John Underwood is a Technical Evangelist at ThreeWill. He has nearly thirty years of software development experience. He is an experienced technical instructor with superior presentation skills and is proficient in delivering standard curriculum as well as developing and delivering custom curriculum.
I was fortunate to get to attend this year’s SharePoint conference in Las Vegas. I saw some great presentations (and one or two that weren’t so great), but overall it was a useful event. It is an exciting time to be a SharePoint developer, and as someone in that role as well as an educational role I thought it would be useful to bring the top 5 things I learned at the event. So, here we go…
Number 5: InfoPath may not be dead, but it’s future doesn’t look very bright
When someone begins a talk with “fully supported” and “protects your investment”, you have to believe that they are talking about a product that doesn’t have much of a future. So it seems with InfoPath. There was exactly one paragraph in one presentation about InfoPath for the entire SPC 2013 event. So what’s the takeaway?
On the positive side, InfoPath 2013 is a new tool that includes a couple of nice features, including much improved integration with Visual Studio 2012.
On the negative side, the lack of InfoPath material at the event speaks volumes about its lack of importance for the future. InfoPath is a farm-only proposition; if you’re doing SharePoint in the cloud, or want to be cloud-compliant for the future, you will have to pursue other options. So what will your other forms-authoring options be?
- Build a SharePoint App using Visual Studio 2012 (more about that later)
- Build a SharePoint App using Access 2013 (are you kidding me?!?!?!?)
Now, for those of you that just got a little nauseous when I said “Access”, a little clarification is in order. Access is no longer a file-based DB tool; there are no more .MDB files. Instead, Access 2013 is now the forms designer tool of choice. Access stores and retrieves data from Azure DB or SQL Server. Access 2013 forms are HTML-5 based (I even saw one run on an iPad!). So what’s the SharePoint connection? Access 2013 Forms can be packaged and deployed as SharePoint Apps. So, in a manner of speaking, all of your cloud-compliant options involve “apps”, it’s just a matter of what tool you’ll use and where you’ll store your data.
Number 4: “Themes” may finally be a legitimate branding tool
Let’s face it… the history of “themes” on SharePoint is not a great one. There have been several formats and engines along the way; the tooling was pretty weak; and, most of all, the results were just amateurish. SharePoint 2010’s theming options were particularly disappointing.
SharePoint 2013 brings a new theming engine and new options for building your own themes. Theme information is provided using XML files, and the results shown in the demonstration session at the SharePoint conference were pretty impressive. I consider themes to now fall under the heading of “branding light” – they may be suitable to get the job done in a case where one lacks the skill (or the will) to undertake the changing of a master page of other more invasive forms of branding.
One last thought – the team responsible for themes will be providing some tooling as time passes. They demonstrated a pre-release tool named “Theme Slots” and promised a release in the near future.
Number 3: You kids get off my server!
Most servers like SharePoint have an extensibility model that will allow developers to extend and customize the product to meet the needs of a company. While this is a compelling option, it has two big downfalls:
- Bad code = bad server performance
- Upgrades are rarely smooth
- Embrace jQuery – it is the way to manipulate the HTML DOM.
- Investigate TypeScript – while it still has some rough edges, it may lessen your hatred if you come from the strongly-typed-compiled-language camp.
Number 1: A quote to live by…
One presenter from the Netherlands used an interesting phrase when describing the fact that all his demos were live and legitimate:
“There is no bogus here.”
Time will tell if that’s true of SharePoint 2013.