As I mentioned in my last blog “Developing on Microsoft Windows Server 2003”, Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) is one of my favourite bits of portal technology, especially because it is build on ASP.NET, so it is a “real” developer platform. The good news is that there are lots of articles and other resources to get you up and going, though the learning slope can be a little steep at first, because of SharePoint’s nomenclature, and their architecture model, which sits on ASP.NET. It’s worth the effort though, as you can create some very impressive portals with it.
The MSDN SharePoint Products and Technologies Developer Centre is a good place to start, with plenty of articles and links. The SDK and Technical Articles sections are worth keeping an eye on. This site also complements the more general Microsoft SharePoint site.
My other favourite site is the FrontPage 2003 Customization Kit for SharePoint Products and Technologies – don’t be put off by the FrontPage reference – the combination of FrontPage and SharePoint is a very powerful one. If you are not convinced then check out some of the customised SharePoint sites on-line, such as Contoso Finance, Contoso Sales & Marketing, or Contoso Human Resources (btw, Contoso is a fictional company name that we created and registered a few years ago back in 1998, when I was involved in the BizApps event). The Resources area on this site should get you going, with everything from white papers to tutorials.
The way to really exploit SharePoint is through web parts – these are the basic building blocks that allow you to build powerful sites. Understanding them is key to understanding SharePoint. You can either develop your own web parts (don’t forget to download the Web Part Templates for Visual Studio .NET), or download web parts that other people have written, from sites such as the SharePoint Products and Technologies Web Component Directory, GotDotNet User Samples, or Customization Kit Web Part Samples.
SharePoint has some very powerful and useful integration with Office 2003 – you can open and save to SharePoint workspaces from within Excel and Word, create meeting workspaces within Outlook, and post electronic forms up to SharePoint from InfoPath. The Microsoft Office Developer Centre has lots of good links, and its well worth looking at how you can exploit these to streamline process and collaborate better.
And of course, there are plenty of blogs covering SharePoint – Feedster came up with 350 matches on Microsoft SharePoint Services when I tried it earlier today!