Office 12 server-side

SharePoint 3 will allow you to create blogs and wikkis as easily as any other type of list, and you can also create RSS feeds from any list, so that users can then subscribe to these feeds using their favourite RSS aggregator. The usual SharePoint alert mechanism is still there, of course, with a few added refinements. Administrators can now sign up other users for an alert, rather than having to impersonate such users in order to sign them up. You can create alerts on a view, so that the alert is triggered only when an item is added or changed that appears in that view. There are also separate alert filters so you can, for instance, ask for an alert on ‘tasks assigned to me’, even if there isn’t a view that shows those. The mail message sent to alert you can now show the full triggering item, rather than just a link to the item, and, in the case of edited items, what’s been changed.

Office 12 server-side

Other small improvements include a ‘breadcrumb trail’ at the top of every page that shows you where you are in the site structure and allows you to jump back multiple steps with one click. The Quick Launch panel now appears on every page, not just the front page of the portal, and lists can be sorted or filtered by clicking on their column headers without having to delve into the view definitions.

company Knowledge base

Much of this functionality appears to come for free with SharePoint Services 3, but some bits might either be only in SharePoint Portal Server or else in some as yet unnamed ‘Office 12 Server’. Microsoft is clearly looking to play the role of Enterprise Document Repository or Knowledge Base for large companies by adding even more functionality to SharePoint Services and SharePoint Portal Server, and it even appears to be rolling part or all of what it currently calls Content Management Server into SharePoint.

A fully featured recycle bin will allow users and administrators to say ‘oops I/they didn’t mean to delete that’, and they can specify the retention policy so that files are kept for x days after a user deletes them. They can also set permissions on a per-item basis rather than just per list or library. Lists will also be able to have folders inside them, just as document libraries can in the present version. You’ll also be able to attach custom properties to a folder rather than just a name.

Currently, lists are restricted in that you can only use them within the website in which they’re defined. This can lead to common lists, such as department personnel or product types, having to be copied to many sites on a company intranet so they can be used as lookups by other lists. SharePoint 3 will allow lists to be used across multiple websites, which also allows you to do things such as keep a single announcements list on every departmental homepage in the company.

The versioning system is being extended with the concept of major and minor versions, which may have different permissions. Thus, you could have a document library where everyone can see a checked-in and approved major version of a document, but only a smaller team of people can work on minor revisions of that document, eventually publishing a new major version for everyone to see. Versioning isn’t performed by deltas; that is, by storing only the changes since the last version. Instead, each version stores the complete document so, depending on the size of the documents involved and how many versions are created, this could generate quite large storage requirements. Office 12 XML File Formats should help because they’re zipped, so they’re 25-75 per cent smaller than the equivalent Office 2003 files, but you should still only turn on versioning for lists and libraries where you actually need it. (The administrator can set a limit on the number of versions to retain for any list or library.)

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