Sharing a Calendar
|Figure 10: Event calendars can be linked with Outlook 2003 so that the same team events and appointments can be seen in the same application as your personal calendar.|
Microsoft Office Word 2003, Microsoft Office Excel 2003, Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003, and other applications are great for composing documents, one of the primary benefits of collaboration. But, true collaboration is really about communicating, a great portion of which is done in Microsoft Office Outlook 2003. With the release of Outlook 2003, integration with Windows SharePoint Services are quite complete and awfully addictive. For example, take a look at Figure 9
, which shows a calendar for a team Web site. The calendar contains various appointments and events, all of them relating to a team.
It is not terribly convenient to go to a Web site to see calendar content when most scheduling is done within Outlook 2003 itself. With the release of Outlook 2003, a user need not choose between working with a calendar in Outlook 2003 or one on the Windows SharePoint Services site. There is an option in a site event calendar to link to Outlook 2003 so that the calendar appears within the application, as shown in Figure 10
Creative Discussion Boards
|Figure 9: SharePoint sites can feature calendars for group activities and other events that concern the team.|
Although there are many other ways that Office 2003 integrates with Windows SharePoint Services to make collaboration easier, and although there are many more features that have not been discussed, another tool bears mentioning: discussions.
As already stated, collaboration is about communicating with others, making it easy to get together, to make a point, to record information, to affect the course of action. One of the ways people can converge is through discussions. Built right into the supporting services of Windows SharePoint Services is the ability to have discussions about documents, or discussions can take place right in documents. These discussions differ from normal comments inserted into a document in that discussions are more of a threaded way of conversing in the context of the document.
Figure 11 shows a document with both an embedded comment and a discussion. In this case, the discussion is not actually embedded within the document, but other users who wish to discuss the document can see the discussion thread, either in Word 2003 or Internet Explorer, and they can weigh in on any interesting topic.
Finally, it is good idea to discuss briefly a few technical considerations. Windows SharePoint Services, which runs only on Windows Server 2003 in conjunction with ASP.NET and SQL Server 7, provides the basic Web site functionality, the ability to use Web Parts, a fully programmable server-side object model, document storage, page personalization, and the general underpinnings for small team, departmental, and enterprise-wide deployments.
Windows SharePoint Server is an enterprise portal application, but it relies heavily on Windows SharePoint Services for much of its core functionality. It takes things a step further by providing for enterprise indexing and searching, audience targeting, creating and managing individual sites for each user, BizTalk integration, and a number features that target a larger deployment scenario.
|Figure 11: Discussions make it easier for users to quickly comment on and exchange ideas about documents in the portal.|
In the end, Microsoft's Windows SharePoint Services are about what is really going on the workplace today. The fact is that few people author documents in isolation. They work together to produce timely and accurate reports, presentations, letters, memos, diagrams, notes, announcements, and other artifacts. These are produced and maintained within the currents that flow through an organization, and Windows SharePoint Services makes it possible to channel those currents, to remove obstacles to their flow, and to build a larger reservoir of institutionally shared knowledge. Look for articles in coming months that go deeper into the inner workings of both Windows SharePoint Services and SharePoint Portal Server 2003 and how to programmatically enhance their power and functionality.