SharePoint Development Improves in Visual Studio 2010

Jason Zander, General Manager for Visual Studio, recently announced Visual Studio 2010 Tools for Sharepoint. The focus of the tooling is to automate tedious tasks, enhance the debugging experience, and provide a GUI surface for visually exploring deployment and feature packaging.

This enhanced tool support has been long-awaited by SharePoint developers. These tools will replace the much-derided SharePoint Designer, a descendant of MS FrontPage. Many within the .NET community view inadequate tool support and poor developer experience as the last major hurdles for SharePoint to overcome. If the VS 2010 Tools for SharePoint deliver on their promise, many expect MOSS, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, to become the predominant web application framework within Microsoft IT departments and an increasingly prevalent choice for public-facing .NET websites. Certainly, with increased Visual Studio integration, traditional .NET developers will find it easier to use the OS-embedded Windows SharePoint Services, which is the foundation for MOSS.

Items addressed in Zander’s TechEd EMEA keynote:

  • Building and DebuggingVisual Studio will be able to building and debug SharePoint projects. “F5 Just Works!”
  • Server Explorer IntegrationSharePoint Connections will be an option in the VS Server Explorer. Standard Sharepoint artifacts will be viewable: ContentTypes, Features, Templates, Lists, Sites, Workflows, Workspaces. Direct manipulation of some artifact attributes will be supported through VS property grid integration.
  • Windows SharePoint Services Project (WSP) ImportThis will automate the manual task of creating Windows SharePoint Services solution package files. Previously, to create a solution package file, a developer had to use the Makecab.exe console application that is included in the Microsoft Cabinet Software Development Kit (SDK). Makecab.exe requires specifying the Diamond Directive File (.ddf) that contains a list of all the files to include in the package. Much of this will be automated.
  • Visual Web Part DesignerA new WSYWIG designer will exist for authoring Web Parts. The designer will also load a user control as a web part for SharePoint. This seems to be a more tightly integrated version of the widely-used SmartPart, which is a Web Part that allows hosting of ASP.NET User Controls in SharePoint.
  • Event Receiver WizardAdding Event Receivers and connecting them to Sources can be done visually through a wizard.
  • Workflow IntegrationA new ASPX Workflow Initiation form for Workflow Project will be added. Workflow initiation forms will have a visual designer.
  • Packaging EditorA new Packaging Explorer will exist that supports editing Packaging and structuring the SharePoint Features and WSP file.

Channel 9 also has an interview with Reza Chitsaz, Senior Program Manager working on Office and Sharepoint tooling. In this interview, Reza discusses his team’s mission for improving the SharePoint development experience:

[Paraphrased]

SharePoint is on version 4.0. The VS 2010 Tools for SharePoint is a version 1.0 product, which means we’ll be forced to prioritize some features and leave some features for next version.

The overarching goal for this team is to make sharepoint development more approachable, to make it easy for any type of developer to come into Visual Studio and start building custom SharePoint applications.

We’re focusing on tooling to improve the “F5 experience.” Just go into VS, create your project, use VS tools to create a SharePoint artifact, hit F5, and the rest is automated: building the project, deploying to SharePoint, attaching the debugger, etc. We want to put the developer in a place where they easily test their code and debug their application.

Reza also shows a demo with more details. He specifically highlights “GUID matching across multiple files,” Application Pool Recycling, and MSBuild support as items they are working to automate. He also shows the new VS Project Templates available in VB.NET and C#:

  • Blank Site Definition
  • Content Type
  • List Definition
  • State Machine Workflow
  • WSP Import
  • Business Data Catalog
  • Deployment Module
  • Event Receiver
  • Sequential Workflow
  • Web Part

There are no release dates set for when the tools will be available. A VS 2010 CTP is available, but the SharePoint tools are not included as indicated on the Channel 9 forums by Christin Boyd, Program Manager on the Visual Studio team:

The new features Reza describes in this video will not be in the VS 2010 CTP, nor in the Beta 1 build. This video was a real “sneak peek” at the future.

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