Despite the best efforts and intentions of a software development team, there will always be feature gaps and nagging issues with any given release.
While most people are content to wait for an upgrade, in a healthy community one can count on at least a few developers to open their toolbox and get to work rounding edges.
It was just that sort of attitude that lead Scot Hillier, a SharePoint MVP, to set-up a shared source repository dedicated to the creation of tools and customizations that make life with SharePoint 2007 (MOSS) or Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) just that much better.
Apparently, this was a pretty good idea as in just six short months the collection of tools has grown steadily and 4 more SharePoint superstars have jumped on board to create an impressive stable of techy tidbits.
As users and developers become more comfortable with a platform, they begin to see opportunities for improvements and fixes to make the day-to-day operation easier and more productive. Also, one cannot discount the laziness of the most brilliant software engineers who will devote an entire Tuesday to writing a script that might save two mouse clicks on Wednesday.
In the world of MOSS, these aforementioned tools and customizations are implemented as what SharePoint developers call features. Therefore, what Scot Hillier has created and what other developers have helped to grow is a single location where SharePoint developers can find solutions to the shortcomings that plague any enterprise platform.
Hosted by the CodePlex and located at www.codeplex.com/features, the features are currently separated into three groups: Features to Support Development, Features for Lists, and Features to Support Administration.
Features for Developers
While the eyes of end users may glaze over at the mention of improvements to debugging and error messages, SharePoint developers around the globe are quietly rejoicing. The features created to make development easier include: an improved method for configuring ASP.NET Ajax 1.0 for SharePoint sites, the ability to launch a debugger from the Site Actions menu within SharePoint, and an improved method for configuring debug messages.
Features for Users
Although lists are a vital piece of functionality within SharePoint, the implementation has left much to be desired for end users, with task management often being confusing and tedious. The features aimed at easing this pain include: the ability to automatically configure an alert for someone when a new task is assigned to them, the addition of a "Copy To..." menu item on the Edit Control Block that allows tasks (and all associated versions) to be copied to a new List, and an improved ability for users to control all aspects of opening a link in a new window.
Features for Admins
As important as the features to help developers improve the experience for end users, one must not forget the poor admins who have the largely thankless job of keeping the platform ticking. Highlights for these folks include: improved user management for SqlAuthenticationProvider users, easier debugging, ability to view the Unified Logging Service (ULS) logs, and the ability to manage configuration modifications across a server farm.
Regardless of whether your organization is a long-time SharePoint shop or brand new to the platform, we encourage you to check out this collection of goodies and hey, if you're good enough, do some contributing of your own.