Microsoft has done a good job of bringing the server squarely in step with the times with the SharePoint 2010 beta, providing business-oriented social networking features and a new interface
The SharePoint Designer application is an Office 2010 program that also runs on the desktop. If you’ve seen the Expression Web and Blend applications, then you have a good idea of what SharePoint Designer’s interface is like. In tests, Designer proved effective for viewing and editing content from the SharePoint server, and while serious developers will probably choose to work in Visual Studio, Designer was a nice tool for controlling the look and feel of the site.
Search has also been boosted in SharePoint 2010 – overall, I found search results to be much better than in previous versions of the server. SharePoint also integrates with the FAST search server, but I was unable to test that in this beta. Built-in web analytics are also much improved in SharePoint 2010.
All versions of SharePoint have shared the same weakness: Managing the server is often confusing because tasks are split among central management consoles, settings configured from the standard user interface (if the user has administrator rights) and server-based options.
The SharePoint 2010 beta I tested has the central console and standard interface options, as well as PowerShell capabilities for management tasks. In some ways, this is a good thing, as it gives businesses more options for managing their servers and for automating common tasks. But it does increase the learning curve for administrators.
In SharePoint 2010, the Central Administration Interface has been improved, with more common management tasks in one place. For the most part, I liked this management interface, including new health-tracking features that will be useful for pointing out problems in the SharePoint system.
One very welcome aspect of SharePoint 2010 is the new Service Applications model, which replaces the SSP (Shared Service Provider) model. SSP forced admins to do a lot of upfront work and make early choices about their SharePoint deployments. With the new Service Applications model, it is much easier to pick and choose which services will be used on your server, and to enable or disable them as needed.
However, probably the coolest new management feature in SharePoint 2010 is the Visual Upgrade.
With all of the interface changes in SharePoint 2010, many businesses will rightly be concerned about the training issues. Visual Upgrade helps to address this by making it possible to upgrade to SharePoint 2010 but keep the older interfaces.
This way, a business could upgrade to SharePoint 2010 without a negative impact on day-to-day use of the server. The second stage provides a parallel test setup with the new interfaces, allowing for user training while regular work continues on the old interface. Then, when everybody’s ready, the new interface can be enabled across the server.
For more information or to download the SharePoint 2010 beta, go to sharepoint2010.microsoft.com.