SharePoint 2010 cheat sheet

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.

IT folks: We hope you'll pass this guide on to your users to help them learn the SharePoint 2010 ropes.

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

(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. 

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:

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.

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.

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.

Next page: Interacting with documents... 

What's new in SharePoint 2010

Like much of the Microsoft Office family, SharePoint 2010 is based around the concept of the Ribbon, Microsoft's interface that displays all of the options, choices and operations you can perform on any given page. It differs a lot from SharePoint 2007, which didn't have the Ribbon, but many of the same options are there—just in a different place.

SharePoint 2010 interface
Key portions of the SharePoint 2010 interface. Click to view larger image.

The Site Actions menu. This is where all of the action happens, literally. From here you can create new pages, document libraries and SharePoint-based sites; edit the pages you see; synchronize an offline copy of the site to the SharePoint Workspace application (assuming you have that feature as part of Office 2010); and access settings to customize the sites' accessibility and permissions. To change major aspects of sites within SharePoint or to create new items, you'll probably want to go to the Site Actions menu first.

The Credentials area. This menu, accessed when you click on your display name in the top right corner of the Web page, is where you sign into or out of a site, and where you change any user-modifiable sections of the Web page.

The Ribbon. Borrowing liberally from Office 2007 and Office 2010, SharePoint includes the Ribbon, a panel at the top of the window where almost all of the functions possible on a given page are grouped and displayed. Most SharePoint pages have the Browse tab turned on by default, which gives you a breadcrumb-style hierarchy. In other words, it helps you to navigate among pages on the site and see how you arrived at the current page. The Ribbon is also context-sensitive; it shows you different options depending on where you are within SharePoint. So if you're in a document library, the Library Tools Ribbon panel will appear; if you're in different types of lists, other tools will show up in the Ribbon.

The Quick Launch bar. Running along the left side of your SharePoint Web page, this bar helps you jump among the various parts of your site, including to different lists, libraries, discussion areas, picture collections and the site Recycle Bin. (This works exactly like the Windows recycle bin except it holds items from the SharePoint site only.) Another option is to see a full tree-like view of all the places on your site.

The Search box, where you can type in any sort of search query, click the magnifying glass icon to the right and then take advantage of the indexing engine on the site to get comprehensive results from any file that includes your search term.

Creating a document library

The most common use for SharePoint is as a document repository. You and other team members and colleagues can put documents and files all in one specific place, accessible to everyone, and then avoid the all-too-familiar email blasts with Word documents attached.

(I would wager that if you never saw another "please disregard the previous message, I've attached the correct newest version of the file here" message pass through your inbox, it would probably not be too soon.)

You can then simply email hyperlinks to documents on the SharePoint site when collaboration needs to happen. As users modify and update files, the latest version—as well as previous versions, if you wish—along with all of the history of who revised what, and when, is stored in a single place.

To get started serving up and sharing documents and files in SharePoint 2010, you will probably need to create your own document library. This is fairly straightforward.

  1. Open SharePoint in your Web browser.
  2. From the Site Actions menu (remember, this is at the top left of your window), click New Document Library.
  3. The Create window appears. Enter a friendly name and a useful description of your new library. (See example.)
  4. Decide whether this library should appear in the Quick Launch bar—the navigation aid that appears to the left in most SharePoint Web windows.
  5. Choose whether or not a new version of the file is created each time someone edits a file in this library. When in doubt, choose yes; you would be amazed how often this versioning history comes in handy.
  6. Finally, select the type of template that will become the default if someone chooses the New File option on the ribbon within your library. This is not an important choice, as a document library can hold just about any type of file.
  7. Click Create to close out and be taken directly to your new library.

Uploading and interacting with documents

Once you're in the document library, you can very easily upload new content to the library by clicking the Add Document link at the bottom of the middle pane. When you do, the Upload Document window appears.

Here, you can select the single document you would like to upload, or you can click the Upload Multiple Files link; this will open a new dialog box with a hotspot where you can drag and drop multiple files from a regular Windows Explorer window to upload. You can also just browse normally for files one at a time and add them to this group. You can click OK and then the group of files will upload directly to the library.

SharePoint document import
Importing one or more documents to your library. Click to view larger image.

If you have enabled versioning, you can add version comments here as well, for a reader-friendly description of what has changed in this new version of the file you are uploading. Click OK to finish out, and you'll see the newly uploaded file in the list with the green "new" symbol just beside it.

Next page: Customize the document library...

If you click the drop down arrow beside the file, you get a context-sensitive menu full of commonly used options. These include:

View Properties. Selecting this option opens the document properties page, where you can adjust the name and title of the document. You can also get a smaller ribbon of options on this page, allowing you to view the version history of the document, delete it or check the document out of the library (to prevent other people from editing it at the same time). You can also set an alert to notify you when actions are performed on the item, and manage alternate copies of this document. In case other copies are located in other places on the SharePoint site, you can be notified when updates are made on every copy. Here, you can also see who created the document and when, who the last editor of the document was and when that last edit occurred.

SharePoint document properties
Viewing document properties. Click to view larger image.

