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Essential SharePoint 2007, 2nd Edition by Jeff Webb

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Chapter 1. Using SharePoint

SharePoint delivers office applications over the Web. An office application can be something as simple as a way to store and manage a library of documents within a small office, or as complex as a project management system used across continents.

In this chapter, I'll tell you how SharePoint saves you time (and money), and I'll walk you through creating three SharePoint applications that almost all businesses can use right away.

How Does This Help Me Do My Job?

That was the question a clever woman asked me at one of the first training sessions I presented. I had to think a bit, but here's what I came up with—SharePoint helps you:

  • Find the information you need quickly

  • Link to that information to stay current

  • Share the information you have with others

  • Do all that through standard tools that folks already know

SharePoint does those things by creating a web site for your business that integrates with Microsoft Office applications: mainly, Word, Excel, and Outlook. From a user's perspective, it's just like using the Internet: click on links to go to a new page, search on a phrase to find something, and so on (see Figure 1-1). What's unique is the way that SharePoint integrates Office documents, task lists, calendars, email alerts, and other features in a way to simplify the flow of work through your business.

Using SharePoint is just like using the Internet

Figure 1-1. Using SharePoint is just like using the Internet

Instead of routing a document for approval via email, you post the document to SharePoint and collaborate with the reviewers interactively. Because the file is stored in a central location, everyone can see changes as they are made without resending the document each time it is changed; reviewers can discuss changes online, read one another's comments, and assign tasks and deadlines, and all changes are recorded in version history.

Document review is a simple but important example. Figure 1-2 and Figure 1-3 illustrate the differences between SharePoint and email solutions to a document review workflow.

Document review through email (lots of copies)

Figure 1-2. Document review through email (lots of copies)

Document review through SharePoint (one shared copy)

Figure 1-3. Document review through SharePoint (one shared copy)

The biggest difference between Figure 1-2 and Figure 1-3 is visibility. In the email workflow, reviewers don't see each other's comments or changes because those are stored away in each person's email. With SharePoint, comments and versions can be viewed by all reviewers. Additionally, you can include links to related topics, track tasks, and collect approvals in a structured way.

SharePoint is a big improvement over email solutions, but it comes with two conditions:

  • SharePoint affects work processes, so you need to think about how you will use it before it can help. You need to be able to describe the steps in a work process and assign responsibilities to specific users.

  • SharePoint is closely tied to Microsoft Office 2003 or 2007; you can use earlier Office versions or non-Microsoft applications, but you get the most benefit from the 2003 or 2007 Microsoft Office suites.

If you can live with those two conditions, then we can get started. Otherwise, you should probably consider other options.

Tip

For a list of SharePoint features supported by all Microsoft Office versions, see Appendix B.

What Types of Sites Can I Create?

SharePoint comes with a set of templates that you can use to create web sites right out of the box, and many more are available as downloads or from third-party vendors. Before we tackle those templates, however, it helps to sort them into a few main types:

Publishing sites

Present corporate communications (newsletters, press releases, events, holidays, announcements, and so on) through one or more web pages. This category also includes communication managed by employees through blogs and Wikis, which may or may not fit in your corporate culture.

Document control

Manages version and change control for standard forms such as NDAs, vacation requests, and so forth. This category also includes repositories for executed agreements that can be scanned in as PDFs.

Workflow applications

Encompass any multistep task that follows a defined process. A common workflow example is Issue Tracking, where a problem is reported, assigned to a team member, resolved, approved, and then published to a knowledge base for future reference.

Dashboards

Are a type of management application where related tasks and reports are centralized for easy access.

Extranet portals

Provide a contact point among your business, customers, and partners. You can use these to provide external access to your corporate information in a limited and secure way.

Combinations of these types are common; when we talk about an application type, we're really identifying its primary purpose, not its sole use. Table 1-1 organizes the built-in SharePoint templates by the type of site.

Table 1-1. Built-in site and list templates

Site type

Site templates

List templates

[a]

Publishing

  • Wiki Site

  • Blog

  • Meeting Workspace

  • Collaboration Portal[a]

  • Publishing Portal[a]

  • News Site[a]

  • Web Pages

  • Announcements

  • Wiki Page Library

  • Discussion Board

  • Survey

  • Links

Document control

  • Document Workspace

  • Document Center[a]

  • Records Center[a]

  • Report Center[a]

  • Document Library

  • Picture Library

  • Translation Management Library[a]

  • Slide Library

  • Languages and Translators[a]

Workflow

  • Publishing Site with Workflow[a]

  • Decision Meeting Workspace

  • Form Library

  • Issue Tracking

  • Project Tasks

Dashboards

  • Personalization Center[a]

  • My Site Host[a]

  • Report Library[a]

  • Contacts

  • KPI List*

  • Data Connection Library[a]

Extranet portals

  • Publishing Site[a]

  • Search Center[a]

 

Navigation

  • Search Center[a]

  • Search Center with Tabs[a]

  • Site Directory[a]

 

[a] These templates are only available in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS).

