All about SharePoint Tools; 7 are FREE

SharePoint tools

SharePoint tools come in handy whenever we want to optimise IT service operations. So, in this article, I’ll deliver an in-depth exploration of SharePoint tools and their core functionalities.

I’ll extend my discussion to the structure and operation of SharePoint modules, a comparative analysis against Excel, and a catalogue of available open-source tools. 

By the way, before starting the article, I’d like to say that understanding how to use SharePoint tools can lead to a positive shift in IT management tactics at your organisation.

What is SharePoint?

SharePoint is a web-based collaborative platform from Microsoft that integrates with Microsoft Office. 

Mostly, SharePoint is used as a document management and storage system, though it serves a broad array of features.

I’d list out a few uses of SharePoint. It allows;

What I found most interesting is, SharePoint’s broad functionality can be tailored to any organisational requirements, ranging from document management to project tracking, providing a flexible and dynamic platform to streamline your business operations.

How to Setup SharePoint?

Depending on the requirements and infrastructure, there are three different ways in which you can choose to set up SharePoint at your organisation.

 

Organisations can set up SharePoint;

Basically, the SharePoint Setting up process involves installation, configuration of the server environment, and structuring the SharePoint services to cater to the unique business needs of the organisation. 

By the way, if you’d like to consult an expert in Gippsland to set up SharePoint for your organisation, you can use any of the following details.

List of Tools in SharePoint

The following table gives an overview of a few of the essential SharePoint tools and their functions

SharePoint Tool
Function
SharePoint Document Library
• Storing, organizing, and managing files.
• Allows multiple users to collaborate on the same documents.
SharePoint List
• Enables users to create custom lists of items, with the option to customise fields according to data type.
• Supports data import from Excel or other SharePoint sites.
SharePoint Workflow
• Automate business processes by defining a series of tasks and triggering actions.
SharePoint Designer
• Use to create powerful, custom workflows, and design and customise SharePoint sites.
SharePoint Search
• A search tool that uses keyword queries to search files, sites, and people within the organisation.
SharePoint Central Administration (CA)
• Manage the configuration of a SharePoint environment.
SharePoint Team Site
• Facilitates collaboration among team members, including file sharing, task assignment, and calendaring.
SharePoint PowerApps
• A tool to build custom business applications that can be used within SharePoint, without the need for custom coding.

The SharePoint tools vary in their functions, from document management to workflow automation, and more importantly, they are integral to maximising SharePoint’s capabilities. 

During my research about SharePoint and its tools, I found the following video. And, based on my experience, it’s one of the best videos that describe the SharePoint tools.

Free SharePoint tools

I know this would be a piece of great news for many of you. 

Microsoft offers a range of free tools that greatly enhance the SharePoint platform’s functionality and usability. 

These tools provide you with flexibility, ease of customization, and improved workflow management without incurring additional costs. 

By the way, remember, while these tools are free to use, certain advanced functionalities of SharePoint may require a paid license.

Here is a list of free SharePoint tools

SharePoint Tool
Function
SharePoint Designer
• Use to create powerful, custom workflows, and design and customise SharePoint sites.
SharePoint Foundation
• Provides core functionality for team sites, including file sharing and collaboration tools.
SharePoint Migration Tool
• Facilitates the migration of content from SharePoint Server to SharePoint Online or OneDrive.
SharePoint Color Palette Tool
• Use to create custom colour palettes and themes for their SharePoint sites.
SharePoint Manager
• Allows users to browse every site on the local farm and view every property.
U2U CAML Query Builder
• Assists in creating CAML queries for SharePoint. CAML (Collaborative Application Markup Language) is an XML-based language that is used in Microsoft SharePoint Foundation to define sites and lists.
SPServices
• A jQuery library that abstracts SharePoint’s Web Services and makes them easier to use.
• It also includes functions that make custom solutions easier to code and manage.

SharePoint tools for project management

When it comes to project management, SharePoint is the first option I’d recommend for anyone. 

The main reason is, SharePoint tools play a pivotal role in planning, tracking, and coordinating projects, enabling teams to meet deadlines and achieve their objectives effectively, exactly what a project manager wants! 

Basically, these tools provide a centralised system for storing project data, fostering collaboration, and automating workflows, making project management an organised and seamless process. 

By the way, the following is a list of Share Point tools that are ideal for project management.  

SharePoint Tool
Application in Project Management
SharePoint Team Sites
• Act as central repositories for all project-related data, allowing team members to easily access and collaborate on shared files, tasks, and calendars.
SharePoint Lists and Libraries
• Use to organise and manage project tasks, files, and other related items, ensuring team members can find the information they need efficiently.
SharePoint Planner
• Provides visual organisation of project tasks.
• Allow team members to quickly understand the project timeline and their individual responsibilities.
SharePoint Workflows
• Automate project processes like document approval or task assignments, increasing efficiency and ensuring that important steps are not missed.
SharePoint Task Management
• Enable project leaders to assign tasks, track progress, and manage deadlines effectively.
SharePoint Project Sites
• These are created for individual projects. They offer a structured environment for storing and managing all project-related information and processes.

Why use SharePoint instead of Excel?

Well, over the past few years, I’ve met many business owners who still use Excel for project management.

Its powerful data handling and visualisation capabilities make it an easy choice for tasks such as tracking project timelines, budgeting, and resource allocation. 

Despite these features and familiarity among users, Excel was not specifically designed for project management. Therefore it lacks certain features that can enhance project coordination and collaboration.

Drawbacks of using Excel as a Project Management Tool

Excel is primarily designed for single-user access. Therefore making real-time collaboration is challenging. Well, shared workbooks are an option, but the negative point is, they often lead to version control issues.

When using Excel, members should manually input notes for tracking and updating project statuses, which can be time-consuming and error-prone.

Excel does not offer granular access controls. This drawback can lead to inadvertent changes or data leaks.

Unlike SharePoint, Excel does not easily integrate with other tools and platforms. Therefore it limits its ability to centralise and streamline project management processes.

Well, Excel would be sufficient for small projects, but as project complexity and size increase, it will be really hard for project managers to work with Excel sheets.

Conclusion

In conclusion, SharePoint, as a feature-rich platform, provides solutions for the drawbacks I discussed before. 

More importantly, there are a variety of SharePoint tools, both free and paid, that can be used to enhance the productivity of your organisation.

Therefore, it is worthwhile for businesses to invest time in understanding and leveraging the full potential of SharePoint tools.