In Depth

SharePoint 2010 cheat sheet

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How to find your way around SharePoint 2010 and make the most of its collaboration features.

SharePoint has taken the world by storm. As of last year, if Microsoft broke SharePoint's revenue out as a single entity, it would have created the fifth largest software company in existence, according to Jared Spataro, senior director of SharePoint product management at Microsoft.

All told, hundreds of thousands of SharePoint licenses and millions of installations of both the free and the paid enterprise edition exist in the world.

All of which means there's a good chance you use SharePoint -- even just a little bit -- if you have any sort of corporate job. But most users barely scratch the surface of what is possible in Microsoft's premier collaboration platform. Or perhaps your company has been using SharePoint 2007 and now you've got 2010 rolled out, and you're feeling lost.

There's nothing to worry about. With this cheat sheet, you'll learn all of the basics of navigating and using a SharePoint site, and where to go to find some of the most popular customization options as well.

And don't forget to take a look at our Microsoft Office 2010 cheat sheets too:

Word 2010, Excel 2010, Outlook 2010 and PowerPoint 2010.

Note: There are a couple of versions of SharePoint 2010. One is free of charge and is called SharePoint Foundation 2010; the other is a licensed, enterprise-ready product called Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. While they both look the same and have the same feel for users, SharePoint Server offers a few additional features, such as those for really advanced workflows, "my" sites where you can post status updates and blog entries, and a lot of administrative functions. In this piece, we'll focus on the very commonly used SharePoint Foundation 2010 version, which has 100% of what users need.

If you're just starting with SharePoint

(If you're a veteran SharePoint user and want to start with what's new in the 2010 version, you might want to go directly to the next section. Also check out our "5 tips for using SharePoint 2010" related story, with advice that's a bit more advanced than most of what you'll find here.)

Microsoft SharePoint wiki page
What a page looks like inside SharePoint. Click to view larger image.

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.

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

Microsoft SharePoint document library
What a document library looks like inside SharePoint. Click to view larger image.

A 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. (Web parts, or little bits of code, are sometimes installed on SharePoint pages to perform specific functions.)

A 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.

Microsoft SharePoint image repository
SharePoint can handle other, non-textual kinds of content, including photos. Click to view larger image.

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.

A site itself. 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. (See example.)

Microsoft SharePoint templates
Microsoft includes templates that can be used to create a featured content type, including meeting workspaces and issue-tracking lists. Click to view larger image.

A 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. (See example.)

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.

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