Thursday 25 February 2016

Get started with Office 365/SharePoint Online dev – part 2: Developing SharePoint Add-ins (apps)

This is the second post around getting started with Office 365/SharePoint Online development. In these couple of articles, I discuss a process where developers new to this space can get started by using trial environments and an Azure virtual machine. The idea is that you don’t need an MSDN subscription, existing Office 365 environment or even a development machine to get running – in the last post, we created all those things. Now it’s time to use them. Specifically, we’ll get some add-in code running in the Azure VM, which talks back to SharePoint Online - we’ll do this by obtaining a sample app and configuring our dev environment to run it. In my opinion, this is a good way to learn about modern SharePoint development which uses “provider-hosted” remote code – which, of course, can be used on-premises or in the cloud. Before we get started, a reminder on the contents of these two articles:

  1. Get started – part 1: Create trial environments and a VM
  2. Get started – part 2: Developing SharePoint Add-ins/apps (this post)

Deploying a provider-hosted SharePoint Add-in in your VM

Here’s an overview of what we’ll cover here:

  • Create a Developer Site in Office 365
  • Complete some information in your user profile in SharePoint Online (since our lab demo will use it)
  • Prepare the development environment to host apps locally:
    • Create a local IIS website to run apps
    • Create a self-signed SSL certificate and bind it to the site
  • Register the SharePoint Add-in using AppRegNew.aspx
  • Download the “app script part” SharePoint Add-in sample from from Github (from the Microsoft OfficeDev Patterns and Practices library), and run it locally in the VM
  • Review how the solution is working

Here are the step to go through..

Create a developer site collection in Office 365

Navigate to the SharePoint admin area of Office 365, and go to the “Site Collections” page. Click “New” to create a new site collection:

Use settings like the below:

Once the site has created, check it can be accessed in the browser:

Enter some details into your user profile in Office 365/SharePoint Online

In any SharePoint page in your Office 365 tenant, click the user photo in the top right corner, and then click the “About me” link to go to the profile page:

Click the “Edit profile” link:

Enter some details into fields such as “About me” and “Ask Me About”. Also use the “Change your photo” link to change your photo:

Once done, click “Save all and close”.

Create a new site in IIS for app hosting

Open IIS Manager, and create a new website. Use the following settings:

Config item Value
Name spsites
Path C:\inetpub\wwwroot\spsites (N.B. the “spsites” folder will need to be created)
Host name spsites

The Add Website dialog should look like this:

Click “OK” to finish creating the IIS site.

Add the site to your hosts file:

Create a self-signed SSL certificate and apply it to the site

Open a PowerShell window as an administrator. Create a self-signed cert using the following command:

New-SelfSignedCertificate -DnsName spsites -CertStoreLocation cert:\LocalMachine\My

Now we need to install the certificate as a Trusted Root certificate in the store, and apply it to the “spsites” IIS website. The following steps are used:

  1. Certificate is exported to a file.
  2. Certificate is installed from the file on the filesystem to the “Trusted Root Certification Authorities” cert store.
  3. Certificate is applied to the IIS website.

Go to “Server Certificates” in IIS, and find the certificate you just created. Follow the sequence in the steps below to export the certificate to a file:

The certificate should now be exported as spsite.cer.

Now find the file on the filesystem, and right-click > “Install Certificate”:

Follow the process in the images below to install the certificate to the Trusted Root cert store:

The final step around IIS and SSL certificates is to apply it to the site. Find the website in IIS, right-click on it and select “Edit bindings..”:

Add a new site binding on port 443 – select the “spsites” certificate:

Click “OK”, and the certificate should now be applied to the site. You should be able to browse it on https://spsites (although note you will get a default IIS page, since there is no site running there at this point).

Obtain the “app script part” sample from the Microsoft OfficeDev Patterns and Practices library

Navigate to - click the “Download zip” link:

Save the zip file to C:\Code on your virtual machine (create the folder since it won’t exist already), and then unzip:

Now run Visual Studio 2015 as an administrator. Note that it can take some time to open in an Azure virtual machine.

In Visual Studio, use “File > Open > Project/Solution…” to open the “App Script” sample from the zip in Visual Studio – this can be found at:


Once the project has opened, enter the URL for your Office 365 developer site in the Site URL property of the main project in Visual Studio:

A dialog box should appear – enter the credentials for your Office 365 identity:

Visual Studio should now be signed-in to your developer site in Office 365.

Configure the web project to match your hosting environment

Go to the properties page for the “Core.AppScriptPartWeb” project, and go into the “Web” area. Change the settings to match the IIS site we created, and click the “Create Virtual Directory” button to allow the files to be hosted in their dev location:

Save the Visual Studio project.

Also edit the userprofileinformation.webpart file in the project – find the line which sets the URL of the JavaScript file being linked by the web part in the sample, and set it to https://spsites/Core.AppScriptPartWeb/scripts/userprofileinformation.js:

Create the registration for your Add-in in SharePoint Online

In a browser window to your developer site, navigate to the following URL:

[site]/_layouts/15/AppRegNew.aspx in my case, this is:

Click the “Generate” button to generate new values for both the Client ID and Client Secret fields, then complete the other information as below:

On the next screen, be sure to copy the Client ID and Secret somewhere safe – you’ll need these later:

Now return to Visual Studio and perform the following steps:

Open the web.config file in the web project, and update the ClientId and ClientSecret app settings values:

Open the AppManifest.xml file in the app project, and update the ClientId attribute:

Your add-in should now be configured to run in development – in the next step we will run the app to test it.

