Friday, July 20, 2012

Napa: new programming model for Office 15

As part of its recent announcement of the new version of Office, Microsoft has introduced a new programming model for developing add-ins that combines web technologies and cloud services. The new model is designed to work with future versions of the Office productivity suite and with the SharePoint portal technology. The "Office 365 Development Tools" – code-named "Napa" – currently have "public preview" status and include a model for developing hosted apps that can, Microsoft says, be operated via SharePoint, Windows Azure and custom web servers. Developers will be able to market their apps and add-ins through the new Microsoft Store, as well as through their own companies' app catalogues.

Napa is available as a free development environment for SharePoint and is also referred to as the "online companion to Visual Studio", Microsoft's IDE. As it integrates into a browser, no further desktop installations appear to be required and developers can work directly in the browser. Supported formats include HTML, client-side ASP.NET (ASPX), CSS and JavaScript. Switching to the forthcoming Visual Studio 2012 is only required for more ambitious scenarios. Microsoft says that existing Office and SharePoint extension models such as VBA, COM, VSTO and SharePoint Solutions will work in parallel with Napa, although these models are unlikely to be available to install via the online store.

To start experimenting with Napa, developers must register for the Office 365 Developer Preview. This allows them to access a dedicated developer site with an instance of Office 365 that can be used as a basis for writing, installing and testing apps; developers can then use Napa as described in detail in Microsoft's documentation. An introduction to Napa with screenshots is also available in a blog post by Jason Zander, Corporate VP for the Visual Studio Team in Microsoft's Developer Division. Developers can keep up-to-date with future developments by following the company's new "Apps for Office and SharePoint Blog".

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