What Software Do I Need?

"SharePoint" means different things to different people. The blame for that confusion lies squarely with Microsoft—it labeled these products with long phrases that almost no one has the time to fully decipher. Table 1-2 is my attempt to inject some sense into the fray.

Table 1-2. What's in a name? "SharePoint" explained

Official name

Acronym

What it means

Microsoft SharePoint Team Services

STS

This is the first SharePoint. It's out-of-date but still in use in some places. STS is very different from later SharePoint versions, and I don't discuss it in this book.

Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services

WSS

The core services and templates used by SharePoint from 2003 on. WSS is part of Windows Server 2003 and is available as a free download. There are two versions of WSS in use: 2.0 and 3.0. In this book, I cover WSS 3.0.

Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server

SPS

The 2003 server product based on WSS 2.0. SPS includes additional templates and services and enables portal-wide searching. This product is sold through Microsoft Volume Licensing.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007

MOSS

The 2007 server product based on WSS 3.0. MOSS includes additional templates and services, enables portal-wide searching, and provides document control workflow templates. This product is sold through Microsoft Volume Licensing. MOSS is the server product I cover in this book.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 for Search

MOSS/S

This is a limited version of MOSS that omits the enterprise templates and services. This product is sold through Microsoft Volume Licensing.

Tip

If you are using WSS 2.0 and/or SPS, please see the previous edition of this book, Essential SharePoint (O'Reilly).

So what do you need? If you are starting fresh, it is really a choice between WSS version 3.0, MOSS, or MOSS/S:

  • Install WSS 3.0 if you are cost-conscious. It provides a basic platform that can still do a lot. The major limitations of WSS are that it does not allow searching across multiple web sites and only includes a basic, three-state workflow template.

  • Purchase MOSS if you are building an enterprise portal. In addition to search, full MOSS includes workflow templates for document control, action menus, records repository, personalized sites (My Sites), audiences (targeted content), listings (content expiration), and compliance policies. If you need those things, MOSS is well worth the cost.

  • Purchase MOSS/S to add cross-site searching to a WSS server farm or to add a dedicated search server to a MOSS server farm.

There are Standard and Enterprise editions of MOSS. The Enterprise edition includes these additional services: InfoPath Forms Services, Excel Services, and Business Data Catalog. If you choose MOSS, you'll be talking to a salesperson anyway, so he or she should be able to help you choose based on your needs and budget. All of the MOSS editions include WSS 3.0.

If you are starting with an existing WSS 2.0 or SPS installation, you have some new choices. Some companies don't want personalization features like My Site. In those cases, upgrading to MOSS/S might make sense. Otherwise, the direct upgrade path is straightforward:

  • Upgrade WSS 2.0 installations to WSS 3.0.

  • Upgrade SPS installations to MOSS.

What Other Software Do I Need?

To run SharePoint, you must have the following software installed on a server:

  • Windows Server 2003 (SP1 or higher). SharePoint runs only on this operating system, and the machine must be configured as an ASP.NET application server without FrontPage Server Extensions installed.

  • .NET Framework version 3.0. Installing .NET 3.0 automatically installs .NET 2.0 if it is not already present; both versions are required.

  • Microsoft SQL Server 2000 (SP4) or later, preferably installed on a dedicated server. SharePoint also supports the use of the free Windows Internal Database (WID), but that configuration should be considered only for limited applications such as small sites and staging servers since WID does not allow external connections or provide the database management tools that come with Microsoft SQL Server.

Users access SharePoint through their web browser—other than that, there are no real software requirements, but to get the most out of SharePoint, users should have at least Microsoft Office 2003 or later. Other software may also be needed based on what a user needs to do with SharePoint. Table 1-3 lists the applications that most users will need based on their role.

Table 1-3. Recommended client software by user role

User role

Client software

Details

Everyone

Internet Explorer version 6.0 or later

Non-Microsoft browsers work with SharePoint, but their capabilities are limited since Microsoft relies on ActiveX components for some advanced features.

 

Adobe Reader version 6.0 or later

PDF documents are ubiquitous. Users may also need the print drivers to create PDFs.

