Understanding SharePoint's features
Video: Understanding SharePoint's featuresSo we know that SharePoint makes Web sites, and you might be brand-new to SharePoint, or you may have made your way around a few SharePoint sites already. In this section, I'm going to show you a couple of things to look at, what you should be paying attention to, to understand how SharePoint sites are put together and how to find your way around. To go to a SharePoint site is like going to any Web site. You need to know where it is. What's the address of the site? You can then type that into a browser, hit Enter, and go there.
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In SharePoint 2010 Getting Started, author Simon Allardice walks through the first few hours a new user will spend with SharePoint working with Web sites, communities, content, and search. This course covers creating and using SharePoint sites, lists and libraries, how SharePoint streamlines teamwork, Office integration, and solutions for workflows and business intelligence.
- Exploring the SharePoint product line
- Creating a Web site
- Understanding document and meeting workspaces
- Setting site permissions
- Working with Office 2010 and SharePoint
- Checking documents in and out
- Versioning documents
- Social networking in SharePoint
Understanding SharePoint's features
So we know that SharePoint makes Web sites, and you might be brand-new to SharePoint, or you may have made your way around a few SharePoint sites already. In this section, I'm going to show you a couple of things to look at, what you should be paying attention to, to understand how SharePoint sites are put together and how to find your way around. To go to a SharePoint site is like going to any Web site. You need to know where it is. What's the address of the site? You can then type that into a browser, hit Enter, and go there.
Now SharePoint will first check are you allowed to go there. If you're not, it may either give you an authentication dialog box where you have to tell SharePoint who you are, or you make it an access denied message. But to go to a SharePoint site you just need the URL. Now you might be wondering how important is the URL? Well, not really very important, other than just knowing where the site is. You're either going to type that address, or you're going to click a link that you might have been sent in an e-mail. The thing is is the address can seem important sometimes, because when you're using public Web sites like eBay.com and Amazon.com and lynda.com, you're used to a nice, short compact address.
Whereas in SharePoint you can have a much longer address, simply because one SharePoint Server with one name can support thousands of individual sites, so you'll often have to see a longer address with many slashes in it. So what am I looking at? Well, this is what's called a Blank Site in SharePoint, and you might be thinking, well, it doesn't really look all that blank to me. But this is about as blank as it gets. We have sections here for navigation. We have sections here for searching.
We have buttons we can click to say I like it and put tags and notes on. Because even when I tell SharePoint that I want a Blank Website, it's still going to generate a structure around it to say, hey, I'm going to give you a place your navigation. I'm going to give you a way to edit this site. That's all provided for you as part of SharePoint, and what would that typically look like? Well, if I go to another SharePoint site, and this one has a little bit of content in it, so we've got some navigation options], we can take a look at some of the typical things that we'll see.
First off, we have this section at the top here called the Ribbon. This is new in SharePoint 2010, and it's really making SharePoint more in line with the other Office applications. It can change and be full of graphical buttons, depending on what you're trying to do. If you ever accidentally click on the link where the Ribbon is popping up, and you didn't want it, the link that you need to look for to correct that is just Browse. Browse is the default state of a SharePoint page when you're just moving around from page to page to page.
Well, the question is what are we're looking at? Well, in one sense, you need to start approaching moving around in SharePoint sites like you'd approach moving around in any other Web site. To learn sites like Amazon and eBay, you just explore them. You start clicking links and seeing what happens, and that's certainly a good mentality to have SharePoint, because you will discover a lot that way. But some core places to look are here. On the left-hand side, we have a navigational section. This is often referred to in SharePoint as the Quick Launch Bar.
Now that sometimes makes it sound special like there's something about these links, and there isn't. The reason that it's called the Quick Launch Bar is just historical. In old versions of SharePoint it used to have a little graphic that said Quick Launch on it. But its just links, like any other links on any other Web site. Above the Quick Launch Bar you have another area that you may see one, two or multiple links, and this is called the Top Link Bar, and just as you can think of the Quick Launch Bar as being the navigation on the left, the Top Link Bar is, no surprise, the navigation on the top.
Now navigation in SharePoint is like navigation on any Web site. It's flexible. It can be changed. However, SharePoint will try and generate certain navigational elements in each of these areas. In the Quick Launch Bar, by default, the links that you see are taking you to different parts of this SharePoint site, whereas the Top Link Bar, and I only have really one link here apart from Home, is going to be a link to take me to a different SharePoint site.
So the Quick Launch Bar, content on this site. Top Link Bar, take me to another site. If I click that link to go to another Site, we have our own Quick Launch Bar here with our own content on this site. Now the navigation is flexible. It doesn't have to tell you everything that exists, and that's the same on any Web site if you think about it. But SharePoint will at least attempt to show you the most useful links in both of these places, and one of the most useful links you'll see on just about every SharePoint site is the link at the bottom of the Quick Launch Bar called All Site Content.
Clicking this is as if you're telling SharePoint, hey, tell me what this site is made of? What does that mean? Well, if you're coming from a conventional Web-design background, you think of Web sites as being created of a mass of Web pages, whether that's 20 Web pages or 2000 Web pages. That's not really the way that SharePoint thinks about it. SharePoint takes a different idea. It says, okay, you tell me what information you want to keep track of on this site? What kind of things do you want to know about? So, for example, I might say, well, SharePoint I need a place to keep track of calendar, a place to keep track of announcements, a way to store links, and to store tasks.
What SharePoint will do is build all the necessary Web pages around those pieces of information that I've told it I want to use. So what you're really seeing when you click the link to view all you're site content is you're seeing those building blocks, those components of this particular site. If I go to another site, such as this blank one and say, well, I want to view All Site Content here, It's going to give me a couple of things. I've got something called Customized Reports and something called a Style Library here.
We'll talk about Reports and Libraries a little later on. But there's really not much going on, on this site. We have no lists, no discussion boards, no surveys. We've got a Recycle Bin that's empty. I can see it's got a count of zero. The thing is this all SharePoint sites are built using this model. All SharePoint sites consist of a collection of lists and libraries, and what you see in this All Site Content page is telling you what the site is made of. Well, how can you change this? Well, when you're affecting your SharePoint sites, one of the most common menu options you'll see is this guy up at the top-left.
The Site Actions menu. Now depending on the permissions you have you may or may not see this on every site. SharePoint is only going to show you menu options if it makes sense. It won't give you the option to create a new site, if you don't have the permission to make a new site. In a lot of cases you won't even see the Site's Actions menu at all, but this is the key menu for affecting what the site is made of. Next to the Site Actions menu is a very useful button called the Navigate Up button.
Right now, when I click it it's telling me that this page is the All Site Content page inside a SharePoint site called Blank SharePoint Site, and I can click that link to go back up to the homepage of the Blank SharePoint Site. When you have more complex sites in SharePoint, that same button may give you several levels, multiple, whether that's 2, 3, or 12 levels of depth, but it's a great way of being able to navigate up and down through a complex hierarchy inside SharePoint.
Now if you're brand-new to SharePoint, you might be wondering how am I supposed to remember where all these options are, particularly if I've got lots of different SharePoint sites? Well, here is the great thing. Because all the SharePoint sites are built using this same framework, that if you become familiar with how to use one of them, you pretty much become familiar with how to use all the others as well. Sure, there can be differences, and as you get more advanced, you might find more differences. But the most common SharePoint sites behave very similar to each other, and if you can remember the combination of being able to use the Navigate Up button, of being able to view All Site Content, and using the Site Actions button when you have it, you'll be able to find your way around pretty much every SharePoint site.
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