A comprehensive view of SharePoint: Part II


Enterprise portals are an important part of today's enterprise IT infrastructure. Portals are used as an entry point for a specific topic, organization, project or team. Many enterprises have an enterprise portal, opened by default when an employee opens up a browser, which shows general information about the enterprise, its strategy, its departments, etc. From this top level enterprise portal you find links to departmental or project and team specific portals. Departmental portals focus on information about the department itself, like Marketing, Sales, Engineering, Professional Services, etc. Project and team portals focus on an ongoing project or virtual team created for a specific objective. You can also find portals for specific topics, like a learning portal or a management portal which provides information geared towards that topic. Each portal has relevant information, links to other web sites, documents or resources, etc. It is the starting point for a user to find information about a specific topic.

Microsoft provides two portal solutions - Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) and SharePoint Portal Server 2003 (SPS). The first article of this series explains the difference between WSS and SPS as well as how to install and administrate each. The second article focuses on how to use and customize portals provided by WSS and SPS. The third article explains how to create your own web parts which you can then place on WSS and SPS portals. This article assumes that you are familiar with the first article, especially the described administration features.

Users used throughout this article

Portals by default allow only authorized users access. A virtual server enabled for WSS or SPS gets configured for integrated windows authentication ("enable anonymous access" is disabled and "Integrated Windows authentication" is enabled). With integrated windows authentication enabled IIS requests from the browser the user name and password which the browser provides in hash format. This allows the browser to provide the user name and password it is running under in a secure format and it enables IIS to verify the user accessing the site. The browser shows a logon dialog box if the user it is running under has not been granted access to the portal. The user can then enter another user credential to use. After the third authentication attempt the user gets shown an error page which allows the user to request access to the portal. This sends an email by default to the site owner which can then add the user to the portal. You can change the recipient of the "request access" email through the "Site Settings" of the portal (top menu bar). Under the section "Administration" click the link "Go to Site Administration". This brings up the portal site administration and under the section "Users and Permissions" you have an entry called "Manage access requests". This allows you to enter the email address of the recipient of the "request access" email.

Are there any browser settings necessary for integrated windows security to work?

For integrated windows authentication to work you need to enable the option "Enable Integrated Windows Authentication" in your browser (go to the menu "Tools | Internet Options" and then to the tab Advanced). The zone to which the site belongs needs to have the option "Automatic logon with current username and password" or "Automatic logon only in Intranet zone" (only for the "Local intranet" zone) enabled (go to the menu "Tools | Internet Options", select the tab "Security", select the zone the site belongs to, for example "Trusted sites", and then click on the button "Custom Level").

Which site groups are available in SharePoint and what are the default permissions?

When creating a portal you enter the name of the primary and secondary site owner (in the format of "machine name\user name" or "domain name\user name"). These two users are added automatically as administrators to the portal. WSS and SPS have four different site groups which define which access users have to the portal:

  • Reader - Can access the portal and read information and is not allowed to make any modifications to the information.

  • Contributor - Has read and write access and can modify the information and documents on the portal.

  • Web Designer - Has read and write access to the portal and is also allowed to modify the portal structure itself.

  • Administrator - Has full access including administrative access to the portal.

Adding new users to your SharePoint site

Create the following four windows users on the machine where you run WSS (go to "Computer Management" and then "Local users and Groups"): Reader, Contributor, Web Designer and Administrator. Each user will be added by default to the "Users" windows group. Open the portal you created in a browser running under the user credentials of the primary or secondary owner so we can add new users. In the top menu bar select "Site Settings" which shows the site settings. Under the section "Administration" select the item "Manage users". You see already the primary and secondary site owner added as administrators. Now add the four users we created and make the user member of the site group with the same name. For example you add the user "Reader" and make it part of the "Reader" site group. These four users are used throughout the article to demonstrate the differences between the different access rights.

Running your browser under a different user credential

You can run a browser or any other application under different user credentials using the "runas" command. Open the command line and run the following command - 
runas /profile /user:machine name\user name "c:\program files\internet explorer\iexplorer.exe".

You can also achieve this by right clicking on the browser icon in the "quick launch" windows toolbar (in Windows 2000 you also need to press the SHIFT key) and selecting "Run as" from the popup menu. In the following dialog box you select "the following user" and enter the user name and password. This works only for users which have already once logged on to the machine and have already a profile created. Without that the browser will show you a logon dialog as soon as you hit a portal. It appears this happens when no windows profile has been created yet for that user.

Basics of using and customizing WSS

This section assumes that you chose the "Team Site" template for your portal. Every portal has a menu bar on top and a navigation bar on the left side. In the upper right corner you see a search box which allows to search all content in the current portal (only available when you use MS SQL Server as data store). Every object placed on a WSS or SPS portal is a web part. WSS and SPS come with a number of web parts out-of-the-box and allow you to create your own web parts (see third article how to create your own web part). The template you chose when launching into a portal the first time pre-configures the portal by placing a number of web parts onto the portal. But you still have full control over the portal by modifying or removing existing web parts as well as adding new web parts. You can also add so called documents and lists which are more then web parts. These are web part pages which itself have web parts placed on it. These documents and lists can be linked up to the left side navigation bar. Click on the link "Documents and Lists" in the top menu bar. This shows you a list of out-of-the-box documents and lists you can add to the portal. These are categorized in five categories:

  • Document Libraries - A library of documents and files which allows checking of files, checking out files, viewing the history of each file, etc.

  • Picture Libraries - A library of pictures. Provides the same functionality as document libraries but targeted towards pictures. In addition it provides a thumbnail and filmstrip view of the pictures.

  • Lists and Custom Lists - Lists of information like announcements, contacts, events, links and tasks.

  • Discussion Boards - Discussion boards which allows posting new threads and replying to existing threads.

  • Surveys - Surveys with questions and answers.

How to list all existing documents and lists and how to create new ones?

There are already a number of documents and lists on the portal. You can filter them by clicking on the category in the left side navigation bar. Select "All" to display again all documents and lists on the portal. Click on the icon "Create" in the toolbar to add a new document or list. This shows a list of all available documents and lists to select from followed by the properties to enter. To add a picture library click on the "Create" icon and from the list of available documents and lists select the "Picture Library". Next you enter a title and description (for example "My pictures"), whether the picture library should be shown in the left side navigation bar and if a history version should be created each time a picture gets edited and checked in. This makes it easy to see the history of a picture but keep the space requirement in mind. A picture with a size of 1 MB checked in ten times requires 10 MB.
How to modify the settings of an existing document or list?

