SharePoint Developer Tools in Visual Studio 11 Beta – Part 2: Feature Enhancements to Support SharePoint Online Development

Part 1 of this series on SharePoint developer tools in Visual Studio 11 Beta summarized all of the new features. This article focuses more on the features that support building remote SharePoint Online solutions and provides an overview of the new tool enhancements in this area.

As you may already know, Office 365 provides secure, global access to email and calendars, Office Web Apps, web conferencing, and file sharing. SharePoint Online, a component of Office 365, lets you create remote SharePoint sites to share your documents and information, making it easier to work together with colleagues and customers. Visual Studio 11 Beta provides improved support for creating SharePoint applications that leverage SharePoint Online, which is a remote, sandboxed environment. For security purposes, SharePoint solutions that run on SharePoint Online must be sandboxed solutions.

Here is a list of new and improved features designed to make your SharePoint Online development experience better:

· Publish solutions to remote SharePoint servers
After you create a sandboxed SharePoint solution in Visual Studio 11 Beta, you can now choose to deploy its SharePoint solution (.wsp) file to a local SharePoint server (as you could in the previous version of Visual Studio) or publish it to a remote server site. Publishing refers to uploading a sandboxed SharePoint solution file to a remote SharePoint site, such as on another system, or on the cloud, such as SharePoint Online. For more details, see Deploying, Publishing, and Upgrading SharePoint Solution Packages.

· Access external data by using the new Silverlight Web Part project
Visual Studio 11 Beta includes a new Silverlight Web Part project template for creating Silverlight-based web parts. The Silverlight Web Part project enables you to add great-looking, useful Silverlight controls to your sandboxed SharePoint solutions. You can create a new Silverlight project or leverage an existing Silverlight project. When added to your SharePoint solution, the template adds all the files necessary for including a Silverlight web part, ready for you to customize.
Silverlight Web Part projects also provide an easy way to connect to external data sources by using OData, WCF Services, .NET assemblies, or other data sources supported by Silverlight. When you are developing applications for SharePoint Online, which runs in a sandboxed environment, Silverlight applications enable you to connect to an external data source within your SharePoint solution. For an example of using a Silverlight web part and OData to access SharePoint data, see Walkthrough: Creating a Silverlight Web Part that Displays OData for SharePoint.

· Use Visual Web Parts in SharePoint Online solutions
Visual Studio 11 Beta now fully supports the use of Visual Web Parts in sandboxed SharePoint solutions such as SharePoint Online, giving your solutions additional functionality without the need to use add-ons.

· View filtered IntelliSense in sandboxed solutions
Most Visual Studio developers find IntelliSense tremendously useful for discovering API features, syntax, and usage. But it’s less than useful if it shows APIs your project can’t use. IntelliSense has been improved when developing remote solutions to display only APIs that are applicable to sandboxed solutions. Also, red squiggles and compile errors appear if your code contains any references to APIs that won’t work in sandboxed solutions.

· Determine farm-only restricted project item templates
In the previous version of Visual Studio, it was hard to tell which project item templates supported both sandboxed and farm solutions versus those that supported only farm solutions. In Visual Studio 11 Beta, project item templates that support farm-only solutions are clearly labeled (Farm Solution only), making it easier to choose the right template.

For a complete list of new SharePoint features in Visual Studio 11 Beta, see What's New for SharePoint Development in Visual Studio 11 Beta. For more information about Office 365 and SharePoint Online, see Office 365 & SharePoint Online. For more information about SharePoint, see SharePoint 2010.

Kemp Brown
Senior Programming Writer
Microsoft Visual Studio SharePoint Developer Tools Team

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