SharePoint Server 2013 provides a comprehensive solution for connected information work that enables people to transform the way they work while preserving the benefits of structured processes, compliance, and existing IT investments.
Unlike the continual release model of its cloud based competitors, Microsoft releases a major version of SharePoint every three years. There are some downsides to this approach (see later in this article), but one definite upside is that when the releases do come around, those of us who work with SharePoint every day tend to get a bit excited. (As in, excited like first graders at a raspberry cordial party).
So it was with much anticipation that I took a close look at the recently released SharePoint 2013 Preview. My initial take is that this is a significant release with a ton of great new features to talk about. However, for this article I wanted to identify the eigh new features that I think SharePoint users are going to love the most.
SkyDrive for Work
The good news is that in SharePoint 2013 saving documents into My Sites is going to get a lot easier. In fact, it is the default location for saving documents from Office 2013. There is a single document library, not two as in SharePoint 2010, and the permissions have been simplified, making it a cinch to share documents with colleagues.
Better still, the My Site document library can be synced with a local drive to enable offline access so you can access your documents even when the server is unavailable. With this capability SharePoint 2013 My Documents can mount a strong case to be your “SkyDrive for Work.”
The social computing and collaboration features in SharePoint 2013 offer an improved administration and user experience, in addition to new functionality for enterprise users to share and collaborate with others in their organization. The introduction of Community Sites offers a forum experience to categorize discussions around subject areas, and to connect users who have knowledge or seek knowledge about subject areas. Additionally, the new Community Portal enables a search-driven result page of communities for users to discover and explore from a link on their My Sites. Improvements to My Sites offer a more intuitive workflow for users to develop their personal profiles, store content, and keep up-to-date with activities of interest through the use of the new microblog and feeds experience.
In an interesting move that will at one stroke empower end users, reduce load on overworked IT operations departments and add fuel to the already active after-market for SharePoint add-ons, Microsoft is introducing an Apps Store model with SharePoint 2013. Initial app offerings are already being promoted by Microsoft. Site owners used to being turned down by IT or having to endure extended waits when seeking new capabilities will love the new-found independence the Apps store promises.
The upgrade features in SharePoint 2013 offer several improvements, such as upgrade for service applications and site collections, and a site health checker. The database-attach method is the only supported way to upgrade databases to a new environment that is based on SharePoint 2013. In-place upgrade is not supported. Additionally, the upgrade process now separates the upgrade of software and databases from the upgrade of the SharePoint sites.
A key selling point of SharePoint is the ability to have a distributed governance model, pushing the management of sites out to the business units. In practice though, the processes of granting or requesting access to a site in SharePoint 2010 are overly complex and a major source of confusion for site owners.
With SharePoint 2013 site owners are going to love the new, simplified sharing-based model for site permissions management. For IT help desk staff, used to spending a disproportionate amount of their time sorting out permission issues, this should come as a welcome relief.
SharePoint Server 2013 offers new, optimized viewing experiences across different mobile platforms. Additionally, there are several features that are available to help improve both worker productivity and usability on the device.
The ability to have some control over the visual styling of a site is important to site owners. Everybody would like to have a site that looks great! SharePoint 2010 standard styling options are a little on the dull side. SharePoint 2013 will bring richer themes and even the ability to add a background image to the page. I have to say that the early screen shots look pretty good.
Last, in this super 7 list is Metro, the Microsoft’s big user interface bet that’s easier to use, snazzy and well, different (in a good way). While there appears to be some uncertainty over the ongoing use of the name “Metro” to describe its new, radical UI design, there is no doubt that the concept itself will be around for a while — Microsoft are planning to use Metro as the default UI for SharePoint as well as user tools like Office, Windows, Xbox and mobile devices.