What’s new in Microsoft Office Developer Tools for Visual Studio 2012, from a workflows’ development perspective

As Somasegar announced last week, Microsoft has just released the RTM version of the Microsoft Office Developer Tools for Visual Studio 2012, which are available here: OfficeDevToolsForVS2012.

These tools provide many useful templates, and IDE extensions for developing Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013 apps and solutions. It was already available a Preview 2 version of the tools, since the last SharePoint Conference 2012 (SPC12) in Las Vegas.

About the areas of investment and improvement – between the Preview 2 and the RTM versions of the product – a key role is played by the workflow development tools. For those of you, who already played or developed workflows for SharePoint 2013, using the Preview 2 version of the tools, here are the main changes and the new features introduced, for your convenience.

  • The workflow Initiation Form item template has been rewritten. Now supports both list workflows, and site workflows. Moreover, in the Preview 2 there was a partial sample of supporting the server side People Picker control, now this sample has been removed. Just in case, you should use the new client-side People Picker. You can find further information at the following URL: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj713593.aspx.
  • It has been introduced a template for the workflow Association Form.
  • All the activities available in the Preview 2 version under the “SP – Condition” category (CreatedBy, CreatedInRange, IsValidUser, ModifiedBy, ModifiedInRange, WordsInTitle) have been removed.
  • The GetCurrentItemGuid activity has been replaced by the GetCurrentItemId, which now returns an ID of type Int32, instead of a GUID.
  • The GetCurrentListId activity has been removed.
  • Now, while configuring activities, you have the option to choose implicit values like (current item) or (current list).
  • The SetField activity has been removed.
  • The LookupSPListItemProperty activity has been removed.
  • The SingleTask and CompositeTask activities now provide custom designers for configuring their properties, and have a lot of pre-configured properties.
  • The LookupSPPrincipalProperty activity has been removed.
  • The LookupSPUserProperty activity has been removed.
  • It has been added a new activity with name AppOnlySequence, which is almost the same as the App Step available in Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2013.
  • It has been introduced the DelayUntil activity.
  • It has been introduced the LookupSPChoiceFieldIndex activity.
  • In the messaging fields, have been removed the Subscribe and Unsubscribe activities.

Without any shadow of doubt, the designers for SingleTask and CompositeTask activities are huge improvements. Here you can see a screen shot of the SingleTask activity designer.
Another interesting thing to be aware of, even if it was already available before RTM, is the availability of a workflow debugger, which allows you to debug workflow definitions running within SharePoint 2013, providing a debugger-oriented Workflow Manager engine.

So far, that’s what I discovered inspecting the RTM version of the tools. Of course, in case of any errors or misunderstandings, please drop me a comment and I will be glad to discussa about them.

In my upcoming book “Microsoft SharePoint 2013 Developer Reference” (Available on Amazon for preo-rdering, as well as in Early Release on O’Reilly) I cover the workflow topics within 4 chapters:

  • Chapter 15 – Windows Workflows Foundation Overview
  • Chapter 16 – SharePoint Workflows Fundamentals
  • Chapter 17 – Developing Workflows
  • Chapter 18 – Advanced Workflows

There, you will find a great deal of information and samples about developing workflows in farm-level solutions, SharePoint apps, developing custom task and task forms, creating custom activities and managing workflows using the new Workflow Services Manager.