Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. What a mouthful. And what a handful. First, let's take care of the mouthful—the product is often referred to as SharePoint Server, just SharePoint, or MOSS. I'll refer to it as SharePoint Server or SharePoint Server 2007. As for the handful, SharePoint Server addresses an exceptionally broad range of business scenarios by delivering capabilities in six categories: Portal, Enterprise Search, Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Business Process, and Content Management.

Whether you're new to SharePoint Server and want to learn what business value it offers your organization, or you've experienced earlier versions of SharePoint Server and want to see what 2007 brings, I'd like to guide you on a journey into SharePoint Server 2007 through seven "experiences":

  1. Obtain and install SharePoint Server 2007.
  2. Configure the top-level site.
  3. Create a departmental site.
  4. Create a document library.
  5. Subscribe to changes in the library by using RSS.
  6. Take the library offline through Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 integration.
  7. Generate a repository for standard Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007 slides.

However, before we dive in, let's get a quick overview of SharePoint technology.

What Is SharePoint Server 2007?
SharePoint Server 2007 is a server product that's part of Microsoft Office System 2007. It sits on top of Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, which I examined last month in "Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Out of the Box," InstantDoc ID 94240. SharePoint Server leverages Windows SharePoint Services 3.0's plumbing and adds its own significant functionality. Figure 1 shows some of SharePoint Server's Web application features. Some of these features—such as forms services, Excel Services, and the Business Data Catalog—are exclusive to the Enterprise version. The rest are included in the Standard version.

As you approach SharePoint Server, you might find, as I did, that its full capabilities are somewhat mind-blowing. I had to work with SharePoint Server piece by piece, getting acquainted with its features gradually. That's why I've created these "experiences"—to help you learn as we create our SharePoint Server sandbox for a fictional organization, WINDOMAIN.com.

Experience 1: obtaining and Installing SharePoint Server 2007
The most important SharePoint Server– related URL for you to know is http://office.microsoft.com/sharepointserver. This URL will get you to the SharePoint Server Web page, from which you can locate documentation, support, and (as of this writing), a downloadable trial of both the Standard and Enterprise editions of SharePoint Server 2007.

Download the trial version of SharePoint Server, as well as Microsoft.NET Framework 3.0, which you can access from the .NET Framework page at http://msdn2.microsoft.com/netframework. I recommend using a "clean" server for your sandbox, to eliminate any idiosyncrasies that might otherwise cause problems. Log on to your soon-to-be SharePoint Server system with a user account that's not the Administrator account but that is a member of the Administrators group. The account you use to install SharePoint Server becomes the default "owner" of the site collection and its sites.

Install .NET Framework 3.0, then install SharePoint Server. There's no rocket science to either of the installations. The only choice you need to make is the type of SharePoint Server installation. For our purposes, choose Basic installation. This installation takes care of the configuration of the server farm, the server, the applications, and the shared services. However, for a production installation, you'll more likely choose the Advanced installation so that you can manually configure the components and set up your single server in anticipation of eventually increasing to a farm of multiple servers. With the Basic installation, the standalone server can't later become part of a multiserver farm.

When installation has completed, you'll be prompted to run the SharePoint Products and Technologies Configuration Wizard. If you don't run it now, you can launch the wizard from the Administrative Tools folder on the SharePoint server. The wizard performs a series of tasks depending on the type of installation you've performed. When the wizard finishes, it informs you of your next step.

In the Administrative Tools folder of your SharePoint Server system, open the SharePoint Central Administration application. The SharePoint Central Administration Web page will appear. This is where you'll perform most of the administration of SharePoint Server. Make a note of the URL for the site—it will be your server name with a randomly assigned port number, such as http://wss01.windomain.com:22222. Now you can open the same site from any machine on the network by using the full URL that includes the port. If you're prompted to authenticate, use the account you used when installing SharePoint Server, in the form DOMAIN\username. You'll need to add the Central Administration Web site to your Trusted Sites zone to ensure proper functionality. Feel free to poke around and see what has been configured, but don't change anything just yet—the Basic installation already configured what was needed at this point.

Experience 2: Configuring the Top-Level Site
Open the SharePoint Server site by using the URL http://servername (e.g., http:// wss01). The default home page appears, which you can see in Figure 2.

The Basic installation you performed created a site collection. A site collection contains one or more sites, each of which can inherit security policies, settings, templates, and user and group definitions. In many production implementations of SharePoint Server, one site collection will suffice. You'll typically have a top-level intranet portal with-in which you'll create sites for departments, functions, teams, or projects.

SharePoint Server 2007 doesn't use the areas concept that Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2003 uses. SharePoint Server 2007 uses sites, a term that's more intuitive and effective. By default, sites are represented as tabs in the global navigation panel at the top of each page. Figure 2 shows tabs for several sites created by default when you install SharePoint Server 2007: Document Center, News, Reports, Search, and Sites. Also, you'll see at the left on every page a site navigation panel that contains the Quick Launch bar and/or a tree view, based on the site's settings. This is a welcome change from previous versions, in which the Quick Launch appeared only on the default page.

For guidance about how you can customize and brand SharePoint Server, check out "Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Out of the Box." For this article, I focus on functionality. Because SharePoint Server is all about collaboration and access to information, you need to open the site to your users. Click the Site Actions button in the upper-right corner of the page, and choose Site Settings, People And Groups (as Figure 2 shows).

