How to set up SPFx development environments for multiple SharePoint Server deployments

In this post, learn how to set up a development development environment to create SPFx projects for all SharePoint deployments.

In the last few weeks, I’ve published my series of definitive guides for developing SharePoint Framework solutions for all SharePoint Server deployments. You can check out the series here:

When I was working on this series, I asked the students of my Mastering the SharePoint Framework course what questions they would like to see answered. One common one kept coming up:

How to combine a dev environment with the different versions? So how-to develop both online and onprem stuff on a single machine?

John Doe
John Doe
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In this post, I’ll answer those questions by showing you how I setup my development environment. You’ll learn the following things from this post:

  • Managing multiple Node.js versions
  • SharePoint Framework development for SharePoint Server 2016 with Feature Pack 2
  • SharePoint Framework development for SharePoint Server 2019 & Subscription Edition (SE)
  • SharePoint Framework development for SharePoint Online
  • Try out SharePoint Framework betas

You’ll also learn how, by using the approach I outline in this post, how you don’t have to uninstall anything to jump between environments. Once setup, you can jump between environments freely. That’s what I do… the only things I have to update are the last two in my list above because betas change & when working with SharePoint Online SPO, I always want to be on the latest version of SPFx available.

This post is only going to focus on the tools specific to SPFx development that you need. While I primarily work on macOS, I’ll cover Windows as well.

Let’s get started!

☝ I’ll keep this posted updated as new releases of the SharePoint Framework are available. For reference, at the time of writing,

Multiple Node.js versions

First things first, you’re going to need to figure out how to run multiple Node.js versions because the tools you’ll install to work with each SharePoint deployment

Node.js doesn’t allow for multiple versions to be installed at the same time.

One option is to use virtual machines, one for each target environment. This option is pretty self explanatory.

The other option is to use a Node Version Manager (NVM). I’ve written about this approach few times:

There’s the original one for macOS, NVM, and a port for Windows, nvm-Windows. I recommend using NVM, not a virtual machine. It just makes your life so much easier.

For the remainder of this post, I’ll assume you’re using an NVM for your platform of choice. For all environments, I’m going to share what versions I use to create projects. You can get the full “what you need” vs. “what’s supported” vs. “what I recommend” from each of the definitive guides for each environment linked to above.

With the steps I’m outlining in this post, once you’re finished, you can have a dev environment setup like the following:

Scaled image

Developer environment supporting all SPFx SharePoint deployment options

With the aliases I setup, I don’t have to keep track of the Node.js version where I installed my setup for a particular environment. Rather, I can jump to a specific SPFx version by executing the following:

nvm use spfx-sp2016

That works for SharePoint Server 2016 with Feature Pack 2… but I can jump to my SharePoint Server 2019, SharePoint Server SE, SharePoint Online, or even the latest SPFx betas just as easily with:

nvm use spfx-sp2019se
nvm use spfx-spo
nvm use spfx-beta

Pretty cool, right? OK, let’s see how to do this:

Important: ☝ Assumption: You’ve installed NVM
For the remainder of this article, I’m going to assume you’ve installed NVM on your development environment to manage multiple environments. If you went with the virtual machine option, then the installation story is no different than what I explained in my definitive guides linked to above.

SharePoint Framework development for SharePoint Server 2016 with Feature Pack 2

Let’s start with SharePoint Server 2016 with Feature Pack 2 (SP2016). As I covered in my Definitive guide for developers: SharePoint Framework for SharePoint Server 2016, you know we need the following versions:

  • Node.js LTS v6 (v6.17.1)
  • NPM v4
  • Gulp-CLI v2.3.0
  • Yeoman v2.0.0 with the yeoman-environment v2.7.0 fix
  • Yeoman generator for the SharePoint Framework v1.6.0

SPFx for SP2016 with macOS

Let’s start with the platform I prefer for development: macOS. This one, as you know from my definitive guide on SP2016, requires a post-install fix to address a versioning issue with one of Yeoman’s dependencies.

