28 December, 2005

What is .NET?

Christmas has just past by with the opportunity to have a break and spend some time with family and friends. Talking to friends over Christmas about life in general and what we're up to, I've been asked the question: "What is .NET?"

Good question! I've been working in the .NET world for a good three years now, but I still find it quite challenging to come up with an acurate definition.

The way I see it, there is really two ways of defining .NET. First of all, there is an actual physical software component including a development framework and an execution engine (to be even more specific: mscorlib.dll and mscoree.dll).

Secondly, there is .NET used in the abstract. Microsoft is trying to market .NET as much more than a development framework and defines it in the following way on their website:

".NET is the Microsoft Web services strategy to connect information, people, systems, and devices through software."

In other words, .NET communicates the notion of connectedness and the ease of integration driven by .NET and the support of XML Web services.

15 December, 2005

Using RSS for integration between a SharePoint intranet and a public website

RSS gives you an easy option for integrating content across websites. In particular, you can quite easily publish content stored in SharePoint lists to a public website using RSS.

For example, imagine you had a list of job vacancies in a list on a SharePoint intranet. A well customised list with a few columns (such as JobTitle, JobDescription, ContactPerson, ClosingDate, etc.) is a great way to manage job vacancies.

Now imagine you also want to publish these job vacancies on your public website which could be built in any technology. You could achieve this by building a component on the public website that connects to the SharePoint web services and retrieves the list of job vacancies. This does, however, require a fair bit of non-trivial development.

A much easier approach is to use an RSS feed. There are various free web parts out there (e.g. Syndication Generator) that will generate an RSS feed from any SharePoint list (in the next version of SharePoint, RSS feeds will be available for all lists out-of-the-box). The next step is to write a simple UI component on the public web site that traverses through the RSS feed and displays it the way you want. Click here for a guide to build an ASP.NET RSS client including a working solution. Trust me, it is easier than you think.

I personally think RSS is one of the more exciting technologies around these days. If you look at it from a possibilities over simplicity perspective, it certainly delivers extraordinary value. I will be keen to hear from you if you have done something cool with RSS.

14 December, 2005

Using IE WebControls in SharePoint

The Internet Explorer WebControls is an awesome collection of ASP.NET server controls that gives you a solution for four UI elements: TreeView, Toolbar, TabStrip and MultiPage.

You can use these in your SharePoint web parts or user controls (loaded through SmartPart). However, there are a few things you need to be aware of in order to get it to work under SharePoint.

SharePoint does not like unsigned code, so you need to rebuild the assembly with a strong name. Then deploy the assembly to the GAC or another trusted area. The JavaScript used in the controls is located in the folder '/webctrl_client/' under your IIS root directory. You need to add this path as an excluded path in SharePoint.

The treeview uses its own font and font size specified by the variables 'L_fontSize_Text' and 'L_fontName_Text' in the file 'treeview.htc' under '/webctrl_client/1_0/'. You can change this to suit your needs or preferably leave them as empty strings to use whatever is specified in the SharePoint stylesheets.

13 December, 2005

Welcome to my new blog!

I have finally decided to start a new blog adding my contributions to the communities in my professional areas.

I've been blogging on my personal website since 2001 for the purpose of sharing photos and experiences with friends and family. This blog, however, will focus entirely on my areas of expertise professionally.

I have worked in the IT industry for more than five years building enterprise solutions. Currently, I work as a consultant specialising in corporate portals and workflow, predominantly using Microsoft .NET products and technologies. Over the past 6-8 months, I have worked extensively with SharePoint which will dominate my upcoming posts.

Apart from sharing the usual technical tips, tricks and awkward findings that you come across working with software products, my aim is to post articles based on experiences with applying the technology in practice, solving business problems and architecting the best solutions.