Truly "Packed" for "Service!"
As mentioned in my previous post, Tech-Ed 2011 was somewhat subdued. We’re pretty much "between launches", meaning that the emphasis was on real-world application of the existing technology stack, rather than The Next Big Thing. That said, there were some glimmers of things to come.
One of those glimmers was the announcement that Service Pack 1 for Office and SharePoint 2010 products was almost here. Although an exact date wasn’t given, we were told that it would ship in "Late June 2011". That’s about as specific as Microsoft ever gets for anything short of a major launch event.
It’s In There…
Microsoft also released a few hints of what will be included in SP1. Before I go into detail, however, you may need a little background. The effective definition of the term "Service Pack" at Microsoft has always been something of a moving target. Although, officially a Service Pack is just supposed to contain "bug fixes and stability and compatibility enhancements", Service Packs in the past have ranged from just that, to conglomerations of new features that could have almost justified a full point release. (And let’s not even get into actual point releases, "Feature Packs", and the infamous SharePoint 2007 "Infrastructure Update"!) SP1 for SharePoint 2010 falls somewhere in-between those extremes.
Note: This article describes only the features of SP1 that were officially disclosed at Tech-Ed. These may or may not be the only enhancements to come…
Of course, the core of any service pack are those bug fixes I mentioned. While Microsoft didn’t disclose any specific new bugs being fixed, they did say that everything in the previously released Cumulative Update packages (up to and including April 2011) will be included. The main difference between the fixes in a Cumulative Update (also called a "Hot Fix Rollup"), and those in a Service Pack, is that the Service Pack fixes have received more thorough regression testing, and are considered appropriate for deployment to all customers. CU’s, though supported, are primarily meant for customers who know they’re suffering from particular issues included in the package. This is also why, while Service Packs are distributed widely, CU’s have to be specifically requested. Of course, all of these updates are much easier to come by than they used to be. Check out the Updates for SharePoint 2010 Products for the latest and greatest details.
Going Beyond the Bug(s)
So, what are the actual new features in SharePoint 2010 SP1?
Support for Internet Explorer 9 Native Mode and Google Chrome
SharePoint has always had great browser support, but this update officially will add Google Chrome to the "A" list of browsers, supporting the vast majority of SharePoint features – including Office Web Apps. Ditto to Internet Explorer 9 in "Native Mode" – whatever that means…
Site Recycle Bin
Here’s a feature that people have been asking for almost as long as SharePoint has been around! As of SharePoint 2010 SP1, administrators will be able to recover deleted sites and site collections without having to first restore a SQL Server database! There have been third party tools, and open source projects, to accomplish this in the past, but now the functionality will be baked in.
Shallow Copy needs a little explanation. No, it doesn’t mean a clone with the personality of a Barbie(tm) doll. This feature is primarily of interest to folks using the Remote Blob Storage (RBS) feature of SLQ Server 2008 R2 to reduce the size of their databases. Essentially, when you move a site collection from one database with RBS enabled to another, Shallow Copy allows the file-system-based files to remain where they are, with just the pointers in the Content Database updated. Otherwise, the files would need to be read off the disk, then resaved as part of the copy operation.
This one is less a "new" feature, than the return of an "oldie but goodie". When you had a quota assigned to a site collection, it could be very handy to have a report of where on your site you happen to be using up space. In SharePoint 2007, there was a utility page for this report called storman.aspx. For reasons I’m not sure of, this page was not included in SharePoint 2010. Service Pack 1 brings it back home.
SQL 11 Support
There was a lot of buzz at Tech-Ed about Denali (aka SQL 11 – who knows what the "real" name will be). SP1 brings official support for it to SharePoint. No official word on whether it will light up any new features, except maybe the Crescent real-time Reporting Services tool. I saw a Crescent demo at the show, and it was really cool. I might write more about that later. In the mean time, check out this SQL Reporting Services team blog post…
Fix, or Feature?
In the slide show I saw, several items were listed as "Fixes", though a lot of them sure sounded like new and/or improved functionality to me…
Office Web Apps
The Office Web Apps, or OWA, get a lot of love in SP1. I already mentioned the enhanced browser support (Chrome, IE9 "Native"). In addition, you get such goodies as:
- Open Document Format (ODF) support for viewing and editing
- Print Word documents in edit mode (not just preview mode)
- Insert Charts with Excel Web App
- Copy/Past values and formulas in Excel Web App by dragging the "fill" handle.
- Print from PowerPoint Web App
- Edit directly in more shapes in PowerPoint Web App
- Insert Clip Art in PowerPoint Web App
All in all, very worthy improvements!
Indexing Connector for Documentum
Even though SharePoint offers all kinds of document management, there are still customers for whom Documentum is the product of choice. The Indexing Connector for Documentum allows SharePoint Search to crawl Documentum repositories and return appropriately ranked results within SharePoint. The specific updates for this connector include:
- Improves overall crawl performance
- Provides support for customized Documentum Foundation Services (DFS) URL
- Provides support for Documentum Trusted Content Services (TCS) "Access Restriction" Access Control List (ACL) for security trimming
- Provides support for custom security trimming solution for TCS enabled Documentum repository by extracting TCS ACLs into SharePoint crawled properties
- Provides support for Documentum “superuser” permissions level
FAST Search Server 2010
FAST Search Server 2010 is Microsoft’s high-end search product. It wasn’t left out of the Service Pack 1 frenzy. Here’s what you get:
- Adds the possibility to add and remove indexer and search columns on a live system
- Adds more flexible custom property extractors
- Adds Greek spellchecking and stemming
- Improves title extraction for Word and PowerPoint documents. Titles are now presented correctly and relevancy for Word and PowerPoint documents is improved.
- Improves default schema which improves relevancy
- Improves index backup/restore
And that’s the whole thing, at least as far as the information that was released at Tech-Ed goes. Service Pack 1 has been over a year in the making, and it seems pretty clear that it will have been well worth the wait. Although we don’t yet have the exact release date, you can always keep up to speed on what patches are current on the SharePoint Update pages.
Have a great Memorial Day weekend!