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SharePoint Connections Conference 2010 Overview

I got the opportunity to attend the SharePoint Connections Conference this year at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. This trip was very exciting for me, being both the first conference for me, as well as my first trip to Las Vegas. It was a great experience and I hope I have another opportunity like this in the future. There were many interesting sessions put on by a lot of SharePoint rock stars which I’ll give an overview of in this post.

This conference, known overall as the Microsoft Connections Conference, also had sessions targeted at ASP.NET, Visual Studio 2010, Windows, and SQL Server. Knowing this I decided to attend the ASP.NET keynote speech put on by Scott Guthrie. It was a very interesting talk covering some new tools for developing .NET applications in Visual Studio 2010. Scott focused on NuGet for a while, which is an open source package management system for .NET. It can really streamline using third party libraries during development. They displayed this functionality by seamlessly finding a 3rd party library, installing it, and using it’s build in templates with the sample MVC application. Another interesting functionality demonstrated was a new view-engine included in ASP.NET MVC 3 called “Razor”. Scott has a great introductory blog post for understanding Razor and how to implement it.

Paul Stubbs gave an interesting talk about the SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010 upgrade process. He mainly focused on what you should be documenting before you upgrade as well as tips on how to pick the right upgrade strategy. Of the three types of upgrades: in-place, database attach, and a mix of the two; most speakers agreed that they are seeing over 90% of people doing a mix of in-place and database attach upgrades. This talk was similar, if not a little more high-level, to the SharePoint 2010 upgrade drilldown talk given later in the week by Joel Oleson. Joel’s talk covered some of the same topics as the one Paul gave, but he also drilled down into more details to help decide which type of upgrade you need to consider as well as figuring out what of your custom code will need to be upgraded. Of the custom code that needs to be upgraded, the most daunting seems to be custom site definitions and custom features. If you have a highly customized SharePoint site this can take up a lot of testing and development time in your upgrade process. Joel also highly stressed the importance of running the stsadm operation “preupgradecheck” in addition to the powershell commandlet “Test-SPContentDatabase” before undertaking any type of upgrade. Check out his blog post on this topic for more detailed information.

Gary LaPointe gave one of my favorite talks of the week titled, “Leveraging the SharePoint 2010 User Experience Enhancements.” Sadly I only caught the second-half, but it was still very informative. Gary covered how to use the built in notification, status message and dialog functions to quickly create and display messages to users in your custom solution. This could end up being very useful and time-efficient in the field as it will save time spent styling and coding custom notifications. It will also help keep the user familiar to the notification UI you are presenting to them.

My favorite talk of the week was titled “Extending the Visual Studio 2010 SharePoint Tools” given by Ted Pattison. If you’ve played around with developing and deploying SharePoint 2010 solutions in Visual Studio 2010, you know there are a lot of enhancements that make developing for SharePoint much easier than in the past. Ted showed us ways to add items with custom actions to the context menu, write to the output dialog box, as well as adding custom deployment steps that Visual Studio will execute for you. I think there is a lot of potential here to create custom tools for certain projects on the front-end, allowing for more stream-lined development through either making custom templates available to developers through the context menu as well as creating project/environment specific deployment actions that interact with the SharePoint environment you have connected to your project.

Overall it was a great first time in Vegas that I won’t soon forget. I didn’t have time to write about all of the sessions I attended, but rest assured they were all very informative and I feel like I learned a lot at the conference. A big thanks to all of the presenters who put together great sessions (I didn’t even sleep through one!). You should see some blogs coming through demonstrating, in more detail, some of the things I learned or that piqued my interest at the conference.

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