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Microsoft Makes Sharepoint 2010 More Web-Like

The company is trying to attract Web developers to Sharepoint 2010, while at the same time keeping the product integrated with a long list of other Microsoft products.


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Microsoft is trying to attract Web developers to Sharepoint 2010, while at the same time keeping the product integrated with a long list of other Microsoft products and services.

Pleasing everybody is difficult, though. Despite the numerous changes Microsoft has made to Sharepoint to make it easier to use and manage for both developers and customers, it can still get gummed up.

One issue that’s not been addressed, said Microsoft senior director Tom Rizzo at the Sharepoint Technology Conference near San Francisco on Thursday, is the 256-character limit on naming documents, folders and subfolders, which users can accidentally exceed.



“We didn’t address it because we allow so many ways to get at Sharepoint –- Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, and so on,” said Rizzo in response to a question from a developer, who said her users struggle with the problem. “We try the best we can to tell you if you’re going to break it. We can do that in certain scenarios, but not in all access methods. When we get rid of WebDAV access in the future we can address it…it’s a pain point we hear about, and it’s high on our list (to fix).”

But Rizzo demonstrated several other changes that Microsoft has made in hopes of making Sharepoint more attractive to Web-savvy users and developers and cutting down on calls from users to IT.

Among these changes are enhanced, Facebook-like profiles that allow users to update their status, tag and rate content (even from the Internet), see graphics of who in the company reports to whom, and search for expertise among their co-workers based on keywords that occur in Outlook e-mails. (IT can turn off this last feature).

Content is easier to find and organize -- before it was based on a hierarchy of folders, and now it’s based on metadata. “With 2010, I don’t care where the content lives in the site,” Rizzo said, “even if it’s 50 folders deep.”

Improved Look and Feel

Sharepoint 2010 looks better. Parts of it are integrated with Microsoft Visio 2010, so users can see a graph of where their projects might be stuck, or import line of business data to get a graphic representation of what’s selling.

Users also have more control over how sites look. They can, for example, more easily create links to content and they can export themes – background images, fonts and so on -- from Powerpoint, which Rizzo said the Sharepoint users he talks to tend to understand. In case users get confused, there’s now a giant button on the Sharepoint interface to show them where to upload content.

Developers have better control too, Rizzo said. They can monitor the slowest running pages, shut down users who create lists with millions of items and prevent developers from writing code with millions of loops. In an interview, Rizzo said that developers who know Ruby on Rails, PHP and other Web languages should be comfortable with Sharepoint 2010.

Several questions from the audience, though, revolved around how compatible Sharepoint 2010 is with previous versions of Sharepoint and Microsoft Office. Sharepoint Designer, tools and the back end infrastructure are not backward-compatible, Rizzo said, and some parts of Sharepoint 2010 will run in a Microsoft cloud.

IT staffs can, however, get by with older versions of Microsoft Office, at least on the client. “You won’t get the great taxonomy stuff (with Office 2007), but it will be in the browser – you could save Powerpoint (for example) to the server and set the taxonomy that way,” he said. Office 2003 also works with Sharepoint 2010, although the results, Rizzo said are “not pretty.”

Some Web-enabled Office applications will also come with Sharepoint, although Microsoft is still deciding which ones. Rizzo said the majority will come with the Office client, not Sharepoint 2010, but the situation will be clearer in the next couple of weeks.

Sharepoint 2010 is still due in June.


   
Deborah Gage is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about business and technology from Silicon Valley for over 15 years.
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