Tools for the new SharePoint framework

Vesa Juvonen and Waldek Mastykarz from the OfficeDev Patterns & Practises -team have released a new Channel 9 video titled “Getting started with SharePoint Framework”. In this video Vesa and Waldek go through the full development cycle of a Client Web Part using the upcoming SharePoint Framework.

Client WebPart Development Cycle
The development cycle of a Client WebPart

The development cycle utilizes multiple different web development tools, which are actually already quite popular in the general web development world, but might be quite new to a traditional SharePoint developer.


Wikipedia defines Node.js as “an open-source, cross-platform runtime environment for developing server-side Web applications.”

The SharePoint Framework and the development cycle utilizes Node.js to run tools like Gulp and for hosting your Client WebPart during development. But these things will be prepared for you by Microsoft and/or by the community. So you don’t need to learn to write Node applications to be able to create Client WebParts using the new SharePoint Framework.

You will however be using the Node Package Manager (npm) when building your WebParts. Npm can be shortly described as the “Nuget for Node.js”. You’ll use it to install the SharePoint Framework itself and when you want to include some open source JavaScript library in your own component.

Fortunately npm is quite easy to use. Mostly you will just install packages with the npm --save-dev packagename command.


If npm is the NuGet for Node.js, then the Visual Studio counterpart for Yeoman is the project template. When you select the project template in in Visual Studio, Visual Studio will initialize your project with all the initial files and settings. When developing Client WebParts, you’ll initialize your project with Yeoman instead. This is done by running something like yo sharepoint in the command prompt.

The yeoman templates will be provided for you by Microsoft, so that single command will be most likely everything you need to know about Yeoman.


Gulp is a build process tool, which runs on top of Node. It can be compared to MSBuild, which is used by Visual Studio when you press F5 in the IDE.

A gulp build process consists of different tasks which are writen in JavaScript. Once these tasks are defined, you can execute them with the shell command gulp taskname.

Yet again, the build tasks for Gulp are part of the SharePoint Framework and you don’t have to write them yourself. The SharePoint Framework will contain the necessary gulp tasks for building your solution, starting the development-time webserver, packaging the solution and uploading your bundled WebPart code to a CDN.


You can write your Client WebParts using JavaScript, but most people will use TypeScript instead. TypeScript is a typed superset of JavaScript, which is transpiled to JavaScript during the build process.

TypeScript has many advantages to plain JavaScript. For example it makes it easier to write more robust code by supporting classes and modules. It’s also transpiled with type checking, so you’ll get compile-time information about typing mistakes etc…

In my opinion, TypeScript is the thing you should be studying right now if you want to be prepared for the new SharePoint Framework when it launches. The other things so far (Node, Yeoman, Gulp) are mostly just tools you’ll be using to get your WebPart compiled.

React and Flux

The final thing that is mentioned quite often with SharePoint Framework is the React-library. React is a UI library developed by Facebook and Instagram. It helps you create a set of individual UI components (with data-binding) and wire them together to create the full UI of your WebPart.

The new SharePoint Framework will have support for UI components written with React and lot’s of the examples and tutorials about the SharePoint Framework will most likely be utilizing React-library for rendering the user interface. But using React is not required by the framework. You can use Knockout, Angular or just plain TypeScript to render the UI instead.

I definitely encourage you to learn about React (and also the Flux architecture model) when preparing for the new SharePoint Framework. But if you have to choose between TypeScript and React, then I personally would start with TypeScript!

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