While Santa Claus may be checking his list twice right about now, I spent some time last week building an application based on SharePoint lists on SharePoint 2010.  It was a great experience in the new, value-laden functionality of SP2010, and I’d like to share the take-aways with you. 

Before I do that, I’d also like to ask a question of you, my readers.  SharePoint 2010 can be downloaded from Microsoft now, and can be installed, so you can try it out in your enterprise.  But I know the reality for some of you might be that you don’t have time or hardware to do so. 

Here’s the question: If I put up a SharePoint 2010 server online, would it help you as a tool to “see” some of what SP2010 has to offer?  It would have to be limited to read-only access for obvious reasons, which would limit what you could do and see, but I could try to populate it with some examples so you can see some of the great new functionality. 

If enough people think this would be useful, I will see if I can find a sponsor to help me do it for you.  Email me at dan h (with no space) at intelliem dott  (one T, of course) com. 

Now, let’s talk about SharePoint 2010 lists.

The first and most obvious changes come in the UI. When you create a list, a pleasant popup-like dialog box presents options for various types of lists, which you can filter by category.

Some of the out-of-box list types are new, and I look forward to experimenting with them. The list itself is presented with the now-ubiquitous ribbon, which is highly functional and makes it easy to discover the commands with which to modify items or the list itself.

And the dynamic styles used on the list itself make it easier to navigate and work with list items.  For example, the drop-down arrow for an item appears on roll-over, which will improve the end user experience immensely.  Sometimes it’s the little things that make a huge difference. 

The biggest gripe I have with the UI at this point is that the NEW ITEM button appears on the ITEMS ribbon, but when you come to a list, the Items ribbon is not the default ribbon—instead the Browse ribbon is the default.  This will make creating a new item tougher than it should be, especially because the “add new item” link on the list itself will be off-screen for long lists.  This is a UI tweak that Microsoft really needs to fix!  I hope they’re reading this.

The Ribbon also exposes commands to edit the list forms using web parts, SharePoint Designer, or InfoPath.  One of the features that excited me so much about SP2010 lists is the ability to use InfoPath to change the web form.  This requires the Enterprise CAL of SharePoint, which is too bad—I’d like to be able to modify SharePoint Foundation forms as easily—but at least it’s easier in many scenarios than busting out SharePoint Designer to modify the view and edit forms.

The View, Edit, and New forms appear as if they are popup dialog boxes, which is very cool and will help users understand SharePoint navigation more easily.

Behind the list, there is also some new capabilities that will be welcome in your organization. Lists now support item and list level validation so, for example, I can enforce a rule that each item in the list has a unique email address, or I can validate input in  a column.  I can control how users interact with the list, preventing them from using the Datasheet or blocking Microsoft Office client integration features.

I also whipped out a SharePoint Designer 2010 workflow on the application list I developed. SharePoint Designer is hugely improved and will be a primary tool for IT Pros, power users, and developers alike.

There are a lot of other changes to list (and library) functionality that I’ll discuss in later columns.  But there’s no doubt that the entire creation, management and usage experience of SharePoint 2010 lists is fantastic.  I created a functional prototype of an application in no time flat and I know (because we did it several years ago) that an identical application built with .NET would have taken weeks.

I’ll be checking my list several more times this week, tweaking its configuration to meet the requirements of my client.  I’ll keep you posted on other features you should be watching out for.  Until then, I hope the winter solstice and accompanying holidays are happy for you!  I’ll see you next week for my annual MVP Predictions column!