Friday, June 19, 2015

LightSwitch... Or Not.

As Microsoft often does, it took a great tool in LightSwitch, which had gained a pretty hard-core following of power users, citizen developers, business analysts, and even some seasoned developers, and completely threw it into the ditch, without any further, substantive explanation, just like it did for Silverlight.

How do we know this change is permanent?

1) They made no (I repeat, NO!) improvements to LightSwitch in the Visual Studio 2015 release candidate. It's a small wonder they included it at all.

2) Andy Kung left Microsoft.

3) Beth Massi (or whatever her married name is now) is also no longer doing LightSwitch content.

4) Jay Schmelzer so eloquently danced around the topic better than any Democrat politician could ever do when it was brought up during a podcast. Pertinent comments start around the 5:00 mark in the podcast.

So... what's next? I wrote previously that learning skills like JavaScript, JQuery, and CSS would be vital for survival in the SharePoint world. This assertion still resounds true today.  Another stack that I have just recently started learning is MVC, used in conjunction with Entity Framework. This development toolset, like LightSwitch (though in a much different way than LightSwitch), handles much of the data source connectivity for you and it JUST... WORKS. You can still work with fully relational datasets, created either by code-first or by scaffolding via Entity Framework. Code can be generated for you while still customizing the business logic, but you will still need to know HTML. HTML helpers and RAZOR syntax help shorten the code required to render the output.

Microsoft Virtual Academy has some great resources on MVC and Entity Framework featuring Christopher Harrison. Just search for MVC and Entity Framework.

The biggest disadvantage is the difficulty of implementing file / database relationships, which was very easy in LightSwitch, though "Mike" shows how to do both database and file system storage and relationships here. Interaction with SharePoint lists and libraries is exclusively through javascript and is still tedious enough that I wouldn't recommend it in good conscience to non-developers.

Takeaway for today - LightSwitch isn't dead, but it's future looks grim at best and appears to be marked for deletion. I suspect the same will occur with Access 2013 Web Apps. If you're trying to do anything with some Microsoft tool that isn't part of the .net core stack, don't count on it being there in two years.