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What You Get with SharePoint SP2

It's a big season for news and new releases coming out of Microsoft. Naturally, Microsoft wants to have plenty to show off at TechEd North America 2009, going on May 11–15 in Los Angeles. Hiding amidst the flashier news about the Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 beta and Windows 7 RC is the fairly significant release of the new service pack for Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS) and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (WSS).

The watchwords for the SharePoint SP2 releases are improved performance, availability, and stability, but Microsoft developers have also made a nod to the future by including in this release the Stsadm preupgradecheck operation, which identifies problems on your system that could prevent an upgrade to SharePoint 2010 technologies. Running preupgradecheck also checks for SharePoint 2010 system requirements such as Windows Server 2008 and 64-bit hardware.

The Exchange team announced better integration for Firefox and Safari in Exchange 2010's version of Outlook Web Access (OWA). Continuing with that theme of interoperability, SharePoint SP2 adds an immediately improved browser story. Of course, Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 8.0 is fully supported on SP2, but you can also use Firefox 2.0 and Firefox 3.0 at what Microsoft is calling Level 2 support. You get the basics of SharePoint—site administration, read and write capability—but without all the fancy-shmancy ActiveX controls. Think of the OWA experience on non-IE browsers pre–Exchange 2010.

In the improved performance department, SharePoint SP2 gives the Database Statistics timer job a promotion. This job now takes advantage of SQL Server 2005's online index rebuild feature to rebuild SharePoint database indexes each time it runs, reducing database fragmentation that can lead to poor performance.

You'll find stability improvements in the content deployment and variations features, notably in the form of an Stsadm command-line troubleshooting tool that lets you scan sites for variations errors. Stsadm adds other new commands, including some to help find and remove orphaned objects. Third-party solutions have been available to help you with these orphans, but now the process could become a bit easier with native SharePoint functionality.

If you use Excel Services with MOSS 2007 to expose data on your sites, you'll be pleased to note that SP2 makes configuring Excel Web Access Web Parts easier. SP2 also fixes some security problems with Excel Services and corrects some calculation and rendering issues. Forms-based authentication users who also upgrade their clients to Microsoft Office SP2 should find an improved user experience—that is, the client application will stop prompting for credentials every time users execute a command in a document.

And here's another exciting tidbit you might have missed, specifically for SharePoint developers: New updates for SharePoint SDKs are now available from MSDN. This content is available as a download or online. If you develop only for WSS, you'll need WSS SDK 1.5. If you work on MOSS or on MOSS and WSS, use MOSS SDK 1.5.

You can read all about SharePoint SP2 enhancements and fixes on Microsoft's website. SP2 includes all the major updates that have been made available for WSS 3.0 and MOSS 2007. If you never got around to upgrading to SP1, don't worry about it—it's included in SP2. Of course, you'll want to be sure to test the update before deploying it in your production environment, particularly if your SharePoint deployment has a lot of customization. Some standard precautions can save you lots of headaches.

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