Microsoft has finally pushed SharePoint Framework into general release. It's arguably the upgrade the developer community has been most eager to get its collective hands.

SharePoint Framework allows developers and administrators to build and deploy parts that are used by Office 365 users in their production environments. In practical terms, this means using web technologies to build apps on SharePoint that are agile, responsive and, more to the point, mobile friendly.

Support for SharePoint Server 2016 on premises is planned for later this year.

More About SharePoint Framework

SharePoint has been used as an application and development platform for a long time. It offers numerous sets of development and customization options.

The release of Framework is a big step in improving the SharePoint developer experience, which has often been characterized as clumsy and difficult.

Framework gives developers access to tools and libraries designed to enable the development of web parts for mobile, at a pace that reflects the rapidly changing enterprise technology landscape and worker expectations.

Agile development capabilities are a key element in building and improving SharePoint. Microsoft has demonstrated its commitment to this over the past year by improving Team Sites, upgrading document libraries, making pages easier to use and generally making SharePoint more accessible to enterprise workers.

Framework’s Role

Framework is one of the key elements of Microsoft’s strategy for SharePoint.

It was unveiled at a San Francisco Future of SharePoint event in San Francisco last May where Jeff Teper, corporate vice president for the OneDrive and SharePoint teams outlined Microsoft’s cloud-first, mobile-first vision and SharePoint roadmap.

During the event, Teper pointed to some of the pending new releases and upgrades that were designed to enable teams and organizations to intelligently discover, share and collaborate on content from anywhere and on any device.

Learning Opportunities

Framework is a key part of that. As a page and part model, it enables fully supported client-side development, easy integration with the Microsoft Graph and support for open source tooling.

Framework, according to Bill Baer, senior product manager for the SharePoint team, is a response to the way partners, customers and independent developers have created solutions using SharePoint’s Page and Web Part model. The problem is that they were designed and largely implemented in .NET and matured in the server-rendered era. 

“With the evolution of Office 365 and cloud (Software-as-a-Service) SaaS solutions and the increasingly web-based world, existing development models for SharePoint encounter constraints of the Iframe, a reduced set of APIs and inability to integrate across Office 365 workloads,” Baer wrote.

“Developers need a more efficient toolchain and model that allows them to scale beyond the current constraints. The client-side development framework will deliver capabilities that will help Microsoft engineers, partners, customers and developers throughout the community build powerful, rich applications.”

Moving To General Release

Since the Developer Preview was released in August, Microsoft has continued to tweak and evolve SharePoint Framework. 

The new release will be rolled out to Office 365 tenancies in the coming weeks after which Microsoft will continue to tinker under the hood.

If one of the goals here is to upgrade the development environment in what is arguably Microsoft’s most important enterprise product, the other goal is to attract new developers to work with SharePoint through the framework's use of open source tools. It's early days yet, but reactions to the preview version suggest Microsoft has succeeded on both counts.