The public beta of SharePoint 2013 is now available for download. Like everyone, we found lots of interesting things in this new version. Here are a few of our favorite things.

Social Extended

Everyone has been saying it -- SharePoint lacks in the social department. An interesting thing for a collaboration platform to be lacking many would say. Microsoft has made significant strides in SharePoint 2013 to change that -- and I’m not talking about the Yammer acquisition (although I’m sure there will be plenty of integration in that department in years to come). What I am talking about is the user profile.

SharePoint 2013 has extended the user profile to be more social than before. Users can now post their own descriptions, which is great. But even more interesting is that discussions started by the user and documents shared by the user (more on this next) are linked to the user’s profile. So now they can easily see what documents they shared and with who, what discussions they are involved in.

Also, you can now follow any object in SharePoint. And I mean any. A site, a document, a library, a list. You want to keep track of it, go ahead.

And then there’s this sharing thing. Microsoft has taken away the work in applying permissions to objects. It’s all still there, but SharePoint now does the heavy lifting. Instead of managing permissions, you now “share” your document or list with a person or persons. Ever used Google Docs? Shared a document? Same type of thing here. Easy to do.

But what about all those permissions you already have set up and are managing? No worries there. All your permissions will migrate with you to SharePoint 2013. You can still manage your permissions the traditional way, but if you are like me, you’ll be considered moving to the new model sooner rather than later.

Also new for social in SharePoint 2013 are the new Social Collaboration templates: Community Site and Community Portal, which take on a mix of Facebook and Twitter user experience, but meant for collaboration, not just social networking. If you don’t to create a brand new site, you can add the social collaboration capabilities to your current site.

Cloud Expanded

Yes, there is still an on-premises version of SharePoint 2013 -- you wouldn’t be able to download a beta if there wasn’t. But Microsoft is pushing its solutions towards the cloud in a big way.

The new Apps Market is the first thing that grabs your attention. The new App store will be home to what Microsoft is expecting to be a large ecosystem of apps that will work with SharePoint. No server installs here, all of these apps will be built to run in the cloud and easily downloaded by a user (no admin required). A user will be able to try it and it will be installed only for that user. Or, a company can buy an app and make it available to all users within the company to download and use.

This new App store is both complex and flexible. It will work for all deployment models of SharePoint -- in the cloud or on-premises. As for the rules and processes to get an app listed in the marketplace? Not too clear on that yet. But I’m sure we’ll get more details soon.

The deployment model for apps in the App store is pretty interesting -- using a combination of Oauth authentication and iframes technology. We’ll tell you more about this new approach to apps in a later article. Suffice it say that it wasn’t the easiest thing for Microsoft to do, but it is pretty slick.

And There’s More to SharePoint 2013

A few other things that caught my attention for this new version of SharePoint.

  • The new GUI -- SharePoint 2013 adopts the Windows 8 Metro interface.
  • Live Doc Preview -- By default, there is now a live document preview, not just something you see in search, but available for all documents by default.
  • Taxonomy Based Navigation -- There is now a new way to navigate through a site -- using taxonomies based on term stores. You can attach more than one taxonomy to a site, which is good if you want to create navigation for product sections of a website or any navigation that doesn’t follow the site structure.
  • Security on Term Stores -- Want to restrict certain parts of your term store to certain groups? You can do that now by applying permissions to term stores. As this topic is very near and dear to my heart, we’ll provide you a more detailed look at this capability in a later article.
  • Workflow -- There’s a new Workflow model at the core of SharePoint 2013. It is built on the same OAuth authentication and iFrames model that all new apps must work with. The old way will still work, but new workflows will need to be built using the new model.

I’m sure if ask, you will hear a number of different views on what’s new and cool in SharePoint 2013. Just watching the Twitter feed of the Office 365 launch will tell you that. But these are my favorite things. Now on to write more in depth articles for your reading pleasure.

Editor's Notes: You may also be interested in reading this by Steven Pogrebivsky:

-- Organize SharePoint: Don't Upgrade Your Mess