Run the add-in

Press F5 in Visual Studio to run the project. Enter the credentials for your Office 365 identity if prompted:

You should be prompted to trust the app:

Click “Trust It”, and you should then be taken to the default page for the add-in. Note that this page is not a key piece of the add-in – it simply uploads the web part in an automated way to make it available.

To do this, click the “Run scenario” button:

Now click the “Back to Site” link:

Edit the page, and add the web part deployed by the add-in to the page. Go to add a web part, and you’ll find it in the “Add-in Script Part” category:

Once the web part has been added to the page, it should show details from your user profile (including a photo if you have one – I don’t in this case!):

If you got this far, well done! Now let’s consider what we just got working.

Key takeaways

  • We implemented a web part which is truly cloud-friendly – it has NO server-side code, because it is not a legacy web part.
    • In fact, it’s just an out-of-the-box Script Editor web part – which points to a particular JavaScript file, which has the actual functionality implemented
  • The JavaScript file has some CSOM code to fetch the user profile details
  • The JavaScript file is actually hosted remotely from SharePoint. In the case of our development scenario, it was running in IIS – but we could publish it to Azure or similar for production use (remember we’d need a new app registration with the appropriate URL etc.)

The key bits of code are essentially some simple JSOM code to fetch user profile details and output to HTML:


So that’s an introduction to the world of remote code and cloud-friendly development in SharePoint. Hope someone found it useful!

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Get started Office 365/SharePoint Online dev with an Azure VM – part 1: Create trial environments and a VM

I’m always surprised by the number of roadblocks which developers in large organisations have to face. Whether it’s locked-down desktops, lack of virtual machines (or very low spec virtual machines), inadequate licensing for developer tools, or any of the other myriad of issues, it can be frustrating trying to get started with new technologies. I often talk to developers in such companies, and often see some reluctance to do things which I find myself doing fairly frequently to test things out – creating a trial Office 365 environment, spinning up a virtual machine in Azure, downloading/testing an Office 365 or SharePoint app and so on. Recently I put together a guide to steps like these (for attendees of a Microsoft dev event here in the UK), and I thought it might be nice to repurpose the guide for other newbie developers in case it’s useful. This is split into two articles:

  1. Get started – part 1: Create trial environments and a VM (this post)
  2. Get started – part 2: Get started with developing SharePoint Add-ins (apps)

I guess the type of SharePoint developer this is aimed at is:

  • Doesn’t have access to an Office 365 environment to play in – may not even have touched SharePoint Online before
  • Isn’t able to quickly obtain a new virtual machine
  • Doesn’t have an MSDN license
  • May not have touched Azure before
  • Needs a developer environment with the latest version of Visual Studio to look at/run code locally (i.e. hosting apps on https://localhost). Perhaps their existing desktop or virtual machines aren’t appropriate for this

If one or more apply to you, you might find this useful. We’ll go from creating the Office 365 and Azure dev environments, to downloading and running a sample app (a provider-hosted SharePoint Add-in) from Microsoft’s OfficeDev Patterns and Practices samples. This can help someone experience add/add-in development for the first time, but it can be just a generally useful set of steps that can be handy in several scenarios.


Although I've taken care with these steps, I make no guarantee they're 100% accurate/will work in all regions/at all times, and can't really dedicate much time to support around this topic I'm afraid! Hopefully they're enough to get you up and running though.

Here’s what is covered:

This post:
  • Create trial Office 365 E3 tenant
  • Create a trial Azure subscription
    • NOTE – you WILL need a credit card for this step unfortunately. BUT, it’s possible to avoid spending money, since you receive credit to the value of £125 and by default, the Azure subscription is “locked” to prevent further charges. This will enable you to get started at least
  • Prepare the SharePoint Online tenancy for apps – create an App Catalog etc.
  • Create a development VM in Azure with Visual Studio 2015
  • Prepare Azure VM for development (e.g. enable IIS and ASP.NET, install the OfficeDev tools for Visual Studio etc.)
Next post:
  • Walkthrough of deploying a provider-hosted SharePoint add-in in your VM (next post)
  • Create a self-signed SSL certificate
  • Create a local website in IIS to run apps
  • Download the SharePoint Add-in from Github and run locally
Create a trial Office 365 environment (E3)

In this step, we’ll create a trial Office 365 environment to enable us to do some development. Note that another option here is to sign-up to the Office 365 Developer program – this will provide you with a tenant which will last 365 days, but only contains one user. If I’m just spinning up something which I don’t care about being durable, I often prefer to create an E3 trial – this only lasts for 30 days, but comes with 25 users. Both options are useful (depending on what you’re doing), but in this case we’ll go through the process for creating an E3 trial.

