SharePoint 2007,blogging
Whether you have MOSS 2007 or WSS3.0, you have the ability to create a blog site for your company intranet, department, internet and so on. But the blogging site and capabilities that come out of the box with either version of SharePoint is less than stellar.Now, however with the final release of the new Community Kit for SharePoint: Enhanced Blog Edition 2.0 (CKS:EBE) you actually have some blogging capabilities that provide a pretty advanced looking – and functioning – blog.We thought we’d introduce you to the new blogging features by showing you before and after photos…what a better way to understand how much work went into the creation of this Community Kit.Prior to the Community Kit, if you wanted a blog site in SharePoint, you just went into the Site Settings, selected to Sites and Workspaces and created a new blog site. Not much to it, and you got a pretty bland blog site to go.

Pretty exciting huh? And don’t even try to think about modifying that main blog page – you’re just asking for trouble. Add on the Create a Post page and you can see there’s a limit to how much you can do with your blog. You can create categories to organize your blog entries, but you are limited to one category for each post. It’s not normally the case that you would only want to post to one Category.

And people can post comments, but there’s no trackback functionality.

Enhanced Blog Edition 2.0

So now let’s take a look at the new blog with the CKS:EBE installed. CKS:EBE SettingsThere are a number of settings for the EBE. You can find the setting page under the Site Actions – Site Settings – Site Administration section. One of the settings is the Default Theme to use for your site. There are five themes that come with the CKS:EBE, you could use one of these or create your own. For my purpose, I selected one out of the box.

One of the biggest components of the EBE is the theming functionality. It’s called Modular Theme Framework (MTF) and is a straightforward approach to customizing the look and feel of your blog site. Basically it’s combination of the master page, CSS and XSLT.There are a number of alternative XSLT controls that replace the default web parts of the SharePoint Blog site template for lists like Categories and Posts. The Designer Guide walks you through the steps to customize the default theme to get the design you want. You need to use SharePoint Designer to do the customizations.If you look at the code for the out of the box themes, you can see how to modify the default theme to your needs. Each theme is basically a set of files stored in a folder in the Themes library. In addition to an improved look and feel, you also get SEO friendly URLs instead of the usual querystring URLs that mean nothing.Posting to the BlogYou can use the standard SharePoint posting page to create posts for your blog.

You can now assign multiple categories to a post. You can also send and receive Trackbacks (or LinkBacks as they call them here). You can disable the Trackback capability on the CKS:EBE settings page. The date displayed is also now shown in the time zone of the user and not the server itself.

In addition to creating a new post directly in SharePoint, you can also use LiveWriter or MS Word 2007 to create posts offline to be uploaded to the blog site at a later time. This provides you with very rich capabilities to write your blog post, including adding pictures or videos.RSS improvementsLots of improved RSS capabilities including the following:* Creating a custom RSS link* Trimming the amount of a post sent through the RSS feed (like the first sentence)* Specify the number of items in the RSS feed* Create category specific feeds (so only posts linked a certain category are included in the feed)Additional Improvements with the CKS:EBEThere are a number of additional improvements with the EBE including the addition of Spam Controls like integration with Akismet and CAPTCHA to detect and block comment spam.System pages (or blog administration pages) can be easily secured to active SharePoint site administrators.A Note on InstallationInstallation was very straightforward, it’s a SharePoint solution package (*.wsp) that is installed as a Feature you can Activate and Deactivate for each site you create. The simple installation guide gives you all the command line code required to install this package and it’s simple as pie.My only gotcha was related to SharePoint itself and not the solution. When I first installed, I couldn’t get the Themes to work. What I finally realized is that a number of web.config changes had not been written to the Web.config file. So I had to manually enter them. If you find you have this problem, get the code changes from this discussion thread on codeplex (and don’t forget to reset IIS to get the changes to take effect).All in all I was impressed with the kit especially since it’s free for WSS3.0 which is also free. Some nice improved functionality. You can get the Community Kit for SharePoint: Enhanced Blog Edition 2.0 at the Codeplex site. There you’ll see the code to download and the three documents (Installation, Designer, and User Guide) required to understand and install the solution. If you use SharePoint for blogging, make sure you download the CKS:EBE and use it.