You can change the settings of a document or list by selecting it from the left side navigation bar and when shown on a new page select "Modify settings and columns" in the left side navigation bar. Another way is to select "Documents and Lists" from the top menu bar, clicking on the document or list which shows again the document or list on a new page and then selecting again "Modify settings and columns" in the left side navigation bar. This shows three sections - "General Settings", "Columns" and "Views". Under the section "General Settings" you have four options:

  • Change general settings - Change settings like the title and description, if the document or list shows up in the left side navigation bar, whether versioning is enabled, etc.

  • Save as template - Save the current document or list configuration as a template so you can reuse it.

  • Change permissions - Change the access users have. It shows all the users and their current permissions. You can add new users or change the permissions of current users. The default permissions are inherited from the site group the user belongs to, for example a user belonging to the "Reader" group has only view access. But through this you can overwrite it and give the user for example "view, insert, edit and delete" permissions for that document or list.

  • Delete - Allows you to remove the document or list from the portal.

How to change the columns and views of a document and list?

Through the "Columns" section you can add new columns, delete columns (except out-of-the-box columns) and reorder columns. This is the list of available columns available to store information. Views determine whether a column is shown on a view or not. While creating a column you determine its data type, size, requirement, etc. Document and lists can have multiple views and allow the user to select a view. For example a "tasks list" has five views to select from (the views are shown on the left side navigation bar when the list is shown) - "all tasks", "my tasks", "due today", "active tasks" and "by assigned to". The section "Views" lists all the configured views, which view is the default view and allows you to modify a view or add a new view. Click on the view name to modify it. You can change the following settings:

  • Name - the name of the view

  • Columns - Lists all available columns (defined through the "Column" section). You select which columns are visible in this view and the order in which they appear.

  • Sort - Define the sorting by selecting the column and then "ascending" or "descending". You can only sort by two columns.

  • Filter - Define the filter to apply to this view by selecting the column, the operator (for example equal, contains, less then, etc.) and the filter value. You can combine each filter with AND or OR. You can filter on as many columns as needed. Click on "Show More Columns" to add a new column to the filter.

  • Group By - Allows to group by up to two columns. Select the column and whether to group "ascending" or "descending". You can define if by default the grouping is "expanded" or "collapsed".

  • Totals - Allows to apply totals to columns, for example show the count by the column "priority". This shows then in the list the total count and when grouping has been enabled also the count per grouping. It depends on the data type of the column which totals are available. Date fields for example allow "count", "maximum", "minimum" and "average".

  • Style - Different styles the document or list allows.

  • Item Limit - The maximum number of items shown in the list and whether you allow to page through it with a "next" link.

How to create and manage sub-portals?

The item "Create" in the top menu bar performs the same as the "Create" icon under "Documents and Listings". You can do more then just add new document or list to the portal. You can also create new sub-portals. A good example would be to have a portal for your team or department and then have a sub-portal for each ongoing project. Select "Documents and Listings" in the top menu bar followed by "Sites" in the left side navigation bar. Click on the "Create" icon which brings up the "New SharePoint Site" page. Enter the title and description of the new sub-portal and the URL name, for example the project name. The URL of the sub-portal consists of the URL of the current portal followed by the URL name you entered, for example "
http://Enterprise-Minds/sites/Engineering/ProjectName". Click on the button "Create" to create the sub-portal which brings up the "template selection" page. As with any other portal you select again a template and the portal gets preconfigured according to the template. A sub-portal has on the right side of the top menu bar an item called "Up To Team Web Site" which allows to navigate back to the top portal it belongs to. Users can navigate to sub-portals by typing in its URL or through the "Documents and Lists" item in the top menu bar. On the next page select the item "Sites" in the left side navigation bar which then shows the list of all sub-portals. Click on the sub-portal name to bring it up or again on the "Create" icon to create a new sub-portal.

How to create and manage Document Workspaces and Meeting Workspaces?

The same way you can also create "Document Workspaces" and "Meeting Workspaces", which are also sub-portals, but sub-portals of a specific type. When launching into those the first time you select again a template, which can be confusing. It does not make sense to create a "Meeting Workspace" and then select the "Team Site" template, because then you would create a team site again. So when creating a "Document Workspace" the only choice making sense is the "Document Workspace" template. Same with the "Meeting Workspace" but here you can choose between different meeting templates (see first article for a description of each), e.g. "Basic Meeting Workspace". The users permissions determine the changes the user can make to the portal structure  Only users belonging to the "administrator" or "web designer" site group are allowed to make changes to the portal structure. Other users will see these menu items and options but when clicking on some of the links or submitting changes to the portal will be shown a logon dialog box. The portal determines the user has not the necessary rights to perform the operation so prompts the user with a logon dialog box so the user can enter different user credentials which have the right to perform those options. For example the "Reader" user we created above sees the "Documents and Listings" item in the top menu bar. The user sees all the existing documents or lists. But the user can not add a new document or list or modify an existing one. Unfortunately there is no consistency when the logon dialog box is shown. Sometimes the logon is shown already when clicking on a link and most of the times it shows the page where the user can make changes to the portal but when submitting the page it shows the logon. For example it shows the "New Document Library" page which allows to  create a new document library. The user can enter all details but when submitting gets presented with the logon. This can be very frustrating for users who may not have the permissions for operations they try to undertake. Canceling the logon form shows again the "request access" page so the user can request the required permission.

Modifying WSS web parts

How to switch between the personal view and shared view of a web part page

Besides adding documents and lists you can also add web parts to the portal page itself. In the upper right corner you see a link "Modify Shared Page" (Readers to not see that link and Contributors see instead a link called "Modify My Page"). Clicking on the link shows a popup menu which allows you to change the structure of the portal page. The bottom two menu items allow you to switch between a personal and shared view of the page. Click on "Personal View" to see your personal view of this page. This allows to customize the page for you but not for any other users. The link changes then to "Modify My Page" but brings up the same popup menu. Click on the menu item "Shared View" to switch back to the shared public view. Any changes you make on the shared view take effect for all users, except users which are using their personal view and have customized that particular web part on their personal view. For example you have a Contacts web part on the page but a user customized it so that it does not show any frame. Any change you make now to the Contacts web part will not take effect for that user as he/she has customized it for himself/herself. But any change to a web part the user has not customized on his/her personal view will also take effect for that user. Also adding a new web part will take effect for users with personal views. A personal view really enables a user to over-write public web part settings with his/her personal ones and to add new web parts only visible for that user.

