Thursday, February 03, 2005

Notes From Office System Developer Conference 2005 in Redmond

This week I am attending the inaugural Office System Developer Conference at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond. We've completed two of the three days and from my perspective it has been extremely valuable.

Here are some of the most important things I have learned:

1. Three back-to-back sessions were conducted on customizing SharePoint in terms of branding, site definitions and list definitions. Several Microsoft developers drilled down into what could be done easily, what is more difficult and perhaps MOST important - what can be done safely without risking problems with future upgrades to the product.

2. Two Microsoft developers conducted two excellent sessions on customizing the SharePoint Portal Server Search service. In particular, they covered A) using the Search service from applications other than SharePoint and B) customizing the out-of-the-box Search features in SharePoint Portal Server and WSS. Regarding the latter, the specific customizations they demonstrated were:
  • Replacing the WSS site search box with a new search box that calls the SPS search engine and scopes the search to search the entire WSS site collection instead of just a single site
  • Enhancing the drop-down search scope menu in SPS to allow for grouping of search scopes and creating cascading menus to make the search scope list easier to use
  • How to add search scopes to the drop-down for portals other than the one the user is running the query from
  • How to allow the users to use Boolean logic in the SPS search
  • How to provide WSS List Item results in the SPS search
  • Customizing the SPS Search Results Web Part to highlight hits
  • Customizing SPS Search to allow the users to enter wildcards

3. An excellent (and very entertaining) session by Microsoft's John Durant titled "Bringing Corporate Data to Life with an Advanced Research Task Pane". The Research Services Task Pane in all of the Office 2003 applications is a feature that is not widely understood (IMHO). It is a very powerful feature that is incredibly extensible. In essence, it gives us a very easy way to bring all sorts of corporate data into the Office Task Pane and then easily insert that data into a Word document, Excel Spreadsheet, Outlook email message, etc. It can really improve end-user productivity when compared to the traditional approach of having multiple windows open, copy and pasting, etc.

4. At a lunch with one of the SharePoint Program Managers, I learned that even more emphasis will be put on SharePoint as a "development platform" in the next version (which he refers to as Version 3). This is great news for everybody (again, IMHO) and will even further distinguish SharePoint from other portal and collaboration offerings in the marketplace.

I am looking forward to the final day and then getting back and putting some of this information to use in our SharePoint training classes.

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