SharePoint 2013 top features

So here is a run down what I feel are the most important new features in SharePoint 2013 based on customer needs that I have come across. I had a similar post when SharePoint 2010 was launched and the principles for feature list is the same – removing the hype and just getting into the core.

  • The Apps concept – can’t over emphasize the significance of this, more details here.
  • Continuous Crawl – Well there was the concept of incremental crawl in previous versions of SharePoint, however there was one serious limitation, it did not run if there already a crawl running. This kind of killed the use of search in a whole lot of cases because you could not predict when a an item would be crawled. This version allows multiple crawl threads to run in parallel, so even if one thread is processing some bulk content which one user had uploaded, additional content can get crawled without waiting for that one to complete.
  • Cross site publishing – If you had worked extensively on internet sites, you would have come accross the business requirement to have one page under two menu items. The only way to achieve that is with not so trivial customization or duplicating the content in multiple places. Cross site publishing enables one to implement this OOTB.
  • Usage of HTML over XSL for rendering of search results web parts – One interesting line I heard from somewhere was ‘You can do it without writing one line of code, however you may need to write pages of XSLT’. From an architectural and design perspective using XSLT is good, however tell that to a developer who is assigned to create a not so straight forward search results UI. The typical answer is give me, it will take too long, give me Visual Studio and I’ll be finished in an hour. Moving over to HTML and JS is a step in the right direction.
  • Community sites – if anyone had asked me if SharePoint supports community sites, I would have said, yes sure, just take a team site, but you need to add on all required features. A community site has a lot of standard requirements, and SharePoint 2013 brings in some of these in the Community site template.
  • Multi Channel rendering – with so many form factors to consider, having one UI for all of them was not really pratical. To avoid this, mechanisms for redirection using http modules, conditional load of css etc. were implemented. SharePoint 2013 allows to add masterpages that can be tagged to specific devices, so less code required for such requirements
  • Host Named site collections – this was available before, however just supporting one zone was a drawback in a lot of scenario. SharePoint 2013 allows for multiple URLs mapped to different zones for these.
  • Work Management Service Application – If there is one requirement that I would say is most requested across the various projects I have come across, its the ability to view all my tasks in one page and that includes Exchange task. The new Work Management Service Application in SharePoint 2013 enables this.
  • Request Management – That is SharePoint taking over some of what is typically attributed to the role of loadbalancers. Seems to have a lot of scope, however I am a bit skeptical of its adoption. Why? Primarily because of the skill set required to understand and decide on the configuration of this. You need people who have a good understanding of both loadbalancer administration as well as SharePoint. There’s an excellent info on this here

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