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SharePoint Development Practices and Techniques

  • 11/15/2013

Using the SharePoint APIs

In SharePoint 2013, you can now choose from three different APIs: the server-side object model (SSOM), the client-side object model (CSOM), and the REST API. All three APIs give you the option to build customizations for your SharePoint environment. This section will provide an overview of the three different APIs. Each API will then be used extensively in examples throughout the book. For specific detailed coverage of CSOM and REST, see Chapter 5, “Client-side programming.”

Understanding the server-side object model

The core server-side object model of SharePoint Foundation is loaded through an assembly named Microsoft.SharePoint.dll. When you reference this assembly within a Visual Studio 2012 project, you can start programming against the classes in the server-side object model, such as SPSite, SPWeb, and SPList. There are two initial requirements for a Visual Studio project that programs against the server-side object model by using the Microsoft.SharePoint assembly. First, the project must be configured to use .NET Framework 4 or 4.5 as its target framework. Pay extra attention if you are upgrading a SharePoint 2010 solution, because that will have been built using the .NET Framework 3.5 as its target framework. The second requirement is that your project must have a platform target setting that is compatible with a 64-bit environment, which is essential for properly loading the Microsoft.SharePoint assembly.

Another critical requirement for any application or component that is programmed against the server-side object model is that the application or component must be deployed and run on a SharePoint server in the farm in which you want to use the component. The deployment of applications or components that use the SharePoint server-side object model should always be done by using a SharePoint Solution or .wsp file. To deploy the solution, you will need access to at least one SharePoint server in the farm where the solution should be deployed. In most production environments, this means that you will hand off the solution and a document that describes how to deploy the solution to the administrator of the server. In your development environment, Visual Studio will usually do the deployment for you.

You can also create client applications with Visual Studio 2012 that program against the server-side object model. For example, you can create a standard console application that uses the server-side object model to access a site and the elements inside the site, such as lists and items. However, keep in mind that any client application that depends on the Microsoft.SharePoint assembly can be run only when launched on a server that has SharePoint installed on it and that is part of a SharePoint farm. This means that it’s not likely that you will encounter real-world scenarios that call for creating client applications that use the server-side object model. Even so, creating simple console applications that program against the Microsoft.SharePoint assembly in your development environment can be useful, because it gives you a quick and easy way to write and test code as you begin learning the server-side object model.

Most of the SharePoint Foundation APIs reside in Microsoft.SharePoint.dll. However, if you are building a custom solution, using the server-side object model you might also want to use SharePoint Server APIs and functionality. The bulk of the SharePoint Server APIs reside in Microsoft.Office.Server.dll; however, this isn’t the only available DLL that contains SharePoint Server APIs. For a full list of SharePoint APIs and the DLLs in which you can find them, see the MSDN page .NET server API reference for SharePoint 2013 at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj193058.aspx.

Using the client-side object model

SharePoint 2010 introduced the SharePoint Foundation client-side object model, which allows developers to use SharePoint content and objects in their client-side solutions. As a developer, you could now create a very simple solution that would be deployed into a SharePoint site or onto a user’s desktop and that could read or manage data in a SharePoint site.

In SharePoint 2010, the client-side object model was only available for SharePoint Foundation objects. In SharePoint 2013, however, the client-side object model has again been vastly improved by making a lot of the SharePoint Server objects available through the client-side object model. In SharePoint 2010 there were three client-side object models, and in SharePoint 2013 there are four. SharePoint 2013 allows you to choose between the Managed, Silverlight, Mobile, and JavaScript object models. Each of the four object models provides an object interface to SharePoint functionality that is based on the objects available in the Microsoft.SharePoint namespace. All four client-side object models also have support for at least part of the SharePoint Server 2013 functionality, but not all of them include the same SharePoint Server 2013 components.

The four client-side object models also all have their own usages. Each of the four object models presents an object interface in front of a service proxy. Developers write client-side code by using the object model, but the operations are batched and sent as a single XML request to the Client.svc service. When the XML request is received, the Client.svc service makes calls to the server-side object model on behalf of the client. The results of the server-side calls are then sent back to the calling client in the form of a JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) object.

