SharePoint for Developers: 1. Introduction
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This is the first entry of my SharePoint for Developers serie. I asked from developers if they need something like this and they said yes. First entry is introduction and after reading it you will understand where SharePoint stands and what kind of problems it tries to solve.
What is SharePoint?
The easiest way to get some clue is to look at the word SharePoint. As we can see there are two important things mentioned - sharing and point. So, using a name we can say that SharePoint may be a place where we can share something with each other. And it is true - SharePoint is system that enables users to share different information. And it is ideal for enterprise when there is one well organized information point where users will find all information they need.
Sharing and information publishing is not all that SharePoint has to offer. When doing our job we have to communicate with other people - colleagues, customers and business partners. Every piece of information we share with each other may contain something important that lives in the context of some business activity. When we are talking about making contract we may generate important information about how this contract should be done. But as far as this information is in our mailboxes or in our heads this information is not 100% useful for our businesses. To solve this problem SharePoint gives us also everything we need for effective communication.
It is possible to make other systems communicate with SharePoint. Using SharePoint web services it is possible to automate data integration between SharePoint and other systems. Also it is possible to integrate external databases and web services with SharePoint. We can add here tight Microsoft Office integration too and guess what? No we have put SharePoint in the middle of our business data!
SharePoint has three (current) main versions:
- Windows SharePoint Services 3.0,
- Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Standard Edition,
- Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Enterprise Edition.
WSS 3.0 is free version of SharePoint and it offers the base data structures, services and pages. One can download it and install on Windows 2003 server or better for free - no additional licence fees are required. This version of SharePoint is used under all the other versions, so understanding WSS 3.0 is mandatory.
The other versions of SharePoint are not free and they need appropriate licenses. MOSS2007 Standard extends WSS3.0 with powerful features like Web Content Management sites, multilingual content support, search services and many other things. Enterprise Edition gives us Business Data Catalog, Excel Services and some more powerful things we can use in larger corporate solutions.
In this serie we will stop mainly on WSS3.0 stuff. I'm still no very sure if it is an good idea to cover also MOSS2007 specifics here. Maybe it is better to write another serie that is focused purely on MOSS2007.
As developers we are very ironic when somebody tells about silverbullets in our field - maybe these bullets exists in management world, but we are the ones whose time and blood is the price of all those bullets. SharePoint has also something for us - we can extend it like we want. But as long as we know and follow the rules. This is the most complex part of SharePoint development because SharePoint has highly dynamic data structures, very general way how to extend the environment and also some hard limits we have to know.
Many developers go mad when they hear about next SharePoint project. They don't want to go through this hell again. Usually these guys spend their time by hacking, not studying, thinking and developing. SharePoint development expects developers who are able to study and understand how things are built and why things are like they are. Otherwise the projects will fail.
Let's solve those problems!
I try to give you as good overview of successful SharePoint development as I can. I hope you are after reading my series able to develop more integral and natural solutions for SharePoint. You are always free to ask me questions in comments and of course - I am also opened to any kind of criticism as long as it helps me make entries of this serie better.