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Tom Benton

What is Sharepoint?

SharePoint is Microsoft's product in the Enterprise Portal, Content Management and Colloboration space. SharePoint is actually 2 products.

Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) - This is what is bundled into Windows Server 2003 and later versions and includes the set of standard site templates for building web sites in SharePoint. In addition WSS includes version control, alerts, RSS feeds ans task notifications. WSS is bundled into Windows Server 2003 and greater and I believe that explains uch phenomenal growth.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) - This is a separate product offered by Microsoft that builds upon WSS, it includes WSS as the base, by expanding on the core functionality and adding new features to support Enterprise Portals, Business Intelligence, Content Management and Business Processes.

Here is a link to a document that describes the differences between the 2 products in much greater detail.

Developing a SharePoint application

Unlike other server products that Microsoft sells, like SQL Server or BizTalk, there is no Developers edition of WSS or MOSS. These products can only be executed on Windows Server 2003 or greater.  For the developer this means that in order to develop a Sharepoint application we almost always have to either be running Windows Server on our desktops or we need to running Windows Server with a virtual machine using something like Virtual PC. WSS and MOSS just won't officially install on any desktop OS. I currently have a Windows Server 2003 virutal machine on my development PC just for SharePoint development. That virtual machine is 22 gigabytes in size. To me, having to manage a separate server instance in a virtual machine with separate licenses for everything is just plain wasteful. I have to ask why Microsoft can not release a Developer's version of WSS and MOSS that can be run on a desktop OS.

You may have noticed that I included the work 'officially' when describing that WSS and MOSS can not be installed on a desktop PC. A smart person has has found a way to install WSS and MOSS on a PC running Vista. An online Sharepoint community called Bamboo Nation have put up an installer that, I'm guessing, fakes the WSS/MOSS installers into thinking the underlying OS is Windows Server when instead it is Vista. I actually tried this out and had a full WSS/MOSS installation running on Vista. It all seemed to work fine. I did get rid of it though and went back to the virtual machine because it is not officially supported by Microsoft, I have access to a Windows Server license via my MSDN subscription and it is the standard of the company I work for. If any of that is not true for you then this might be the way to go. Here is the link.

I also found these links to a couple of free, at the time of this post, online training courses being offered by Microsoft that can help a .Net developer get started with SharePoint.


Development Tools for SharePoint

There are 2 main development tools available for the SharePoint developer. The first is Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007 which can be used to build pages for a SharePoint web site and to construct work-flow enabled applications. Visual Studio 2008 can be used to build Web User Controls that can then be hosted within SharePoint. No special SharePoint skills or controls are needed to build the Web User Control. To do this simply create a page in SharePoint Designer with an empty Web Part then create the Web User Control in Visual Studio 2008 and finally add the Web User Control to the empty Web Part on the page created in SharePoint Designer. Any Web User Control can be hosted in SharePoint using this technique and this is a great way to re-use any existing Web User Controls that may have been created previously.

Sharepoint and Visual Studio 2010

Finally we need to discuss Visual Studio 2010.   Microsoft is adding a lot of SharePoint development tools into the next version of Visual Studio. This includes new solution templates for SharePoint, new tools for creating Web Parts and
workflows as well as the ability to access a Sharepoint site's content via the Server Explorer.  This still does not get us a Developers edition of Sharepoint that we can install locally like SQL Server or BizTalk but it will make like a lot easier.
Posted on Monday, August 31, 2009 1:07 PM | Back to top

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