Here’s the script I use to install my environment… the bullet list that follows explains each step:

# (step 1) install node v6 (LTS) > aka: v6.17.1
nvm install lts/boron

# (step 2) install spfx tools & dependencies
npm install [email protected] --global
npm install [email protected] [email protected] @microsoft/[email protected] --global

# (step 3) create aliases
nvm alias spfx-1.6.0 v6.17.1
nvm alias spfx-sp2016 spfx-1.6.0

# (step 4) fix yeoman-environment issue
# ... install yeoman-environment v2.7.0 that works with Node.js LTS v6
npm install [email protected] --global

# ... delete the yeoman-environment package installed by yeoman as a dependency
rm -rf ~/.nvm/versions/node/v6.17.1/lib/node_modules/yo/node_modules/yeoman-environment
  1. Use NVM to install the Node.js LTS v6 version. That release goes by the name of Boron which I’m using in the install as I don’t need to keep track of which version that is. This will always be the most current LTS version for v6.

  2. Install all the tools you need for SPFx development globally, including the Gulp-CLI, Yeoman, & the SPFx generator. Notice I’m explicitly setting the versions I want installed… that’s very important!

  3. Finally, while not necessary, I like to setup aliases. My general practice is to create two of these.

    • One is for the specific version of SPFx that’s installed that points to the Node.js version. In this case, we installed SPFx v1.6.0 in the Node.js v6.17.1 environment installed in the first step.
    • The second one is an alias for the environment that points to the SPFx version. This is what I normally use so I don’t have to keep track of the installed versions.

As you know from my SP2016 definitive guide post, Yeoman’s v2.0.0 install includes a reference to a more current version of the yeoman-environment package that won’t work with Node.js LTS v6. So, I have to fix this by first installing a specific version of yeoman-environment that will work & then delete the installed version Yeoman installed.

SPFx for SP2016 with Windows

What about Windows? The steps are similar, but the Windows port of NVM has a few limitations. For instance, you can’t specify the version as its LTS code name, nor can you create aliases, and after installing a new Node version, you have to use it.

Here’s the script I use to install my environment… the bullet list that follows explains each step:

# (step 1) install node v6 (LTS) > aka: v6.17.1
nvm install 6.17.1
nvm use 6.17.1

# (step 2) install spfx tools & dependencies
npm install [email protected] --global
npm install [email protected] [email protected] @microsoft/[email protected] --global

# (step 3) fix yeoman-environment issue
# ... install yeoman-environment v2.7.0 that works with Node.js LTS v6
npm install [email protected] --global

# ... delete the yeoman-environment package installed by yeoman as a dependency
del %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming\nvm\v6.17.1\node_modules\yo\node_modules\yeoman-environment /f

SharePoint Framework development for SharePoint Server 2019 & Subscription Edition (SE)

Now let’s look at SharePoint Server 2019 (SP2019) & SharePoint Server Subscription Edition (SPSE). These two versions have the exact same requirements in terms of versions needed. As I covered in my Definitive guide for developers: SharePoint Framework for SharePoint Server 2019, you know we need the following versions:

  • Node.js LTS v8 (v8.17.0)
  • Gulp-CLI v2.3.0
  • Yeoman v3.1.1
  • Yeoman generator for the SharePoint Framework v1.10.0

SPFx for SP2019 & SPSE with macOS

Here’s the script I use to install my environment… the bullet list that follows explains each step & they match the steps for the SP2016 script above. The only differences are the versions listed and we don’t need to fixup the Yeoman install:

# (step 1) install node v8 (LTS) > aka: v8.17.0
nvm install lts/carbon

# (step 2) install spfx tools & dependencies
npm install [email protected] [email protected] @microsoft/[email protected] --global

# (step 3) create aliases
nvm alias spfx-1.10.0 v8.17.0
nvm alias spfx-sp2019se spfx-1.10.0

SPFx for SP2019 & SPSE with Windows

Here’s the script I use to install my environment… the bullet list that follows explains each step:

# (step 1) install node v6 (LTS) > aka: v6.17.1
nvm install 8.17.0
nvm use 8.17.0

# (step 2) install spfx tools & dependencies
npm install [email protected] [email protected] @microsoft/[email protected] --global

SharePoint Framework development for SharePoint Online

Now let’s look at SharePoint Online (SPO). For this environment, we want to use the latest and greatest tools available to us. At this time, that’s the following:

  • Node.js LTS v14 (v14.18.2)
  • Gulp-CLI v2.3.0
  • Yeoman v4
  • Yeoman generator for the SharePoint Framework v1.14

SPFx for SPO with macOS

Here’s the script I use to install my environment… the bullet list that follows explains each step & they match the steps for the SP2016 script above. The only differences are the versions listed and we don’t need to fixup the Yeoman install:

# (step 1) install node v14 (LTS) > aka: v14.18.2
nvm install lts/fermium

# (step 2) install spfx tools & dependencies
npm install [email protected] [email protected] @microsoft/[email protected] --global

# (step 3) create aliases
nvm alias spfx-1.14 lts/fermium
nvm alias spfx-spo spfx-1.14

SPFx for SPO with Windows

Here’s the script I use to install my environment… the bullet list that follows explains each step:

# (step 1) install node v6 (LTS) > aka: v14.18.2
nvm install 14.18.2
nvm use 14.18.2

# (step 2) install spfx tools & dependencies
npm install [email protected] [email protected] @microsoft/[email protected] --global

Try out SharePoint Framework betas

Last but not least, I live to have a beta environment as well. It’s nice to see what’s coming or provide feedback to the team before an official release for the public betas they share. For this, you’ve got to watch the release notes for changes. At this time, the latest beta setup is:

  • Node.js LTS v14
  • Gulp-CLI v2.3.0
  • Yeoman v4
  • Yeoman generator for the SharePoint Framework v1.14.0 beta 4

One difference is the Node.js version. I can’t use the same one that I used for the SPO environment, so I need to pick another one. So in this case, I’ll pick a Node version that’s close to the latest version, and reference it by it’s version number instead of it’s codename.

SPFx betas for SPO with macOS

Here’s the script I use to install my environment… the bullet list that follows explains each step & they match the steps for the SP2016 script above:

# (step 1) install node (use latest supported by spfx beta)
nvm install v14.18.1

# (step 2) install SPFx beta dev dependencies
npm install [email protected] [email protected] @microsoft/[email protected] --global

# (step 3) create aliases
nvm alias spfx-1.14.0-beta.4 v14.18.1
nvm alias spfx-beta spfx-1.14.0-beta.4

SPFx betas for SPO with Windows

Here’s the script I use to install my environment… the bullet list that follows explains each step:

# (step 1) install node v6 (LTS) > aka: v14.18.1
nvm install 14.18.1
nvm use 14.18.1

# (step 2) install spfx tools & dependencies
npm install [email protected] [email protected] @microsoft/[email protected] --global

Conclusion

This entire process usually takes me less than 5 minutes to setup on a brand new workstation. Feel free to use these scripts and modify them to include any other tools you like to have in your SPFx development environment.

For instance, maybe you want the CLI for Microsoft 365 also installed in each version… that comes in quite handy at times. To do that, just add another install line to step 2 to each environment above.

What do you think? Do you have feedback on this process? Use the links below to share this post or start a discussion on Twitter!

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Andrew Connell
Founder & Chief Course Artisan, Voitanos LLC. | Microsoft MVP
Written by Andrew Connell

Andrew Connell is a web developer with a focus on Microsoft Azure & Microsoft 365. He’s received Microsoft’s MVP award every year since 2005 and has helped thousands of developers through the various courses he’s authored & taught. Andrew’s the founder of Voitanos and is dedicated to delivering industry-leading on-demand video training to professional developers. He lives with his wife & two kids in Florida.