Which views are available for users and how to reset your personal view?

Readers can not have a personal view, so they will always see the shared view. Contributors by default always see the shared view but can customize the personal view. Contributors can not customize the shared view therefore they do not see the two menu items called "Shared View" and "Personal View". But Web Designers and Administrators can customize both the shared and personal view and can switch forth and back between these two views with the two menu items called "Shared View" and "Personal View". When a user has customized the personal view then a new menu item called "Reset Page Content" shows up at the bottom of the popup menu. This allows to reset the personal view back to the same as the shared view, meaning all your customizations are undone. All changes will be lost permanently.

How to enable the design mode of a web part page and the basics of page design?

The menu item "Design this page" switches to the design mode. It allows to drag and drop web parts to different zones on the page. For example drag the Links web part from the right zone to the left zone. You can hide a web part by clicking on the closing "x" in the title bar. Closing does not remove the web part from the page, it makes it invisible. This allows you to enable the web part again without loosing any of the settings you made to the web part. You can also click on the "down arrow" in a web part title bar to bring up the popup menu for that web part. From here you can close the web part or delete it which removes it permanently from the page. This deletes any settings you made to the web part permanently. You can also minimize the web part or restore it to its original size. You can also modify the web part through the "Modify Shared Web Part" which of course on the personal view is called "Modify My Web Part". This brings up the properties pane on the right side of the browser window. Here you can change the following properties of the web part:

  • View - If there are multiple views available then you can select which view to use. Remember that adding "Document and lists" to the portal adds a new menu item to the left side navigation bar (if selected in the "Documents and lists" properties) which brings up a new page. This new page is a web part page which has a web part on it - the actual "Documents and lists" web part. For example adding a Contacts list places on this new Contacts web part page a Contacts web part. As you remember you can define multiple views. You can take the same Contacts web part and place it on the portal page and then select which of the defined views to use.
    This way for example you can add an "Announcements" list which you don't add to the left side navigation bar and then take the actual "Announcements" web part and place itself on the portal page. Through the "Documents and Lists" item in the top menu bar you can find the "Announcements" list, click on it to bring it up, select the "Modify and Settings" item in the left side navigation bar and then under the "Views" section you can add new views or delete and change existing views. The views defined here are then available under the web part properties.

  • Toolbar type - Choose whether you want to have a complete toolbar, summary toolbar or no toolbar. Let's take as an example again the Contacts web part. The summary toolbar adds at the bottom of the web part a link "Add new item". Through this link users can add new contacts. The full toolbar shows on top of the web part a complete toolbar which allows to add new items, filter the contact list, link to outlook and import contacts. The full toolbar is always shown when the web part is placed on the web part page itself, for example when the user selects contacts from the left side navigation bar and gets presented with the list of contacts on the new contacts web part page.

  • Appearance - Under the section appearance you can change the web part title shown as well as the width and height. The width and height can be fixed (in pixels) or adjustable to the zone it is placed on.

  • Layout - Under this section you can select the direction "left to right" or "right to left" (for languages where you read from right to left) and the part order. The part order gets also updated as you drag and drop the web part  around on the page zones. Through the "Visible on Page" you can show or hide the web part.

  • Advanced - The "Detail Link" URL is used to make the web part title a link and allows to jump to the "Documents and List" web part page itself. For example the Contacts web part placed on the portal links through that URL to the Contact web part page itself (same link as on the left side navigation bar). The Description is shown as ALT text of that link. The help link is the help page called when selecting "Help" from the web part popup menu. With "Allow Minimize" and "Allow Close" you determine whether you allow the web part to be minimized or closed through the web part popup menu. "Allow Zone Change" determines if user are allowed to move the web part to a different zone on their personal views. Disable this setting to prevent users from moving web parts to different zones. Users can still change the order within the same zone.

You can close the web part properties pane with the closing "x" in the properties pane or you can bring up the popup menu of another web part (through the arrow down in the web part title bar) and then select "Modify Shared Web Part" or "Modify My Web Part" to bring up the properties of this web part. Closing the properties pane also ends the design mode of the page. You can also bring up the properties of a web part through the "Modify Shared Page" link, selecting "Modify Shared Web Parts" or "Modify My Web Parts" from the popup menu. From the new popup menu select the web part you want to modify. The personal view allows only to change the "Appearance" and "Layout" web part properties. The "Advanced" properties as well as the toolbar type and view can not be changed on personal views. Changing these settings on shared views will also take effect on personal views if the user has customized the web part on his/her personal view.

How to add new web parts to a web part page?

The "Add Web Parts" menu item in the "Modify Shared Page" or "Modify My Page" popup menu allows to add new web parts to the portal. This shows a popup menu with three choices followed by the "Add Web Parts" pane on the right side of the browser window:

  • Browse - Shows you a list of four web part galleries. Web part galleries are places where the system can find web parts. The following four galleries exist:

    • Web Part Page Gallery - These are web parts which have been placed on the portal page but have been closed later on. So these are web parts which exist on the page but are not displayed.

    • Team Web Site Gallery - These are web parts which available on this top level portal (including all its sub-portals).

    • Virtual Server Gallery - Web parts which are available to all portals on a virtual server. Used for web parts which should be available to all top level portals.

    • Online Gallery - A gallery of web parts made available online by Microsoft. Right now this is a series of MSNBC web parts for news, stock quotes and weather.

  • Search - Searches all web part galleries and returns a list of web parts matching your search criteria. For example search for "Contacts" and it will show you one found web part under the "Team Web Site Gallery".

  • Import - Allows to import a web part onto the portal page. This web part will be only available on the page you import it. You select the path to the web part file (extension DWP) residing on your local drive or a network drive and then click the Upload button. It then shows the title of the web part  underneath the upload button. This has not yet imported the web part. It just read the title from the web part and displays it so the user knows which part is really imported. Next you click the Import button at the bottom of the pane which then imports the web part and shows it also on the portal page itself. 
    The third article will show how you can import web parts so they become available to other web part pages and portals.

