The most useful SharePoint Web Parts

Applying MOSS 2007 Web Parts can add functions to SharePoint and increase user adoption. And best of all, they don't require administrator intervention to install, maintain and upgrade.

Stephen Cummins, Contributor
Stephen Cummins

Web Parts drive user adoption of Microsoft Office SharePoint Services by placing the ownership and management of SharePoint in the hands of users. These mini applications are designed to connect and manipulate the display of content from multiple sources, allowing users to customize and add functionality to their team sites.

Because they are out of the box, Web Parts require no administrative overhead from IT to install, upgrade and maintain. Knowing how to apply their functionality to real user needs is the key to their adoption.

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In this article, I'll tell you about some of the most useful Web Parts for Microsoft Office SharePoint Services (MOSS) 2007. Any user with the designer role or administrator role can add these Web Parts on their own sites. That way, the rights required to use Web Parts can be safely delegated by farm administrators since they only work within the scope of the site they are added to.

List or library viewer Web Parts

The most obvious and overlooked Web Parts are the ones automatically generated when a new list or library is added to the site. SharePoint will display content from a number of associated lists or libraries on a Web Part page so that the latest content in them can be quickly and easily accessed. The list or library Web Parts can have their own SharePoint views. Some examples are views to show the latest five items added to the lists, the ones added by the current user or just the same group of documents that should always be accessible from the site's home page.

Content Editor Web Part

This Web Part gives users the immediate ability to add content directly on to SharePoint pages. It is a browser-based editor that allows them to add content, images, links and tables directly onto the SharePoint page using only their browser. The most common use of this Web Part is for teams or departments to be able to manage the content of their own site without having to set up a more detailed Web Content Management process or use a Web development tool.

The Web Part can bring over formatting from Word or other programs, which can be useful for users. But it's also mystifying for them if the content does not appear formatted correctly and they have no knowledge of how to fix it. With this tool, users can view the source of a Web Part and fix the offending formatting, if they have the knowledge to do so. If not, the simplest approach is to copy the content into Notepad to strip out the formatting, then paste it into the Content Editor Web Part and format it using the formatting tools.

Page Viewer Web Part

The Page Viewer Web Part lets the user show another document or Web page inside a SharePoint page just by linking to it. The most common use of this Web Part is for allowing integration with a third-party Web application used frequently by team or department users. The whole series of Web pages for the application will appear in a frame within the SharePoint site, allowing consolidated access to multiple tools from one URL. It's an easy way to switch between SharePoint and the other tool and back again too.

Content Query Web Part

This Web Part, available in the Publishing Site template, lets you display lists of content by content type, which is useful for organizations where kinds of documents such as policies, procedures or contracts are scattered across multiple sub-sites and there is no one place to view them all. The Content Query Web Part is like an automatic search query that shows a list of links to all of the documents that have been given the content type or types you select.

RSS Viewer Web Part

The RSS Viewer lets you view links and content from any site that has an RSS feed. It's a handy tool for users who regularly track particular external sites because it allows them to see the content conveniently on their own site.

Once users have tested the waters with these Web Parts, they will understand the usefulness of the Web Part framework and how it empowers them to control the content on their own sites. That will help ensure SharePoint's adoption by giving them a greater sense of ownership.

Stephen Cummins, founder of www.spsfaq.com, is a SharePoint consultant and has been a SharePoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional) for the past seven years. He lives in Kildare, Ireland, with his wife, daughter, two dogs and an ever-changing number of goldfish..


This was first published in August 2009

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