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Review: Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010

Office 2010 integration, social features and deep document management distance this tool from single-purpose portals

By Mike Heck, Network World
May 12, 2010 12:03 AM ET

Network World - In November, we gave SharePoint 2010 beta a test drive. Now, we put the shipping product through its paces and find that Microsoft has delivered a multi-purpose tool that delivers a bigger bang because of its tight coupling with Office 2010.

Slideshow: 10 things we love about SharePoint 2010

Some caveats remain from our first look at SharePoint 2010. It's 64-bit only, so you may need to upgrade your servers. It does not support Internet Explorer 6, so you may want to upgrade to IE8. And to get the full functionality you pretty much need to be running the latest version of other Microsoft products, including Windows Server 2008 R2 and Office 2010.

Our beta test focused on key features such as collaboration, document management, search and business intelligence. This time around, we're digging into customization, integration with Office 2010, social functions, and how metadata can be employed.

For this evaluation, we installed SharePoint 2010 on dedicated quad-core hardware running Windows Server 2008 R2 and SQL Server 2008 (64-bit). Clients could access SharePoint sites from a variety of laptops and desktops running Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7.

Setup is simple. After running the Pre-Upgrade Check utility, and addressing any warnings (such as custom Web Parts), we had no problems moving a SharePoint 2007 server to 2010. Just remember that SharePoint 2010 is 64-bit only.

On the fresh server, the setup – from installing the OS, database, prerequisites, and SharePoint – required about three hours. The setup program automates almost all the work required to install and configure SharePoint, resulting in a successful installation the first time.

Once you're operational, it's worth recapping how the new Web editing capabilities ease customizing, especially for users who are familiar with the ribbon menu of Office 2007. I simply clicked the Edit option in SharePoint's Ribbon area to open the page in edit mode, reformatted text, and immediately saw a live preview of the changes.

Also, Wiki-like syntax cuts time when adding links to other content. For example, just enter '[[List:S' and documents stored in document library folders starting with 'S' will appear in the autocomplete dropdown; then scroll down to the desired document or page you want to link to. Inserting graphics and multimedia is equally straightforward.

I particularly liked the way Web Parts (components that display particular types of information) are now better organized and appear at the top of a page when editing. Simply pick a category, such as Media and Content, and select the Web Part you want to insert into the page.

SharePoint 2007 required detailed knowledge of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to change the look of sites. Now, authorized users can update themes to match your brand – without any programming. I started with one of the many pre-made color and type combinations, and within a few minutes had customized the theme by specifying individual fonts and color hues.

Yet customization goes far beyond look and feel. SharePoint 2010 lets you target any list item, not just complete lists of information. It works like this: First, you create a catalog of rules, groups or memberships. Next, you can define that most any item within the site – from Web Parts to individual documents – will only appear to one of those defined audiences.

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