SharePoint 2010

SharePoint's primary reason for being is to serve as a place where things can be shared. This can include everything from documents to calendars to lists to pictures to discussion boards and more. All of it can be a part of a SharePoint site, and any user you designate within your organization's network -- and in some cases, even users outside of your network such as partners or vendors -- can then access those pieces and collaborate with you.

Microsoft has released several generations of SharePoint, but you only need to be concerned with SharePoint 2007, which has been around for roughly 3 years now, and SharePoint 2010, which was officially released in May 2010.

SharePoint 2010 has a defined list of content types that you can create on a given site. They include:

Page

This is exactly what it sounds like -- a page that is edited within the browser using the editor functionality in SharePoint. These pages primarily contain text, but you can embed images, links, lists and Web parts within them.

Document library

You can create a document library that lets you upload Word files and other files to share. These document libraries allow you to check files out to make sure that only one person edits them at any given time, to keep versions on file so that you can see the revision history and activity of a given document and to create folders to structure documents logically within the library.

Other kinds of libraries

These include picture libraries that store only image files and XML forms that your business can use to route information through Microsoft InfoPath, an application some companies use to process forms and route them for approval and filing. Another supported content type is a wiki; these allow for a quick way to edit text and have it remain on the Web. You can link that text to other Web pages as well -- a poor man's shareable text editor, you might say.

Site

Sites are basically collections of content, so you can create sites underneath your main SharePoint site (kind of like large folders on your file system) to collect related materials that deserve their own focus. Meetings, blogs, documents and teams might have their own sites. If the hierarchy is confusing, think of it like this: A site is a file drawer in a file cabinet, and the libraries, lists and other types of content are the individual folders within that file drawer.

List

Lists are collections of like items. You can choose from announcements, a calendar, a list of contacts, a custom list in both list form and an editable datasheet form, a discussion board, an issue tracking list, a list of links, a list of project tasks (with a Gantt-like chart), a survey, a task list or an imported Excel spreadsheet.

Content based on a template

There are many default templates in SharePoint that you can use to quickly create a featured content type, including meeting workspaces, issue tracking lists and more.

What's new in SharePoint 2010

Like much of the Microsoft Office family, SharePoint 2010 is based around the concept of the Ribbon, Microsoft's interface that displays all of the options, choices and operations you can perform on any given page. It differs a lot from SharePoint 2007, which didn't have the Ribbon, but many of the same options are there -- just in a different place.

Site Actions

This is where all of the action happens, literally. From here you can create new pages, document libraries and SharePoint-based sites; edit the pages you see; synchronize an offline copy of the site to the SharePoint Workspace application (assuming you have that feature as part of Office 2010); and access settings to customize the sites' accessibility and permissions. To change major aspects of sites within SharePoint or to create new items, you'll probably want to go to the Site Actions menu first.

Credentials area

This menu, accessed when you click on your display name in the top right corner of the Web page, is where you sign into or out of a site, and where you change any user-modifiable sections of the Web page.

Ribbon

Borrowing liberally from Office 2007 and Office 2010, SharePoint includes the Ribbon, a panel at the top of the window where almost all of the functions possible on a given page are grouped and displayed. Most SharePoint pages have the Browse tab turned on by default, which gives you a breadcrumb-style hierarchy. In other words, it helps you to navigate among pages on the site and see how you arrived at the current page. The Ribbon is also context-sensitive; it shows you different options depending on where you are within SharePoint. So if you're in a document library, the Library Tools Ribbon panel will appear; if you're in different types of lists, other tools will show up in the Ribbon.

Quick Launch

Running along the left side of your SharePoint Web page, this bar helps you jump among the various parts of your site, including to different lists, libraries, discussion areas, picture collections and the site Recycle Bin. (This works exactly like the Windows recycle bin except it holds items from the SharePoint site only.) Another option is to see a full tree-like view of all the places on your site.

Search

where you can type in any sort of search query, click the magnifying glass icon to the right and then take advantage of the indexing engine on the site to get comprehensive results from any file that includes your search term.