By now, most of you reading this have likely heard a little about SharePoint 2013, Microsoft's next version of its best-selling collaboration platform.  In this short blog, we wanted to highlight some of our favorite features that will be in the next version of SharePoint.  We'd love to hear your comments on what are your favorite features as well.

  1. Sharing
    Officially named Access Request and Invitations, this new sharing functionality solves many of the complexities that came with SharePoint 2010 security and access requests.  In this new model, administrators no longer have to monitor and miss emails regarding site access requests.  If a user tries to access a site to which they do not have access, they will be presented with a screen allowing them to enter a message for the administrator.

    In SharePoint 2013, in addition to an email with the request and message, administrators (and the requesting user) will now be able to manage and see the status of all sharing requests on the site.  The access request interface also leverages the "conversational" nature of SharePoint 2013, allowing the administrator and user to communicate back and forth on the topic. 

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    Administrators can view current sharing status and pending access requests by clicking on the new Site Settings (gear) icon in the top right corner.
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    Finally, pending requests can be seen and followed-up on by using the pending request screen. 
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  2. Shredded Storage
    Shredded Storage is a feature that IT will love, and business users will use as bait to get their IT department to upgrade to 2013!  Shredded Storage applies to how data and documents are stored in the SQL Server database.  In all previous versions of SharePoint, for every version of a file that was saved, there was a complete copy of that document - the entire thing.  For example, if you had a 1 MB file with 10 versions, it consumed at least 10 MB of space in the SQL Server database.  With Shredded Storage, SharePoint only stores the changes in subsequent versions.  Therefore, in SharePoint 2013, this 1 MB file may have 10 versions that only consume 2.2 MB of space (vs. 10 MB).  I want to take back what I said before - about business users only using this as bait - I think they will be excited about it as well.  Here's why: Not only does this save space, but since the overall package is smaller, there will be increases in speed for retrieving documents.  SharePoint uses smart algorithms to "rebuild" the file from all previous changes, and this should make things appear faster for the end user.

     
  3. Content Search Web Part (CSWP)
    The CSWP is a fantastic new web part and one that we are extremely excited about.  There is a lot to this "little" web part, so I won't be able to cover it all here, but this should give you an idea of its power.  In a nutshell, this new web part displays content directly from the search index.  To display content, you first specify a query in the Web Part.  There are two methods for building the query: Quick Mode and Advanced Mode.  Quick Mode lets you quickly set the query based on predefined "types" of content, a content scope, tag restrictions and finally sorting.

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    Advanced Mode allows the user to be more granular in the selections by selecting the content source and then constructing the specific keyword and /or property filters.

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    Lastly, you can then define any specific refinements, complex sorting (by nearly any metadata field), a few additional settings such as priority, etc. and finally you can test the query on specific sites.  I'm guessing we'll do an entire blog post on this web part soon.

    So, if I were you, I might be asking: How do I choose between the Content Query Web Part (CQWP) and the Content Search Web Part (CSWP)?

    MSDN has some good info on this which I'll reiterate here.  The CSWP returns content that is as fresh as the latest crawl of your content, so if you crawl often, the content that the CSWP returns is more up-to-date than if you crawl infrequently. If you need to display instant content or the refreshed version of content, use the Content Query Web Part (CQWP) instead.  Search crawls only the major versions of content, never the minor versions. If you want to display the minor versions of your content, do that by using a CQWP.  Some site collection administrators mark sites to not be indexed. Content marked in this way is not available in a CSWP. If you want to return results from a site that is marked to not index, use the CQWP instead.

  4. Device-Specific Master Pages
    In SharePoint 2013, there are two steps to implement this new functionality:
    1. Setup Device Channels…
      Device Channels are created for each type of device, more specifically a browser, for which you wish to serve content.  For example, you can create a channel for the iPhone, iPad, Windows 8, Blackberry, etc.  Creating the channels is easy under Design Manager or Site Settings.  Specify the name, an alias, a description and the inclusion rules.  The inclusion rules can be a specific user agent string or a keyword or phrase that would be found in the browser's user agent string.

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    2. Map Master Pages to Device Channels…
      Once your Device Channels are setup, you can then map specific master pages to the Device Channels you created.  In the example below, I am mapping the overlay master page to the iPhone 5 Device Channel.

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      There is also a ton more you can do with regards to specific panels and content sections in your master pages.

      Tip: To test your new Device Channel quickly in your browser, add the following to the URL:
      ?DeviceChannel=DeviceChannelAlias

       
  5. SkyDrive Pro
    The final feature we're going to look at is SkyDrive Pro.  For those of you that got used to SharePoint Workspaces, unfortunately this was short-lived and is going away with Office 2013.  SkyDrive Pro functions just as the public SkyDrive service does.  When you are in SharePoint, you will now see a "SkyDrive" link on the top-right.

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    When you click this link, you will be taken to the SkyDrive Pro document library.  You can add/remove/edit documents here and you will also see a small "Sync" link in the top-right corner.

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    When you click the Sync button, SharePoint will install the small, but necessary components to your computer.  Once this has completed, you will have a SkyDrive Pro link in your Windows Explorer. 

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    ** On a side note - if you are using SharePoint 2013 but have not yet upgraded to Office 2013, clicking the Sync button will actually launch and sync the library with SharePoint Workspaces (nice job Microsoft!)

    You'll then be able to do this on any device that you'd like, and the files will be synchronized across your devices.

I hope this has been helpful, and while we only showed 5 new features, there are many more to come.  Let us know in the comments some of your favorite new features of SharePoint 2013.