The object model for Microsoft Silverlight can be used to build Silverlight applications, Web Parts, ASP.NET applications, apps for SharePoint and Office, and Silverlight applications for phones that use SharePoint data or SharePoint objects. A Silverlight application is compiled into an .xap file that can pretty much be stored anywhere. Examples of where .xap files can be deployed are a client computer, the file system of a SharePoint server, a list in a SharePoint library, and an external (web) server. The Silverlight client-side object model is contained in assemblies in the LAYOUTS\ClientBin folder. The following DLLs are available:

  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.Silverlight.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.Silverlight.Runtime.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.DocumentManagement.Silverlight.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.Publishing.Silverlight.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.Search.Applications.Silverlight.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.Search.Silverlight.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.Taxonomy.Silverlight.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.UserProfiles.Silverlight.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.WorkflowServices.Silverlight.dll
  • Microsoft.Office.Client.Policy.Silverlight.dll
  • Microsoft.Office.Client.TranslationServices.Silverlight.dll

The Mobile object model can be used to create applications that run on Windows Phones. The Mobile client-side object model is a special version of the Silverlight client-side object model. The Mobile object model contains most of the same functionality as the Silverlight object model. A couple of areas are missing, but when you are creating a Windows Phone application using the Mobile object model you can use the REST APIs to access these areas. The Mobile client-side object model also contains some functionality that is specific to phones, such as APIs that enable a phone app to register for notifications from the Microsoft Push Notification Service. The Mobile client-side object model can be found in the same folder as the Silverlight client-side object model, in the LAYOUTS\ClientBin folder. The DLLs that are available for the Mobile client-side object model are:

  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.Phone.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.Phone.Runtime.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.DocumentManagement.Phone.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.Publishing.Phone.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.Taxonomy.Phone.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.UserProfiles.Phone.dll
  • Microsoft.Office.Client.Policy.Phone.dll
  • Microsoft.Office.Client.TranslationServices.Phone.dll

The Managed object model can be used to create .NET applications that run on Windows operating systems that aren’t phones or SharePoint servers. This means that the Managed object model can be used to create applications that run on client computers, or on Windows web servers not running SharePoint. The Managed object model can be found in the ISAPI folder and is contained in the following DLLs:

  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.Runtime.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.ServerRuntime.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.DocumentManagement.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.Publishing.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.Search.Applications.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.Search.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.Taxonomy.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.UserProfiles.dll
  • Microsoft.SharePoint.Client.WorkflowServices.dll
  • Microsoft.Office.Client.Education.dll
  • Microsoft.Office.Client.Policy.dll
  • Microsoft.Office.Client.TranslationServices.dll
  • Microsoft.Office.SharePoint.ClientExtensions.dll

The last client-side object model is the JavaScript object model. The JavaScript object model can be used in inline script or in separate .js files. Using the JavaScript client-side object model is an excellent way to add custom SharePoint code to a SharePoint-hosted app. The JavaScript object model is different from the other three in that it is not contained in a set of DLLs. Instead, it is contained in a JavaScript library, inside of .js files. The many .js files that make up the JavaScript client-side object model are located in the LAYOUTS folder. The core SharePoint functionality can be found in SP.js and in SP.Core.js.

Though the four client-side object models don’t contain exactly the same functionality, Microsoft has taken great care to ensure that the four models return objects that behave similarly. This means that if you know how to write code against one of the models, you can easily port that code to either of the other three models. Table 2-2 shows some of the main objects supported by each model alongside the related object from the server-side model.

Table 2-2 Equivalent objects in the server and client models

Server model

Managed model

Silverlight model

Mobile model

JavaScript model































As in the standard code you write against the server-side object model, code written for client object models requires a starting point in the form of a context object. The context object provides an entry point into the associated API that can be used to gain access to other objects. When you have access to the objects, you can interact with the scalar properties of the object freely (for example, Name, Title, Url, and so on). Listing 2-4 shows how to create a context in each of the models and return an object representing a site collection. After the site collection object is returned, the Url property is examined. Code for the server model is included for comparison.