 

Microsoft Office 2003 or 2007 Professional Edition

Earlier versions of Microsoft Office do not fully integrate with SharePoint.

Data entry

Microsoft InfoPath 2007

Provides a way to create and display sophisticated data entry forms that validate entries, can be routed for approvals, and integrate with workflows.

Web designer

Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2007

Allows web designers to customize web pages, web parts, CSS, and workflows.

Developer

Microsoft Visual Studio 2005

Allows programmers to develop web parts, web services, site definitions, workflows, and other components using the SharePoint object model.

 

Microsoft InfoPath 2007, Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2007

Developers may also need these tools depending on the tasks that they are assigned.

Try to make sure that users are all using the same version and edition of the products listed in Table 1-3. Mixed environments require more effort to support, particularly when different versions or editions of Office are installed. I strongly recommend Microsoft Office Professional Edition for use with SharePoint. The Standard and Small Business Editions do not include the component that enables the datasheet view used throughout SharePoint—you will get support calls about that, trust me!

Finally, you may want to consider the following optional server products:

  • Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 (or Microsoft Virtual PC 2004) for creating staging or test versions of SharePoint installations. This free tool is worth learning, especially when branding portals and programming web parts.

  • Microsoft Forefront Security for SharePoint provides virus scanning on files uploaded to SharePoint.

  • CorasWorks Workplace Suite and rPrograms from CorasWorks provide add-on components and templates.

  • Other community or third-party web parts, such as Pentalogic SharePoint Reminder.

I don't get money from CorasWorks or Pentalogic, but I've used their products and they are worth a look.

Try It

It's a good idea to evaluate SharePoint versions before deciding what software you want to purchase. If you do not have a spare Windows 2003 server that can be dedicated to installing trial software, consider using a virtual server. The advantages of creating a virtual machine for evaluation are that you can more easily create multiple configurations to evaluate, and you can run the virtual machine on your desktop computer.

To install WSS for evaluation:

  1. Set up a staging server or virtual machine running Windows 2003 by installing the required server software listed in the preceding section.

  2. Download SharePoint.exe from http://www.microsoft.com/downloads.

  3. Run SharePoint.exe and choose the Basic setup. That option creates a standalone SharePoint server using the Windows Internal Database (WID). It automatically configures the server and creates a default top-level site using the Team Site template (see Figure 1-4).

To install MOSS for evaluation:

  1. Set up a staging server or virtual machine running Windows 2003 by installing the required server software listed in the preceding section.

  2. Download OfficeServer.exe from http://www.microsoft.com/downloads.

  3. Save the product keys displayed on the web page when the download is complete. You'll need the product keys any time you install MOSS, so keep them somewhere safe in case you need to reinstall later.

  4. Run OfficeServer.exe and enter the product key for either the Standard or Enterprise edition and choose the Basic setup option. As with WSS, the Basic option creates a standalone SharePoint server using the WID. It automatically configures the server and creates a default top-level site using the Collaboration Portal site template (see Figure 1-5).

Tip

When trying to locate downloads on the Microsoft web site, it is often easiest to search www.microsoft.com for the filename. Searching on the product name usually returns too many results.

The WSS download is included under your Windows 2003 Server license, but the MOSS download is a trial version that expires after 120 days. The MOSS download includes WSS, so you don't install that first unless you are upgrading an existing SPS installation. See Appendix A for details on upgrading.

Follow the instructions provided on screen by Setup. Doing one or more evaluation installations is a good idea before going live. See Chapter 13 for complete instructions on installing SharePoint and configuring it after installation. See Appendix A if you are upgrading from the previous version of SharePoint.

Parts of a Page

SharePoint setup creates a new, mostly empty web site with a default home page that looks like Figure 1-4 or Figure 1-5, depending on which product you installed.

Default WSS home page

Figure 1-4. Default WSS home page

Default MOSS home page

Figure 1-5. Default MOSS home page

The parts of a page labeled in Figure 1-4 and Figure 1-5 are common throughout SharePoint:

Top link bar

Contains tabs that link to subsites within SharePoint. Use subsites to organize content and control who can see or change that content.

Quick Launch

Displays links to lists, libraries, and subsites.

Libraries

Collections of documents within a web site.

Lists

Are tables of data.

Recycle Bin

Allows you to restore content that was recently deleted — much the same as the Windows Recycle Bin.

Search

Is used to find information within a web site.

Advanced search

Finds information across web sites or by topic. This feature is only in MOSS.

Web parts

Display views of lists, libraries, or other content on a page.

