SharePoint 2010: a glimpse of the future

Gayan Peiris previews the new and improved capabilities of SharePoint 2010, and evaluates why should you look at upgrading from MOSS 2007. Gayan Peiris is a SharePoint Technology Specialist at Microsoft Australia who has written many articles, reviews and columns for various online publications and has been a contributing author for a SharePoint book. He is a frequent speaker at Microsoft conferences on SharePoint technology.

The market is eagerly waiting the new members of the SharePoint family due out on May 12, 2010.

The public beta has been available for some time and we know that the first change with the 2010 release is the name: its now called Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. The word “Office” has been taken out hence “MOSS” is no longer applicable.

Windows SharePoint Services version four (WSS 4) is now described as “SharePoint Foundation 2010”.

SharePoint Foundation 2010 provides the underlying infrastructure for SharePoint Server 2010.

MOSS 2007 had been popular as a collaboration platform in many organisations, and SharePoint 2010 promises improvements on both enterprise collaboration and public-facing Web sites in a single platform.

MOSS 2007 has been positioned as a platform for Collaboration, Portal, Search, Content management, Business Forms and Business Intelligence capabilities. There are a number of features and functionality available from MOSS to drive each capability and on many occasions the customer will simply implement a single capability to start with.

SharePoint 2010 provides features and functionality to integrate with multiple workloads to drive business value. The improved capabilities are divided into sections including Sites, Communities, Content, Search, Insight and Composites.

I am also excited by the amount of flexibility available for deploying SharePoint 2010 on premise, as hosted services or both models.
MOSS 2007 is already available as a hosted service for customers with a subset of functionality. This approach reduces the time to implement a SharePoint solution by sidestepping the hardware purchasing and implementation costs, and avoiding the operational cost of ongoing maintenance, Disaster Recovery and upgrade requirements.

SharePoint 2010 supports multi tenancy architecture and reduces the feature gap between on premise and hosted models.
The first class user experience across PC, Browser and phone is another improvement I see in SharePoint 2010.

The ability to take your SharePoint site and content offline via SharePoint Workspace 2010 (formally known as Groove 2007), view and edit an office document in browser with supporting full fidelity and accessing your SharePoint data via your mobile device will make interacting with information and connecting with people easier.

SharePoint Workspace 2010 supports taking full SharePoint sites offline, rather than just document libraries in Groove 2007.
While I have been evaluating the SharePoint 2010 beta, I found the user experience to be greatly improved.

The contextual ribbon is now part of the SharePoint interface and that ensures only relevant options are available when you interact. For an example, it will display image relevant options when you are interacting with an image on the web page.

Live preview will reduce the time to correct mistakes and having to undo your changes when editing a page by displaying the outcome before you need to save the page.

The Web page also acts as a wiki page that gives you access to all lists and views in your SharePoint site. This will allow you to click on a place on a web page and insert content or to link documents by using brackets (as you may be familiar with in wiki pages) without having to copy and paste the URL of the content you would like to reference.

Cross- browser support on Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari is another major improvement.

The AJAX-based usability interface has improved the user experience by not requiring page refreshes when retrieving the information.
Office Word, Excel. PowerPoint and OneNote documents can be viewed and edited on the browser as part of Office Web Application feature.

Multi-user editing in Word is another major improvement. For example, many users will be able to open the same document from SharePoint and edit at same time.

Each user will see the other's changes on their own document and communicate in realtime via Microsoft Communication Server.
The Wikis and Blogging capabilities are improved with built-in content rating, tag cloud navigation, reusable content and media support. Users will be able to tag, rate and comment on content and sites everywhere.

The mySite has also been greatly improved with a user interface which has multiple tabs. The public facing mySite support activities include photos, presence, status updates, social book marks, ability to display user information, interest, subject matter expertise, recent activities, a notice board or a wall and an organisation chart.

The organisation chart can be viewed as a traditional tree controller or as a Silverlight web component with rich user interface with the support for organisational browsing. You can also access all your tags and notes and manage your colleagues at the same tab interface. You will be able to search for people with subject matter expertise in your organisation as part of their capabilities and receive news feeds from your colleagues that you are interested in.

The Document Set is a new feature that allows you to group your documents together as a logical set. For example, a tender may contain multiple documents such as word, PowerPoint and Excel documents.

You can group these documents as a single document set and attach metadata and send the complete document set in a single workflow for an approval or set an expiration policy.

Documents in SharePoint contain a unique document identifier making it possible to track the document including its moves around the SharePoint environment.

The Content Organizer feature supports routing content to appropriate locations based on content type or metadata values.
Hierarchical Taxonomy structures are also supported in SharePoint 2010. Customers can set up enterprise-level taxonomy or a term store to use in metadata tagging, keywords or in search activities. Organisations also have the flexibility of having multiple term stores if they required.

Metadata driving navigation components and key filters will make it easier to find the information.

Another improved area in SharePoint 2010 is Digital Asset Management, with dedicated video, audio and image content types. There are built in repositories to manage this content such as an asset library and a built in tool such as Silverlight media web part to interact with the content.

Multiple documents can be selected from the Document library making it possible to delete multiple items or Check-in/Out multiple items in a single click. Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote documents contain two new menu items - open in the browser or edit in the browser. Rating capability is also built in with list and libraries. The workflow status will be visually represented in the status page rather than just text information. Only deltas will be transmitted on update Office documents instead of the full document using less bandwidth in your network.

SharePoint 2010 out of the box supports WCAG 2.0 AA accessibility standards.

SharePoint’s search engine has improved significantly and acts as a search offering as part of the SharePoint standard license. FAST Search is part of the SharePoint enterprise offering. SharePoint search has new features such as wildcards and phonetic name lookups. The search results page contains navigators in the left hand side so that it will be possible to filter search results by focus or expertise.

People search results now have the ability to display recent content and browse a person in the organisation hierarchy, making it possible to interact with the search results. The content search result page lets you browse the Office documents in the browser without having to download the document.

FAST for SharePoint will support navigators with the exact item count, document preview, related searches and thumbnails on the search result page. The relevancy is enhanced by user tagging and rating. SharePoint search results will be displayed in the Windows 7 desktop and Windows phone devices as part of federated search capability.

Excel services have improved with interactive pivot tables, spark lines and data slicer capabilities.

Visio Services is a new capability of bringing Visio 2010 in to the SharePoint environment to visualize the data and interact. In addition you can access the real time visual data via the browser when the Visio diagram is connected to a data source.

You can also use Visio to implement your workflows. The business users can map out the business process in a Visio diagram and then pass it to a SharePoint Designer 2010 developer.

Business Connectivity Services (BCS) is the next generation of Business Data Catalog (BDC). BCS supports read write capability for your line of business applications. BDC only supported read only capability in MOSS 2007. BCS applications can be run on range of clients including word, Outlook and InfoPath.

Access Services allows you to publish Access databases to SharePoint and to centrally manage them with versioning support.
Above are some of the feature sets and concepts that capture d my attention in SharePoint 2010 beta. There are many more improvements available in the product for developers and administrators that I haven’t been able to cover in this article. However more information is available at where you can see a feature comparison between 2007 and 2010 SharePoint.