CHAPTER 2 SharePoint Online Development Overview

There are many who mistakenly believe that Office 365 heralds the end  of custom development because of its limitations. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In this chapter, we will take a look at how the rules of development have changed with the advent of Office 365. Although you will need to learn new ways to do things, customizing and  extending SharePoint through development will still be an integral part  of what  companies want  to do with SharePoint Online.


Okay, let’s get started. In this chapter we will cover the following topics:


•   The different approaches and  tools available


•    Limitations that apply  to development and  customization


•     Customizations available in the browser


•    Using SharePoint Designer 2010 (SPD)


•    Creating custom code  with Visual Studio 2010


Three Customization Approaches


There are three basic  toolsets available when customizing SharePoint Online. First, you can use the web browser to change configuration and  customize elements in SharePoint. After you’ve reached the limit of what  is available in the browser you can apply  additional customizations to individual sites using SharePoint Designer 2010. If you want  to make changes that affect the entire site collection, you will inevitably turn to writing custom code  using  Visual Studio 2010.


Customization Through the Browser


Customizing SharePoint Online using only the browser is the easiest and  most convenient way to modify how SharePoint Online looks and  operates. You can make significant changes in both the look and  feel of a site and  the functionality available using  only a web browser. Possible customizations include, but are not limited to, the following:


•    Changing the site title, description, or icon


•    Modifying top-level or quick-launch navigation


•   Applying themes to change the look and  feel


•   Creating site columns and  content types  for storing different kinds  of content


•   Adding functionality by activating existing site collection or site-level features


•  Configuring shared services applications provided in SharePoint Online


•   Adding a Content Editor  Web Part to embed client-side code  (JavaScript/jQuery)
on a page


The focus for making most of these changes will be the links found on the Site Settings page shown in Figure  2-1. Site collection administrators and  site owners can reach this screen through the Site Actions  menu.



Figure 2-1. The Site Settings page in a SharePoint Online site


SharePoint Online also includes a subset of the shared service  applications available in an on- premise installation. These  services include the following:


•   InfoPath forms service


•   User profile  service


•   Managed metadata service


Global administrators can configure these services from links on the SharePoint Online administration center page,  shown in Figure  2-2.



Figure 2-2. The SharePoint Online administration center page


Additional Public Web Site Customizations

In addition to the site settings and  service  application customizations that are available in all on-premise installations of SharePoint, Microsoft has added additional control over the look and  feel of the public web site. When  an administrator is logged in to the public web site, an additional ribbon is visible, as pictured in Figure  2-3. This ribbon provides control over many of the aspects of both the master page and  regular pages in the site. There are even things such as applying a page background or setting a fixed width to the master page that can only be done with a custom-developed master page in on-premise environments. By using  this ribbon, administrators can create a compelling Internet presence environment that is so different from a standard SharePoint look and  feel that most users will never know it’s running on SharePoint.


Note This custom design ribbon is only available for pages in the top-level site of the one public web site collection. It is not available for use on the private site collections or subsites of the public web site created in SharePoint Online.


Figure 2-3. Applying a page background to the public web site