When browsing for web parts or after performing a search for web parts you see at the top of the "Add Web Parts" pane the four web part galleries. Select one to see the list of available web parts for the gallery. You then drag and drop the web part onto the desired zone on the web part page. When done close the "Add Web Parts" pane. You can also export web parts through the web part popup menu (click on the "down arrow" in the web part title bar). All web parts created by "Documents and Lists" can not be exported as they are specific to the portal they are on. All other web parts show the "Export" menu item in the popup menu. This allows you to download the web part DWP file which includes all files and information for this web part. You can then import that web part file to other portal pages or send it to users who can import it on their personal views. 

Creating web part pages and basic pages

You can place new web parts or customize existing web parts only on the portal page itself but not on the web part pages created as part of documents and list. You can for example create a new contacts list and add it to the left side navigation bar. SharePoint shows a new contacts web part page with the contacts web part on it when the user selects that menu item. These pages to not show the "Modify Shared Page" or "Modify My Page" link in the upper right corner because they can not be customized. But you can create new web part pages yourself which then allow again web parts to be placed on them and to be customized. Select the "Create" item in the top menu bar or "Documents and Lists" and then the "Create" icon. This shows the "Create Page" and shows all the documents and lists you can create. At the bottom of the list you see the section "Web Pages". Underneath you find the "Sites and Workspaces" link which allows to create sub-portals (described above). You also find two other items:

  • Basic Web Page - Creates a basic page which allows to place text and html on the page. Enter the name of the page and select in which document library you want to place it. These pages are stored as ASPX pages in a document library and your portal needs to have at least one document library. If you have multiple you can select in which document library you want to store the file. This creates the page and shows a "Rich Text Editor" window. In that window you enter the text and HTML code to be shown on this page. When done click save and it will show the page. In the upper right corner you find an "Edit Content" link which brings up again the "Rich Text Editor" and allows to change the page content.

  • Web Part Page - Creates a page which allows to place web parts on it. Enter the page name, select the layout and again which document library to store the page. These pages are also stored as ASPX pages in a document library. The layout defines which zones are available on this web part page. Web parts can only be placed into zones. So this determines your basic page structure, for example have a header, left column and a body (which is the structure any portal page uses). This creates the page and brings up right away the "Add Web Parts" pane so you can start placing web parts onto the page. 

Users can open basic web pages and web part pages through the document library they have been placed in. For example select the menu item "Shared Documents" which brings up the library. It lists the pages we created above. Click on the page and it will open them in the browser. You can also send the URL of the page to users so they can launch into these pages right away. It would have been a nice feature to be able to add these web pages to the left side navigation menu on your portal to make it easier to get to these pages.

Basics of using WSS portals

This section assumes again that you chose the "Team Site" template for your portal and will explain a few fundamentals how to use portals. We are already familiar with the top menu bar and the left side navigation bar. The portal page itself includes a number of web parts. Each web part has in the title bar the "arrow down" symbol which brings up the web part popup menu. Readers only see the Help menu item. All other users can minimize the web part, restore the web part to its original size and close the web part. Portals have in the upper right corner the search bar (except when it uses MSDE for its data store which does not support any search capabilities). It searches all content on the portal, including all document libraries, the content of documents and files, web  pages and lists. Any "Documents and Lists" selected from the left side navigation bar provides the following features (again in the left side navigation bar):

  • Select a view - You can select from a list of available views. For example for a document library you have an "All Documents" view and an "Explorer View". The Explorer view for example provides a windows explorer like view of the document library.

  • Alert me - Sends an email alert to the user when content is added, changed and deleted or if any change happens. You can choose to get the notification immediately or a daily or weekly summary. The later two options reduce the number of emails a user will get.

  • Export to spreadsheet - Creates an MS Excel Web Query (file extension IQY) which you can save and run as needed or run immediately. This pulls the data list down into Excel where you can modify it and also add new items. You can for example get the list of contacts stored in WSS, modify contacts including adding new contacts and then store the list of contacts back to WSS (through the menu "Data | List | Synchronize List"). In order for that to work you need to stay within the area surrounded by the blue rectangle and you need to use MS Excel 2003. After you refresh the contacts page in the browser you see the changed and added data.

  • Modify settings and columns - Allows to configure the list (see earlier section).

Depending on the selected list and your configuration you see a list of data, for example announcements, and a toolbar on top. The toolbar allows creating new items, filtering the list, creating new folders, etc. As soon as you move the mouse cursor over the first column of an existing item you see a drop down box appear. Clicking on it shows a popup menu which allows to do things like view item, change item, delete item, etc. Each item also supports "alert me" which allows to subscribe to email alerts when the item gets changed. The alert can be sent again immediately or a daily or weekly summary.
Basics of using within Office 2003

MS Office 2003 has also a tight integration with WSS and SPS portals. Here are a few very useful integrations between Office 2003 and SharePoint:

  • Link events list with Outlook calendar - A SharePoint events list can be linked to Outlook and viewed in Outlook like a normal calendar. Go to your events list in SharePoint and select the icon "Link to Outlook" in the toolbar. This launches Outlook with a message saying that a folder is added to Outlook and that Outlook has not verified that this is a trusted SharePoint site. It asks if you want to add this folder to Outlook which you confirm with yes. In Outlook select "Calendar" in your navigation bar and now you see under the section "Other Calendars" (just below the small calendar in the upper left corner) an entry called "Team Web Site - Events" (the first part is the title of your portal; which might be different if you changed it). Select it and it shows you the SharePoint events list as calendar beside your normal calendar. You can view the events but you can not change or remove them nor can you add new ones. You can remove it from Outlook again by right clicking on the entry called "Team Web Site - Events" and then selecting Delete from the popup menu.

  • Link contacts list with Outlook - A SharePoint contacts list can be linked to Outlook and viewed in Outlook like any other contacts. Go to your contacts list in SharePoint and select the icon "Link to Outlook" in the toolbar. This launches again Outlook, tells you again that an unverified SharePoint folder is being added which you confirm again with yes. In Outlook select "Contacts" in the navigation bar. On the left side under "Other Contacts" you see a new item called "Team Web Site - Contacts" (might be named different if you have a different portal title). Select it and it shows the SharePoint contacts in your typical Outlook contact view. You can view contacts but you can not change or delete them nor can you add new contacts. You can remove it from Outlook again by right clicking on the entry called "Team Web Site - Contacts" and then selecting Delete from the popup menu.

