I've posted a short piece about the SharePoint European conference on the SUGUK blog, reproduced here
SharePoint European Conference
This is the first SharePoint specific conference I’ve been to and I was impressed by the amount of interest shown by the European’s, with over 2000 attendees from 50 countries and with the UK providing around 160 delegates it was very busy, it seems that even MS was taken by surprise at the amount of interest.
The organisation was of a high standard as you’d expect from a conference hotel, lots of staff and lots of food the only omission as Eric Shupps has already mentioned being the lack of free WIFI access and the really slow speed of the paid for one, they were plainly not geared up for a WIFI swarm drain of techies popping open their laptops and trying to surf the web.
Most of the sessions were of a high standard with speakers either from Microsoft or their partners, the only real dud I attended was the business intelligence one which fell completely flat, poor content and speakers meant I ended up walking out something which I never normally do.
Kudo’s to Steve Heaney of Nintex who did 30 minutes of workflow coding in Visual Studio 205 and had it compile and run without errors, I think he was more surprised at this than anyone.
Here’s my take on a couple of sessions that opened my eyes to new features of the Office 2007 suite.
This session by Peter Koen described the OpenXML format of the new Office 2007 programs Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It showed how easy it is to modify existing document using the Packaging API in .Net 3.0 and pointed out how powerful this could be in conjunction with List Events and Workflow. The power of this API is that you do not need to automate any of the Office programs you just deal with the file itself, this is very important in server side code as most SharePoint code tends to be.
A couple of examples, lets say you have a Document library called Draft and one called Confidential, what you would like is for all documents that are placed into these document libraries to have a watermark applied that says either DRAFT or CONFIDENTIAL applied to them. With list events and some fairly simple code this should be pretty easy to do.
Or lets say you have 100’s of documents in various document libraries that you send out to clients on a regular basis and each one has your logo in it along with your company name and details in the footer of each one, lets say you undergo a re-branding exercise or an office move, you are now faced with opening each one of those documents and changing the logo and footer by hand or perhaps automating Word with VBA. With the OpenXML format you can crack open the Docx file and with a few lines of code manipulate the parts of the document you need to, it would also be an order of magnitude faster than calling Word.
The one current hassle is you have to deal with the Word XML directly, there is no API available that maps say a Word object model onto the XML needed but apparently that is on the development timeline.
This was a really good session by Mark Ryan of Microsoft, clearly someone who has been there and got the T-shirt.
Groove is a program I’ve ignored up to now but this session makes clear its not something that can be ignored for much longer, it just too useful a program.
Groove supports offline distributed and replicating workspaces containing lists, discussions, files and custom data form. It basically allows you to do offline collaboration in the same way as SharePoint allows online collaboration.
The integration with SharePoint is limited at the moment as it currently only supports offline documents from document libraries with no support for lists, but if the Groove team gives the SharePoint team some ‘love’ this should improve in the next version.
As Groove is new to the Office stable it does not have the .Net/Visual Studio integration that it possibly should have and although you can embed InfoPath forms to create data entry forms Mark recommends to stick with Groove forms for now.
One scenario mentioned was for offline workgroup collaboration on a design project involving images but perhaps the most interesting scenario is crisis management.
Picture this: you have a physical disaster at your main office, lets say a flood, all company VPN and mail communication through the head Office is down, with Groove you could have a nominated person who holds a predefined workspace containing the company contact list along with the disaster recovery plans and checklists, that user can quickly invite other needed parties into the workspace and as long as people have an internet connection they can stay informed and up to date on all activities as the company works through the steps to get back to normal. Even if you don’t use Groove on a day to day basis in a case like this it would be worth its weight in gold.
Definitely check Groove out, http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/groove/default.aspx
Looking forward to the next one, don’t know when it will be but one thing’s for sure they are going to need much bigger venue.