If you’ve never used SharePoint, you may be confused by some people’s descriptions of it. For the uninitiated (or underinitiated), here’s what SharePoint is and isn’t.
What it is (and isn’t)
SharePoint looks, feels and functions like a sophisticated website. Many large retail websites are actually SharePoint sites that have been made accessible to the public. So if you can use a browser, you can use SharePoint. SharePoint is not a simple network shared drive or folder. One way to characterize the difference is to think of the shared drive as a warehouse and SharePoint as a showroom with all its contents arranged how you would use them. It is a platform where you can create places to share content.
SharePoint 2010 Enterprise version can even function like a social network for your organization. With a well-thought-out strategy for what are called My Sites, SharePoint 2010 can become a resource to find expertise in the organization, to share ideas and to stay connected in meaningful ways about industry trends and intracompany news.
SharePoint is highly integrated with Microsoft Office. For example, in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel, you can use SharePoint much the same way you would a network drive. SharePoint just becomes another location to open and save files.
For Outlook, you can add your team calendar right from SharePoint, so both are visible. As you update content on SharePoint, it updates in your SharePoint calendar in Outlook.
Beyond document and calendar sharing, you can have a myriad of SharePoint lists that actually function as a database. For example, you can list tasks, product information, contacts and more as easy-to-access lists. You can even import data to SharePoint from Excel and Access as a SharePoint list.
What’s new in 2010?
If you’re transitioning to SharePoint 2010 from an earlier version, one thing you’ll notice is the ribbon interface. If you have become familiar with the ribbon from your Office applications, you’ll find it easy to start using SharePoint. Office Web Apps also are integrated. You can view and edit documents from the SharePoint site, making it unnecessary to have anything but a good Internet connection, and an ID and password to your SharePoint site.
New templates for site and page creation, as well as new out-of-the box workflows, are available, so you can get more done without much technical assistance. All your SharePoint content should port quite nicely to the newest version. The new Enterprise version also contains many things, which were previously separate add-ons, like Excel and Visio Services.
Contributor: Melissa P. Esquibel, Microsoft® Certified Trainer