  • Create a SharePoint list from Excel - Open up an Excel spreadsheet or create a new one. Select the data you want to publish in SharePoint as a list (preferably with the first column being the column names). In Excel select "Data | List | Create List". You can still change the data or add new data. When ready to publish in SharePoint select "Data | List | Publish List" in Excel. Enter the URL of your portal, e.g. "http://Enterprise-Minds", select "Link to the new SharePoint List" if you want to keep the list between SharePoint and Excel linked so it is easy for you to republish the list and finally enter a Title and description. Click next and the Excel dialog will show you all the columns published as well as the data type used for each. Click finish which creates the list in SharePoint and then shows the URL of the new list. This creates a "Custom List in Datasheet View" which is not shown in the left side navigation bar. But you can reach it through the "Documents and Listings" item in the top menu bar in SharePoint and then change the properties to show it in the left side navigation bar (see earlier section).

  • Office "File | Open" - All Office 2003 applications are able to work with SharePoint document and picture libraries. In the open file dialog box enter the URL to your portal, for example "http://Enterprise-Minds". This shows in the open file dialog a web page with all the available document and picture libraries in that portal (does not include sub-portals). Select the desired document or picture library to get a list of available files to open. Select the desired file type in the "file type" drop down box. This opens the document and also shows the "Shared Workspace" pane on the right side. You see the following six icons/tabs:

    • Status - Shows status information like who has the document checked out, etc. Keep in mind that opening a file through an Office application does not automatically check out the file.

    • Members - Shows the list of portal members. Move the mouse cursor over the member to see a drop down box which brings up a popup menu. You can email the member, schedule a meeting, add it to your contact list, etc. At the bottom of the list you see two links

      • Add new members - Allows to add one or more new members (which need to be valid Windows users) to this SharePoint portal. You also select the site group the users will belong to.

      • Send email to all members - Brings up the Outlook email editor and adds all members to the "To" list. This way you can send to all members of this portal an email.

    • Tasks - Shows the list of tasks from the first tasks list on the portal. So if you have multiple tasks lists it will ignore all the others. Moving the mouse over a task shows a drop down box which opens up a popup menu. You can edit or delete the task or set up an email alert. This opens the alert page of SharePoint in a new browser so you can subscribe to alerts around this task. At the bottom of the list you see two links:

      • Add new task - Allows to add a new task. Brings up a dialog box to enter the task title, status, priority, due date, description and task owner.

      • Alert me about tasks - Allows to subscribe to alerts for the tasks list. Brings up again the alert page of SharePoint in a new browser.

    • Documents - Shows a list of all files in the document or picture library the currently open document belongs to. Moving the mouse cursor over a file shows a drop down box which opens up a popup menu. You can open or delete the file or you can set up an email alert. This opens the alert page of SharePoint in a new browser so you can subscribe to alerts around this file. At the bottom of the list you see three links:

      • Add a new document - Allows to add an existing document from your local or network drive to the document or picture library.

      • Add new folder - Allows to add a new folder to the currently selected document or picture library.

      • Alert me about documents - Allows to subscribe to alerts for the currently selected folder. Brings up again the alert page of SharePoint in a new browser.

    • Links - Shows the list of links from the "Links" web part you can place on the portal page. This is grayed out if you have no Links web part on the portal. Moving the mouse over a link shows a drop down box which opens up a popup menu. You can edit or delete the link or set up an email alert. This opens the alert page of SharePoint in a new browser so you can subscribe to alerts around this link. At the bottom of the list you see two links:

      • Add new link - Allows to add a new link. Brings up a dialog box to enter the URL, name and description of the link.

      • Alert me about links - Allows to subscribe to alerts for the Links web part. Brings up again the alert page of SharePoint in a new browser.

    • Document Information - Shows information about the currently open document. It shows the member who created and last modified the document and when the document was last modified. At the bottom of the list you see four links:

      • Restrict permission - Brings up the restriction dialog from Office 2003.

      • Alert me about this document - Brings up again the alert page of SharePoint in a new browser window.

      • "Check out" or "check in" - Allows to check out or check in the file depending on its current state.

      • Version history - Shows a version history of the currently selected document. Requires that you have versioning enabled in the document or picture library properties (otherwise you will always just see the current version). You can open up a previous version, you can delete a previous version or you can restore a previous version. Restoring means this version becomes the current version of this document.

After opening a document from a document or picture library you can find a new menu item called "Check out" under the File menu. This allows you to check out the file. If the file is checked out then the menu item changes to "Check in" which allows to check in the document. Saving a document which has not been checked out performs a check out, saves the file and then performs a check in. Closing a file which you checked out but did not check in again brings up a new dialog. From there you can check in the file, keep the file checked out or discard the changes and undo the check out.

Browse as web folder - You can also browse a portal as web folder. Open a browser, select "File | Open", enter the URL of the portal and select the check box "Open as Web Folder". This opens up the portal in a web folder view and shows you all files like you are used to from the windows explorer. You also see all the document and picture libraries (as folders) and when opening you see all the files in those libraries. Previous versions of SharePoint offered when right clicking on a file a check-out and check-in right from the web folder view. These options have unfortunately been removed. But you still can open, delete or rename files and create new folders.

Emailing documents and files - When you add a document or file as attachment to your email editor then you see beside the "attach" text box an "Attachment Options" icon. This brings up the "Attachment Options" pane on the right side of your email editor. You can send the attachment as "Regular Attachments" which means nothing else then the file gets attached to the email and send with the email. This provides no central management and versioning of the file. The other option is to send it as "Shared attachments". Under the drop down box "Create Document Workspace at" you can select from a list of already used portals or enter the URL to any other portal to use. Outlook will create a new "Document Workspace" at this portal, add a "Shared Documents" document library, add the "Shared Documents" web part to the "Document Workspace" portal page and add the attached files to the "Shared Documents" document library. The name of the new document workspace is the name of the first attached file. The sender becomes the administrator of this document workspace and is also send an email about the successful or failed creation of the new document workspace. The creation fails if there is already a document workspace with such a name or if any of the recipients is not a member of the selected portal. The recipients of the email still get the file attached to the email but also in the email a short description and a link to the document workspace. Recipients are made Contributors of the document workspace and can then make changes to the document through the document workspace itself.

