I attended the SharePoint Users Group meeting at Microsoft’s Nashville offices on December 8th 2009. Microsoft presented and sponsored the event. The Pizza was really good :-) The presentation was to introduce SharePoint 2010 to the user community highlighting new and improved features.
Microsoft could have spent more time in preparation and planning, there were delays due to technical glitches and the speaker did not cover all the subject areas he would like to have.
Here is what I learned.
SharePoint is exclusively a 64-bit application. It only runs on Server 2008 R2 and only supports SQL or SQL Express for content storage. The Windows Internal Database no longer exists, which is a good move. However it will pose an extra challenge for those upgrading from 2007/3 to 2010 if their data is in an internal database store. SharePoint can access SQL ‘Remote Blob’ objects.
WSS has been renamed to WSF (Windows SharePoint Foundations). Foundations is the base SharePoint functionality included with Server 2008.
Search has been enhanced, phonetic ‘sounds-like’ matches are now returned.
SharePoint Designer 2010 is only compatible with SharePoint 2010, likewise Visual Studio 2010 only works with SharePoint 2010. Microsoft decided to sacrifice backwards compatibility to enable them to add a lot more features to the latest version of SharePoint.
Migration tools are available only for Moss 2007 servers. 2003 and previous versions will not be migrated directly from 2010 server administration.
New Licensing Options
In previous versions of SharePoint, making sites outward facing was an expensive proposition, requiring an expensive license. Two licenses are now offered for external facing sites. A lower cost license is available for sites that do not utilize enterprise features, for instance a publishing site. A higher cost enterprise feature set version is still available.
Better Browser Support
SharePoint 2010 support what Microsoft refer to as ‘Tier 1 Browsers’. This is Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari. As an exclusive Firefox user this is especially welcome. I won’t need the IE Tab extension to Firefox anymore to work on SharePoint sites.
Microsoft have adopted the ribbon in all office products including SharePoint 2010. (Interestingly the SharePoint product no longer has ‘Office’ in its official product name). The Ribbon is not always visible, they have chosen to reuse the space where the ribbon has less value, it is present for any operation that involves editing content or page configuration.
The Ribbon can be disabled/hidden for some or all users and sites. One reason Microsoft did this is to allow a company to upgrade their SharePoint server to 2010 but keep the 2007 look and feel allowing for training and adoption of the new interface in a gradual manner.
SharePoint designer is integrated as an option on the ribbon, no need to launch a separate application from the host desktop. SharePoint Designer has undergone major revision and its performance has been greatly increased.
Integration to Office 2010 products and the desktop has been improved. Colors, logos and fonts established as a master page in PowerPoint can be saved as a theme file (.thmx extension) and imported into SharePoint to provide the same look and feel on a SharePoint site. This makes it much easier to create branded themes allowing users to create their own without involvement from IT.
A feature has been added to allow a user to make a local copy of a SharePoint site including all of its content. This can then be accessed offline and changes synchronized when back online. (It’s similar to Collegio Networks Collegio Reader). This sounds like a very useful feature for those that travel a lot, however when quizzed about security of data should a laptop be lost/stolen no specific solution was offered (except a vague mention of Group Policy). I suppose Bitlocker would be one way to protect the data, it would be nice for DRM and security features to be available with offline access.
SharePoint can now host office applications allowing for the creation/editing of office documents from inside a browser window. The functionality and look of the web based office apps is very close to the desktop products. A few features such as word art aren’t supported in the hosted mode. As long as licensing is addressed, it is now possible to offer full office functionality to computers that do not have any version of office installed locally. This is known as Office Web Applications (OWA). Oh boy, I thought OWA stood for Outlook Web Access, I suspect that Outlook will be rolled into the new Office Web Apps, it is an office application after all.
The new interface allows for formatting and editing of text and objects directly from the Ribbon, negating the need for a separate Rich Text web part. Any page on a SharePoint site can be modified as rich text. Several features demonstrated drew me to the conclusion that web parts as separate zones are being de-emphasized and reserved for specific purposes. Editing content is much more like using Word.
A new feature called ‘Notepad’ allows content contributors to add a separate set of comments attached to each page allowing for an ongoing dialog regarding the editing of the associated page content. This is very much like the ‘talk’ feature on Wikipedia.
Content types can be mized on the same page, for instance in a team site for example WIKI content can be created in-line simply by creating a link [[Link]] with double square parentheses and clicking on the new link to edit the wiki content. Wiki and non-wiki content can be interwoven on the same page.
Multiple users can edit the same document ina document library. Purportedly at the same time though this was not demonstrated.
Multimedia Support enhanced
Silverlight is suported directly in SharePoint. Inserting video and photo content into a page is very straight forward using basic ribbon tools. No need to install special modules on the server and perform arcane web part manipulation to support video streaming. An end user can easily handle multi-media without IT intervention. While the adding and editing of multi-media content has undergone much needed improvement. Little improvement was evident in the consumption of multi-media content, such as photo galleries, or a jukebox for audio etc. Shame, that would have rounded it off nicely.
Better Dash-boarding / Business Intelligence.
Performance Point Server has been built directly into the SharePoint solution and is now called SharePoint Insights. SahrePoint can now therefore consolidate and analyze data in addition to simply presenting it.
Enhanced Personal Pages
Personal pages are laid out more logically. Organizational hierarchy documented in Active Directory is graphical represented in the Personal pages. I wish I had screen shots, the drill down approach to the organization hierarchy was very creative and intuitive. Microsoft have made a bigger emphasis on the community building capabilities of SharePoint.
The Central Administration pages have undergone usability testing and are much easier to navigate and are organized in a more logical manner. The concept of SSP’s has been removed from the architecture.