SharePoint, SharePoint, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

SharePoint has forsaken me, at least that’s what it feels like every 3 years or so when they release a new version. When it went from STS to WSS 2 it was “What, I can’t use the SQL DB directly any more?” Then came SP 2007 and, “What, I can’t make post release updates to my Site Definitions?” SP 2010: “I can’t develop on with Virtual PC anymore?”

Am I ranting here? Nope. I love it. I’ve been a SharePoint developer a long while now and each time I begin to get a little bored with the job, Microsoft introduces a new version of the product that upends the community. There are always new, exciting features and ‘features’ to learn, many of which are improvements Winking smile .

Now SP 2013 is here and it’s awesome, so what’s moved my cheese this time around? Apps for SharePoint. I explained earlier why I think SharePoint Apps are critical and why I think they’ve killed Farm and Sandbox solutions (RIP SharePoint Features 2007-2010). So now I’m trying to create an SharePoint App for a common business scenario and I’m finding myself stuck rather early in the process.

I want to create a list template and deploy it as a SharePoint App. I want to be able to roll up content from multiple instances of my list, so all instances of my list must use a common content type. Creating a SharePoint App that includes my site columns, content type, list definition, and list instance is pretty straight forward, but here’s the big catch: I want instances of my list to live in right in the user’s site so the user can interact with it just like the OOTB lists they’ve added, including creating lookup fields.  SharePoint Apps run in the application infrastructure, which is a separate site collection from the user’s site. Using all the simple methods in Visual Studio (Add Item) leaves a barrier between the user’s site and my list instance. 

My current line of thinking is that in order to create my list instance in the user’s site, I need use javascript to create my resources inside the host site.  I’ve been able to successfully create my site columns in the host site using JSOM.  However, creating the content type there has got me stumped. I’ve been able to get back my collection of content types from the host web, but I can’t seem to add to it.

SharePoint, SharePoint, why have you forsaken me? You’ve improved column, content type, and list creation in Sandboxed solutions, but these are not compatible with your App Model. You’ve given me a robust new object model for javascript, but left most of the API documentation blank.

If When I figure this all out, I’ll turn it into a few step by step articles and maybe publish the final product to the store.

Oh, and Happy New Year!

RIP SharePoint Features 2007 – 2010.

I know: Farm and Sandbox features still exist in SP 2013 (with improvements even) but they aren’t compatible with the SharePoint App Store, and the SP App store is the future, my friends.

You say, “But Ryan, you buffoon, what makes the app store so critical in the on premise future that the next few years surely holds?”

To which I reply, “While over the next several years, the major percentage of SharePoint deployments will likely be on premise, the impact of Office 365 on development will be revolutionary. In fact, despite its low percentage of installs, I believe Office 365 has already hit critical mass and the SharePoint App Store is now a self fulfilling prophesy.” I’d say it just like that too, because I’m a tool.

1) Many Companies will demand their solutions be deployed as SharePoint Apps.  With this iteration product complexity and the difficulty in finding great SharePoint Admin talent will begin pushing some companies to Office 365.  However, the larger impact will come from the many on premise installations where admins will be looking to Office 365 as their model for deploying solutions internally while safeguarding their environments against rogue code. I predict massive rewriting of governance policies to encourage SharePoint apps and discourage old school Farm-Deployed solutions.

2) Nearly all third party SP vendors will be creating Office 365 App Store compatible versions of their products. It gets them access to customers on Office 365, and it gets them the path of least resistance into all those on premise installations that follow the Office 365 model; and it does so using a single code base to maintain.

3) Any of those on premise companies that thought they’d be ignoring the App Store, will be forced to pay attention when they inevitably need to deploy one of these third party solutions.

4) Developers will prefer to write Office 365 compatible Apps, not because they’re easier or better (the juries still out on that), but because it exposes them into the most markets with the most code reusability.

5) As companies see more and more SP Apps in the store, they will begin looking first to the for solutions.

6) To remain relevant, SharePoint solutions must be written and deployed as SharePoint Store Apps

And that is how Features die.

RIP SharePoint Features 2007 – 2010.