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October 18, 2007

Learn the Basics of SharePoint: Usage and Administration

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Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 is Microsoft’s solution for efficient team collaboration in the workplace. It is available as a role in Windows Server 2008 or a downloadable component for Windows Server 2003. Hosting a Windows SharePoint Site requires Internet Information Services and many of its features to be installed as well as version 3.0 of the .NET Framework and the Windows internal database.

SharePoint provides a web browser based interface for use and administration as well as capabilities for integrating with the following software:

  • Office SharePoint Server 2007
  • Office SharePoint Designer 2007
  • Office 2000, XP, 2003 and 2007

SharePoint Services is designed to meet the needs of the corporate intranet. It offers a standardized interface for team collaboration, planning and document management with SharePoint sites. A SharePoint site consists of a root site where a hierarchy of child sites can be created that is tailored to each team of the enterprise. Each site consists of a homepage where users are given access to the child sites, current announcements, events, documents, wikis, links and discussions.

Privileged users of a SharePoint site are given the ability to add to and edit the items available, and administrate the site. Control of the rights of users is given with the permission levels below:

  • Read – user is given read-only access to the SharePoint site
  • Contribute – with the Read permission allows the user to create and edit the documents library and list items
  • Design – with the Contribute permission allows the user to create new document libraries and lists as well as editing the site pages.
  • Full Control – user is given full control over the design administration and use of the site
  • Limited – user is given access to specific site resources without access to the other areas of the site

Office SharePoint Server 2007 is basically an upgrade for Windows SharePoint Services. SharePoint Server includes and improves the functionality of SharePoint Services and adds several tools for management and organization. Among the enhancements are tools for rapid creation of XML based forms and business intelligence applications using Excel spreadsheets.

Office SharePoint Designer 2007 provides the ability to customize the design and functionality of SharePoint sites. It also allows for creating reporting tools and applications with no coding necessary.

Integration with Office 2000, XP, 2003 and 2007 has been enhanced through each version release. Office 2000 comes with the ability to save files stored on a SharePoint site and receive alerts in Outlook. XP adds interactive access to list data on SharePoint site. Office 2003 introduces the ability to create document workspaces and organize team activities. Office 2007 provides the greatest level of integration with the ability to directly interact with SharePoint data on the server and Outlook 2007 can include SharePoint tasks and events with its own.

Navigating SharePoint Sites

A Windows SharePoint site can be accessed from a web browser by navigating to http://<severname>/ where <severname> is the name of the server. Connecting to a SharePoint site requires that you log in with a valid domain or server user account. By default only administrators on the server hosting a SharePoint site are given access to it. Additional domain or server users must have permissions granted to them by the server administrator before they can log in to the SharePoint site.

Windows SharePoint Site Home Page:

Home

A Windows SharePoint site home page consists of a header and a left and right column. The header includes: the name of the site, a help link, search input, tabs for navigating to child sites and menus for the logged on user and site actions. Options available from the header’s menu vary depending on the permissions of the user. The user menu provides links for editing user settings, signing “out” or “on” as a different user and when on the home page, a link for personalizing the home page. The Site Actions menu also provides a link for personalizing the home page as well as accessing Site Settings and creating new lists, libraries, and pages.

The left column of a SharePoint site’s home page is a Quick Launch menu from which a user can access a site map, documents, lists, team discussions, child sites, people, groups and the site’s recycle bin. The items listed in the Quick Launch depend on the content that has been added to the site. The Documents section links to the site’s document, form, wiki and picture libraries. The Lists section contains links to the site’s calendar, tasks and custom lists.

The right column of a SharePoint site’s home page contains web parts divided into a left and right column. The web parts on a site’s home page can be added and removed by an administrator. The default web parts are the Announcements, Calendar and Links, which can be appended by a user or Contributor and the site image.

A SharePoint Document Library Page:

Document Library

When navigating to different areas of the SharePoint site a breadcrumb trail is displayed providing a set of links for accessing the parent pages of the area. Below the breadcrumb is the title and description for the current page and typically there will be a menu for the actions available to the page.

Administrating SharePoint Sites

SharePoint site administrators have the ability to edit and add to the documents, lists, discussions, users and groups as well as configure site settings. The SharePoint site administration features are accessible from the Site Actions menu.

The SharePoint Site Create Page:

Create

When you access a SharePoint site’s create page you are presented with a menu of links for creating items for the site. The links are divided into five categories: Libraries, Communications, Tracking, Custom Lists and Web Pages. Hovering over the links on the page will display information on creating the selected item. All new site items must be given a name and can be given a description when created. Most items have an option to choose whether or not to list the item in the Quick Launch. Many items also have item type specific settings for creating the new item.

Editing a SharePoint Home Page:

Edit Page

When you edit the site page the left and right web part columns are labeled and outlined. Within a column is a button to display a catalog of available web parts to pick from and add to the page. The web parts already in the columns have an edit menu for configuring the part, a button to remove the part and links to add new items if supported by the part.

Editing SharePoint Site Settings:

Site Settings

The SharePoint Site Settings page displays site address and version information and a menu of links divided into five categories: Users and Permissions, Look and Feel, Galleries, Site Administration, and Site Collection Administration. Each link on the Site Settings brings you to a page designed for editing its associated settings.

SharePoint Central Administration:

Central Administration

Aside from the administration capabilities accessed directly from the SharePoint site is the Central Administration site. The Central administration site is accessible from a web browser by navigating to http://<severname>:30502/ where <severname> is the name of the server. Connecting to the Central Administration site requires administrative rights. By default, the port used for the Central Administration site will have incoming connections blocked by the Windows Firewall. Access from another machine will be denied unless a rule is created for the firewall to allow the connection, but for security purposes, that is not recommended.

The Central Administration site contains the user and Site Actions menus from the SharePoint Site along with tabs for Home, Operations and Application Management. The Home page has a section of recommended Administrator Tasks listed in order of importance and Farm Topology information which lists what services are running on which server, and Resources for adding links to the site.

From the Operations page the user has access to a menu of links divided into six categories: Topology and Services, Security Configuration, Logging and Reporting, Global Configuration, Backup and Restore, and Data Configuration. The Application Management page provides a menu of links divided into five categories: SharePoint Web Application Management, Application Security, Workflow Management, SharePoint Site Management, and External Service Connections.

The administration features of Windows SharePoint Services provide you with the power to configure and add to the site without requiring any coding. As a result, few resources are required by a company to operate a SharePoint site.

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About the Author

(A+) is experienced in both IT and development. He has completed training in computers, electronics and networking and obtained his A+ certification. Jason is a self-taught developer and over half of his career in technology has been in web and Windows development, while the rest has been IT orientated. He hopes to be able to use his cross industry expertise to be able to shed more light on the exciting life of a developer for those in IT considering making the move to software. Jason has written articles on various topics including SharePoint, CompTIA A+, and Windows Server 2008.


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