The Kimono Is Open, The Veil Is Lifted, The Gags Are Removed... #SPC09

If you find the title of this blog familiar, it should be. Mike Fitz used it when he posted his first remarks about SharePoint 2007 back on September 14, 2005. Here we are in 2009 with a product releasing in about 6 months. Amazing what a journey it’s been, and things are just starting to heat up. Right now Steve Balmer is probably on-stage in Vegas and 7000 SharePoint nerds are listening to him. Developers, Developers, Developers. I’ll never forget Steve and find him a powerful presence whenever he’s around.

So welcome to the New SharePoint Order, namely SharePoint 2010. I have a whack of blog entries sitting in the queue but I thought I would start with a summary of what you can expect with SharePoint 2010. This is a 50,000 foot view of what’s to come. Over the next few days, more details will be revealed about all of these goodies and people will finally get to see what some of us have been messing around with the past few months.

The changes in 2010 are huge. Just like the switch from 2001 to 2003 and the higher orders of magnitude in change from 2003 to 2007 so is the shift to 2010. The changes, improvements, and features you’ll see in 2010 are again going to cause a shift in thinking about solutions you build in and out of SharePoint and what is possible.

So let’s take a look at an overview of the changes in some of the areas in SharePoint.

Platform

I actually stumbled across a MSDN blog that mentioned this a few days ago, but it was buried and I guess nobody really got it out there (at least I haven’t see anyone talk about it). In any case, SharePoint 2010 will run on Vista (SP1 and higher) and Windows 7. Yes! This includes both Windows SharePoint Services (4.0) and SharePoint Server 2010. No longer does the lone developer need a VM to develop solutions in. Just install WSS or SP2010 onto your Vista or Win7 OS and you’re off to the races.

The Service Model has been re-architected so you no longer need a Shared Services Provider (SSP). The services are just there and you decide what to turn and off. Services can still be deployed centrally to an Enterprise Resource Center model where farms can consume services as needed.

There’s also a big investment in hosting scenarios. The introduction of multitenancy allows you to partition data of shared services to accommodate multiple tenants. Tenants can manage the configuration of administrator-delegated functions (for example what services are available) from one place.

User Solutions allow you to enable authorized users to upload solutions that have limited access but still provide rich business solutions for SharePoint. They allow the execution of “relatively untrusted code” but do not allow access to things like central admin or things that can take down a server. These solutions can be uploaded to a solution store (without the need to access the sever directly) and live in a sandboxed environment. Any critical exceptions that happen will immediately terminate the user solution code. Think of this like the Private Assembly model from DotNetNuke. Yeah, that’s one thing I was wishing for with SharePoint so now hosting scenarios can get a little more interesting.

With SharePoint 2010, the entire system has shifted to a claims-based authentication system. Claims-based authentication is based on standard protocols and the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) that was introduced in .NET 3.5. Out of the box Active Directory/Windows Authentication is there, just implemented differently using claims but now authorization through other forms (CardSpace, Windows Live ID, ADFS, etc.) are more easily implemented.

User Interface

I think by now everyone has seen the new Web Ribbon UI. This is a user interface that mimics the capability of Office 2007. It’s also contextual so depending on what you have selected on the screen, the ribbon emotes this. Select a list item and choices for action on items appear (edit, alert, delete, etc.), select the library it lives in and you can do typical operations on lists (permissions, exporting, etc.).

To aid with the upgrade capabilities, there’s a few feature in the Configuration Wizard called “Visual Upgrade”. This allows you to preserve the look and feel of existing SharePoint sites and allows end users to update their sites user experience when they want. New sites created after the upgrade will use the new SharePoint user experience by default.

PowerShell

If you haven’t got yourself ready for PowerShell and planning on adoption SharePoint 2010, now is the time as it’s used literally everywhere. There are specialized cmdlet used in almost every aspect of SharePoint as well most of the basic administration functions can be performed using scripts. The SharePoint cmdlet are not just scripts, they’re objects inherited from the PSCmdlet class (called SPCmdlet) and let you do a ton of things with PowerShell.