On the People And Groups page, select Home Members in the left panel, then click New, and choose Add Users. Here is where you specify the members of this site by associating permissions with members and other default groups. You can experiment with locking down your top site later, after you've studied the planning and deployment guides, but I suggest you add your users to the Members group for now so that their My Site configuration, which I plan to describe in a future article, is easier to do.

On the Add Users: Home page, select Add all authenticated users. This configures the group to include all authenticated users—that is, all of your domain's users. For our fictitious organization, WINDOMAIN.com, the users include Colleen Outyall, director of communications; Penny Xavier, budget manager; and yours truly, Dan Holme.

Experience 3: Creating a Departmental Site
As I mentioned above, the default installation creates several functional subsites, including Document Center, News, Reports, Search, and Sites. I want to create a site for the communications department. Colleen's team wants to collaborate but also needs a way to distribute company brochures to the sales and marketing teams. I start by returning to the Home page and, from the Site Actions menu, choosing Create Site. The New SharePoint Site page (in Figure 3) appears. This is where you configure the title, URL, template, and permissions for the new site.

Enter "Communications" as the title and "communications" as the URL. Select the Team Site template (the default). Under User Permissions, select Use unique permissions.

Using unique permissions is important: you might want some users to contribute to a departmental site but not to the corporate or parent portal, and vice versa. With SharePoint Server 2007's security model, each new site inherits the parent site's security permissions by default. You can "break" that inheritance while creating a site, as we're doing now, or you can reconfigure permissions later for an existing site by using the permissions section of Site Settings. One nice feature of the SharePoint Server security model is that group definitions belong to the site collection, so if one group requires certain permissions across several sites, you need define the group only once, then give it appropriate permissions in each site.

When you specify Use unique permissions during site creation, you're sent to the Set Up Groups for this Site page, which Figure 4 shows. You can define Visitors, Members, and Owners by using either a group previously defined in the site collection or by creating a new group and specifying the members. The members can be users or groups, and the SharePoint Server "picker" makes it easy to search your domain for those accounts. It's worth noting that SharePoint Server doesn't have to use Active Directory (AD) and the local SAM database as its source of user and group accounts: It can use any.NET Membership Provider, including ASP.NET 2.0's SqlMembershipProvider.

A discussion of such "forms-based" or custom membership providers is beyond the scope of this article, but you should still know about them because at some point, you'll probably need to open part of your SharePoint Server infrastructure to partners, customers, or others without domain accounts.

Experience 4: Creating a Document Library
Now that you've created the Communications site, let's create a document library for the corporate brochures. On the Communications home page, select Site Actions, Create. Click Document Library, and give the library a name: I chose "Marketing Communications." On the New document library page, you can also turn on versioning, which preserves the history of changes made to a document so that you can open previous versions. For corporate marketing communications documents, it makes sense to preserve previous versions, so turn on versioning.

Experience 5: RSS
SharePoint Server lists and libraries
are wired for RSS, thanks to Windows SharePoint Services. In the Marketing Communications library, which Figure 5 shows, click the Actions button and choose View RSS Feed. Use your preferred RSS reader to subscribe to the feed. I used the built-in RSS capability of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0.

Return to the Marketing Communications library and upload a document. Then check the RSS feed. You should see your document in the RSS feed within minutes.

Experience 6: outlook Integration— SharePoint's Answer to Public Folders
When you add Office applications to the SharePoint mix, you get even more functionality. Office 2003 applications do a good job of integrating with SharePoint Server, but Office 2007 applications integrate even better. As you walk through a demonstration of Outlook 2007 integration with SharePoint Server, you're bound to elicit "oohs," "ahhs," and "wows" from your team and management. You'll also get a glimpse into how Microsoft is moving toward replacing public folders with SharePoint.

In the Marketing Communications library, click Actions and choose Connect to Outlook. The document library will appear in your Outlook folder hierarchy and will be synchronized based on your Send/Receive settings. Figure 6 shows the uploaded brochure within Outlook—Outlook made it available offline automatically.

Experience 7: Slide Libraries
Give this experience a try if you have access to PowerPoint 2007. From the Communications home page, select Site Actions, Create. This time, choose Slide Library and give the library a name. I chose "WINDOMAIN.com slides," but it would be wiser to keep names restricted to alphanumeric characters and spaces because SharePoint Server deletes periods.

In PowerPoint, create a presentation with several slides and save it. Then, in the slide library, click Upload and choose Publish Slides (you can also publish from the Office menu in PowerPoint). You'll be asked which presentation to publish, and you'll be given the chance to select specific slides. When you're done, refresh the slide library, select one or more slides, then click Copy Slide to Presentation. SharePoint launches PowerPoint and creates a presentation with the selected slides.

Can you imagine how happy your communications team will be to create "standard" slides that can be reused, instead of reinvented, and can be managed (updated and deleted) centrally? This might be the best thing to ever happen to PowerPoint. My clients' dreams of consistent communications might actually begin to come true.

Experience SharePoint
Many of my clients are IT organizations that need to know what "low-hanging fruit" can be picked with SharePoint Server. I hope the experiences I've led you through so far will give you something to show your management or other stakeholders in your organization and will give you the confidence and interest to approach SharePoint Server yourself and get acclimated to its capabilities.