SharePoint Server 2016: What's new for developers?

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I didn't want my developer friends feeling left out, so I thought I would share some items that are new or different in Visual Studio 2015 and SharePoint Server 2016, from a developer's standpoint.

You’ve heard the expression "location, location, location," and this most definitely applies to SharePoint Server 2016. Developers need to know where to store their customizations so they are available for use from within SharePoint Server 2016.

Similar to previous versions of SharePoint, there is a dedicated folder that contains the important-for-devs subfolders, including the GAC, Resources, TEMPLATE and CONFIG. The root system directory for SharePoint Server 2016 is the 16 folder, or to be more specific, the Program Files->Common Files->Microsoft Shared->Web Server Extensions->16. If I recall correctly, 16.n is also for SharePoint Online, so be careful when working from within Visual Studio.

Another change that developers need to adjust to is the use of the term Add-ins. In SharePoint Server 2013, custom features were added using Apps, but Microsoft has renamed Apps to Add-ins when working in Visual Studio 2015. However, in Central Administration, there is still a functional category called Apps that is used to manage how users access and add features and functionality to SharePoint Server 2016. So there may be a bit of confusion when having a discussion with your IT pros about apps.

You’ll be using Visual Studio 2015 to create your customizations in SharePoint Server 2016, but no worries, because if you have a project that was created for SharePoint 2013 and you open it in Visual Studio 2015, it presents you an upgrade dialog box -- enabling you to perform a one-way upgrade of that project to SharePoint 2016. This upgrade process is kind enough to also generate and display a report about the upgrade process of the project, which is helpful if there are any issues or concerns during the upgrade.

Speaking of SharePoint 2013 compatibility with SharePoint Server 2016, you'll be happy to know that your SharePoint 2013-hosted Apps, sandbox solutions without managed code, and even your farm solutions containing managed code are compatible with SharePoint Server 2016.  

If you haven't popped open the hood of Visual Studio to poke around and see what's new when working with SharePoint Server 2016, you'll find a couple of minor changes. You'll begin by downloading and installing Office Developer for SharePoint 2016, then you'll be able to create a New project, where you'll see SharePoint Add-ins instead of SharePoint Apps under the Office/SharePoint->Office Add-ins category, and under SharePoint Solutions you'll find the SharePoint 2016-specific templates such as Empty Project, Visual Web Part, Silverlight Web Part, etc.

If you have heard of or used stsadm.exe to help with you solution deployment, that is again deprecated in SharePoint Server 2016. I say "again" because this is the third version of SharePoint that it was supposed to be deprecated, but it still exists for backward compatibility. Maybe I need a better understanding of what deprecated means?

At this point, these are some of the changes you will see in the development world of SharePoint 2016; hopefully, you won't get caught off guard as you begin your customizations in SharePoint Server 2016 using Visual Studio 2015.

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