Using VS2005 with SharePoint

Hopefully everyone is happy and back at work and now eating leftover turkey and stuffing for the next few weeks. I know I am. The entire crew was over for the holidays yet the fridge is still full of goodies. Hmm, wonder if that veggie tray can keep for a year in the fridge?

Anyways, with the release of VS2005 and the recent service packs for SharePoint there is still lots of confusion over building applications and web parts with VS2005 and what works and what doesn't. As there is confusion, it must mean the information out there isn't clear enough for people to understand. In my infinite wisdom I figure why not add another log on the fire so hopefully this post will either make things as clear as mud, or really leave you scratching your head.

Getting Started
First off, you must have the .NET framework (version 2.xx) installed on your server (and your dev envrionment if you have one) for all this to work. Before you go off and do that (if it hasn't already been done yet) make sure you have the absolute latest service packs for both Windows SharePoint Services and SharePoint Portal Server. Okay? Great. Now you're ready to rock.

Building .NET Applications
Obviously, with ASP.NET 2.0 installed and running on the server you can build a regular web app using 2.0 no problem. You can use any part of the new 2.0 framework like new controls, the membership provider, the sitemap, etc. but you cannot use System.UI.WebControls.WebParts (see below). Things to check on your setup:

  • Make sure you exclude the path to the application (the name of the virtual server) in your SharePoint configuration, otherwise it'll think it's part of the SharePoint system and try to do evil things to your app.
  • Make sure IIS is using 2.0 of the framework for your app. You can check this in the IIS manager. Right click and they'll be a new tab for setting the ASP.NET version on that virtual directory.

Building Web Parts
Here's where things get tricky. First off, forget about using the System.UI.WebControls.WebParts namespace or inheriting from that WebPart class. Those type of WebParts (very much the same as SharePoints) have their own manager and tie into various parts of the framework and the support just isn't there yet (as far as SharePoint goes). When V3 rolls around you'll be able to build WebParts using this framework and the ASP.NET 2.0 WebPart will be almost identical to the SharePoint WebPart class.

Next is building SharePoint Web Parts (referencing the 1.1 assembly) with VS2005. It can be done but takes a little work. As there is no 2.0 template yet, you'll either need to have VS2003 hanging around to build you a skeleton Web Part or keep a blank one handy. In order for the web part to work with WSS you'll need to go into the site in IIS and ensure that the website is using ASP.NET 2.0. You will also need to use the stsadm forceupdate option to force SharePoint to perform the update (after you flip the website over to use 2.0), the command is:

cd /d %commonprogramfiles%\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\60\Bin
stsadm -o upgrade -forceupgrade

You should do an IISRESET just to make sure everything is applied. Now development of Web Parts is the same as ASP.NET 1.1 except you can use .NET 2.0 features (like Generics, Anonymous Delegates, ObjectDataSource, etc.). The most important thing to note here is that you can ONLY do this with Windows SharePoint Services. SharePoint Portal Server has to run on ASP.NET 1.1. as 2.0 isn't supported. SQL 2005 and other "2.0-ish" features are supported, but the runtime isn't which means you can't compile a WebPart and have it work in Portal Server. A good reference as to what works and what doesn't based on service pack installed can be found here. Bottom line is that if you want to build ASP.NET 2.0 Web Parts using VS2005, you can only do it on a Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) site install (not SPS with WSS).

Now if you want to build a 1.1 WebPart on SharePoint Portal Server that *talks* to an ASP.NET 2.0 application, that can be done because in IIS you can set the web site to use ASP.NET 2.0 and have the Portal Server WebPart communicate (through web services, remoting, etc.) to the 2.0 web part. It takes a little work, but if you keep your Web Parts to only presentation (which is what they're supposed to do) then there's nothing to say you can't have a 2.0 Business Layer talking to a 1.1 Web Part on Portal Server (using all the features of SPS like single sign-on, enterprise search, etc.). SharePoint Portal Server doesn't care that .NET 2.0 is installed on it, it just can't be targetted to use it.

As an alternative option, you can use the Son of SmartPart (I think Jans hates that name). This little doofer uses the 2.0 framework and will just suck up little ASP.NET user controls and render them out via a Web Part in SharePoint. So yes, you can build something that looks and smells like a Web Part using .NET 2.0 and running on SharePoint right now but:

  • You must have the .NET framework 2.0 deployed to your server
  • You must be running the latest Service Packs for all products installed (SPS if present and WSS)
  • You can only deploy 2.0 assemblies to a WSS only setup, not WSS running under SPS (since you can't split the IIS virtual server into two and it has to be targetted to 2.0)

That's a lot of musts but it can be done. I'm sure there *might* be other ways you can do it (and I hope I didn't miss anything), but for other ways you'll probably have to do some magic incantations and sacrifice a small marsupial to get it working.

Hope that helps.


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