Creating a Test Site

The Basic installations of WSS and MOSS create the default top-level sites shown in Figure 1-4 and Figure 1-5. Those two sites are very different, and it's a good idea to keep those default sites intact for a while so you can use them as a reference as you learn. For those reasons, it's a good idea to create a test site at this point.

To create a test site in WSS:

  1. Click Site Actions → Create in the upper-right corner of the page.

  2. Click Sites and Workspaces under the Web Pages heading on the right side of the page.

  3. Enter a Title and URL for the site, select the Team Site template, and click Create. SharePoint creates the site and displays its home page.

To create a test site in MOSS:

  1. Click Site Actions → Create Site in the upper-right corner of the page.

  2. Enter a Title and URL for the site, select the Team Site template, and click Create. SharePoint creates the site and displays its home page. SharePoint creates the site and displays its home page.

You can use this test site to try the procedures in this chapter and to experiment on your own. If you mess up and want to start over, simply delete the site and create a new one.

To delete the test site:

  1. On the site's home page, click Site Actions → Site Settings.

  2. Click "Delete this site" under the Site Administration heading.

  3. Verify that you are deleting the correct site, and then click Delete. SharePoint deletes the site.

  4. Click the Back button and then click one of the navigational links to return to the parent site.

The procedures in the rest of this section assume that you are working from a test site based on the Team Site template. Each site template creates different lists and libraries, so if you use a different site template, some of these procedures may not work exactly as stated.

Editing a Page

SharePoint pages are made up almost entirely of web parts. Some of those parts can be edited directly through the browser while others (like the link bar and Quick Launch) are controlled by site settings.

To edit a SharePoint page:

  1. Click Site Actions → Edit Page in the upper-right corner of the page. SharePoint changes the page to Edit mode as shown in Figure 1-6.

  2. Drag web parts between web part zones (marked Left and Right) to move them on the page, or click Edit on the web part's title bar to change the appearance of the web part.

  3. Click Add a Web Part to include new content from a list or library on the page.

  4. When you're done, click Exit Edit Mode in the upper-right corner of the page.

Editing a web part page

Figure 1-6. Editing a web part page

Changing the Top Link Bar and Quick Launch

The top link bar and Quick Launch are static web parts—they are controlled by site settings rather than by the page editor. The procedure for changing these links varies a bit between WSS and MOSS, so I include both approaches here.

To change the links on the top link bar in WSS:

  1. Click Site Actions → Site Settings in the upper-right corner of the page.

  2. Click Top link bar under the Look and Feel heading in the middle of the Site Settings page.

  3. Click New Link on the toolbar of the Top Link Bar page to add a new tab, or click "Use Links from Parent" to import the tabs that appear on the web site that contains the current site.

To change the links on Quick Launch in WSS:

  1. Click Site Actions → Site Settings in the upper-right corner of the page.

  2. Click Quick Launch under the Look and Feel heading in the middle of the Site Settings page.

  3. Click New Link on the toolbar of the Quick Launch page to add a new tab, or click New Heading to add a new section on Quick Launch.

To change the links on either the top link bar or Quick Launch in MOSS:

  1. Click Site Actions → Site Settings in the upper-right corner of the page.

  2. Click Navigation under the Look and Feel heading on the Site Settings page.

  3. In the Global Navigation section, select "Display the navigation items below the current site." That setting causes the site to have a unique top link bar, rather than inheriting the link bar from its parent site.

  4. In the Navigation Editing and Sorting section, select Global Navigation and click Add Link to add a new tab to the top link bar.

  5. Select Current Navigation in the Navigation Editing and Sorting section and click Add Link to add a new item to the Quick Launch.

  6. Click OK to apply the changes.

MOSS refers to the top link bar as Global Navigation, and it calls the Quick Launch Current Navigation. You can also use the Site Navigation Settings page in MOSS to group and reorder the links that appear on the top link bar and Quick Launch.

Adding Content

SharePoint stores the content you want to share in lists and libraries. To add a new link to the Links list:

  1. Return to your test site's home page.

  2. Click the "Add new link" at the bottom of the Links web part on the right side of the page. SharePoint displays a web form for you to fill out for the new list item.

  3. Fill out the fields and click OK to save the item. SharePoint adds the link to the list and displays it in the Links web part on the home page.

To add a new document to a library:

  1. On your test site's home page, click "Add new document" at the bottom of the Shared Documents web part in the middle of the page. SharePoint displays the Upload Document page.

  2. Click Browse and select a Word or Excel document from your computer to upload.

  3. Click OK to upload the document. SharePoint copies the file from your computer to SharePoint and displays the new file in the Shared Documents web part.

