I've looked over a few of the learning SP threads, but the few references I've found to SP Online don't give any detail on its use for learning development.
I'm about to begin work on a project that will involve creating custom event handlers and web parts for a client's SharePoint installation. Although I'm an experienced .NET developer (ASP.NET, MVC, and forms), I don't have any experience with SharePoint. My employer's usual SOP for technologies new to a developer is to non-bill any time it takes the dev to get up to speed with that technology. I still get paid for my time by my employer, but we don't charge the client.
Since this is a totally new environment for me, I'd like to experiment a bit before the project starts. I have access to the client's SP installation, but I'm obviously not going to do my experimentation there. My employer doesn't have an SP instance that I can access. We do have SharePoint licenses though, so I could set it up, but I'm not sure how labor-intensive that is.
However, I noticed that SP Online is only $3-7/month. Does Online limit me to a much smaller set of functionality as far as development goes? Would I still be able to develop custom event handlers, web parts, etc in Visual Studio and deploy them to an Online instance?