Research integration - All Office applications and Internet Explorer bring up a research assistant when pressing ALT and clicking on a word or a selection of words. This searches against a list of search sites and returns their results in the research pane. This allows to search for the meaning of a word, a list of alternative words to use, etc. You can add SPS portals to the list of sites to search. This makes it very easy for Office users to search your enterprise portal for references of words, phrases, etc. To add your SPS portal click on the link "Research options" at the bottom of the research pane. In the "Research Options" dialog click the button "Add Services". Next enter the SPS portal URL followed by "/_vti_bin/search.asmx", for example "
http://Enterprise-Minds/_vti_bin/search.asmx". Click on the add button which will show the "SharePoint Portal Server Search Service Setup" dialog with your portal listed in it. Click on the Install button and click ok on the confirmation dialog. When done scroll down in the list of available search sites and under the section "Intranet Sites and Portals" you see now your SPS portal added and selected. This means future searches will include the SPS portal. Close the "Research Options" dialog with Ok.

There are many more integration points between SharePoint and Office 2003 but the once mentioned above are some of the most important ones. To find out more about these integrations consult your Office 2003 help and search for SharePoint.

SharePoint Portal Server 2003

The new concept of areas and how areas work

SPS portals work slightly different by introducing the concept of areas. Areas are sections on your portal where you can group and place content. SPS portals have also a top menu bar which lists all the top areas and a left side navigation bar with navigational links for the currently selected area. The top area is always Home, like the home page of the portal, and is the area shown when accessing the portal. Out-of-the-box underneath Home you have three child areas - Topics, News and Sites. The top menu bar always shows from left to right Home and its immediate child areas, which is out-of-the-box Topics, News and Sites. The action "Manage Portal Site" appears under each area (in the left side navigation bar) and is used to manage the portal areas. It shows a tree view of all areas and with the plus or minus icon you can expand or collapse each node.

You see for example that out-of-the-box the Topics area has five child areas - Divisions, Resources, Strategy, Projects and Locations. Each area, except the Home area, shows at the top of the left side navigation bar the current location, which is the tree of parent areas to the currently selected area, the currently selected area and all its immediate child areas. For example, selecting the News area shows Home, which is the only parent of the News area, then News, selected as it is the currently selected area, followed by Company News, Press Announcements and External News, which are all child areas of the News area.

How to create new areas and manage the existing areas?

The "Manage Portal Site" action allows you to create new areas and edit or delete existing ones. Moving the mouse cursor over a listed area shows a drop down box which brings up a pop-up menu. You can perform the following actions:

  • Delete - Deletes an area and all its child areas. The Home area can not be deleted.

  • Create Subarea - Creates a new child area to the currently selected area. This brings up the "Create Area" page where you enter the title and description of the new area. You can also enter a start and expiration date so the area only appears within that date range. This applies only when browsing through the areas and not when performing searches. Finally you can change the location, which is the tree of parent areas and is pre-set to the area where you selected the action "Create Subarea".

  • Filter - Makes the selected area the top most node in the tree view. This filters the tree view to only show this area and all its child areas. Select the icon "Reset" in the tool bar to show again all areas.

  • Manage Security - Shows the default access rights, site groups have to the selected area based on the overall portal access rights. It also allows to overwrite the default access rights. You can select a site group and change the access rights, for example give the Reader site group "View, Insert, Edit and Delete listings" rights for the selected area. Or you can add individual users and set the rights for an individual user for the selected area. This allows also to remove existing access rights, for example remove the Reader site group which means Readers have no access to this area.

  • Edit - Allows to edit the properties of an existing area. This brings up the "Change Settings" page which has five tabs:

    • General - You can change the title and description, enter the information of the area contact and select the Location. The Location shows the tree of parents and can be changed through the "Change location" link. This brings up again the tree view of all existing areas and you select the new parent. It also shows the date/time of creation and last modification of the area.

    • Publishing - The start and expiration date for the area, blank meaning it is always shown. The Listing Approval section allows to set if new listings require approval by the area owner and if to automatically approve any listings added by the area owner.

    • Page - The template to use for the area and the template to use for any new subarea created under this area. Templates define how the page looks like, which actions are available and also which web parts are placed on a page.

    • Display - Through the "exclude from portal site navigation" checkbox you can hide the area from users. You can also associate images when a link is shown (icon URL) to the area or when the area itself is shown (image URL).

    • Search - Through the "include in search results" radio button you can include or exclude the area in search results. Through the "include in Topic Assistant" you can include or exclude the area when content is automatically categorized by the SharePoint Topic Assistant (see more below).

  • Add to My Links - Adds a link of the selected area to your "My Site" portal, which is your personal portal. Users can access their "My Site" portal through the "My Site" link in the upper right corner of the SPS portal. Readers to not have any "My Site" portal capabilities. The "My Site" portal shows in the upper right corner a "My Links Summary" web part which lists all your links. You can add new links and edit or remove existing links.

Which actions are provided by areas?

Each area shows only actions the user has permissions to, for example a Reader does not see the "Manage Portal Site" action. Not all actions are available on all areas. Here is a list of the most common actions:

  • Change Settings - Brings up the "Change Settings" page for the current area (same as selecting the "Edit" popup menu item on a selected area within the "Manage Portal Site" action).

  • Create Subarea - Brings up the "Create area" page to create a new child area (same as selecting the "Create Subarea" popup menu item on a selected area within the "Manage Portal Site" action).

  • Edit Page - Shows the "Modify Shared Page" link in the upper right corner of the page. This allows to modify the page by adding, changing or removing web parts and works exactly the same as for WSS portals. The action "Edit Page" changes to "View Page" which when selected removes again the "Modify Shared Page" link and allows only to view the page. Areas do not allow user to have a personalized view. So when you select "Personal View" you see only the two menu items "Personal View" and "SharedView". All other menu items to design the page, add new web parts or modify the properties of existing web parts are not visible on the personal view. You can only switch back to the shared view through the "SharedView" menu item.

  • Manage Users - This action is only shown on the Home area and allows to manage the users and their access rights to this portal. This shows the same page as the "Manage Users" links under the "Site Settings".

  • Manage Security - Allows to manage the access rights of site groups and users to the selected area (same as selecting the "Manage Security" popup menu item on a selected area within the "Manage Portal Site" action).

  • Add to My Links - This action is shown on all areas except the Home area. Allows to add a link to this area to your "My Site" portal (same as selecting the "Add to My Links" popup menu item on a selected area within the "Manage Portal Site" action).

