The next version of the hot-selling collaboration and content management platform will add a host of user features as well as improved IT management capabilities.
The announcement may have been hidden among a barrage of announcements about Windows, Office, and Azure this week, but Microsoft began detailing SharePoint 2010, the next version of its hot-selling collaboration and content management platform.
Microsoft also announced that it is now testing the software in an invitation-only technical preview, with a public beta to follow later this year. The company plans to release a final version of SharePoint 2010 in the first half of next year.
One of the most significant changes coming in SharePoint 2010 is the addition of the icon-based ribbon user interface found in the rest of the Office suite of products. For example, ribbon icons will now allow users to check in and check out documents as they are viewing document libraries. Companies will be able to customize the ribbon and even remove it in favor of the older user interface found in SharePoint 2007.
Microsoft has made it much easier for users to customize their own sites in SharePoint 2010. A new feature called Web edit allows site owners to edit their sites almost as if they were typical Office documents, making it easier for them to carry out common Web editing tasks like uploading and changing images or editing text. Other user-focused upgrades include the ability to use Office themes in SharePoint, for example by customizing a team site with the color palette of a SharePoint slide deck.
The Business Data Catalog, introduced in SharePoint 2007, gets a makeover and a new name in SharePoint 2010. Business Connectivity Services now gives users the ability to read and write to business databases. Users can create, read, update, delete, and query that data, even publishing it to Office, so that data published to SharePoint via Business Connectivity Services can do things like show up as a selectable list of data in a form document in Word.
Other user-focused features include the addition of the ability to read Visio documents in SharePoint, and an upgraded version of Microsoft Groove, now renamed SharePoint Workspace and given improved data synchronization capabilities.
IT managers will get their own share of new features in SharePoint 2010, including improved administrative capabilities with a dashboard that uses the ribbon interface; a set of tools to monitor server farm health and data performance and fix common problems; and usage reporting and logging. Developers also get a new set of tools and capabilities like a developer dashboard for easier debugging and a new programming interface, as well as built-in support for Silverlight elements.
SharePoint 2010 will support Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari. However, it will not come in a 32-bit version, and will require Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2005 or 2008 (64-bit only). It will also no longer support Internet Explorer 6.0, which could initially be a limiting factor for upgrades for the many companies that still have yet to move to Internet Explorer 7.0 or later.
While Microsoft detailed some of SharePoint's forthcoming features this week, the company said it would more fully detail SharePoint 2010 at its annual SharePoint Conference in October.
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