Edit Properties. This option brings up the same page as View Properties, but actions are enabled on this page by default so you can actually edit all of the settings instead of just seeing what they are.

Edit in Microsoft Word/Excel. This opens the document in either application, depending on what type of file you are acting upon. It's handy to open the files directly from SharePoint instead of trying to navigate to the SharePoint site from within the File/Open dialog boxes in the individual Office applications.

Check Out. The Check Out option locks a file for editing by a single user. If other users attempt to save back to the file, they'll be notified that they can't make changes until the user who has the file checked out currently checks it back in and makes it available for editing.

Version History. This option opens the Version History window and shows you all the versions of the document that SharePoint knows about, including the number, the date and time of the version, who uploaded a particular version, how big the file is and any free-form comments that were included by the user at the time of the upload. (You can't edit previous comments; you can only add new comments to new document versions.) This creates a user-friendly audit trail that can help you track down inadvertent or incorrect modifications and back up to a good version if someone makes a catastrophic mistake.

Alert Me. This helps you set up alerts for this particular item. We'll talk more about Alerts in the "5 tips" piece of this cheat sheet.

Send To. On this menu, you can move a document to another library on the SharePoint site, or you can email a link to this document library to someone else. You can also download an independent copy of this document to use locally on your own PC, although choosing this option doesn't keep the copy of the document on the SharePoint site updated. You can also create a new document workspace—a SharePoint subsite—with this document preloaded in case more focused collaboration is necessary, for a subcommittee, for instance.

Delete. This simply deletes the file, after a confirmation prompt, from the document library. A copy is stored in the site's Recycle Bin (accessible by default, unless the administrator has turned this feature off, in the left Quick Launch bar at the very bottom of the menu) in case you delete something by mistake. (If the Recycle Bin appears, it's enabled; if you don't see it, it's not enabled; you can't use it if you can't see it.)

Customizing the document library

SharePoint 2010 lets you use the Library Tools Ribbon to manage and further interact with documents in your libraries. In some cases these are actions you can perform in other ways (as described above); this just gives you a different way in. For instance, on the Document tab, you can perform operations grouped as follows:

SharePoint - customizing the library
Using the Library Tools Ribbon group to manage the documents in your libraries.
Click to view larger image.

The New group: Here, you can create a new document, upload a single document or multiple files at the same time, or create a new folder within the library.

The Open & Check Out group: In this group, you can begin editing a document in its native application such as Word, check out a document to lock it for further editing, check it back in or discard a check-out if you made no changes and have no revisions to check back in.

The Manage group: Here, you can view and edit the properties of a document, view its version history and the permissions on the document (if your administrator has enabled such a feature), and delete a document from the library.

The Share & Track group: You can have SharePoint open a new message in your email client with a hyperlink to a selected document embedded within by clicking the Email and Link button, or you can set up an alert on a document or manage all alerts on a SharePoint site through the Alert Me button.

The Copies group: You can download a copy of a document, send a copy to either another location or to a new document workspace, manage copies in other SharePoint locations or go to the source of a copied document in this group.

The Workflows tab: Here you can manage workflows, publishing and approvals. More on this in the next major section.

Next page: Create and customize calendars...

Creating and customizing calendars

Arguably the second most common activity users head to SharePoint for is to create, view and edit team calendars. SharePoint is a reasonably flexible solution for sharing calendars that multiple people need to see and that pertain to a specific project. They're better suited to that than just sharing peoples' individual Exchange calendars, for instance, since the latter are mostly locked down and contain a lot of extraneous information that other team members don't need to see.

SharePoint - creating a new calendar
Creating a new calendar via the Site Actions menu. Click to view larger image.

For tracking due dates, events and project meetings, SharePoint calendars are great.

To create a new calendar on a SharePoint site, head to the Site Actions menu and then click More Options. From the List section, click Calendar, and then type in a plain-English name for the new calendar and click the Create button.

Once your calendar is created, you can add events by clicking the Events tab in the Calendar Tools group on the ribbon, and then clicking the New Event button.

From there, you can enter the name of the event, the location, the duration and times, a description, a category (if you are using them), whether or not this event is a recurring or an all-day event and whether to create a meeting workspace for this event. (A "meeting workspace" is a mini-site within SharePoint.) Hit Save when you have completed the form.

SharePoint - adding more info about events
Adding more information about events to your calendar.

After your calendar has been populated, you can experiment with the various views that are available specifically for calendars in SharePoint. On the calendar's SharePoint page, click the Calendar tab in the Calendar Tools ribbon group, and then in the Manage Views group, click the drop down list under Current View.

You will see a few options from which you can choose:

Calendar: This is the default and popular grid we are all accustomed to.

All Events: This is a tabular listing of all events listed on the calendar—past, present and future.

 Upcoming Events: This is also a tabular list, but only of forthcoming events.

These different views are helpful if you need to edit a batch of events in bulk and don't want to click through the monthly views of the calendar to get to each event.

Integrating SharePoint content with Outlook 2010

If you're like many SharePoint-using organizations, your IT department has also deployed Microsoft Exchange and Outlook, so you are using a mail client that integrates very well with SharePoint. In particular, Outlook 2010 has a variety of features that help you combine information you already store in Outlook with information within SharePoint. Here are some examples.