List items and documents uploaded to a site are available to anyone who has access to the site. For example, you can open the document you just uploaded by clicking on it in the Shared Documents web part. SharePoint keeps track of user's permissions so only authorized users can see or change items.

Lists and libraries are stored in folders within each site. What you see on the home page is just a view of the list or library displayed as a web part. Every list and library has a web part associated with it that you can use to display different views on the site's home page and elsewhere.

To view the actual list or library:

  • Click on the title of the web part.

Or:

  • Click on the link to the list or library in the Quick Launch area.

Or:

  • Click View All Site Content, and then click on the list or library shown on that page.

The View All Site Content link lets you get at lists and libraries not shown on the site's home page. You choose what to put on the home page based on what is most important for others to see. For instance, you might want to feature the Task list on the home page instead of Announcements. To make that change:

  1. Navigate to the home page of your test site.

  2. Click Site Actions → Edit Page in the upper-right corner of the page. SharePoint changes the page to Edit mode.

  3. On the Announcements web part, click Edit → Delete and click OK. SharePoint removes the Announcements web part, but does not delete the Announcements list (it becomes hidden).

  4. Click Add a Web Part. SharePoint displays the Add Web Parts web page dialog box.

  5. Select Tasks and click Add. SharePoint adds the Tasks list web part to the page.

  6. Drag the web parts to change their order on the page.

  7. Click Exit Edit Mode in the upper-right corner of the page when you are done. The completed page should appear as shown in Figure 1-7

Every list or library can be displayed as a web part

Figure 1-7. Every list or library can be displayed as a web part

Uploading Large Groups of Files

SharePoint libraries are very similar to file folders in Windows. In fact, you can view them in the Windows Explorer! To do that:

  1. From the test web site home page, click on the title of the Shared Documents web part. SharePoint displays the Shared Documents library.

  2. On the library toolbar, click Actions → Open with Windows Explorer. SharePoint opens the library folder as shown in Figure 1-8.

Opening a library in Windows Explorer

Figure 1-8. Opening a library in Windows Explorer

Using the Windows Explorer, you can create new folders, cut and paste files between the library and your desktop, or move whole folders from your desktop to SharePoint. This is the quickest way to upload a large number of files into SharePoint and preserve their organization.

There are a few restrictions on what you can upload:

  • File and folder names can't include the following characters: &, ?, %, or .. (two periods together). Those characters have special meaning on the Web.

  • Executable file types are blocked by default to avoid the spread of malicious code. To share executables, DLLs, and other file types, ZIP them before uploading.

  • Files over 50 MB are blocked by default.

The blocked file types and maximum upload sizes can be changed through the SharePoint Central Administration settings. However, it's a good idea to stick with the defaults initially.

Tip

Since SharePoint lists and libraries are shown as web pages, you may need to Refresh (F5) the page in your browser to see newly created items. That's always true if others are uploading items—you'll need to refresh to see their changes.

Creating Sites

Sites group related lists and libraries. In practice, most sites are organized by function or by department. For example, you might have a Legal Helpdesk site for questions and contract requests, and a Legal Department site for contract templates, executed contracts, and other things used internally by the Legal department.

Use sites to control access. The main reason to create two separate sites in the preceding example is access: all employees should be able to ask legal questions, but only the Legal department should draft new contracts.

To create a new site:

  1. Click Site Actions → Create in the upper-right corner of a page.

  2. Click on Sites and Workspaces under the Web Pages heading on the right side of the Create page. SharePoint displays the New SharePoint Site page (see Figure 1-9).

  3. Fill out the web page and select a template for the site. Templates determine what lists and libraries are included automatically in the new site. There are instructions on the page for the other items you must complete.

  4. Click Create when done. SharePoint creates the site and displays its home page.

Tip

On some pages in MOSS, click Site Actions → Create Site instead in step 1 and go directly to step 3.

Creating a new site

Figure 1-9. Creating a new site

Controlling Access to a Site

Sites can inherit permissions from their parent site, or they can use unique permissions. It is usually a good idea to create new sites with inherited permissions, and then to change that setting once the site is created. That copies in the users from the parent site; you can then delete unneeded users, which is easier than adding users from scratch.

To change from inherited permissions to unique permissions:

  1. Click Site Actions → Site Settings in the upper-right corner of a page.

  2. Click Advanced permission under the Users and Permissions heading on the left side of the Site Settings page. SharePoint displays the Permissions page.

  3. Click Actions → Edit Permissions on the toolbar. SharePoint warns you before creating unique permissions. Click OK to confirm.

