This year’s SharePoint Conference concluded Thursday afternoon in Las Vegas. Somewhere around 10,000 attendees sat through more than 250 user sessions led by always-capable Microsoft personnel, partners, and vendors catering to the IT professionals and business leaders who populate the SharePoint universe. Thankfully fueled by an ocean’s worth of coffee, the 2012 SharePoint Conference offered too much for one person to take in, but the DEG team was everywhere and walked away with a firm grip on how what we do is going to change in the coming years:

 

Search is huge and getting bigger

Search features and capabilities in SharePoint 2013 have been vastly improved over their 2010 counterparts. FAST search, which had required separate licensing for use, has been wrapped into the out-of-the-box functionality of the new release. While that won’t please people who invested in it years ago, going forward it’s a big benefit. With the new implementations, here are just a few ways that search has been improved:

  • Query rules are one of the most powerful new features adding a no-code solution for “boosting” and tuning the search results. Multiple sessions highlighted this powerful new feature in detail. Bottom-line, you now have greater control on the exact order of the search results and can easily personalize results for your users.
  • Content by search web part: Using the content crawled on the environment this web part can dynamically display anything from list items to pages to documents, and filter that content according to defined query rules.
  • Content preview: SharePoint 2013 search results pages include previews for most Microsoft Suite content. This means when you have files in formats such as Word and PowerPoint you’ll be able to see a live preview while hovering over the search result.
  • Deep links: In the preview pane, there’s also an addition that allows you to dive directly into the area of a document you need. This can be a specific page, slide, topic heading, etc. This reduces the number of clicks required to get to exactly what you need, which is huge in a system that can store as many as 30 million items in a single list or library.
  • Search query type-ahead: Search in SharePoint 2013 now provides a Google-lie usability experience. When typing a search query, the system gives suggestions based on what other people are searching for and also suggestions based on what you’ve personally searched for.
  • Result blocks: Search will take contextual clues from the query and create content blocks of files formats. If you search for movies, it’ll surface a block of content highlighting all the videos together. Those videos also have playable previews.

 

Floating in the cloud

Microsoft demonstrated the power of its cloud servers by running the majority of the demos during the conference using Office 365. Sub-second page refresh times were not uncommon, especially considering the information was being surfaced from a data center in Amsterdam. While most attendees still leverage on-premise SharePoint installations—a standard practice for most—Microsoft has continued to focus its roadmap on shifting to the cloud.

There are still some perks for on-premise clients as well. Microsoft has spent a considerable amount of effort optimizing SharePoint 2013 for performance and load time to ensure it’s a snappy performer on the cloud. These same performance enhancements are now baked into your on-premise version, as well.

 

SharePoint Social

The newest release of SharePoint is betting heavily on social features. These include newsfeeds, liking posts and content, community sites, following—all the features social sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn make such great use of. The new tools, with the correct implementation strategy, can drive seamless adoption through an enterprise.

The governance side of social allows administrative users to moderate posts flagged by other users, assign badges to users, promote popular discussions and a host of other helpful tools. The communities themselves are security trimmed and are much more effective than email distribution lists. You can search content across the enterprise, acknowledge the leaders and experts within the organization and avoid having people ask the same questions over and over.

A big push in the new release was to simplify the user interface and overall end user experience, and the social features and redesign help in that regard.

 

Power to the people

SharePoint 2013 introduces several new features that allow a less tech-savvy user to control more in the environment. There are more tools available through the native UI and changing the look and feel can be less dependent on developers.

Basic HTML, CSS and JavaScript can be used to create dynamic display templates. These are used with crawled search content to display different kinds of content in different kinds of ways. There are several templates out of the box that drastically improve static list item views and enhance the overall experience for site users. One demo during the conference updated a display template to include infinite scroll with 18 lines of simple custom code.

The developers haven’t been left out of the release either, with the introduction of Apps and a SharePoint Store for distribution and general consumption.

 

Yammer integration and roadmap

People have been clamoring for information about Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Yammer and what it might mean in terms of SharePoint integration. The company representatives addressed this on day one, laying out the roadmap for Yammer implementation. Note that no on-premise Yammer version is in the road map.

  • Yammer will still have a standalone offering.
  • SharePoint Online will include the full version of Yammer for no additional cost.
  • Yammer will be included in all Office 365 SKUs.
  • Yammer will have SkyDrive Pro integration for documents.

 

Machine translation

In a connected world with people accessing sites and content from a host of nations, SharePoint 2013 implemented important upgrades to the language variations features. Adding a new language can be done in half the time it took in SharePoint 2010, and does not have the heavy dependency on Language Packs that it used to.

The biggest improvement comes in the form of machine translation, which can be used on content pages and documents across the enterprise. When used in conjunction with human translation, the process of updating and creating new content in many languages is greatly improved, with timelines for implementation shortened.

SharePoint 2013 also allows the ability to export variation page content for human translation, a welcome change from versioning.

 

Content Overflow

There was more to SharePoint 2012 than could possibly fit into a single post, including technical details on the power of Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, SharePoint Design Manager and Business Intelligence capabilities. Leave a comment if you have a question or want more information on a particular topic.

Also, keep an eye here for announcements about a Kansas City SharePoint user’s group, which DEG is ramping up in the next couple months. We’d love to have you join us.

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