SharePoint - putting calendars into Outlook
Integrating SharePoint calendars into Outlook.

Putting SharePoint calendars into Outlook

If you have a team with deadlines, deliverable due dates and events you need to keep track of separately, a SharePoint calendar is a convenient way for all members to add, update and maintain a single record of dates. But sometimes it can be inconvenient to have to track multiple calendars, especially when your personal calendar lives within the Outlook client and the team calendars live on the SharePoint site.

You can bring down SharePoint 2010 calendar information into Outlook and either look at the contents of that calendar beside your own, or use Outlook's very nice overlay feature to see a single calendar at once with all of your pertinent information. Here is how:

  1. Open the SharePoint calendar in your Web browser. (Frankly, despite Microsoft saying SharePoint 2010 works well in other browsers, this feature works best in Internet Explorer and poorly in other software.)
  2. In the Calendar Tools Ribbon, click the Calendar tab and then click Connect to Outlook from within the Actions subgroup.
  3. You'll get an Internet Explorer security warning. Click Allow here to let the process work.
  4. Outlook will then open, if it's not already, and present a dialog box asking you if you are sure that you want to open that SharePoint calendar within Outlook. You can either click Yes here to accept the default configuration, or click the Advanced button to customize the name the calendar will take in Outlook as well as its description.
  5. Outlook will display the SharePoint calendar in the left pane under the Other Calendars heading. Click the check box to make sure it is displayed.

Next page: Synchronize task lists with Outlook...

SharePoint and Outlook calendars side-by-side
How SharePoint and Outlook calendars look together when the import process is completed.

Of particular interest here is the fact that these calendars are now linked between Outlook and SharePoint. If another member of your team updates the Web version of the SharePoint calendar, those changes will migrate directly down to the Outlook display of that calendar.

If you adjust a date or otherwise make a change to the linked SharePoint calendar from within Outlook, that change will migrate back up to SharePoint automatically and likewise go back down into any other users' individual Outlook clients if they have chosen to link the calendar as well. It is all seamlessly synchronized.

Synchronizing task lists from SharePoint into Outlook

Your project team might also store lists of tasks within a SharePoint site. This is particularly interesting in a scenario where other users of SharePoint directly assign tasks to you within the user interface. If you do not have SharePoint alerts set up to notify you of new activities on your site, and you fail to check the website often enough to keep updated and fresh on new developments, then you might miss a deadline or not complete a task the right way.

Syncing task lists from SharePoint into Outlook
You can use Outlook as a single place to collect information about all your SharePoint tasks.

By synchronizing tasks between SharePoint and Outlook, you can use Outlook as a single place to collect all of the information on whatever tasks you have on your plate.

  1. Open the SharePoint task list in your Web browser. Again, Internet Explorer works best in these scenarios.
  2. In the List Tools Ribbon group, click the List tab, and then click Connect to Outlook from within the Connect & Export subgroup.
  3. You'll get an Internet Explorer security warning. Click Allow here to let the process work.
  4. Outlook will then open, if it's not already, and present a dialog box asking you if you are sure that you want to open that SharePoint task list within Outlook. Click Yes.
  5. Outlook will display the SharePoint task list in the left pane under the Other Tasks heading if you have selected the Tasks view. Click the check box beside the listing to make sure it is displayed in the right pane.

The two-way synchronization for tasks works exactly the same way as it does for calendars—changes in one place automatically make their way to other linked places with no muss and no fuss.

Sharing Outlook contact details with SharePoint

Your team might also store important contact details and information in a SharePoint site. You can synchronize this to Outlook in the same way as you can with calendars and task lists.

  1. Open the SharePoint contact list in your Web browser. You probably know by now that Internet Explorer works best for these synchronization activities.
  2. In the List Tools Ribbon group, click the List tab, and then click Connect to Outlook from within the Connect & Export subgroup.
  3. You'll get an Internet Explorer security warning. Click Allow here to continue.
  4. Outlook will then open, if it's not already, and present a dialog box asking you if you are sure that you want to open that SharePoint contact list within Outlook. Click Yes.
  5. Outlook will display the SharePoint contact list in the left pane under the Other Contacts heading if you have selected the Contacts view. Click the check box beside the listing to make sure it is displayed in the right pane.

Now for a bit of a technicality: SharePoint stores contacts in its database a little bit differently than does Outlook. Some of the fields are named differently. This could affect how your mail merges perform, for example, if you're trying to blast out a piece of email or snail mail to a group of contacts that is represented within Outlook but linked from SharePoint. Luckily, the differences are minor, but they still exist nonetheless. (See chart, below.)

Outlook vs. SharePoint field names

Outlook field nameSharePoint field name
Last Name Last Name
First Name First Name
Full Name Full Name
E-mail E-mail Address
Company Company
Job Title Job Title
Business Business Phone
Home Home Phone
Mobile Mobile Phone
Business Fax Fax Number
Business Address Address
Business City City
Business State/Province State/Province
Business Zip/Postal Zip/Postal code
Business Country Country/Region
Web Page Web Page
Notes Notes
Source: Microsoft
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