SharePoint 2010 eases development process

The latest version of Microsoft’s server application – SharePoint 10 – is evolutionary, rather than revolutionary.

Previous versions of the software have focused on the enterprise. SharePoint 2010 fills in some of the gaps left in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS 2007) and at last encompasses social networking in the workplace.

“Since its debut in 2001, SharePoint's value proposition has evolved from a basic file-sharing tool, to a broad, integrated platform for collaborative workspaces, content management, portal, and now, search and social computing workloads,” says Forrester’s Principal Analyst, Rob Koplowitz.

Coding in SharePoint used to be something of a black art – the realm of the SharePoint developer. Now Microsoft’s Visual Studio environment has been redesigned and is packed with new and enhanced features that simplify the entire development process.

Accommodating line-of-business systems such as CRM and ERP has been difficult in previous versions of SharePoint. New Business Connectivity Services (BCS) now position SharePoint as a kind of glue between these systems and Office applications. Using ‘Backstage’ view – which replaces the File menu – you can incorporate work and information flows from external systems and highlight them within an Office application.

Social contact with the outside world – community support – in MOSS 2007 used to be a rather dull affair, essentially a basic extension of a collaborative workspace. With SharePoint 2010, the community experience is now similar to Facebook. Social bookmarking, rankings, and organisational browsing are also supported. Attributing value to content and finding people – tagging – was missing in MOSS 2007. Tags are generated and shared through a centrally managed metadata service in SharePoint 2010. Tag clouds provide a visual indication of how communities view content. Microsoft has also added support for microblogging and activity feeds.

By following a document’s tags and posts, you can review it without being asked and provide feedback, even make corrections. This is where social connection tools show their value to a business. They encourage interaction, which in turn produces better documentation because a community is working together.

A new software client called SharePoint Workspace 2010 takes SharePoint libraries, lists, and forms offline. When you reconnect to the network, changes made offline are synchronised with SharePoint Server 2010.

Available in Office Professional Plus 2010, and as a boxed product alongside the consumer launch of Office 2010 in a few weeks time, Workspace is based on Groove’s Workspace technology and replaces Groove in the Microsoft product line. Lotus Notes creator Ray Ozzie originally developed Groove until Microsoft bought out the company in charge of the development, Groove Networks, in March 2005.

Also worth noting is a customisable ‘Ribbon’ which should speed up access to features and tasks, replacing the traditional menu and toolbar with a layout of commands grouped logically in tabs. Standard tabs display commands relevant to a given task, and contextual tabs bring up the right functions for the application you’re using.

SharePoint Workspace Mobile 2010 is a new application that sits within Office Mobile 2010. You can now browse document libraries and other lists from a Windows phone, open documents directly from SharePoint Server 2010 for viewing and editing in Word, Excel and PowerPoint Mobile 2010, and save them directly back to the server. When a document is modified on the server, the copy on your phone will be synced automatically.

Microsoft is officially launching SharePoint and Office 2010 today. You can see the keynote speeches and get more information here.