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Impressions from the SharePoint conference in Las Vegas

Posted 2012-11-23 By Peter Ekerot

TL;DR: JavaScript rules for SharePoint 2013 modifications. Apps are weird. Search is king.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the SharePoint conference in Las Vegas. There were 10 000 attendees and around 4 000 exhibitors and speakers. Lots of people!

I know that many of you have little interest in the product, or developing for it, but there are some interesting news that I think will affect many of us, since the focus of development on SharePoint has changed a lot in this latest and greatest version: 2013.

I'll start out with the interesting new-and-shiny, for developer ninjas:

SharePoint 2013 is big on JavaScript. Microsoft has a mindset and a message clearly stating that developers should avoid compiled code as much as possible, due to limitations for those solutions in the cloud. Sandboxed solutions still exist and are supported but deprecated.

The Client-Side Object Model has gotten an overhaul. Now there's literally API's in JavaScript for everything in SharePoint, however a lot of the good stuff requires an Enterprise license. The CSOM in SharePoint 2010 was rather limited, but not so anymore.

Almost all SharePoint data is available using REST/ODATA. Even search! Very powerful!

JS Link
JS Link is the possibility to add custom rendering to either a row in a list or a single field (column). This means that developers can have full control over the HTML that a list spits out, and makes for some very interesting scenarios with how to display list data. All "forms" or "views" can be customized, meaning we can have different edit/display forms for the same field, for example.

Display Templates
Everything in SharePoint 2013 is powered by search. Display Templates are HTML/JavaScript snippets that are responsible for rendering a particular type of search result. Not more pesky XSLT's!

Design Manager
The new Design Manager gives a unique possibility to automatically generate master pages from a bare HTML implementation of a design. It's possible to map a drive in windows to the master page gallery in SharePoint and continue working with the design in the standard tools of choice, be it dreamweaver, notepad++ or webstorm or whatever. When updating the design implementation, only the original files needs updating, even after SharePoint snippets for navigation and other things have been added.

In the era of Apps, of course SharePoint (and Office) needs it too. There are three possibilities for implementing apps in SharePoint, and they are all based on familiar web technologies.

1. SharePoint-hosted Apps
SharePoint-hosted apps are hosted in a site of their own, and purely based on JavaScript (and have support for HTML5). They can either be an App Part (part of the page) or a full-screen sort of app.

2. Auto-hosted Apps
These types of apps are hosted in Azure Web Sites. Any technology can be used here, for example ASP.NET MVC.

3. Provider-hosted Apps
These types of apps can be hosted anywhere. There was a session on the conference on a provider-hosted app built in PHP and NODE.js.

One last thing to note about apps, is that there is of course a market place for apps, where people can sell apps just like in the App Store, Windows Store or Google Play. There is also a possiblity for enterprises to add an internal app store.

Then off to the more general product-sales-generally-interested ninjas:

Search in SharePoint 2013 is totally revamped. There are no longer different search "products", but the standard (server) search is based 80% on FAST search. Default setup is to continouosly crawl all content, making it almost instantly available in the search index. In conjunction with am extremely powerful web part called "Content By Search" (which unfortunately is an Enterprise web part), business users or adminsitrators can rollup content from anywhere to any page. This was used extensively in sessions and demos.

The licensing has changed for the better. There is no longer a SharePoint For Internet Sites license, if a client has a SharePoint 2013 Server license, they are free to publish a public website on it. This is a very big change. Also, for extranet scenarios, they connecting users from outside the organization no longer need CAL licenses.

Upgrading has been made a lot easier. SharePoint 2013 contains SharePoint 2010 files, the 14 hive, and assemblies, meaning it's possible to install a SharePoint 2010 solution with very little modification onto a SharePoint 2013 infrastructure. The solution can then be upgraded site collection by site collection.

Shredded Storage
One big drawback of SharePoint in document management scenarios has been that the database has contained a complete copy of each version of the document. This is no longer true for SharePoint 2013, which "shreds" the files into smaller pieces, saving a lot of precious database space.

It was an awesome conference. A lot of energy, a lot of SharePoint geeks, a lot of friendliness and very organized (apart from some wifi-problems the first two days). It was at any given time very hard to choose what session to go to, there were simply too much good information to be had. The backlog of session recordings to see is long.

My blog posts from the conference:
Key news in SharePoint 2013 – First day impressions on #SPC12
SPC12 Session: SPC025 – Bringing SharePoint to the desktop
SPC12 Session: SPC040 – Client side rendering in SharePoint 2013
Thanks for a great show!

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