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Basically I'd like to develop components for our SharePoint test environment from my development machine and use the "Deploy" functionality to go from my development machine to the test environment.

Everything I've read seems to suggest this cannot be done, but I just wanted to see if anyone had done it here? If you have, was it a hack?

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I haven't tested this myself - and I think the reason it won't work is that the deploy steps use STSADM style calls to push the WSP to SharePoint and deploy then activate it. These commands can't be run remotely as (for one, probably other reasons) you need to be logged in as the Farm Administrator locally on the server to be able to do this.

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