An in-depth look at Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007

An in-depth look at Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007

Microsoft's five new Office Servers give Office 2007 users a wealth of new features and capabilities. We examine how in this four-part series, starting with SharePoint 2007

Making sites useful

Here's where the MOSS glitz and glamour shows up. The most basic piece of site functionality is the Document Library. You can build one for a particular site by hitting Site Actions > Create > Document Library. Now you've got a library tab and importing tools as well as extra permissioning and even versioning if you're up for it. Bur these doc libraries are good for more than just controlled data dumps.

For one, you can open specific documents to Outlook. That means that your team can collaborate on a specific document using SharePoint and then hit Connect to Outlook. That lets you assign which users (whether part of this team or not) will be able to see this document inside their Outlook interfaces under the Downloaded Documents tab.

Other applications have similar features. One that Microsoft made sure to show us was PowerPoint 2007. They imported a few PowerPoint presentations into our SharePoint server -- easy to do, just hit Publish Slides within PowerPoint and designate the right location. As long as you've got permission (and the permissions are within SharePoint, not shared with Active Directory), you're good. The neat part comes after. Once you've got a few presentations in there, SharePoint treats the whole thing as a collection of slides rather than a collection of presentations. Now users of the SharePoint site can access each slide individually and then create a new presentation out of the collection. For sales guys looking to quickly customize a presentation for a particular customer, for instance, this is one of those why-didn't-anyone-do-it-before strokes of genius.

Another really sexy MOSS 2007 addition is the new Excel Services. The Microsoft guys even gave up a day at the beach to run us through this. First, we created a few spreadsheets in Excel, which were then published to our SharePoint site similar to the way we did it in PowerPoint 2007. That's easy enough, but again the sweet part happens after. Once SharePoint has its hooks in your worksheet, team members can add to or modify this content as long as they've got permissions. Different spreadsheets can share cells and auto-update content based on versioning. Big calculations can be conducted on the server or even offloaded to a Microsoft Compute Cluster (though we didn't get a chance to test this since Brian ran out of server boxes).

Possibly the sweetest part of this test was the capability of building an information dashboard based on data from one or several spreadsheets. By hitting the Create Dashboard button, users can select specific Excel data and then see that data represented in Excel Web Access. They can modify that view to suit their particulars and the data will be automatically updated as the underlying spreadsheets change. Want more glitz? This deal also lets you build DIY performance indicators. Once you've got your dashboard built, you can access an option called Indicator from Excel Workbook. This lets you access your Excel spreadsheet library, select specific cells with important data, and finally define "desired" and "warning" value levels. The first maintains the elusive green light, the latter activates a warning on your dashboard page. Truly cool. Though this is meant for Enterprise users, it can also be a great way for SMBs to build business dashboards themselves, without investing in expensive ERP-style software.

RSS is another SharePoint favorite, and one which can take multiple forms. You can allow users access to internal or external RSS feeds from within a SharePoint team site thanks to MOSS' built-in RSS viewer, or you can open this up to Outlook and simply assign new RSS feeds to users based on SharePoint team memberships and permissions.

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