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Andrej Kyselica advises Microsoft's enterprise healthcare customers on technology strategy and architecture.

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Before joining Microsoft, Andrej worked in consulting for 9 years as a practice director and CTO focusing on. NET and portal solutions. Outside of work, Andrej enjoys cycling, running, and spending time outdoors with his wife and five children. Steve Caravajal is a principal architect with the Microsoft Corporation. He has been architecting, deploying, and customizing SharePoint solutions since v1.

Steve has over 25 years' experience in technology and product development. The definition of a BDC entity contains identifiers, properties, and methods. The methods define how the BDC interacts with entry points exposed by the back-end system. For a back-end system accessible through web services, methods define the names of the web service operations and the parameters required to call them.

Entities can also define actions. A BDC action is used to dynamically parse together the URL behind a hyperlink that enables a user to navigate from a page in an Office SharePoint Server portal site to another location. For example, an action defined on a BDC customer entity could be written to redirect users to a web page in an SAP application that supports updates to customer information. Actions were designed to support scenarios in which the BDC is used to display read-only data and to bootstrap the user into another application when updating or some other type of external operation is required.

The overview for this architecture is shown in Figure You can accomplish this import process using the SSP administrative web pages. Once you have imported the required metadata to create a BDC application, there are several outof-the-box techniques for leveraging and displaying its data within a portal site. You can also add new columns to lists and document libraries based on an entity defined in a BDC application.

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A user editing a column based on a BDC entity is automatically presented with a user interface, making it possible to query the back-end system. This becomes a powerful feature because it enables users to discover data from back-end systems about things such as customers and invoices when running standard search queries through both Office SharePoint Server portal sites and standard Windows SharePoint Services 3. The BDC provides convenient features to map data from a BDC entity to properties in a user profile and to synchronize this data at periodic intervals.

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For example, if your company has an SAP system that contains employee data you would like to include in user profiles, such as phone numbers or social security numbers, you can configure this type of data importing without writing any custom code. This makes it possible to write custom Web Parts as well as other server-side components and services that run their own BDC queries. More details about the BDC architecture and the implementation of business data services in SharePoint is provided in Chapter 2. The main value of the Business Data Catalog is that it enables a developer to integrate existing business data through the SharePoint Search infrastructure and then use a single set of APIs to query the search engine and render results within an application.

Document and Content Management Developers familiar with previous SharePoint versions have offered the criticism that some key features supported with document libraries do not extend to lists. Features such as version control extended to document libraries, but lists did not have the same level of support. Additionally, some new features in Windows SharePoint Services 3.

Improved Performance with Large Lists and Document Libraries Performance with large lists and document libraries has also been another concern with previous SharePoint versions. For example, lists often started showing degraded performance when the number of items exceeded several thousand. Document libraries have had similar performance concerns in the past, causing implementers and developers to focus on creative workarounds. Since the rule of thumb for not exceeding a few thousand documents applied to each folder within a document library, as opposed to the document library itself, schemes to partition documents across multiple folders within a document library became a popular workaround in Windows SharePoint Services 2.

From a list settings page or a document library settings page, you can add an index to any column.

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Doing this does not actually create a physical index in SQL Server. Instead, it creates a table with the integer ID of the list item or document and the value of the indexed column. Windows SharePoint Services then uses this table to improve the performance of data returned from views, especially a view with a filter based on the indexed column. Extensible Field Types Many developers have expressed a desire to work with Windows SharePoint Services fields at a lower level to obtain more control over field rendering and validation, features that are important when building business applications on top of the SharePoint infrastructure.

As a result, the product has been enhanced with the addition of extensible field types in Windows SharePoint Services 3. You can create an extensible field type by writing a class in C or Visual Basic.

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An extensible field type can also utilize an ASP. NET user control that contains your favorite web controls. This enables you to use the same techniques for control initialization and validation that you have used in ASP. NET applications. A site column is a reusable definition that can be used across multiple lists. A site column defines the name for a column, its underlying field type, and other characteristics such as its default value, formatting, and validation.

Once you have defined a site column, you can then use it as you define the structure of your user-defined lists. An obvious advantage is that you can update the site column in a single place and have that update affect all the lists where the site column has been used. A site column is defined within the scope of a single site, yet it is visible to all child sites below the site in which it has been defined.

Therefore, you can create a site column that is usable across an entire site collection by defining it in the top-level site. One convenient technique made available with the introduction of site columns is the ability to perform field lookups across sites.

For example, you can create a site column in a top-level site that performs a 13 c Then you can create other lists within child sites that use this site column to perform lookups on the list in the top-level site. In Windows SharePoint Services 2. Content Types Imagine you want to store several different types of documents in the same document library — for example, if you needed to store presentations, sales proposals, and customer activity reports, and each of these document types had its own unique set of custom columns and its own unique event handlers.

In addition, a Windows SharePoint Services 2. A content type is a flexible and reusable Windows SharePoint Services type that defines the shape and behavior for an item in a list or a document in a document library. For example, you can create a content type for a presentation document with a unique set of columns, an event handler, and its own document template.

