Steve Ballmer demonstrating SharePoint 2010 to the assembled masses In Las Vegas. From October 19 to 22 2009, Microsoft held its annual SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. This event has been doubling in size virtually every year, and this yearsold-out affair catered for 7,500 delegates at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. There were nearly 250 sessions held over the four days, covering every aspect of SharePoint, but everyone was really there to see the opening keynote addresses by Steve Ballmer (Microsoft CEO) and Tom Rizzo (senior director of SharePoint), and a later address by Jeff Teper (corporate VP of the Microsoft Office Business Platform). Steve Ballmer was his usual bouncy self, using the word ”so many times that I feared there might be an accident. He confessed it was his first SharePoint conference —having finally wrested the gig from the clutches of Bill Gates —but he also professed that SharePoint was one of his favourite Microsoft products. Around 5,000 people have already been testing SharePoint 2010, and Ballmer announced that the next wave of public beta testing will start in November, alongside the public beta test for Office 2010. To be precise, from 18 November, anyone will be able to download and install the SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 beta versions to try them out for themselves. He wasnprepared to narrow the expected timeframe for Release to Manufacture (RTM) of SharePoint 2010 or Office 2010, which are still officially slated as half of 2010”, but everyone expects this to mean either May or June of that year —itunlikely to be any earlier. SharePoint is officially described as a collaboration”platform, but itbeen steadily growing in its capabilities over recent years. This version has new features, and has also had a radical overhaul of its user Interface. Like Office 2010, SharePoint 2010 employs the Ribbon and Backstage user interface —implemented using Ajax and Silverlight to minimise the frequency of page refreshes and round-trips to the server, which keeps the interface as agile and responsive as is possible for a web-based application. It will support many different web browsers, not only internet Explorer, and even works on non-Windows operating systems or mobile devices (although there will obviously be some compromises over functionality if younot running IE8 on Windows with Silverlight). Developing solutions One of the areas of SharePoint that Steve Ballmer chose to focus upon was Its ability to quickly create and customise applications based on templates and web parts. He often used the word ”to describe this process, which certainly sounds a bit more business-like than up”—another word that he occasionally used for the same thing. He said the new 2010 version of SharePoint Designer (radically redesigned from FrontPage) and the new Access Services for SharePoint would enable anyone to design a database application and publish it through SharePoint. Hopefully, it will be easier to use than infoPath, which also inhabits this niche but is far more difficult to learn. For more professional developers there will be better integration with Visual Studio 2010, which wilt come with project templates to create SharePoint sites and web parts. Yoube able to lay out and code a web part visually in VS2010, publish it to SharePoint, then debug it live on the SharePoint server by setting breakpoints and stepping through the code line by line. To prevent rogue code from bringing down a live SharePoint server, you can set limits so that such runaway code is terminated before it cripples performance. Deploying VS2010 web parts and solutions is virtually a one-click job: even the images and other resources are deployed for you, using relative paths so you can deploy onto different servers with ease. Debugging VS2010 web parts displays the new Developer Dashboard, which gives you useful information; a view into the call stack, and how long each process is taking, for example. You can use SharePoint Designer and Visual Studio to heavily customise a SharePoint-based app and turn it into a public-facing website. Many medium-sized and large organisations such as Viacom, the US Library of Congress, Ferrari and the Ministry of Sound in the UK all employ SharePoint as the basis of their public internet sites, and none of these look remotely like a standard SharePoint Team Site that you might see used out-of-the-box on a company or departmental intranet (remote desktop protocol ). Given its powerful content management, multimedia and multilingual facilities, Microsoft hopes that more companies will build their websites in SharePoint, whether ithosted on the companyown hardware, through SharePoint Online, or through a third-party hosting or Cloud computing provider. Ballmer sees an opportunity for savings in infrastructure costs: he cited Kraft Foods as an example, where the company saved $2 million a year by consolidating 200 small and disparate websites into a single SharePoint-based internet presence. With 100 million page views per month itin the top 1,000 US websites, and is a consumer-orientated marketing tool where the end users, Kraftown marketing professionals, can easily publish new content without having to keep constantly going back to their IT department.
