API access to SharePoint external lists

Suppose you want to programmatically access data in a SharePoint external list (e.g.  data from SQL Server). You may think that you can just use SharePoint’s ListData.svc. Think again…

I did some experimenting with an external list connected to SQL Server, with the following results:

SharePoint API Read Create/Update/Delete
ListData.svc (REST) Not supported Not supported
Web services (SOAP) Supported (GetListItems) Not supported
Client side object model Supported Supported

In short: if you want CRUD access to an external list, your SharePoint API choice is reduced to the client side object model.

I hope this is useful to others working with external lists, as there is little information about this topic on the internet. Let me know if you have different findings.


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