Microsoft SharePoint is a web application platform developed by Microsoft. Launched in 2001, SharePoint is designed as a centralized replacement for multiple web applications and supports various combinations of enterprise website requirements. It is typically associated with web content management and document management systems.
SharePoint's multi-purpose platform allows for managing and provisioning of intranet portals, extranets and websites, document management and file management, collaboration spaces, social networking tools, enterprise search, business intelligence tooling, process/information integration, and third-party developed solutions. SharePoint can also be used as a web application development platform.
SharePoint is capable of supporting multiple organizations on a single 'server farm'. Microsoft provides SharePoint Foundation at no cost but sells premium editions with additional functionality, and also provides SharePoint as a cloud computing solution as part of Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS) and Office 365. The product is also sold as a cloud solution by local third-party vendors. SharePoint provides various methods for customization and configuration of web areas, all of which have granular governance configurations. Beyond basic page-editing, file-storing and custom design ('branding') abilities, one of the more prevalent forms of configuration is the ability to install third-party customizations called 'web parts' (i.e. portlets/widgets/gadgets).
The most common uses of SharePoint include:
A SharePoint intranet portal is a way to centralize access to enterprise information and applications on a corporate network. It is a tool that helps a company manage its data, applications, and information more easily. This has organizational benefits such as increased employee engagement, centralizing process management, reducing new staff on-boarding costs, and providing tacit knowledge capture.
Enterprise content and document management
SharePoint is often used to store and track electronic documents or images of paper documents. It is usually also capable of keeping track of the different versions created by different users. In addition to being a platform for digital record management systems that meet government and industry compliance standards, SharePoint also provides the benefit of a central location for storing and working on documents, which can significantly reduce emails and duplicated work in an organization.
SharePoint can be used to provide password-protected, web-facing access to people outside an organization. Organizations often use functionality like this to integrate third parties into supply chains or business processes.
Using the 'Publishing' feature, SharePoint can be used to manage larger public websites.
Core platform functionality
SharePoint 2010 Enterprise - 'Create Site' screen
A SharePoint Site is a collection of pages, lists, and libraries configured for the purpose of achieving an express goal. A site may contain sub-sites, and those sites may contain further sub-sites. Typically, sites need to be created from scratch, but sites can also be created according to pre-defined templates that provide packaged functionality. Examples of Site templates in SharePoint include: Blogs, MySites, collaboration (team) sites, document workspaces, groupwork sites, and meeting workspaces.
Sites have navigation, themes/branding, custom permissions, workflows, and have the ability to be configured or customized in a number of ways. In order to achieve a greater degree of maintainability, sites typically inherit site-level settings from their parent sites.
Lists & libraries
Lists and libraries are stored in SharePoint Sites. A List can be thought of as a collection of pieces of information — all of which (typically) have the same properties. For instance, you can have a list of links called "my links", where each item has a URL, a name, and a description.
Lists have many features such as workflows, item-level or list-level permission, version history tracking, multiple content-types, external data sources, and many more features. Some of these features depend on the version of SharePoint that is installed.
A Library is a list where each item in the list refers to a file that is stored in SharePoint. Libraries have all the same behaviors as lists, but because libraries contain files, they have extra features. One of these is the ability to be opened and modified through a compatible WebDAV client (e.g. Windows Explorer).
Microsoft SharePoint comes with some pre-defined list and library definitions. These include: Announcement Lists, Blogs, Contacts, Discussion Boards, Document Libraries, External Content (BCS) lists, Pages, Surveys, and Tasks.
Some of these pre-defined lists have additional integration. For example, lists based on the contact content-type can be synced directly with Microsoft Outlook.
Web-parts are sections that can be inserted into Pages in SharePoint sites. These sections are UI Widgets whose typical uses are
- Displaying content defined in the web-part's settings (e.g. custom content or an iFrame)
- Displaying items from Lists/Libraries (this can be customized in SharePoint Designer, using XSLT & CAML)
- Providing Access to Features in the SharePoint platform (e.g. Search)
Web-parts based on completely custom code can be built in Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 and uploaded by end-users to SharePoint as packaged, sandboxed feature. Due to the prevalence of SharePoint, third-party vendors often provide SharePoint web-parts for intranet sites.
SharePoint Web-parts were formerly implemented separately from ASP.NET Web-parts, but as of SharePoint 2010, SharePoint's Web-parts are now based on it.
SharePoint has three primary page content-types: Wiki pages, Web-part pages, and Publishing Pages. Unlike prior versions of SharePoint, the default page type is a 'Wiki Page', which enables free-form editing based on the ribbon toolbar. It is possible to insert Web-parts into any page type.
SharePoint Foundation contains a limited search engine. Microsoft produces a free product called Microsoft Search Server Express to complement SharePoint Foundation. Different SharePoint search versions offer different features, but all search engines contain the ability to search within documents and - except in cloud environments: across external data sources (such as file systems).