SharePoint 2010 represents a substantial upgrade beyond Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0. Here are some of the newest features, and their potential impact on businesses using SharePoint.
SharePoint Everywhere: Cross-Browser Support
Some of the new SharePoint 2010 features benefit the end users, others are useful for content managers and developers, while many features benefit administrators. One benefit which can affect everyone is compatibility with web browsers, especially because SharePoint is a web-based portal. SharePoint 2010 is officially compatible with Internet Explorer 7 and 8 on both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows platforms. Mozilla Firefox 3.6 is supported by SharePoint 2010 on Windows, Mac OS X, and other UNIX/Linux systems. Safari 4.0.4 on Mac OS X is also supported by SharePoint 2010. Although earlier versions, such as Internet Explorer 6, and later versions, such as Safari 5.0, are not officially supported, most SharePoint 2010 features will work on browsers that are largely standards-compliant. In some cases, using the newest Microsoft software does not necessarily provide the best experience. For example, only two ActiveX controls (ppslax.dll and name.dll) for Microsoft Office 2010 are reportedly supported in 64-bit browsers. Future versions of Internet Explorer (e.g. the IE9 currently in preview), Safari, and Firefox are expected to be the primary clients of SharePoint 2010 services in the future.
Foundation, Standard Server, Enterprise Server
Specific features apply to various editions and licensing of SharePoint 2010. There are two, three, or five editions of SharePoint 2010, depending on how you count. Consider this quick overview. If you want basic collaboration and SharePoint site features including sites, blogs, wikis, the SharePoint Foundation 2010 (SPF 2010) is an upgrade to WSS 3.0. Calling it the SharePoint Foundation rather than WSS 4.0 will hopefully reduce future confusion of what version of the more full-featured SharePoint this correlates to. The full-featured upgrade to Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS 2007) is is called SharePoint Server 2010 (SPS 2010). By this count, ignoring Internet-complexities, there are two versions: Foundation (SPF) and Server (SPS). Yet there are two degrees to which you can license more or less features with SPS — the client access licenses (CALs) come in two flavors: Standard and Enterprise. Thus, beyond SharePoint Foundation functionality, SharePoint Server with users with Standard CALs are licensed to use many more functions and features of SharePoint. Further still, SharePoint Server with users having both Standard and Enterprise CALs have access to the full feature set of SharePoint Server.
Cloud Clients, Native Authoring
Synergy with Microsoft Office 2010 components is strong in two ways, one for producers and another for consumers. Cloud computing services are most strongly supported by SharePoint Server 2010 for consumers of information. Authors and producers of information must typically have applications from the Office 2010 suite natively installed in order to publish content to SharePoint. As a part of the cloud evolution, several more viewers, web parts, and Office look and feel are included in SharePoint Server 2010. For example, MOSS 2007 Enterprise edition included Excel Calculation Services, and this is carried forward to SPS 2010 clients with the Enterprise CAL. The SPS 2010 Excel Services includes several enhancements such as Sparklines and Visual Slicers which add to the traditional interactive reports and dashboards for published Excel workbooks. In addition, SPS 2010 users with the Enterprise CAL can also benefit from Access Services, InfoPath Forms Services, and Visio Services. Not only can Visio diagrams which have been published to SharePoint be viewed through a web browser by users without Visio natively installed, but the Visio Services can provide recalculations based on queries and reporting from other data sources as well. Word Automation Services is even included for users of SPS with the Standard CAL.
Ribbons, Silverlight, and Presence, Oh My!
SharePoint sites can sport a more modern Office look and feel, with features such as the graphically dense richness of the Ribbon instead of simple toolbars. The Ribbon and Dialog framework are also included in both the Foundation and Server versions for customized Office-like look and feel for your own SharePoint-based applications. All editions of SharePoint 2010 are more media-rich, with features such as a Silverlight web part, more than forty other included web parts, and Photos and Presence integration all included in the Foundation. Note that any features in the Foundation are also included in the Server version. Furthermore, all features in SharePoint Server for Standard CAL users are also available for users with both the Standard and Enterprise CALs.
Like Google or Bing, But Yours
Search enhancements are one of the great hallmarks of SharePoint Server 2010. More types of content sources can be crawled to build more diverse search indexes based on the Search Connector Framework available with the Standard CAL. Other Standard search features include Query Suggestions, “Did You Mean?,” and Related Queries, Phonetic and Nickname Search, and People and Expertise Search. The Enterprise CAL adds access to Visual Best Bets, Similar Results, Contextual Search, and Deep Refinement as well as an Extensible Search Platform.
Degrees of Databasing
Separation of the former MOSS 2007 Business Data Catalog features for database access into a stratified offering of Business Connectivity Services (BCS) and the Business Data Connectivity Service in the Foundation, BCS Profile Page search drill-down details in SharePoint Server with the Standard CAL, and more advanced web parts and intelligence offered into the Enterprise CAL feature set allows SharePoint designers and deployers to select the degree of processing performed on SQL, Oracle, and other database integration from a broad palette of features.
Kevin Bacon, or Colleague Connectedness
Social networking components are moving along the road to maturity with a number of new features in both the Standard and Enterprise CAL feature sets. Many of these features carry SharePoint Server 2010 further away from a static document list orientation. Relationships between colleagues and their clientele are far better supported with this new version than with MOSS 2007. While there may still be a long way to go in this area, SharePoint is still as much a platform for customized applications as it is a product which delivers a coherent set of usable off-the-shelf features.
One If By Web, Two If By Shell
Surely, SharePoint administrators are sure to welcome the tremendous improvements in both web-based configurability as well as a new foundation for automation. The Central Administration interface has been greatly redesigned for smoother and more efficient management of classic and modern features. The SharePoint 2010 Management Shell is based on Windows PowerShell version 2.0, but offers 482 SharePoint-specific management cmdlets. These cmdlets offer a rich set of management tools which extend well beyond the STSADM.exe style of management, including cmdlets for working with Excel Services, Visio Services, and much more.
SharePoint Foundation 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010 provide a whole new level of web-based application services, a rich platform for your own web services, as well as substantial services which both integrate with Microsoft Office 2010 while offering cloud services for users without native Office applications on their mobile devices and desktops. A new era of SharePoint awaits – are you ready?