  • Manage Content - Shows the "Documents and Lists" page for the selected area. This works the same as with WSS portals with the exception that each area has its own documents and lists. You can create new documents and lists, open up existing documents and lists and change its settings, remove it or add new data, for example new events if it is a event list. See section "Basics of using and customizing WSS" of this article. Each area has also a "Portal Listings" added by default which you can not remove (see more below)

Portal Listings

SPS portals add a new concept called Portal Listings. A portal listing can be a URL to a web page or some rich text to show. The special list "Portal Listings" is added to each area by default (under "Documents and Lists" which can be accessed through the "Manage Content" action). Only one "Portal Listings" instance can exist per area and you can not remove it. Unlike other lists like Events, Contacts, Links, Tasks, etc. you can target portal listings to audiences.

How to target content through audiences and how to manage audiences?

Out-of-the-box SPS comes only with one audience, called "All portal users". As the name indicates every user belongs to this audience and therewith the content is shown to all users. You can add new audiences through the "Site Settings" and the link "Manage Audiences" under the section "User Profile, Audiences and Personal Sites". This brings up the "Manage Audiences" page. Select the link "Create audience" to create a new audience. First you enter the name of the audience, a brief description and select if all or any (meaning one out of all rules) of the rules need to be satisfied in order for the user to belong to this audience. Next you add a rule to this audience, which can be based on the windows user name/group or a user property. Select the radio button "User" if you want to check the user name or user group. As Operator select "Member of" to check if the user belongs to a certain windows group or "Reports Under" to check for a user with a certain name. As Value enter the full windows group or windows user name ("domain name\user or group name" or "machine name\user or group name"). Select the radio button "Property" if you want to check for a user property. Select from the drop down box the name of the property, for example Department. Select one of the four operators - equals, contains, not equal or not contains. As Value enter the property value to check for. Next it brings up the "View Audience Properties" page where you can edit the audience, add new rules and view membership. From the "Manage Audiences" page you can also select "View Audiences" to get a list of all defined audiences. You can add new audiences and edit or delete existing audiences. The "All portal users" audience can not be edited or deleted. In order for any changes to take effect you need to run a compilation. On the "Manage Audiences" page select the item "Start compilation" to compile immediately or "Specify compilation schedule" to schedule a regular compilation. Finding out which user belongs to which audience can be time consuming. That is why a compilation is necessary. It walks through all rules and stores for each user to which audience it belongs.

The user profile and how to manage user profiles

The user property works only for users which have a user profile. A user profile exists for users which have entered the "My Site" portal at least one time. Entering the "My Site" portal the first time creates the personal portal structure and creates a user profile. On the "My Site" portal you see a link "Edit Profile" in the left side navigation bar, which allows you to edit your profile information. Administrators can manage user profiles through the "Site Settings". Under the section "User Profile, Audiences and Personal Sites" select the link "Manage Profile database" which brings up the "Manage Profile Database" page. The link "Add user profile" allows to create a user profile. On the "Add User Profile" page select or enter the name of the windows user and enter the profile information like first name, last name, department, etc. Back to the "Manage Profile Database" select the link "View user profiles" to view all existing user profiles. You can add new user profiles and edit or delete existing user profiles.

How to create user profiles through the import?

You can automatically create user profiles through a scheduled import. Select the link "Configure profile import" on the "Manage Profile Database" page. Under the section Source select from where to import the user profiles. You can import from the current domain, the entire domain forest or a custom source. Under the section "Access Account" enter the windows account which has the necessary access rights to the data source. Next you can schedule a full import or if using Active Directory an incremental import. On the "Manage Profile Database" page you can also start a manual import through the "Start full profile import" link and view the log of the last import through the "View import log" link.

How to add new profile properties and manage the existing profile properties?

Under the section "User Profile Properties" you can add new profile properties ("Add profile property" link) or view the existing profile properties ("View profile properties" link). When editing a property you can specify its name, display name and data type, whether the property is visible to other users, whether the property can be edited by the user (under the "Edit Profile" link on the "My Site" portal), etc. Changes to the profile information do not automatically update the audience membership. A manual or scheduled audience compilation is necessary to update the audience membership.

How to add new Portal Listings and how to manage existing Portal Listings?

The Home area has in the upper right corner a "Links for You" web part which shows all portal listings added to the Home area. It also has an "Add Listing" action on the left side navigation bar. This brings the "Add Listing" page which allows to enter the title and description of the portal listing. Under the section "Content" you can select the radio button "Existing listing" and enter the URL to a web page or the radio button "Add a listing by entering text" which enables the "Open Text Editor" button. This button brings up a rich text editor where you can enter and format the text to show. The Group section allows to assign the portal listing to a group. The Image section allows to enter the URL to an image to associate with the portal listing. The Location section defines where this portal listing is visible. By default this selects the area this portal listing is created under. But through the "Change location" link you can make a portal listing visible also on other areas. The Audience section allows to select which user audiences will see the portal listing. It shows under the "available audiences" list all defined audiences and by default adds the "All portal users" to the "selected audiences" list. Through the action "Manage Content" you can bring up the "Documents and Lists" page which shows also the "Portal Listings" list. Selecting it brings up the list which allows then to add new portal listings and edit or delete existing ones. Area owner can also approve or reject portal listings if approval is required (defined through the "Change Settings" action and the Publishing tab).
Topics area and Topics Assistant

What are Topics and the basics of working with Topics

The Topics area is used to categorize content and allow users to browse and find information by topic. The Topics page itself has a "Browse Topics By" web part which shows all the child areas (out-of-the-box Divisions, Resources, Strategy, Projects and Locations) as well as their children (out-of-the-box Sales, Support, Operations, Human Resources and Marketing under Divisions; all other have no children's). You can create new child areas or browse existing child areas. All child areas have a "Grouped Listings" web part on it which shows a list of all portal listings grouped by the three out-of-the-box groups General, Highlight and Expert. You find also an "Add Listing" action on the left side navigation bar which allows to add a new portal listing (same as described on the Home area). The "Add Person" action on the left side navigation bar allows to add a person to the portal listing. This shows the "Add Person" page which is the same as the "Add List" page with the exception that the Title is named Name (where you enter the name of an existing user) and the Content section is not present (so you don't enter a web page URL or text to show).

What is the Topic Assistant and how to train it?

