I avoided Microsoft SharePoint for many years. It wasn't personal; I simply had too many other things to keep up with from Exchange, Office Communications Server, and a host of other releases. However, about a year ago I decided to begin working with SharePoint, and while I wouldn't say I fell in love with it, I loved the features it afforded me as an IT administrator. With it, I could quickly put together a site collection that included a document library, a blog, a wiki, a forum, and so on. Simply put, SharePoint 2007 is an excellent intranet or extranet tool set.
Now, I use it for a Web site that 200 contractors access for collaboration of building projects across the state of Florida. I've seen how much more organized these folks are when they can communicate easily with members of other teams, especially since disaster relief is such a huge need in Florida due to hurricanes and tornadoes.
But my one complaint about SharePoint is that it felt clunky. While the functionality was great, the interfaces for working with it were ancient and not snappy in terms of responsiveness at times. It needed some polishing.
[ Read more about the design decisions behind SharePoint 2010. ]
SharePoint gets that spit shine in its upcoming new version. SharePoint 2010, now in beta, is a tremendous improvement in all respects. It's slick, sporting a new interface that pulls in the ribbon UI that has become a staple of the Office suite in Office 2010, and it's snappy, responding quicker than ever to design or administrative needs. It also logs solid improvements in the areas of central administration and site development.
Improvements for site developers
The ribbon UI is a nice contextual addition to the site design in that ribbon tabs appear based on what you are working with. The new Web Edit feature allows you to customize a site quickly. The ribbon UI really shines here: If you select a picture, the necessary tools appear automatically in contextual ribbons to help you modify your image.
The new Silverlight Web Part can be quickly integrated within your site, and it functions well in all browsers that support Silverlight (which include Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and soon Opera).
There is an impressive set of new rich theming possibilities, with my favorite being the ability to take a PowerPoint theme (a collection of colors schemes you can use across your Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documentation to ensure a single color palette) and apply it to your site with a few clicks. Visio Services is an excellent way to share diagram-oriented data (without viewers needing to have Visio), and the fact that they are linked allows you to make changes to the diagram and have those changes go live in real time.