePoint developers have used Solutions (specially Farm Solutions) to develop applications for SharePoint. This type of development is not an option in Online version of the SharePoint. Farm solutions have been developed using C# and they are packages that contain configurations for SharePoint and also DLL files containing executable code. Biggest problem in this model is that one poorly written application can bring whole server down and there are no way of isolating poorly behaving application.

Figure 1 Principle of Farm Solution

This is totally impossible scenario in cloud environment where single shared environment can host several companies in their isolated tenants. If one company could install poorly written application, it could make harm to several companies and that is not acceptable. To address this type of issues, Microsoft started designing new way of developing applications. This was called User Solutions.

Get you own tenant

Starting SharePoint development is really easy. All you need is own tenant from Office 365. There are several ways of getting your own playground:

  • If you have existing MSDN subscription, you can get Office 365 development tenant. This tenant is available for you as long as you have valid MSDN subscription.
  • If you don’t have MSDN, but you are an employee of the Microsoft partner, you can order demo tenant from Microsoft. This option has expiration date, so you can expect that Microsoft will close you tenant in the future.
    https://demos.microsoft.com/

  • If you don’t have any other mean, you can always order trial tenant from Microsoft. This option has expiration date, so you can expect that Microsoft will close you tenant in the future.
  • If you really want to be a “pro” you can buy your own tenant. This is ultimately the best option, because it allows you to use all Office365 features without limiting factors of previous options.

In any case, it doesn’t matter which option you choose, because we are going to script everything and you can always setup everything in place if you happen to lose your tenant.

Setting up your development environment

You need following tools to start developing SharePoint:

  • OfficeDevPnP.PowerShell Commands https://github.com/OfficeDev/PnP-PowerShell.
    This is set of PowerShell commands that will utilize SharePoint Client Side Object Model (CSOM) and can be used with SharePoint Online. This is huge help for every developer who is working with SharePoint, because it allows you to automate your installation and configuration tasks.
  • Visual Studio https://www.visualstudio.com/vs-2015-product-editions
    Remember to select both Office and Web Developer Tools. Both options are required for proper SharePoint development.

Configuring Visual Studio

Start Visual Studio and install PowerShell Tools for Visual Studio 2015.
Tools | Extensions and Updates.
Select Online and type powershell to search box.
This will require Visual Studio restart.

Now we have configured Visual Studio ready for SharePoint development.

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