Top 10 Reasons to Learn More About SharePoint Products and Technologies
Summary: Learn about development tools for SharePoint Products and Technologies ranging from front-end codeless content to using Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), to .NET Framework development. (5 printed pages)
Stephanie Krieger, arouet.net, Microsoft Office MVP
Applies to: 2007 Microsoft Office system, Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007, Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007
If you’re an advanced user of the 2007 Microsoft Office system and SharePoint products and technologies are part of your work environment, there are many good reasons why you may want to learn more about what you can do with development with SharePoint products and technologies.
Whether your company runs Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, hosts your own Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 environment, or uses a hosted SharePoint products and technologies -based solution such as Microsoft Office Live Small Business, chances are that you can do more with SharePoint products and technologies than you may imagine. From building sites that require no knowledge of code or Web site development to developing rich, custom applications, this article provides an introduction to tools for development with SharePoint products and technologies.
One good place to start learning about SharePoint products and technologies is by differentiating between the different products, so that you know what development options are available to you based on the products used in your company.
Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 provides a flexible, easily customizable platform for team collaboration, communication and content management.
Users can create organized team sites without any code required to share and manage documents and other project elements, such as task lists, calendars, and discussions. Users can also create blogs and wikis to enhance communication and information sharing within your organization, customize alerts for seamless communication, and take advantage of document management integration with the 2007 Microsoft Office system. Additionally, administrators can use sophisticated controls to help ensure the integrity and security of company content, sites, and related resources.
Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 expands on the capabilities of Windows SharePoint Services for enterprises that want to build dynamic business process solutions such as Web portals, rich collaboration tools, interactive dashboards, advanced reporting mechanisms, and full-scale line-of-business applications.
SharePoint Server 2007 offers sophisticated enterprise search functionality; integrated enterprise content management capabilities such as Information Rights Management (IRM), slide libraries, and compliance tools; advanced business intelligence tools such as Excel Services and data connection libraries; and robust social networking capabilities.
Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007 is a program for both site designers and developers to customize SharePoint sites for Windows SharePoint Services and SharePoint Server 2007 and to build custom applications and reporting tools from simple to highly complex solutions.
You can use SharePoint Designer 2007 strictly to make customizations to front-end Web servers (such as site appearance changes that do not require any code) as well as customizations that benefit from the use of code. If you write Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) code, you can also use the SharePoint Designer 2007 object model to automate functionality such as displaying data from a Microsoft Office Access 2007 database on a SharePoint Web page or automatically updating a Microsoft Office PowerPoint2007 presentation that is published on a SharePoint site. And, if you want to further explore SharePoint development, you can build .NET Framework-based solutions for SharePoint sites including custom workflows, business intelligence, collaboration, social networking, and more.
.NET Framework developers can also develop customized SharePoint sites and solutions using Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 or Microsoft Visual Studio 2005.
Companies that use a hosted SharePoint solution may have limitations on the types of custom development that you can implement. However, you may still be able to do far more than you expect. To learn more about your options, ask your hosting service. For companies using Office Live services, start with the Channel 9 video Office Live with SharePoint Designer or the Microsoft Office Live Small Business Developer Guide on MSDN.
One of my favorite things about SharePoint products and technologies is that users do not need to have experience designing Web sites or writing code to immediately start creating sites and other collaboration tools to share with colleagues. For that reason, this top 10 list ranges from tasks that require no code whatsoever to those that may incorporate the use of cascading style sheets (CSS) and XHTML, VBA, or .NET Framework development. The sky is the limit, so check it out for yourself:
For resources to get started with each of the items in this list, see Additional Resources. Also note that the actions that you can take on your site (including creating and customizing content, adding custom applications, and managing site settings) depend on your permissions for that site.
Creating a SharePoint Site, Workspace, or Template
Do you need to quickly get started on a team project? No code is required to create a SharePoint site or workspace directly from the Site Actions available on your site. Or, use SharePoint Designer 2007 for flexible tools that help you create and customize your site or workspace. You can also save your customized site as a template that others can use when creating new sites.
Creating Libraries, Lists, and Collaborative Tools
If you need to add content or a new interface through which to share content with team members, you can create lists or libraries for your site as easily as you create a site or workspace. For example, create a document library or an interactive wiki library to add content for the team to share and edit; create a task list or a custom list to track the progress of project elements.
Using Web Parts or Creating Your Own
Do you need to display information on your SharePoint site that isn’t an automatic part of a site or Web page that you created? For example, perhaps you want to display the team calendar or task list on a Wiki site home page? Web Parts are components that a user can easily add to a page on a SharePoint site to display or interact with a wide range of content types.
Branding Your Intranet
You can add basic branding elements to your site, such as your logo, directly from Site Settings. Or, use the design tools in SharePoint Designer 2007 to customize everything from fonts and colors to layout and style of your site for a fully-branded, custom Intranet.
Using Web Services to Populate Document Content
You can create Web service connections to populate document content dynamically with content on a SharePoint site. Or, you can use Web services to populate documents when generating documents on the server with a custom application.
Creating Custom Workflows
A workflow is a series of actions to apply to specified content. For example, you might have a workflow that creates a task, sends an e-mail, and updates a list when a specified user creates or edits a document. You can create workflows to be initiated either manually by users or automatically based on conditions. A single workflow can have one or many steps and each step can contain multiple conditions and multiple actions.
Creating and Using Custom Content Types
A SharePoint content type is a reusable group of settings that users can apply to different types of content added to a SharePoint site or library, such as documents. Content types make it easier to manage document metadata and behavior, enhancing capabilities such as content creation, enterprise search, and collaboration.
Creating Dynamic Business Intelligence Solutions
The enterprise edition of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 for Internet Sites include powerful business intelligence capabilities for creating rich business intelligence tools. Build interactive dashboards and portals using tools such as Excel Services, data connection libraries, and business data Web Parts.
Creating Incredible Custom Collaboration Tools Using Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 and Silverlight
Microsoft Silverlight is a rich, Web-based technology, available as a plug-in that developers can use to create amazing media experiences and interactive applications for the Web. When you use Silverlight to develop tools for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, you can provide users with powerful, compelling, beautiful components and applications that greatly enhance their work experience.
And the Number One Reason to Learn More about SharePoint Products and Technologies…
When you put all of the preceding tools together, you can build dynamic, customized, enterprise collaboration solutions where people can work together in an integrated, efficient, and friendly environment for managing content, data, business processes, and social networking.
To get started with the basics of SharePoint sites, such as creating sites, workspaces, libraries, and lists, see the Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 home page on Office Online for training courses, help topics, and demos.
To get started using SharePoint Designer 2007, see A six-part series on getting the most out of SharePoint Designer 2007. This is a series of video demos that help you get started and introduce you to the breadth of SharePoint Designer 2007 capabilities.
To learn about using VBA in SharePoint Designer 2007, see the SharePoint Designer Developer Reference.
To get started or learn more about SharePoint development, see the following resources:
For inspiration and to explore some of what other developers are doing with SharePoint, check out the many open source SharePoint tools available on Codeplex.
Stephanie Krieger is a Microsoft Office System MVP and the author of two books, Advanced Microsoft Office Documents 2007 Edition Inside Out and Microsoft Office Document Designer. As a professional document consultant, Stephanie helps many global companies develop enterprise solutions for Microsoft Office on both platforms. She also frequently writes, presents, and creates content for Microsoft. You can reach Stephanie through her blog, arouet.net.