You can create a second content type for a sales proposal document with a different set of columns, a workflow, and a different document template. Then you can create a new document library and configure it to support both of these content types.

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  • The introduction of content types is significant to Windows SharePoint Services 3. While there is a connector that provides a degree of integration between CMS and SharePoint Portal Server , these two products are built on very different architectures. This has resulted in frustration because you cannot build a site that fully benefits from both the CMS Web Content Management features and the SharePoint Portal Server portal features.

    To address this problem of a lack of integration in these key products, the Microsoft product teams supporting SharePoint and CMS ultimately merged the functionality of the products and built the new Web Content Management infrastructure on top of Office SharePoint Server Now you can mix Web Content Management features with the portal features in an Office SharePoint Server portal site to provide a richer web experience as a web site developer, with much more functionality available through out-of-the-box templates than in previous versions.

    This approach lends itself to building custom solutions that extend the basic Web Content Management infrastructure using standard Windows SharePoint Services components 14 c NET master page to customize the basic look and feel of the entire web site, just as you would in a standard Windows SharePoint Services 3. A page layout provides a structured approach to collecting content from content authors and displaying it on a page within a portal site, as shown in Figure Page layouts are designed to make it fairly straightforward to add and modify content from within the browser.

    Microsoft Office SharePoint Server provides a toolbar within the browser to give content authors and approvers a convenient way to move content pages through the editing and approval processes. Each page layout is based on a Windows SharePoint Services 3. By layering page layouts on top of content types, Office SharePoint Server makes it possible to add custom fields for storing different types of structured content such as HTML, links, and images.

    Once a custom field is defined inside the content type associated with a page layout, it can be data-bound to the associated. Figure 15 c Combining these page layout and content delivery features with the workflow-driven approval see Figure , the ability to automatically convert Office document formats into web-based content, multilingual and site synchronization support, and the ability to leverage Web Parts makes the Web Content Management features of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server compelling for many web site development efforts, both internal to organizations for example, corporate portal and for Internet-facing web sites.

    Additional information about the SharePoint Web Content Management features and integration with the Office client applications is provided in Chapters 9 and Figure Workflow Services Workflow applications are some of the most challenging for developers, who often need to work across systems and provide business users with functionality without a lot of constant application and code maintenance.

    The Microsoft workflow capabilities, named the Windows Workflow Foundation WF , add a complete infrastructure for building workflow-enabled applications. The WF infrastructure includes a workflow engine, pluggable components to persist workflow state, and a Visual Studio designer that makes it easy to create custom workflows by dragging components known as activities onto a workflow design surface. NET 3. This provides the basis for a significant amount of functionality for workflow between Office applications and SharePoint. Both Windows SharePoint Services 3. Office SharePoint Server supplies workflows that are more complex and are used to support features such as its Web Content Management approval process.

    The creation of custom workflows represents an obvious extensibility feature for developers creating business solutions with Windows SharePoint Services 3.

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    Office SharePoint Designer also provides support for creating custom workflows in SharePoint sites. This support is designed more for power users than developers because it provides a wizard to attach ad hoc business logic to list items and documents in a production Windows SharePoint Services 3. For more in-depth coverage of workflow in SharePoint, see Chapter 8. Integration with Office One of the major advantages of SharePoint and Office is the integration of the Office client tools with the back-end SharePoint services.

    Going forward, developers have the opportunity to build applications both in SharePoint and in Office that seamlessly work across environments. For example, you can build a custom workflow that is hosted in SharePoint and surfaced through Office documents to enable users to use their browser or just work within the Office client application to move the process along to the next step. Document Formats In past versions of Microsoft Office Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, Microsoft has relied on a default file structure that is based on binary files written in a proprietary format.

    These formats have been very hard to read and modify unless you go through the object model of the hosting Office application such as Word or Excel. As a result, companies have tried to run Office desktop applications on the server, which poses serious problems with scalability and robustness.

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    In many cases, these applications simply do not work due to concurrency issues. Office and Office added some limited capabilities for creating Excel spreadsheets and Word documents using XML.

    The Open XML Formats is a new file standard for creating composite documents containing multiple inner XML files that factor out content from other aspects of the document, such as formatting instructions, data, and code. The internal files contained within a package are known as parts. Other parts within a package can consist of binary files for items such as graphics, audio clips, and videos. Consider a scenario in an Office SharePoint Server portal site when you have created and configured an event handler, triggered whenever someone uploads a new Word document.

    The new Open XML Formats make it significantly easier to extract data or to perform hygiene such as removing comments and personal information from the document. Packaging namespace in. This is the API to use when opening and creating packages. By leveraging these open formats, you can more effectively build applications to integrate Office content into your business processes. For more detail on the Open XML Formats and how to apply them when building your applications to bind to data formats and extend the user interface in Office applications, see Chapters 4 and 5.

    Figure 18 c The InfoPath forms designer provides a high level of productivity because it significantly reduces or eliminates the need to write custom code when developing forms, but can be extended to connect with web services or databases fairly easily. A forms library is a hybrid Windows SharePoint Services document library that uses an InfoPath form template as its underlying document template and acts as a repository for XML documents containing form data entered by users.