Keep Writing SharePoint Web Parts Until (at least) 2006

ASP.NET 2.0 Web Parts rock.  We in SharePoint-land love them.  We’re building “v3” on ASP.NET 2.0.  But none of that matters right now if you have to deliver code for today’s SharePoint sites and portals.  And this advice comes from both me in WSS/SPS-land and the Whidbey Program Manager responsible for ASP.NET 2.0 Web Parts.  Here’s the official word on Whidbey/WSS interoperability and compatibility:

  • WSS “v3” (and anything built on top of it like SPS) is being written with ASP.NET 2.0, and will use, natively, ASP.NET 2.0 Web Parts.
  • WSS “v3” (and anything built on top of it like SPS) will carry forward the object models used for SharePoint Web Parts, so it will continue to run anything being written today.  Natively. Anything you write today will still work tomorrow.
  • ASP.NET 2.0–only sites that do not involve SharePoint technology will only run ASP.NET 2.0 Web Parts.

Those are pretty much guarantees.  Now for clarification of a couple of things we’ve said in the past that have gotten distorted.

  • WSS “v2” (the currently-shipping version) won’t magically acquire the ability to host ASP.NET 2.0 Web Parts when WSS Service Pack 2 ships.  WSS Service Pack 2’s date and fix list aren’t publicly sharable yet, with one exception:  WSS SP2 will allow WSS and the ASP.NET 2.0 runtime to coexist on the same machine.  And in case you didn’t connect the dots… Attention: Until WSS Service Pack 2 ships, do NOT attempt to install Visual Studio 2005 or the ASP.NET 2.0 runtime on a machine running WSS or SPS. Until WSS SP2 is installed, doing so will break WSS/SPS.
  • The WSS and ASP.NET teams are exploring ways to encapsulate and host some of the functionality of ASP.NET 2.0 Web Parts in WSS “v2”.  We’re not guaranteeing that it will happen at all, let alone how and when it would happen.  If it happens, you should treat it like a happy surprise — don’t make plans that depend on it.  If it happens, you’ll hear about it here (and other places, too, of course). 

Whidbey will ship this year.  We won’t.  Even when we do, not every customer will upgrade right away.  There’s still work to be done with SharePoint Web Parts.

  • SharePoint Web Parts aren’t that hard.  And they’re very robust.
  • If the big appeal to ASP.NET 2.0 is that User Controls can be Web Parts, you can use the SmartPart to embed ASP.NET 1.1 user controls inside a SharePoint Web Part.  It’s neat technology.

Experiment with Whidbey Web Parts.  Use them as soon as you can in applications built with Whidbey and only Whidbey (i.e., no WSS/SPS in the picture).  But don’t plan to use them in SharePoint sites for a year.  Believe me, no one will be happier than me when we can tell everyone to write all Web Parts in ASP.NET 2.0, and if we can tell you this before next year, we will.