How will office workers share data, files and knowledge collaboratively? Is there a Microsoft solution for building portals, enterprise Web sites and records repositories?
And does Microsoft have a product that provides Web 2.0 capabilities such as blogging, wikis and social networking?
When Microsoft ships Office 2007 early next year, there will be one answer to all of these questions: Office SharePoint Server 2007.
During our tests of the beta, eWEEK Labs found that Office SharePoint Server 2007 will be a welcome upgrade from previous versions of the platform, although there isnt as massive a change in this application as weve seen in many of the other Office components.
One of the biggest additions in this release of SharePoint Server—which is available now at www.microsoft.com/office/preview—is a cornucopia of new template options for quickly building a wide variety of Web sites, portals and community pages.
In tests, we were able to use these templates to build everything from robust records repositories to capable document management systems to personal pages with blogs and tools for identifying affinity workers or portal users.
A welcome new feature in SharePoint comes without the need for any user customization: By default, all pages and content created in SharePoint can be delivered to mobile devices in a text format.
A new interface for the management of the portal component of SharePoint Server centralizes many tasks and adds drag-and-drop usability to portal administration. New roll-up capabilities make it much easier for users to track and view all documents, pages and linked sites within the overall platform.
Content creation for users has also been improved with more robust workflow and versioning capabilities. The WYSIWYG editing capabilities are now provided as an in-line option for users, meaning that pages can be edited in context rather than in a separate editing form.
Some of our favorite capabilities in this beta of SharePoint Server are in the much-improved workflow and routing features, which provided very deep and flexible options for routing documents and files through review and auditing processes. And the new records-repositories features add solid capabilities for enforcing content policies, controlling access to content, and tracking and auditing all usage of core records.
Office SharePoint Server 2007 has gotten a lot of attention for its supposedly new search features. In our tests, however, the search showed only minor improvement over previous versions, mainly in better awareness and integration with other content areas. We did like the Content Scopes feature, which let us more effectively narrow and filter specific sets of data.
As is the case with much of Office 2007, many of the new features and capabilities in the new SharePoint Server rely on integration with other parts of Office—for example, improved forms through integration with InfoPath, improved analytics through integration with Excel, e-mail records management and archiving through integration with Exchange, and so on.
SharePoint Server 2007 will be a separate purchase. Microsoft has not announced pricing, but the current version, SharePoint Portal Server 2003, is priced at $5,619, with five client access licenses.