To do this, navigate to the Office 365 Enterprise E3 product page (the UK version of this page is at the following link, but simply change the market using the selector at the bottom of the page if you are in another country - Click the “Free trial” link on this page:


Enter some details into the form and click “Next”:


On the next screen, provide a username and also select a prefix for the “” domain – NOTE, this must be unique in Office 365, so you may need to try a few names until you find one which is unique:


Click “Next” when done. On the next screen, provide your mobile phone number to receive the text message verification. Once entered, click “Text me”:


Enter the code in the box provided, then click “Create my account”:


On the next screen, make a note of the user ID you provided and then click the “You’re ready to go…” link:


Your Office 365 environment is now creating – this will take around 20 minutes:


Prepare Office 365 tenant for development

Once your tenant has finished provisioning, go to the Admin Center and navigate to the SharePoint area. If your tenant is using the current Admin Center experience (rather than the new preview experience), the link is here:


Once in the SharePoint area, navigate to the “settings” page:


On this page, scroll to the “Custom Script” section. Change both radio buttons to the “allow” option to enable custom scripts to execute. The radio buttons should look like this:


Click “OK” to save the settings.

Now go into the “apps” area, and select “App Catalog”:


Ensure the option to create a new App Catalog site is selected, then click “OK”:


Complete the form using settings similar to the below – ensure you enter YOUR username for the administrator field:


Click “OK” when done. The App Catalog site will now create.

Provide payment details to enable the “full” Azure subscription

Within the Office 365 admin area, click the “Azure AD” link:


On the next page, click the “Azure subscription” link to start the process of signing-up to Azure:


Complete the details on the sign-up page which appears next. You’ll need to verify your identity by providing a phone number to receive a text message or call, and it’s here that you’ll need to provide credit card details. As a reminder, you WON’T be charged for anything unless you explicitly change to a paid subscription – as the page tells you:


Once you’re through the process, click “Sign-up”:


Your Azure subscription is now creating. You’ll see a screen like the following (though some of the messages may be different) - wait for this process to complete:


When the process completes, click the “Start managing my service” button as shown below:


Your Azure subscription should now be ready, and you should then be taken into the Azure Portal:


Create a development VM in Azure

In this step, we will create a new virtual machine in Azure using the Visual Studio Community 2015 template. Go into the “Virtual machines (classic)” area of the portal, and click the “Add” button:


In the Virtual Machines area in the Azure portal, filter for ‘Visual Studio Professional 2015’ and then select the resulting VM from the results.

In the filter box, type “visual studio community 2015” and hit enter. In the list of VM templates which appears, locate the item we want:


Select this item from the list. On the next screen, select “Resource Manager” in the dropdown box and then click “Create”:


On the next page, enter some details for the virtual machine. Be sure to make a note of the username and password you use: Also be careful with the “Resource Group” setting – you’ll need to create a new Resource Group here (any name is OK). Make sure it then becomes selected in the dropdown:


On the next page, select size “A2 - Standard” for the virtual machine size:


In the next area, leave the default settings and click “OK”:


Click “OK” on the confirmation page:


The virtual machine will now start to create – this can take around 20 minutes.

Once the VM has been created, select it in the portal and click on ‘Connect’:


This will instantiate the RDP connection. Take care in the RDP box – you’ll need to select “use another account” and be sure to enter the username in the following form:

[machine name]\[username]

This is shown below:


Click “OK” once the details are entered. After the security prompt, your RDP session should open and you should now have control of the virtual machine. We now need to perform some configuration steps within the VM to be able to develop SharePoint Add-ins and Office 365 apps.

Setting up IIS

One of the first things we need to do is enable apps to be developed/hosted on http://localhost within the VM. The first step is to enable IIS.

Within the VM, right click on the Start button and select ‘Programs and Features’


Select “Turn Windows features on or off”:


In the “Add Roles and Features Wizard” which appears, click “Next” until you reach the “Server Roles” page of the dialog. Here, check the box for “Web Server (IIS”) and click “OK” to any prompts which appear:


Then, click “Next” until you reach the “Role Services” page for IIS. In this dialog, expand “Application Development” and check the boxes for “ASP.NET 3.5” and “ASP.NET 4.5”:


Click “OK” to any prompts which appear. On the confirmation screen, check the box for automatic restarts then click “Install”:


Wait until process has completed. Once complete you now have IIS running on your VM with ASP.Net enabled.

At this point, restart the machine.

Install Office Development tools

Start Visual Studio 2015 – ensure you right-click and run as administrator:


In the dialog which appears, click the “Sign in” button:


Enter the details you used for your Office 365 subscription and Azure identity:


Accept any prompts which appear until Visual Studio is started.

Once VS has started, close it again. Open a browser window, and navigate to - save the file at the prompt, and then run from the download location to run the installer:


Accept the prompts which appear, and then wait for the install to complete.

Your virtual machine is now broadly ready for SharePoint Add-in and Office 365 development. Some other steps you may perform are:

  • Create a self-signed certificate to run apps on HTTPS
  • Configure a new IIS website to host apps locally (I prefer this to running IIS Express)

We’ll look at these steps in the next post, “Get started with developing SharePoint Add-ins (apps)”. Until then, happy developing!