Publishing an Access application gives you a native SharePoint website that you can manage like any other. Publishing isna one-time operation, as once the application is on the server you can open it in Access from the server to edit it and synchronise your changes back to the server. Switchboards have finally been retired, thank goodness, to be replaced by the new Navigation Control. You can drag and drop various forms, datasheets and reports onto the Navigation Control to build up a set of tabs across the screen, and a user can click to see each list, form or report. The macro language has been improved almost beyond recognition, and the UI for building macros is much easier to use, complete with IntelliSense to speed coding and reduce the possibility of errors. There are new commands for updating lists, based on changes to records in details forms. New data macros encode business logic that will work on all instances of some data whether itbeen edited on a form, a list or datasheet —these are equivalent to SQL Server database triggers, UI macros and data macros are stored in XML, and can be copied and pasted as XML so you can replicate them quickly without having to laboriously recreate macros by hand. Access 2010 also includes support for Office Themes, which allow you to change the colours, fonts and effects on every form, list or report in an Access application with just one click. SharePoint editions There are ten different SKUs (Stock-Keeping Units) that comprise the SharePoint product set, and as a potential user you have to decide which one(s) youneed to purchase, based on what features you need and whether you need them for internal use only, or want to service users outside your own company. If your company or department is small and doesn t need all the bells and whistles of the full SharePoint Server product, you could use the free SharePoint Foundation (previously called Windows SharePoint Services). If you need public ”or partner "Extranet”connectivity, then there are SharePoint editions designed specifically for those jobs in medium and large companies. SharePoint Foundation and SharePoint Server come with basic search capabilities built in, but you can add Search Server to extend the search functionality. Therea free offering called Search Server Express, and larger, more feature-rich offerings for medium and large organisations and for internet and extranet-connected functionality. For developers SharePoint Designer 2010 is free, but the paid-for Visual Studio 2010 (Professional, Premium or Ultimate) adds more capabilities. While there are many competing content or document management systems, search systems and intranet portal applications available, very few of those competing products are as general purpose or as extensible as SharePoint. The 2010 release represents a big leap forward from the previous release, with lots more scope for developing customised solutions. Wehave much more coverage of SharePoint 2010 over the coming months as we get a chance to test the beta bits and find out whether Steve Ballmerexcitement is infectious, and if the product lives up to its star billing. Office 2004 for Mac Life Support extended When Microsoft pulled the VBA macro language from 2008 for Mac”—probably because it couldnbe made to work with the new file formats in time —many people regarded that as a big mistake. Anyone who needed VBA for macros in Mac Office, either for document compatibility with Windows or for use with add ins such as Solver, was effectively precluded from making the upgrade. The next version of Office for Mac (no official name yet) will have VBA restored to it. and Microsoft has promised that it will follow hard on the heels of Office 2010 for Windows, by the end of 2010 —rather than making Mac customers wait a year or more as it has done in the past In the meantime, mainstream support for Office 2004 for Mac was due to expire in October 2009, which would mean no more bug fixes except for security issues, for all those people stuck with the 2004 product. Then just one day shy of the expiration date Microsoft relented and extended mainstream support for Office 2004 for Mac until January 2012. Built using the WebDAV communications protocol, this product has proved so flaky that Microsoft has released a new version called Entourage 2008 Web Services edition, which replaces the WebDAV communication with calls to Exchange Server 2007Web Services —however, this will only work with Exchange Server 2007 with SP1 and Update Rollup 4. If your Exchange Server isnthat up to date you re stuck with the old WebDAV version of Entourage (youalso need SP2 for Office 2008 for Mac 12.2.1). Outlook for Mac has been built from the ground up as a Mac OS X application, using Cocoa, and it contains a new database that Microsoft claims will give a reliable, high-performance and integrated experience. Users will be able to back it up using Time Machine and search email, calendar and contacts using Spotlight, it s way past time that Office for Mac got a decent email/PIM (Personal Information Manager) application, and this may prove to be it.