SharePoint 2007: Getting to Know SharePoint: Page 3

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Collecting and Organizing Data with Lists

The next most-used feature by average SharePoint users is most likely SharePoint lists. Although document libraries are quite easy to understand because they are clearly for storing and managing documents, and the picture library is for storing and managing files of a graphical nature, lists can be harder to define. The standard lists provided in SharePoint Server 2007 include Announcements, Contacts, Discussion Board, Links, Calendar, Tasks, Project Tasks, Issue Tracking, Survey, Custom List, Custom List in Datasheet View, KPI List, Languages and Translators, and Import Spreadsheet. (KPI stands for key performance indicator.)

All these lists share a basic structure: They are composed of rows and columns much like a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet analogy helps new users understand the basic functionality of lists. Chapters 7 and 8 provide additional information on the different types of lists, and the customized features that they offer to help meet specific business needs.

The Tasks list provides a quick example of the power of SharePoint 2007 lists. Figure 1.3 shows the New Item page that loads when a user clicks New Item in the Tasks list. As shown in Figure 1.3, the user enters relevant information such as title, priority, status, percent complete, assigned to, description, start date, and due date; in this example, an attachment was also added. SharePoint 2007 provides a spell-checking tool, which is a new feature. After saving this information, SharePoint sends an email to the user assigned to the task. The manager of the group has added an alert to the task so that she will immediately receive an email when there is an update to the task. In this way, the information is more useful than an Outlook task list because it is centrally located and open to a predefined set of users. Management tools are available for the list to limit which items individuals can read (all items or only their own) and which items users can edit (all items, only their own, or none).

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In a way, a SharePoint list is a “spreadsheet on steroids.” As shown in Figure 1.4, a user can view and work with a list in Datasheet view, which emphasizes the similarities between a SharePoint list and an Excel spreadsheet. In this view, the user can enter data directly into the cell, as shown by the populated Assigned To cell.

Note also that the Task pane is open to the right of the datasheet view and that it provides the following tools: Track This List in Access, Export to Access, Report with Access, Query List with Excel, Print with Excel, Chart with Excel, and Create Excel Pivot Table Report. Other tools are available from the Actions menu and are similar to those offered in a document library (with some differences): Edit in Datasheet, Connect to Outlook, Export to Spreadsheet, Open with Access, Create Visio Diagram, View RSS Feed, and Alert Me.

These tools show the interconnected nature of SharePoint 2007 and the Office 2007 applications, and power users of lists will soon find many creative uses for SharePoint list data in Outlook (taking data offline), Access (easily creating sophisticated reports), and Excel (taking snapshots of data for more complex analysis and chart creation). Chapter 10, “Using Word, Excel, and Excel Services with SharePoint 2007,” and Chapter 11, “Leveraging Additional Office 2007 Products in a SharePoint 2007 Environment,” provide additional information about the integration between SharePoint and Office applications. The following are examples of possible uses for other list types:

• Announcements list—Provides rich text–formatted information to users of a site that expires after a certain date.

• Contacts list—Creates a list of internal or external contacts relevant to the audience of the site.

• Discussion Board list—Allows users to create and participate in threaded discussions to enhance brainstorming and other forms of collaboration.

• Links list—Creates a list of URLs that are useful for site users. The URLs can be links to other SharePoint sites, internal web-enabled resources, or external websites.

• Survey list—Creates a survey that allows users to answer questions of many types (text, choice, rating scale, and yes/no) and enables administrators to show a graphical summary of the results.

• KPI list—Uses data in another SharePoint list, in an Excel workbook, from a Microsoft SQL 2005 Analysis Services, or manually entered information to provide a visual summary of status based on actual values. Figure 1.5 shows a simple example that displays a green circle, yellow triangle, or red diamond for three different rows. Key performance indicators are important elements in creating dashboards of information to help managers see at a glance how the organization is doing in specific areas of interest.

• Import Spreadsheet list—Allows the administrator to import a range of cells of group of worksheets from an Excel spreadsheet directly into a SharePoint 2007 list, which automatically creates columns based on the type of data present in the original spreadsheet.

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