Once a site has unique permissions, the users and groups that have access to the site appear with checkboxes next to them as shown in Figure 1-10.

Use the Permissions page to control access to a site

Figure 1-10. Use the Permissions page to control access to a site

Removing Users and Editing Permissions

To remove users:

  1. Click the checkbox next to the user or group name as shown in Figure 1-10.

  2. Click Actions → Remove User Permissions. SharePoint removes the user from the group.

Once a user is removed, she can no longer view the site. If you only want to restrict a user's access, Click Actions → Edit User Permissions, and select the permissions as shown in Figure 1-11.

Editing user permissions in a site

Figure 1-11. Editing user permissions in a site

Grouping Users

Groups control access based on the user's role. If you add a user to a group, then he will have permissions that are appropriate for that role. For example, all employees in one department might be members of their department site, meaning they can upload documents and add list items, but not design pages or create new lists or libraries. Rather than assigning permissions to each user, you can simply assign permissions to the group and then move users into and out of the group as required.

SharePoint groups may map to Active Directory security groups in your company. For example, you could add the Legal security group to the Members group in the Legal Department site. Then, all members of that security group can contribute to that site.

If your company uses Active Directory, it is a good idea to use security groups wherever possible in SharePoint, rather than adding users individually. Then when employees are hired or fired, those changes are automatically reflected in SharePoint because of the change in Active Directory.

To add an Active Directory security group to a SharePoint group:

  1. Click Site Actions → Site Settings in the upper-right corner of a page.

  2. Click People and groups under the Users and Permissions heading on the right side of the Site Settings Page.

  3. Click New → Add Users on the toolbar of the People and Groups page. SharePoint displays the Add Users page.

  4. Type the Active Directory security group name in the Users/Groups text box, and choose the SharePoint group that corresponds to the role those users will play within the site as shown in Figure 1-12.

  5. Click OK when done.

Use Active Directory security groups within SharePoint wherever possible

Figure 1-12. Use Active Directory security groups within SharePoint wherever possible

Putting SharePoint to Work

If you followed along carefully this far, you should now know how to:

  • Customize pages by adding or changing web parts

  • Add content to lists and libraries

  • Create sites

  • Control who can see and use a site

Congratulations! That's about 90 percent of what most folks need to know about using SharePoint. Of course you are more than just a user, so I'll go on for a few more chapters. Right now, I'd like to put what you've learned to work by walking you through "the big three" applications for SharePoint. Specifically, I want to show you how to:

  • Create a company-wide phone list

  • Replace shared drives

  • Control document revisions

The following tutorial sections walk you through creating those applications. Please follow along using SharePoint as the tutorials teach you the core skills you will use when creating many different types of applications.

Tip

You will be prompted for your username and password at various times in the following procedures. In each case, enter the user name and password you use to sign on to your network (usually you can substitute your full email name and password). In Chapter 2, I'll show you how to use your network credentials automatically.

Creating a Company Phone List

Many companies still distribute printed employee phone lists. Those go out-of-date quickly and are a pain to keep up-to-date—this is a perfect first application for SharePoint! Creating the phone list involves these major tasks:

  • Create a list based on the Contacts template.

  • Customize the list to add a Departments column.

  • Create a new view to simplify data entry.

  • Place the list on the home page as a web part.

SharePoint comes with a set of predefined list templates, and the Contacts template most closely fits the needs of a company phone list. By basing our new list on an existing template, we save the effort of creating columns for name, phone number, and so on.

To create the phone list:

  1. Navigate to the top-level web site in SharePoint.

  2. In WSS, click Site Actions → Create in the upper-right corner of a page. In MOSS, click Site Actions → View All Site Content → Create.

  3. Click Contacts under the Communications heading on the left of the Create page. SharePoint displays the New page.

  4. Name the list "Phone List" and click Create. SharePoint creates a new phone list based on the Contacts list template.

The Contacts template doesn't include a Department column, which is useful for grouping employees. So, we'll need to add that column next.

To add a Department column to the list:

  1. Click Settings → Create Column on the Phone List toolbar.

  2. Fill out the Create Column page as shown in Figure 1-13 and click OK to create the column.

  3. Click OK to add the Department column to the list.

Adding a column to a list

Figure 1-13. Adding a column to a list

The Contacts template includes a lot of columns we don't really need. We could delete them, but it doesn't really hurt to leave them there—it just makes data entry more complicated. To simplify that data entry, create a new datasheet view for entering records in bulk.

Tip

The datasheet view is only available if you have Office Professional Edition (or higher) installed.

