This post is also published on The SharePoint Bar
The 16th of February, Microsoft released the Beta version of the next Visual Studio development environment, called Visual Studio 11. I made a quick tour of it, and I wanted to see what will be new in this new version of Visual Studio. But, before going in the observations I made, I want to emphasize that it is still a Beta version of the tool. Things can change and what I am writing here will probably be wrong in the couple of next months, when the final release of Visual Studio will come out.
First, as for the previous version of VS, it exists in several editions : Ultimate, Premium, Professional and also the Express one for Windows 8.
The first thing that we can see is the user interface that completely changed, starting with the splash screen of the installation and also the different screens during the setup wizard.
This is confirmed when we open the tool, all is in gray and black. People will love it or will hate it, but personally, in a development tool, I am not fan of having a Christmas tree with a lot of different colors.
In this post, I will focus on the SharePoint development aspects of Visual Studio and I will not go in too much details, keeping this tour at a high level.
So, when we want to create a new SharePoint project, we can see that it is no longer possible to develop for SharePoint 2007. Indeed, the SharePoint 2007 project template is not available. Maybe it will come in the final release, but with SharePoint vNext coming (we still not know whether it will be SharePoint 15, SharePoint 2013 or even something else), I doubt that it will be added. As it is shown in the picture below, the number of templates is limited to the strict necessary : an empty SharePoint project, importing a solution package, importing a reusable workflow, or starting a Silverlight or a visual web part projects. The Silverlight web part project is new, but I will come back to it further in this post.
The new project creation wizard has not changed and it is still asking whether you want to create a sandbox or a farm solution, and also where is your SharePoint installation. What has not changed, or at least what I saw on my setup, is that you still cannot develop for SharePoint if you don’t have it installed on your development machine.
Once your project is created and you want to create a new item, you have the similar choices as with the previous version of Visual Studio, only 3 types have been added : Silverlight web part, site column and site definition. Let’s focus on these three items a bit more and also on the List and the Content Type items, starting with the last one.
When you want to add a Content Type, it starts with the wizard, asking you from which existing content type you want yours to inherit. Once you have selected the parent content type, you will have a pretty nice surprise. There is now a visual editor for the content type, split in two tabs : Columns and Content Type. The first tab, Columns enables you to select the site columns to use, giving you the type of the column at the same time, and the possibility to specify if a value is required. The second tab, Content Type, is used to define the name of the content type, in which group to send it and few other settings. Of course, if you want to go in the CAML definition, you can still open the .xml file.
Even if the List project item was already existing in VS2010, Microsoft added a visual designer to it. It is now possible to select the site columns, the content types and also to define the views for the list. A great improvements for the developers, in my opinion.
Site definition is a new project item coming with VS11 and what it mainly does is to create the item with the two necessary files : onet.xml and the webtemp file. That said, you still have to manually edit the files.
Silverlight web part
The interesting thing with this new project item is that it creates in reality two items : a Silverlight project containing then elements like the xaml files, and and Silverlight web part project item, which contains nothing more than the Elements.xml and the .webpart files.
At the end, VS11 is promising for the SharePoint developments, but we should not expect too much from the next version. Some really nice improvements are already there, maybe some new ones will join in the final release, but again, this was just a first lap around the functionalities offered by the beta version of Visual Studio 11. I will come back on specific topics in several other posts in a near future.
Stay tuned !