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SharePoint 2007
by Greg Franseth

SharePoint is better understood as a collection of tools and utilities than as a program. So a fundamental issue is knowing what you want to use SharePoint for BEFORE ever trying to use it. Saying "I would like to use SharePoint." is roughly equivalent to saying "I would like to use Office." The first question you will get is "What for?" If you do not know specifically why you want to use SharePoint, you are not ready to use SharePoint.

So, what can SharePoint be used for? I tend to break it into three broad categories: extending Microsoft Office, supporting collaboration, and managing portals and Web sites. With MOSS 2007 (Microsoft Office SharePoint Services, the latest version of SharePoint), users can share documents through Word, setup meetings through Outlook or modify versions of Excel spreadsheets without ever knowing they are leaving their well-known Office programs. Many of these features are already present in the current version of Office, but Office 2007 leverages SharePoint almost seamlessly. In fact a year from now it is very likely all of you will be using SharePoint though some of you will not realize it.

Collaboration is essentially the ability for multiple users to use a common Web site to work together in a variety of ways . Researchers may use a site to collaborate on the many iterations of a grant proposal. A group, such as WebPubs, may use a collaboration site to keep track of meetings including dates and times, agendas, attendance, minutes, etc. Other people may find uses for the blogging and wiki utilities. The possibilities truly are endless. All the possibilities are based on the ability to use "Web parts" which are the particular gadgets that do the things you want. There are tons of gadgets, most of which are not activated by default. Reinforcing what I said before, know exactly what you want to do before exploring, otherwise you will just get overwhelmed.

With MOSS 2007, Microsoft has rolled their old Content Management Server into SharePoint. Thus SharePoint can provide a highly robust content management environment. You can specify what users can do what. A specific person may have responsibility for editing the contact list on your Web site, for example. No extra software is needed. Using SharePoint, once the page is configured they and only they can edit the information directly through their browser. Unlike other content management systems, SharePoint does not require complex libraries or create unintelligible URLs.

If you feel you are ready to start using SharePoint, then you will need to contact one of the SharePoint administrators. For administrative sites (those ultimately reporting to Frank Butler), please contact the IT Customer Service Center at (859) 257-1300. Please note, that there currently is NO SUPPORT for administering your sites in this area. If you have questions, you are on your own to research books (SharePoint 2007 for Dummies by Vanessa Williams is one I highly recommend), Web sites and colleagues who may help you. For research or academics sites, you contact me. Support here is also rather limited though I am willing to discuss specific problems. For health care sites, contact Chuck Combes. UK HealthCare has some ambitious plans so please check with Chuck before proceeding.

Lastly, remember that the current version of SharePoint is only about six months old and is a radical departure from the old version. There is a lot to be learned and not many who have learned it yet. You may even find yourself a step ahead of those you expect to know a thing or two. Also remember that SharePoint is extremely robust - I have not even talked about some powerful pieces like MySite, public vs. private views, Web part manipulation, viewer controls, SharePoint Designer and many others. So for now, I wish you luck and I'll see you in SharePoint.

Notes from Campus

See SharePoint 2007 article