To create a datasheet view for the list:

  1. Click Settings → Create View on the Phone List toolbar.

  2. Click Datasheet View under the "Choose a view format" header on the left of the Create View page.

  3. Name the view Edit Data and select the following columns in the Columns section of the Create Datasheet View page: Last Name, First Name, Business Phone, Department, and Mobile Phone.

  4. Deselect all other columns.

  5. Change the "Position from Left" number for the Department column from 8 to 1.

  6. Click OK when done. SharePoint displays the new view of the list as shown in Figure 1-14.

Adding data to the phone list

Figure 1-14. Adding data to the phone list

Add some names and numbers to the phone list. If you have an existing phone list in an Excel workbook, you can actually cut/paste columns of data from that workbook into the list. Be sure to add numbers for a few different departments, since we'll use this list in the next task.

Phone lists should be easy to find, so I usually put them on the home page. To do that, create a web part for the phone list on the home page and customize the web part to display phone numbers by department.

To add the phone list web part:

  1. Navigate to the home page and click Site Actions → Edit Page. SharePoint displays the home page in Edit mode.

  2. Click "Add a Web Part in the Right web part zone" on the right side of the page. SharePoint displays the Add Web Parts to Right page.

  3. Select the Phone List web part in the Lists and Libraries section of the page and click Add. SharePoint adds the phone list to the page as a web part.

  4. Click Edit → Modify Shared Web Part on the Phone List toolbar. SharePoint displays the web part properties page on the right.

  5. Click "Edit the current view" under the Selected View heading. SharePoint displays the Edit View: Phone List page as shown in Figure 1-15.

  6. Deselect the E-mail Address column, scroll to the end of the page, expand the Group By section, and select "First group by the column: Department."

  7. Click OK. SharePoint displays the phone list as shown in Figure 1-16.

Editing the web part view

Figure 1-15. Editing the web part view

Using the new phone list from the home page

Figure 1-16. Using the new phone list from the home page

Replacing Network Drives with Libraries

Most companies store shared files on network drives. These are usually mapped to drive letters on employee desktops—for example, P: for personal files, R: for released files, and so on. Learning those drive letters and their folder structures is often one of the first things a new employee needs to know.

By replacing those network drives and their folder structures with SharePoint libraries, you get some big benefits very quickly:

  • Files are discoverable. SharePoint uses a web page interface, which is easier to navigate than network drives.

  • The contents of documents stored in SharePoint are searchable.

  • Libraries support version control for files.

  • You can filter, sort, and format views of the library in useful ways, such as only showing recently changed files.

  • Employees can get to their files securely from home or while on the road without using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

The hardest part of migrating from network drives to SharePoint libraries is determining how you want to organize the files you move over—it is best to flatten deep folder structures. For example, a path like R:\Departments\Legal\Templates\Contracts might map to the Contract Templates library in the Legal Department site. Also, since libraries can keep version history, you might want to change naming conventions that incorporate version information into the filename. Those aspects of the migration generally require some discussion and planning. The actual migration is much simpler and involves these major tasks:

  • Create department sites.

  • Create libraries for the department.

  • Upload files to the libraries.

To create a department site, follow the instructions in the section "Creating Sites," earlier in this chapter. Use the title "Legal Department" and the address "Legal" as shown earlier in Figure 1-13.

To create a library in the Legal Department site:

  1. Click Site Actions → Create in the upper-right corner of a page.

  2. Click Document Library under the Libraries heading on the left of the Create page.

  3. Name the library "Contract Templates" and select Yes under "Create a version" at the bottom of the page as shown in Figure 1-17; then click OK. SharePoint creates a new, empty library with version control.

Creating a new library with version control

Figure 1-17. Creating a new library with version control

To upload documents to the library:

  1. On the Contract Templates toolbar, click Actions → Open with Windows Explorer. SharePoint opens the library in Windows Explorer.

  2. Open the network drive folder that you want to move files from, select the files to move, and drag them onto the library's Windows Explorer window as shown in Figure 1-18.

Uploading files from a network drive to a SharePoint library

Figure 1-18. Uploading files from a network drive to a SharePoint library

The address in the library's Windows Explorer window (for example, \\wombat6\legal\Contract Templates) is the Windows notation for the address of the library. You can drag the folder icon to your desktop as a shortcut to the library, map a drive letter to the address, or use it in command scripts.

Using Document Version Control

Now that you've migrated your network drives to SharePoint (grin), employees can manage revisions to documents through shared workspaces. Shared workspaces are special sites that allow team members to work together privately on revisions and then publish those revisions once approved. SharePoint can also track version history and control access to documents through a check-out/check-in procedure.

