Windows SharePoint Services (version 3) on the Mac
Volume Number: 22 (2006)
Issue Number: 8
Column Tag: Microsoft | Mac in the Enterprise
Windows SharePoint Services (version 3) on the Mac
by Brian Johnson
In my last article, I discussed how Mac users could make the most of Windows SharePoint Services (version 2). In this article, I'll tell you about the next version of Windows SharePoint Services (version 3) now available in beta, and how you can use this new version effectively from the Mac.
There are a lot of new features in Windows SharePoint Services v3. The first thing that most Mac users will notice is an updated user interface that renders much better on the Mac in both Firefox and Safari. The new templates render well and you'll notice better performance when you are customizing your sites and pages from the Mac. Figure 1 shows a Windows SharePoint v3 site in Edit Mode in Firefox.
Figure 1. SharePoint v3 site rendered in Firefox on the Mac
Windows SharePoint Services v3 ships with 6 standard site templates. These templates include some of the site types your familiar with from v2, plus a could of new ones:
- Document Workspace
- Team Site
- Meeting Workspace
- Blank Site
The two most commonly used templates are probably the Document Workspace and the Team Site.
A Document Workspace essentially acts as a very smart folder, which supports collaboration on one or more shared documents and supporting files. The Document Library folder supports check in/checkout and versioning and the site features a Task list and a Links list that a group can use to track assignments and progress on the document.
A Team Site is very similar to a Document Workspace, but the scope is usually wider, serving the needs of a larger group of individuals. Team Sites feature a Document Library, an Announcements List, a Calendar, Contacts and a Quick Links list by default.
The Blog site is a new feature in Windows SharePoint Services v3. A blog is simply a list of stories posted with the latest item at the top of the list. This makes it easer for readers to scan a list they've seen for the latest news from the blog. The Blog site in SharePoint v3 also features an RSS feed and the ability for others to comment on blog posts. This ability to comment on posted items allows for the exchange of ideas between the author of the blog and the readers and even between the readers themselves. You can see an example of how the SharePoint v3 Blog site looks in Figure 2.
Figure 2. A Blog site in SharePoint v3.
Another new site template in SharePoint v3 is the Wiki site. A wiki is a site that allows any authorized user to edit a page quickly and easily. One of the features of the wiki that make it a powerful tool for collaboration is the ability to instantly create a new page based on a term in the current page. Adding double brackets around a word in a paragraph creates a hotlink to a new page in the wiki. Wikis work well as sites where group knowledge is stored and retrieved. For example, you can use a wiki to store information about configuring machines on the network. As the information around that topic changes, admins and users can update the data on the pages of the wiki so that the information is always up-to-date. Wikis can also be used for brainstorming, research, and for planning. Individuals and groups can use a wiki to store meeting notes and other textual information that needs to be updated on a regular basis. SharePoint v3 wiki pages work well on both the PC and the Mac, but only the PC version running in Internet Explorer features a WYSIWYG editor. Users writing to a SharePoint wiki on the Mac will need to use simple HTML markup for formatting and linking.
A Meeting Workspace is a site used to track meeting notes and schedules. At launch SharePoint v3 is scheduled to provide 5 different workspace types.
Finally, the Blank Space is just that, it's blank. This means that you can start a site with just the content you want.
The version 3 SharePoint sites features an updated Create Page where you can add many of the features I've mentioned already to an existing site. This means you can add additional Document Libraries, Wiki pages, tracking calendars, and even sub-sites to an existing SharePoint site.
The content page types that can be added to a SharePoint v3 site are broken into 5 categories; Libraries, Communications, Tracking, Customer Lists, and Web Pages.
Library types include the Document Library, the Form Library, the Wiki Page Library and the Picture Library. The only library type that might prove difficult for Mac users to use is the Form Library. Form Libraries depend on features found in Microsoft InfoPath, which isn't available on the Mac. The other library types should work fine, except in cases where functionality is dependent on an ActiveX control, for example, when you want to export a list to a spreadsheet.
Communications page types include Announcements, Contacts, and Discussion Boards. Of these, the Discussion Boards feature is interesting in that the boards created in SharePoint v3 have the look and feel of modern web discussion boards and the interface is easy to use from the Mac.
The Tracking page types include Links, Calendars, Tasks, Issue Tracking and Survey pages. One of the most exciting new features of SharePoint version 3 is the Project Tasks tracking page type. This new page type provides a Gantt Chart view that allows you to instantly see the status of items in a project list. This is a great feature for users managing small projects and it works well on the Mac. Figure 3 shows the new Project Tasks page with a few items added.
Figure 3. A Gantt Chart in a Project Tasks list.
In the Custom List category, the Custom List view is the only one that works well on the Mac. The Custom List in Datasheet View selection will work, but you don't get a datasheet, you get a simple custom list. The Import Spreadsheet function doesn't work on the Mac as this feature uses ActiveX controls.
Finally, the Web Pages category includes Basic Page, Web Part Page, and Sites and Workspaces. The Web Part Page and the Sites and Workspaces pages are fairly straightforward and should work well on the Mac. In the beta version of SharePoint v3 that I used for the article, it wasn't possible to edit the Basic Page directly in SharePoint, though you could download an edit a custom page if you need to from the document library where the page is stored. For quick, custom pages, I suggest using the Wiki Page Library feature and creating your custom pages there.
A Typical Workflow
I covered the workflow for SharePoint version 2 in my last article. That workflow is very similar in SharePoint v3, but the user interface is different so it's probably worth walking through a typical document sharing workflow from the Mac. The document workflow for SharePoint v3 is fairly straightforward and consists of the following steps. In our example, we'll add a new Microsoft Word file to a document library from the Mac.
1. Create your new document in Microsoft Word 2004 for Mac and save it somewhere on your local machine.
2. In your SharePoint v3 document library, click upload and use the Upload Document page to add the file you created in Word to the SharePoint document library.
3. The document is now available in the SharePoint document library.
To modify this file, a Mac user should follow these steps to ensure that the file is locked while they work on it and is then updated properly on the SharePoint site.
1. Check out the file by mousing over the file name in SharePoint and click Check Out in the dropdown menu.
2. Click on the file name to download the file to the Mac.
3. Work on the file in Word and save your work.
4. Click Upload in the SharePoint document library to open the Upload Document page.
5. Use the browse button to add the document to the Name text box and make sure that the Add as a new version to exiting files checkbox is checked.
6. Click OK.
7. At this point your document is uploaded, and you should see the page shown in Figure 4. This page prompts you to check in the document that you've uploaded so that others can work on it.
Figure 4. After updating a document that you've checked out, you'll be prompted to check it in.
The new user interface that you'll see in SharePoint version 3 should make it easier to figure out how to check files in and out from the Mac. At the very least performance is much better in v3 on the Mac and the pages render quite well. In this article I only touched on some of the new features of SharePoint version 3 that Mac users will want to check out. For a full list of new features, take a look at some of the resources listed at the end of this article. Windows SharePoint Services (version 3) should be available in sometime in late 2006 or early 2007.
Brian Johnson is a Product Manager with Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit. You can read his blog at http://bufferoverrun.net and you can drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org