I just got back from an amazing Microsoft Ignite Conference held in Atlanta. A conference where Microsoft shows their latest and great releases of products, features and take the opportunity to hold new announcements. Collaboration is at its peak in this conference, where attendees, exhibitors and Microsoft product groups come together to share their knowledge and experience around the Microsoft technology stack.
So many announcements, releases and features that were presented to us by the product team that is making everyone in the SharePoint and Office 365 world so excited about the future of SharePoint. There are so many technical details on the upcoming features, but I will summarize the major ones in this blog.
This is all started with the Future of SharePoint event that took place in May 4th. You can read about it on my blog post, the Future of SharePoint.
A new feature in SharePoint is Team News. It is pretty much the new "Announcements" for SharePoint, and I call it Announcements web 3.0. you can now create and publish beautifully branded announcements, in a very easy "wizard type" process. The news item will be available on mobile devices the minute you publish it.
For more information on this new feature you can check this Microsoft Office Blog Post.
We can say goodbye to the Groove.exe process, because we have a new Sync technology is on its way. Currently, we are in preview mode and the new Sync technology should reach availability to everyone in 2017.
SharePoint sync is being added to the OneDrive sync, and should offer superior sync reliability and performance compared to the current process. Through this preview, users will be able to sync SharePoint Online document libraries and OneDrive folders with each other.
We will also have the ability to decide where to store synced file from the OneDrive. The "On-Demand Sync" allows you to choose if you want to keep the offline files in the cloud or locally on your OneDrive for Business sync folder.
Based on the new Graph API, we are going to tap into a new power with People Profile. People cards will surface profile information and content throughout Office 365 and updates to the Office 365 profile. From anywhere in Office 365, you can click on the user's name and the user's card will pop-out that shows information about the user along with recent collaboration activities the user has participated in.
Every time you create an Office 365 Group, you will get a full site collection. This means the members of the groups will have full control of the content in SharePoint.
Also the Yammer will be moving in with Office 365 Groups. Now users can get into Office Online and SharePoint from within Yammer. You can share documents from Yammer or you can share to Yammer from Outlook.
Intelligence Services for PowerPoint where you can build a complete presentation deck based on existing session templates. Can you say build my session in few minutes? This is huge if you want to present a specific topic to a client without the need to create a deck from scratch. The Intelligence Service will build the outline for you.
Machine Learning will be integrating with Excel, as well as co-authoring within the Excel App.
Delve and Mail will be a match made in heaven, where Delve will get into your email and start showing how much you spent in your email or calendar, after hours, during business hours, etc. the MyAnalytics is the new name for Delve Analytics.
And so many more around new canvas experience with team sites, new team site experience, integration of Cortana with OneDrive, the new SharePoint Framework (FX).
I must say, very exciting time ahead of us and we will be seeing the birth of new innovative portals, machine learning applications, and beautiful integration between all Office 365 applications and Azure Services.
The shift from Microsoft’s proprietary framework to the open source SharePoint Framework will require learning and adopting of new technologies on the part of developers. Luckily, what knowledge the developer has gained will still be useful since the new API will not replace any of the existing models. In my previous installment SharePoint Framework: The Nuts and Bolts, an overview of what SharePoint Framework consists of and how it works was explained. In this installment, the focus is on how to prepare for the release of SharePoint Framework.
Understanding how SharePoint Framework is built is the key to determining which new technologies to learn. For each Microsoft tool, there is an equivalent web stack. The following table outlines the comparable of each web stack for each Microsoft tool:
Visual Studio Project
Each webstack, just like each Microsoft tool, has a specific role in SharePoint Framework. We can break the web stack down into frameworks and user and application interfaces. Each tool can be found in the open source community, and in the community, many developers have contributed their own customized tools that are made available for others to use. The open source community is very collaborative, supportive and innovative.
Frameworks for Developing Web Apps:
npm is a node package manager developed for Node.js and is used to install node programs. It also simplifies the process of specifying and linking dependencies. npm is the largest ecosystem of open source libraries in the world. Developers can either build their own packages or use ones that are already available in the community.
Yeoman is the SharePoint Framework template engine which runs on top of Node.js. The templates used by the framework are downloaded from GitHub. The project structure with all the files and folders are created in Yeoman.
Gulp is a task runner to automate processes built on Node.js. It keeps complex tasks manageable and simple and can be used to compile TypeScript or Less files, build web parts or uploading to the CDN.
User and Application Interfaces
ReST API (Representational State Transfer) is an interface that is provided by SharePoint. ReST API allows the performance of basic operations including creating, deleting, reading and updating through the exposure of all of the SharePoint entities and operations that are available in other SharePoint client APIs.
Office UI Fabric is the front-end toolkit that blends add-ins or apps seamlessly into Office including all web components, icons, fonts and styles used by Microsoft SharePoint and other Office applications. It is important to note that Office UI Fabric is not directly related to the SharePoint framework and it is not mandatory to use this to build the web parts. The advantage of implementing Office UI Fabric is the provision of familiarity to the end user – the Microsoft style of layout and application components.
SharePoint Framework allows you to extend your existing tools and solutions while taking full advantage of exciting open source tools such as Yeoman, Gulp, Workbench, Node.js, GitHub and Angular while still maintaining the option to use Visual Studio, Visual Studio Code and Visual Studio Team Services.
Many open source tools have been available in the open source community for a number of years, but these tools are "new" in SharePoint Framework. Most notably are three products that are an integral part of SharePoint Framework and they each support the framework in the following capacities:
Yeoman is the scaffolding tool for web applications. With Yeoman, developers can create project structures that facilitate the use of custom functionality. This in turn allows developers to work faster.
Gulp makes development efficient through the leveraging of a wide variety of plug-ins to perform repetitive development tasks, automate minification and perform compression.
Workbench allows the developer to test new web parts and apps before migrating them to production environments by replicating SharePoint as a local and offline environment.
The framework provides a page layout that is responsive and mobile-ready. Each page has a "Chrome" structure that surrounds the page body. This section contains the out of the box logic supplied by Microsoft plus additional developer logic that has been built on top of it. Simply put, it contains your business context. This Chrome layer manages the presentation of the page so that it displays appropriately on the device whether it be desktop, tablet or smartphone.
The Page Body becomes the canvas where web parts, apps, files, Delve components and other elements can be placed and arranged according to business needs. By layering this on top of the Chrome layer, there is no need to worry about proper display presentation on different devices. The Page Body is where the developer mostly lives, interacting with anything that has been built and placed here. The developer, regardless of skill level, is able to customize SharePoint pages by adding any build that has been placed on the canvas by clicking on a plus sign, selecting and placing the components.
Through this process, developers will be able to extend the capabilities of SharePoint more efficiently, reliably and quickly, and best of all, if you follow the rules, it will be mobile ready and responsive right from the start.
As SharePoint Framework has not yet been released, the question of how do we prepare for it begs to be asked. Stay tuned as I answer this question in the second installment of The New SharePoint Framework: Prepare Yourself!