For example, suppose the Legal Department needs to make changes to the standard non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that was uploaded to the Contract Templates library in the preceding section. The author performs these major tasks:

  1. Checks out the document.

  2. Creates a workspace for the revision.

  3. Revises the document and collects feedback from the reviewers.

  4. Publishes the approved document back to the library.

  5. Checks in the final document.

Checking a document out prevents others from making changes and indicates to others that the document is under revision. To check out the document:

  • Navigate to the Contract Templates library and click Check Out from the NDA document's Edit menu. SharePoint adds a little icon to indicate that the document is checked out.

You handle revisions through a shared workspace rather than through email so that comments are shared among reviewers and can be stored for future reference. To create the shared workspace:

  1. Click Send To → Create Document Workspace from the NDA document's Edit menu as shown in Figure 1-19. SharePoint displays the Create Document Workspace page.

  2. Click OK to create the workspace. SharePoint creates a workspace and copies the NDA document into the Shared Documents library.

  3. Click "Add new user" in the Members section on the right side of the page. SharePoint displays the Add Users page.

  4. Type the reviewers' email addresses and select Contribute in the list of permissions, and then click OK. SharePoint adds the user to the Members list for the workspace.

Creating a shared workspace

Figure 1-19. Creating a shared workspace

Only the members of this shared workspace can view the page in Figure 1-19, and it is not automatically added to site navigation. The author must notify reviewers that the workspace exists and send them a link to it asking for their feedback. To make changes to the document and send it for review:

  1. Return to the workspace home page.

  2. Click Edit in Microsoft Office Word from the NDA document's Edit menu. SharePoint prompts you for your user name and password and then opens the document with Word in Edit mode.

  3. Turn on change tracking and edit the document in Word as you would normally. Click Save when done and close Word.

  4. Click Send To → E-mail a Link from the document's Edit menu. SharePoint creates an Outlook email message containing a link to the document.

  5. Fill out the email's To, CC, and Subject fields; compose a message instructing the reviewers to use the Team Discussion to submit their comments; and click Send.

Once all the comments are in, it's time to publish the document back to the library so others can start using it. To publish the approved document:

  1. Click Edit in Microsoft Office Word from the NDA document's Edit menu, accept all changes to the document, and then save and close.

  2. Click Send To → Publish to Source Location from the document's Edit menu. SharePoint displays the Publish to Source Location page.

  3. Click OK to confirm that you want to publish the document. SharePoint copies the completed document back to the Contract Templates library.

  4. Return to the Contract Templates library and click Check In from the NDA document's Edit menu. SharePoint displays the Check In page.

  5. Enter a comment in the Check In page and click OK to make the changes visible to others.

The shared workspace does not go away after the document is published. The author may choose to keep it in place for a period of time or request that the SharePoint administrator archive it. It's a good idea to have some policy in place for how that is handled.

The preceding review process requires a lot of management on the author's part. If reviewers don't respond, the process can stall, and multiple reviewers might have conflicting changes. MOSS addresses those problems with workflows. Workflows are a set of tasks that must be completed in a particular order within a specified time frame. That topic is beyond the scope of this chapter; see Chapter 8 for more information.

Best Practices

By now, you should have a good idea of what SharePoint can do for you and should be in the process of evaluating which edition to acquire. The following practices should guide you as you move forward:

  • Set up a staging server or virtual machine for evaluation. This is a valuable way to try out different configurations before installing in production, and the evaluation environment can be used for web part development later.

  • Think about your existing work processes and how using SharePoint may change them. SharePoint can replace email as a workflow tool. Some subtle things, like document-naming conventions, may also change since SharePoint includes version control.

  • If you are considering MOSS, verify that management wants the personalization features. If the idea of employee My Sites and blogs gives them the willies, plan on disabling My Sites. Read Chapter 7 for more information on personalization features, why they are useful, and how to control them.

  • Try to build instructions into your SharePoint sites. SharePoint is easy to use, but the applications you create with it may need explaining, especially where they replace existing procedures. The SharePoint setup procedure uses a task list to tell you the steps you need to perform after installation—it's a good example of a self-documenting approach.

  • Plan to deliver high-value, low-effort projects first. SharePoint is uniquely suited for Agile development: you can get applications in users' hands quickly and adjust as needs evolve.

  • Add users to web sites through Active Directory security groups wherever possible. That way, you won't need to edit SharePoint security settings as new employees start, leave, or transfer.

  • Open libraries in Window Explorer to upload groups of files quickly.

  • Use the datasheet view to add or edit list items in bulk.

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