This SPTechCon represents a little bit of a different experience for me at a major SharePoint conference. I'm typically stationed in front of the Marketing backdrop of the Bamboo booth, demonstrating or discussing our wide range of products with interested conference attendees. I don't know if attendees are lured by our wacky name and wondering how it is connected to SharePoint, or if they recently downloaded a product from our storefront and got "bamboozled" – in a good way, of course. For the next few days, however, I am the SharePoint user. For this conference, I am very fortunate to be able to attend the various programs that SPTechCon has to offer. These programs range from ways to improve your SharePoint environment to what's new in SharePoint 2010.
The first session I attended was Become a SharePoint 2010 Power User, a half-day workshop presented by Joshua Haebets, a Principle SharePoint Consultant from EIS. I commend Joshua for taking the early session as, coming from Australia, he is from a wildly different time zone and should be in his pajamas sleeping rather than presenting the new SharePoint 2010 features in front of 40 attendees. Since this was my first look at SharePoint 2010, I was blown away by the rich functionality that the 2010 release has to offer, particularly in terms of administration and configuration. Overall, Microsoft's new version of SharePoint is all about simplicity when it comes to administration and branding. Joshua provided a balanced mixture of slides and live demonstrations that kept the group interested throughout the whole workshop. Joshua made sure the group participated, asking for and receiving feedback and questions throughout his presentation.
Again, I was very impressed by the simplicity of customizing a site in SharePoint 2010. There is light at the end of the tunnel for power users who are responsible for corporate branding in SharePoint. Built-in features within SharePoint 2010 provide power users with tools to edit the look and feel of a SharePoint Site without the need for development tools, or the requirement to muck around with files associated with the site as was the case in SharePoint 2007. With the integration of Office Suite, you can also use PowerPoint to create your own theme, save it, and import it to SharePoint 2010 for use as a Site Theme Template. The built-in branding features of SharePoint 2010 are reminiscent of my experience in searching for a car. You have the option to go to a dealership and search for the particular model of car you like and look at all of the different color combinations they have in stock on their back lot. Well, OK, that is old school. Today, you can not only go online and shop for a car, but these days most automobile sites give you the opportunity to "build your own" car through a combination of wizards and tools. At the end of the online "build" process, and after experimenting with many color and feature combinations, you have your dream car. Well, SharePoint 2010 is very similar. When you want to start customizing the branding of a site, you have the built-in tools to easily change anything from the font properties to the location of images on the page, all in an intuitive WYSIWYG editing environment. You can also dynamically resize images and, in addition, you don't have to worry about Web Part zones anymore as you can drop them anywhere you like on the page. If you are unsure as to how the changes will display in the final product, you can preview the finished page before publishing. I don't think these enhancements will eliminate custom development altogether, but they will certainly make it easier for power users to build their own dream site.