SPS comes also with a "Topic Assistant" which can categorize content automatically into the Topics child areas. First you need to train the Topic Assistant. Go to "Site Settings" and select "Use Topic Assistant" under the section "Portal Site Content" which brings up the "Use Topic Assistant" page. Select the check box "Enable Topic Assistant", which tells SPS to assign areas when indexing content. Under the section Precision select the desired precision, which by default is Average. The precision allows you to influence the quality of the automatic categorization. A higher precision means less content will be categorized under an area but the content categorized has a higher relevance to the area. Next you click on the link "Train Now" under the section "Training Status". This enables the training mode for the Topic Assistant. Now go and categorize about ten web pages to each area through "Add Listing". Based on the words and properties in these portal listings the Topic Assistant starts learning which content should be categorized to which area. Take for example a category called Learning and you add portal listings which have URLs to web pages with many words like training, learning, understanding, etc. The Topic Assistant will look for such words in content it is indexing and will automatically link it up to the Learning category. While in training mode the Topic Assistant builds a list of words and properties to associate with each area and uses that list then when indexing content.

Managing Portal Sites

The Sites area of SPS allows to create new portal sites and categories them by Division and Region so users can easily find and browse them. You can select from two different Views on the left side navigation bar. The Summary view shows the list of Divisions and Regions. Selecting a Division or Region brings up the "All Items" view with only the sites within that division or region. You can also click on the "All items" view on the left side navigation bar which then shows all the sites available. The Summary view shows also the list "Newest Sites" which shows the latest sites created, the list "Sites I Have Added" which shows the sites you have created and the list "Spotlight Sites" which shows any site you spotlighted during the site creation. Here are some of the actions available on the Sites area:

  • Edit Page - Does not show the "Modify Shared Page" link which means you can not modify this page at all.

  • Customize List - Does the same as the "Modify settings and columns" link on WSS lists (see section "Basics of using and customizing WSS" of this article). It allows adding new columns, creating new views, changing general list settings, etc. You can also add, edit or remove Divisions or Regions. Under the section Columns click on the column Division or Region. Under the section "Optional Settings for Column" you find a list of available choices. This list is also used to build the list of Divisions and Regions on the Sites area page itself.

  • Create Site - Used to create new portal sites. On the "New SharePoint Site" page enter the title and description of the new site, the email address of the site owner and the site URL name (is relative to the SPS portal URL itself, e.g. "http://Enterprise-Minds/sites/Engineering"). This creates a new WSS portal site and brings up the "Add Link to Site" page. It checks the "List this site in the site directory" check box to show this site link to users when browsing for sites. It already prefilled the title, URL and description from the "New SharePoint Site" page. Select the Division and Region under which this new site should show up. Select the "Spotlight Site" check box if you want to spotlight this site. Check the "Include in search results" check box if the new portal site should be included in search results. Through the "Areas" section you can link this new site also up to other areas in the site. No area is selected by default. Click on the "Change Location" link and select one or more areas. When done this launches into the portal site and brings up the "Template Selection" page (see section "Basics of using and customizing WSS" of this article). Through the link "Up to Enterprise-Minds" (depends what SPS portal name you chose during creation) in the upper right corner you can get back to the SPS portal.

  • Add Link to Site - Brings up directly the "Add Link to Site" page so you can link up any existing portal site.

  • Manage Content - Brings up the "Documents and Lists" page which shows the list called Sites. This list is used to maintain the list of all sites to show.Selecting it brings up the "All Items" view.

  • Manage Sites - Brings up the "Edit View" which allows to view (shows the site properties), edit (allows to edit the site properties) and delete sites. This view is also used by the area owner to approve or reject new sites if approval is required (defined through the "Change Settings" action and the Publishing tab).

Managing Portal News

The News area builds on top of the "Portal Listings" list. The "Add News" action brings up the "Add News" page which is identical to the "Add Listing" page with the addition of a Dates section. The Dates section allows to enter the start and expiration date so the news item does not appear before a certain date and automatically expires after a certain date. The news item always appears in search results regardless of the start and expiration date. The News area and all its child areas have a News web part which shows all the news items for its appropriate area. The News area itself has a "News Areas" web part which shows out-of-the-box from any child area the three latest news items (can be set in the web part properties). The Home area has also the News web part with the Location pointing to the News area so it shows all the news items of the News area also on the home page. You could for example add a second News web part to the Home area and change its location to "News\Press Announcements" to also show all press announcements on the Home area. The Location can be changed in the web part properties through the Change Location link at the top of the properties pane. The location is set to None if no area has been selected, which means it takes the data from the area the web part is placed on. Web parts can also be targeted to audiences. Open the web part properties and on the properties pane at the bottom of the Advanced section you find under "Target Audiences" a "Select" button. This brings up a dialog to choose for which audiences this web part should be shown.
This article does not provide a complete explanation of all administration, usage and customization features of WSS and SPS. There are many more, but the ones explained in this article provide a comprehensive overview of WSS and SPS. Please refer to the documentation for all other features or send me an email with your questions to
Additional SharePoint resources

Overview of Office 2000, XP and 2003 integrations with SharePoint
Microsoft Windows SharePoint Help
SharePoint Portal Server 2003 Help
SharePoint Portal Server 2003 Training Kit


WSS portals are easy to create, simple to manage, straightforward to customize and very easy to use for users. WSS portals provide a vide variety of documents and lists as well as web parts to add to portals. It is an ideal choice to create portals for ongoing and new projects and virtual teams. The powerful integrations with Office 2003 make it easy to integrate and use WSS portals within the applications most users use every day. Knowing the URL to your portal is all you need to be able to open and save documents to document libraries part of your WSS or SPS portal. Being able to integrate your SPS portal into the research assistant of Office provides easy access to the wealth of information in your portal right from the application user's use most frequently. SPS portals provide powerful content targeting capabilities through audiences. SPS makes it also easy to create and categorize new portals so it becomes easy for users to browse and search for portals. This is very important when you manage a large number of portals in your organization. Areas of SPS are a powerful way to create different sections on your enterprise portal, have different owners and content approvers and to categorize the content in your enterprise into different topics.

WSS and SPS are a big step forward compared to their predecessors. Its ease of use, powerful management and customization capabilities provide you with tools to solve your immediate collaboration, document management and knowledge management needs. The most convincing part for users is that there is one single starting point for their project or team needs, a portal dedicated to the project or team. Please read the third article which explains how to develop web parts and load them onto portal pages. If you have comments on this article, please contact me at klaus_salchner@hotmail.com. I want to hear if you learned something new. Contact me if you have questions about this topic or article.

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