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Development Changes With SharePoint 2013

At the recent SharePoint 2012 conference, I was able to gain more insight about changes and new capabilities in SharePoint 2013 from a developer perspective.

Design Manager and Theme Roller

Microsoft is very vocal about a new tool for branding SharePoint sites called Design Manager.  The Microsoft story behind the Design Manager is that a designer can take HTML, CSS, and other assets created in any web editing tool (including Dreamweaver) and import into SharePoint.  Then, the designer can add snippets of code that Design Manager translates into SharePoint components such as the search box, navigation menu, etc.  While it is definitely an improvement, it is still complex enough that I feel it will be too difficult for most designers.  Plus, Design Manager can only be used on sites with Publishing activated.  This means that branding for team sites must still be done via custom master pages and CSS.

Retrieving Snippets via the Design Manager

The Theme Roller is greatly improved in 2013 over the Themes functionality in 2010.  Changing background images and using web fonts are now available.  However, I have never worked with any company that wanted to create their own themes and most companies actually want to prevent their users from using themes.  The Theme Slot Tool, coming soon from Microsoft, is a tool that will allow you to start with a color, have SharePoint auto generate colors for the SharePoint elements (e.g. font colors, background colors, button colors, etc.), then be able to preview and tweak those colors.


Theme Slots Tool


Between using what is generated from the snippets via Design Manager and the Theme Slot Tool, it should be much easier for those of us creating custom master pages and CSS.

Design Templates

List views and list forms (both edit and view forms) will be customizable via Design Templates.  The design templates are created using JavaScript files that are attached to the web part via the JSLink property replacing the old XSLT functionality.  The possibilities of this client-side rendering functionality are limitless with functionality such as displaying list item attachment images, changing background colors, and changing fonts.

Search Based Design

Search is another huge focus for Microsoft.  The Content Search web part is a new addition that everyone will come to love (the Content Query web part is no longer available).  The Content Search web part allows the setting of a query and customized display of results across site collections and web applications.  Custom search results pages can also be created. An example custom search results page would be a page that displays the sites or site collections a person is allowed to view or edit.

Note: FAST no longer exists as a separate product.

App Model

The App Model is Microsoft's preferred method of development for SharePoint 2013.  App Model applications are entirely client-side based and are submitted to an app store.  This app store may be Microsoft's app store or an internally run corporate store.  Applications properly created via the app model could be used on both an on premise and SharePoint online.

JavaScript, JavaScript, JavaScript

One thing I heard over and over at the SharePoint Conference - if you want to customize something, you do it in JavaScript.  JavaScript and jQuery knowledge are now required for SharePoint developers.  If you are rusty, only know enough to barely get by (like me), or don’t know Javascript and jQuery, I recommend that you start learning now.

Developing SharePoint Talent

Finally, I should mention the talent problem that SharePoint has faced. SharePoint deployments have been held back by organizations not being able to find enough qualified SharePoint developers. This has been a global issue as I understand it -   no one is finding enough SharePoint developers.  Often, in my experience, many .NET developers seem to think that SharePoint developers are second class developers.  I think much of it relates to a fear of the unknown.  Certainly with SharePoint's inclusion of more commonly used web standards such as REST, JSON, JavaScript, and jQuery, I think that more .NET developers will reconsider their stance on SharePoint development.  The increase in use of JavaScript and jQuery should also increase the potential number of people that could succeed as SharePoint developers (not that knowledgeable JavaScript developers are any easier to find).  Of course, the differentiation between good and great SharePoint developers is how well the developer knows the existing functionality of SharePoint and how to best extend that functionality.


About The Author

Managing Consultant

Bart is a Managing Consultant in the Application Development practice of Cardinal’s Raleigh/Durham office.