The Social Aspect

One of the big changes on the Internet in the past few years has been the advent of Twitter, Facebook and other social bookmarking, tagging, and communication tools. With SP2010 people can tag literally anything, and bookmark and comment content on sites. This is supplemented by web parts using tag clouds and other tools to find that content. The evolution of "My Site” is the “People Portal” and pulls together all of the social networking features into a user-friendly interface that enables people to express themselves better in the corporate setting.

In addition to social tagging, there’s the addition of expertise tagging. SharePoint supports building and sharing their skill sets to everyone else. Imagine wanting to find all the .NET developers in your organization with C# and SQL experience. Now you can! With SharePoint 2010, you can truly look at and think of SharePoint as Facebook for the Enterprise.

Wiki, Wiki, Everywhere

Team sites and Publishing Sites have always been a problem. Team sites have that default.aspx look and feel (you know, the two-column deal that has little to no flexibility) but publishing sites have page layouts and all kinds of cool stuff. Now the two meet and have babies and it’s called SharePoint 2010. Every site (team or otherwise) is essentially a wiki with the publishing capabilities from 2007. Page layouts can be changed around, new pages can be created, and the content can be edited in a more intuitive way (you don’t have to drop a content editor web part onto a page to edit it’s text for example).

The content areas are rich and practically anything can be dropped onto them, including lists and web parts. Yes! You can start editing a page and say “Hey, it would be cool to have a video embedded here” and drop one in.

Finding What You Need

Search has been greatly improved in SharePoint 2010. You can now search for a person using a fuzzy search algorithm. Nobody can ever find me because my first name is “Bil” not “Bill”. However trying to find me via “William” or something similar works in 2010. Search queries can now match a wildcard at the end of a text string so “Young” will match “Youngblood” and “Younglings”.

Search results has also been improved and lets you filter down from wide range searches to things like dates, tags, authors, and content types. You can also rank search results based on click-through history and for people, by social distance. If you prefer to deploy the FAST search product, SharePoint supports FAST and provides better search results like item counts, visual search (thumbnails) and “Find Items Similar to this” links.

InfoPath, Everywhere

The huge difference with InfoPath is that it’s used everywhere. When you change a normal SharePoint list item, it’s really an InfoPath form behind the scenes. This is transparent and more than likely, you won’t be able to tell. In fact the default look and feel makes it look just like the 2007 NewForm.aspx page. There are some overall performance improvements (for example there’s a new type of list control that only populates the control when its clicked) and better accessibility.

There’s also a new feature that lets users expose an InfoPath form as a web part. This should help people build more interactive sites more easily and contributes to that “composite” part of the new SharePoint circle. As with most of the rest of SharePoint 2010, PowerShell is used everywhere and there are InfoPath cmdlets to help you deploy and upgrade forms, manage data connections, and administer the InfoPath Forms settings.

It’s All About The Content

For those that use the content management features that were folded into 2007, 2010 offers much more interesting and flexible options for authoring, organizing, and finding information.

Document Sets provide a capability of collecting documents together as a single unit (you still edit the documents individually). Workflows, versioning (point in time snapshots) and other actions can be performed on the entire set at once.

I’m a huge proponent of trying to organize information other than using folders. 2010 has several improved ways to do this through managed metadata (centrally administered) and local metadata at the site/site collection level. Users can edit this information in their documents (including offline editing) and use the metadata for navigation and searching. For page authoring, there’s a new feature called “auto-foldering” (sounds rather odd and not sure if this what they’re going to call it). If “auto-foldering” is enabled then when a page is checked in for the first time, the routing object model is called to route the page into an appropriate location (using metadata to decide where it should go).

