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SharePoint Development Just Got Simpler Thanks to Visual Studio Extensions : Page 3

If you were hoping for some new widgets to make repetitive development tasks simpler in Sharepoint, the new 3.0 version did not disappoint. With the new Visual Studio 2005 Extensions things like creating list and site definitions no longer have to be done from scratch.


Site to Definition Conversion with the SharePoint Solution Generator
Building site definitions is difficult. As a result there's a desire to minimize the effort that goes in to them. Until now organizations would usually get a basic template down in the site definition and would then use site templates cast from those site definitions for any fine tuning. With an STSADM command you can install the site templates globally so that they can be used by any site collection. It works OK but it does require that you manage the global templates list.

The SharePoint Solution Generator opens with an unassuming dialog asking you to choose whether you're creating a site definition or a list definition (see Figure 5). If you choose site definition you'll be asked what site to create the definition from (see Figure 6). Once you have selected the site and clicked next, you're asked where to store the results (see Figure 7).

Figure 5. Choosing a list definition or site definition is the first step.
Figure 6. A handy tree view allows you to select which site to convert.
Figure 7. The default location for the created definition is under My Documents.

Click Next again to get a summary checklist of what the generator plans to do (see Figure 8). Clicking the start button will convert the site into a site definition. A progress bar will inch across the screen; when it completes its journey you'll be given the opportunity to open the exported location—or simply close the SharePoint Solution Generator by clicking Finish (see Figure 9).

Figure 8. A preflight checklist tells you what is going to happen.
Figure 9. Once completed you can go look at the Solution Generator's handiwork.

The results of this rather unassuming operation is that you get a site definition project that VSeWSS will be able to open, allowing you to tweak the site definition and fine tune both what it includes—and what it doesn't.

This means that you have the opportunity to skip the process of creating site templates on top of site definitions. You can now start with a customized site definition to get the overall branding, then modify the site and create a new fine-grained site definition from it.

Obviously the SharePoint Solution Generator supports the creation of list definitions as well if you need that functionality.

Starting the Show
What may once have been intimidating shouldn't be any longer. With solid templates to get you started and the ability to generate executable code from the user interface, VSeWSS has dramatically reduced the learning curve. Creating SharePoint solutions has never been so easy.

Robert Bogue has been awarded the Microsoft MVP designation more than thirteen times. Rob holds numerous certifications and has recognition as a Microsoft patterns & practices Champion. He has written more than 25 books covering the gamut of information technology. Robert leads and coaches teams on how to be more effective in development and technology in general. You can see more of Rob's continuing journey on his blog at http://www.ThorProjects.com/blog/. You can also email him at Rob.Bogue@ThorProjects.com.
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