Listing 2-4 Creating contexts

//Server Object Model
SPSite siteCollection = SPContext.Current.Site;
string url = siteCollection.Url;

//Managed Client Object Model
using (ClientContext ctx = new ClientContext("http://intranet.wingtiptoys.com"))
    Site siteCollection = ctx.Site;
    string url = siteCollection.Url;

//Silverlight Client Object Model
using (ClientContext ctx =
    new ClientContext("http://intranet.wingtiptoys.com"))
    Site siteCollection = ctx.Site;
    string url = siteCollection.Url;

//Mobile Client Object Model
using (ClientContext ctx =
    new ClientContext("http://intranet.wingtiptoys.com"))
    Site siteCollection = ctx.Site;
    string url = siteCollection.Url;

//JavaScript Client Object Model
var siteCollection;
function getSiteCollection
    var ctx = new SP.ClientContext("/");
    siteCollection = ctx.get_site;
    ctx.executeQueryAsync(success, failure);

function success {
    string url = siteCollection.get_url;

function failure {

The ClientContext class in the Managed, Silverlight, and Mobile object models inherits from the ClientContextRuntime class. By using the ClientContext class, you can get a valid run-time context by passing in the URL of a site. In addition, this class provides several members that are needed to access data and invoke methods on the server.

The SP.ClientContext class in the JavaScript client object model inherits from the SP.ClientContextRuntime class and provides equivalent functionality to the ClientContext class found in the Managed, Silverlight, and Mobile client object models. As with the Managed and Silverlight models, you can get a run-time context in the JavaScript model by using the SP.ClientContext class and passing a URL. Unlike the other client object models, however, the JavaScript model also allows you to get a run-time context to the current site by using a constructor with no arguments, so the example above could be rewritten as simply var ctx = new SP.ClientContext.

All four client-side object models only communicate with the SharePoint server when the code calls the ExecuteQuery or ExecuteQueryAsync method. This is to prevent the object models from making too many calls to the SharePoint server and from affecting the SharePoint server’s health by querying the server too much. This means that when you are writing your code, you have to really think about when the statements that you are writing actually have to be executed on the server. You will want to minimize traffic to the server, but you will need to communicate with the server if you want to request data from, or send data into, the SharePoint environment.

The ExecuteQuery method creates an XML request and passes it to the Client.svc service. The client then waits synchronously while the batch is executed and the JSON results are returned. The ExecuteQueryAsync method, which is used in the Silverlight and Mobile client object models, sends the XML request to the server, but it returns immediately. Designated success and failure callback methods receive notification when the batch operation is complete.

The JavaScript model works like the Managed and Silverlight models by loading operations and executing batches. In the case of the JavaScript model, however, all batch executions are accomplished asynchronously. This means that you must call the ExecuteQueryAsync method and pass in the name of functions that will receive success and failure callbacks, as shown earlier in Listing 2-4.

Using the REST APIs

The most lightweight option for performing relatively simple operations on data in SharePoint lists and sites is to use the REST capabilities that are built into SharePoint 2013. The SharePoint 2013 implementation of a REST web service uses the Open Data Protocol (OData) to perform CRUD operations on data in SharePoint. Using REST allows your code to interact with SharePoint by using standard HTTP requests and responses. Table 2-3 shows the mapping between HTTP verbs and data operations.

Table 2-3 Mapping between HTTP verbs and data operations

HTTP verb

Data operation






Update all fields




Update specified fields

The Client.svc web service handles the HTTP request and serves a response in either Atom or JSON format.

To access any object on a site by using a RESTful call, the URL you should use will start with the following construction:


To access an actual object within the site you simply add the object to the URL:

//Access a site collection

//Access a specific site

//Access a list in a specific site

You can use the querystring syntax to specify parameters for the methods that you call by using a RESTful HTTP request:

//Apply a "blank" site site definition to a SharePoint site

The query strings can become rather complex, but because of that the queries that can be performed are rather powerful as well. You can select, sort, page, filter, and expand data by using a RESTful query. The filtering allows both numeric and string comparisons as well as date and time comparisons. The next example of a RESTful query requests the FirstName, LastName, and PhoneNumber columns from a list with a specific GUID and filters the items by items where the FirstName starts with an a:

PhoneNumber$filter=startWith(FirstName, a)