There’s also the notion of a Document ID now. Every document uploaded to SharePoint has a unique document id generated for it. Think of it as a GUID for documents. This is a value that can be used to always find that document on the site using a static URL. This ID can be used to find the document (through an out-of-the-box Document ID Lookup Box Web Part), navigate to it via a static URL (e.g. “/SiteName/DocumentFinder.aspx?Id=FX803S2”), and manipulate the document via the API. No matter where the document has been moved on the server, users will be able to find or navigate to it. You’re not limited to how Microsoft creates these IDs. Custom document id providers can also be created so you could fetch information from another system or use some other technique to generate them.

The XHTML and CSS files SharePoint uses have been simplified (there’s still a ton-o-classes though) and is now WCAG 2.0 AA-compliant. The Content Query Web Part, a workhorse of a web part in SharePoint Server installs, can now do cross-list views of content based on managed metadata. And for those that have a ton of pages in the “Pages” document library (in publishing sites) you can now organize the information by folders (or use metadata).

A new ratings feature provides the ability to rate content by users. These ratings are exposed as metadata so you can sort, filter, and query it. Ratings can be enabled on list items, document library items, and publishing pages.

YourTube

SharePoint 2010 fully supports SilverLight and includes some digital aspect features so you can create centrally managed asset libraries where audio and video assets can be served up for publishing and streaming video assets. Supported file formats in a SharePoint asset library include .asf, .avi, .flv, .mov, .mp3, .mp4, .rm, .wma, and .wmv.

There are new content types for audio, images, and video. These come with new columns like data rate, frame rate, and length (duration of an audio or video file in seconds). You can also associate thumbnail images for videos (not automatically generated but simple to hook up). Images will generate thumbnails automatically like they do in 2007.

When adding an asset to a web page you have complete control over things like how it’s played and what state the run-time display is in. This allows you to create looped videos on pages, automatic play-when-loaded pages, and inline, pop-up, or full screen players for video content.

Looking to build an internal YouTube for your organization? Pretty simple with 2010 now.

Feature Attractions

There have been some nice improvements to the feature framework in 2010. For example you can now capture and program the upgrading of a feature. The SPFeature class now has a method called Upgrade that will allow you to perform an upgrade at all scopes and the Feature.xml definition file has a new <UpgradeActions> section that lets you specify a custom assembly to handle the upgrades.

It’s Only a Model

The programming model overall has been greatly enhanced, with a lot of things we’ve wanted in the 2007 version. If you’ve poked around in the previously released SDKs, some of this might be old news.

Lists now have Adding/Added and Deleting/Deleted events added (the same as how list items work, but now on the entire list). The web object also has additional events to help with provisioning (for example to programmatically add web parts as the final step to creating a new site).

One of my favorite features in 2010 is the addition of LINQ support. LINQ allows you to query all types of data (regardless of the source) using the same query syntax. You’ll still need to know (and continue to learn) CAML for site and list definition, but finding things are just a LINQ query away. Behind the scenes, the LINQ to SharePoint provider really just converts LINQ queries into CAML (much like how the LINQ to SQL Provider does) but it means you can write queries to find items like this now:

// Query for customers from London
var londonCustomers = from customer in Customers
 where customer.City == "London"
 select customer;

There’s also a tool called SPMetal that will generate your entity classes for you. Once the classes are generated, you can add items to list with just a few calls rather than having to populate each field individually. The entity classes are POCOs so unit testing gets far easier with 2010.

This is really just scratching the surface of what’s new and while it seems lengthy, there’s so much more. Like I said, I’ll be posting more detailed entries on many of these (and other) features of SharePoint 2010.

Okay kids, let the disclosure begin!

Note: First off, I am *not attending SharePoint Conference 2009 where all of this information is coming out of. Second, most of this information is based on my working with the product for the past few months. Some details in my entries may be out of date or incorrect and I apologize for that. I’ll correct things as I can and stumble over items. If you find something amiss, feel free to leave any corrections or remarks in the comments of the posts yourself or flip me a quick email.

1 Comment

  • Fantastic post Bil.
    It's a very good birds-eye view for SP2010.

    A question: do you know if anything has changed regarding Dev, in terms of TDD - writing testable code for SP, in terms of IOC, etc?

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