Five SharePoint Technologies to Invest In

With SharePoint 2010 around the corner I bring you five SharePointe technologies to invest in. Not in any particular order…



What is Silverlight?

“Silverlight helps you create rich web applications that run on Mac OS, Windows, and Linux. Welcome to a new level of engaging, rich, safe, secure, and scalable cross-platform experience.”

In short Silverlight is the Microsoft competitor to Adobe Flash. Silverlight runs on the client side and is designed to communicate with backend systems via web services. It provides a rich experience with functionality such as playing videos, music, charting and rich web based user interfaces.

Why Should I Invest In It?

SharePoint 2010 is shipping with a new web part out of the box appropriately named the “Silverlight Web Part”. This web part will be a container or shim for any Silverlight applications that you would like to host within SharePoint. SharePoint 2010 also comes with a Client Object Model which will allow you to interface with the SharePoint objects using client side Silverlight code and avoid the need for building or using one of the out-of-the-box web services. This should greatly speed up development and allow developers to write rich interfaces, views and dashboards surfacing SharePoint data using custom Silverlight web parts.



What is PowerShell?

PowerShell is a new scripting language designed for the administrator. PowerShell is being continously integrated into the Microsoft product line with increasing support for Exchange, SQL Server, System Center Operations Manager, System Center Data Protection Manager and Windows Server 2008. PowerShell gives administrators the power to write command line scripts that allow them to more easily control systems through a powerful API. Additionally PowerShell can tap into existing libraries such as the .Net Framework or custom libraries allowing you to be very productive and efficient.

Why Should I Invest In It?

The next version of SharePoint is going to offer it’s own PowerShell API that will allow you to access the SharePoint Object Model directly from PowerShell more effectively. I currently use PowerShell for writing scripts that ease deployment and perform mass updates. Need to add a field to 600 document libraries because the requirements changed after the roll out occurred… not a problem with PowerShell. And once you get that one script written it’s easy to modify it or to create a new script that makes similiar “mass updates” to all of your document libraries at once. PowerShell uses a PHP / C# like scripting syntax with some key differences. I recommend picking up a cheat sheet to help you get started.



What’s AJAX?

AJAX is a group of techniques that allows a client based web application interact with server side code in a method that is “seamless” to the user experience. Tools in the AJAX toolkit include Javascript, jQuery (which we will talk about next) and XML. ASP.NET AJAX is the free Microsoft AJAX framework for building highly interactive and responsive web applications that work across all popular browsers. ASP.NET AJAX enables developers to choose their preferred method of AJAX development, whether it is server-side programming, client-side programming, or a combination of both.

Why Should I Invest In It?

SharePoint 2010 is going to heavily utilize AJAX for almost all aspects of the application. I’m being a little speculative on this one but I think that it’s going to take a strong knowledge of AJAX to integrate properly with some of the new SharePoint 2010 functionality. Additionally, non AJAX based webparts are probably just going to feel out of place sitting in a UI that is so interactive.



What is jQuery?

jQuery is a fast and concise JavaScript Library that simplifies HTML document traversing, event handling, animating, and Ajax interactions for rapid web development. jQuery is designed to change the way that you write JavaScript.

Why Should I Invest In It?

Most of us saw the day coming that Microsoft had to choose between one of the existing Javascript frameworks that are growing increasingly popular in web development. Well that day has come and the winner is jQuery. The next version of SharePoint is going to be using jQuery extensively for user interface enhancements and AJAX functionality as mentioned above. Being able to create interactive web parts with fancy animations such as slides, fades, puffs, etc puts a little flare on your web parts that might make the difference.



Seriously, XML?

Yes. Like previous versions of SharePoint I’m betting that this next version will be just as or even more complicated when it comes to XML configuration files or definition files. Currently we have Site Definitions, List Definitions, Field Definitions, Configuration Files, Column Type Definitions, Feature Files, etc that have to be managed through XML and I only see this getting more complicated.

Why Should I Invest In It?

You can do some pretty interesting things through XML without having to write a single line of ASP.Net code. By utilizing Rendering Templates to determine how a custom list column renders the contents of that row you can make a regular SharePoint list look like a pretty nice user interface. Good examples of how Microsoft has utilized this technique includes the Discussion List and the Announcement List. However, these types of solutions greatly rely on List Definitions and Site Definitions so start reading up!

I'm a public speaker and the Chief SharePoint Architect for Eastridge, a Microsoft Gold Partner specializing in SharePoint and custom application development in Winston-Salem, NC. I focus on the SharePoint platform with a specialty in Information Architecture, Publishing and Best Practices.

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