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
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