Since the web was created at CERN in 1990 it has continued to evolve. You may have heard of Web 2.0, a buzzword that reflects the trend towards more collaboration and sharing between users. The web is now flourishing with collaborative applications, such as blogs, wiki sites (like the collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia), social networking sites (e.g. Myspace) and online photo galleries.

The introduction of "collaboration workspaces" at CERN means that users can now easily set up their own collaborative web applications (figure 1). A collaboration workspace is a new type of website that is available from the central web management interface at The websites are based on SharePoint technology. The aim is to make it quicker and easier to share information and documents between CERN co-workers as well with people outside CERN.

Save time editing

Collaboration workspaces do not require a website editor tool; you can do most things from your web browser, including creating new pages and editing existing pages. In addition, all workspaces use a default template so that your site is ready to use immediately and there is no need to worry about formatting. See figure 2 for the types of content that can be created in collaboration workspaces.

Use wiki pages for quick web publishing

A wiki is a type of website whose content can be modified by several authors from the site itself. You can use wiki page libraries to store web content that changes often and involves more than one author, such as knowledge bases or operational procedures. Changes are tracked automatically so that it is possible to view older versions of a document and review changes.

Work with document libraries

Document libraries enable you to store and share any type of document in your collaboration workspace. Most importantly they provide an efficient way for several people to work on the same document: document libraries can be configured to automatically keep track of document versions as a document is edited.

The check-in/check-out feature enables a user to lock a shared document for some time, preventing concurrent editing. Approval workflow enables modified documents to be reviewed as necessary.

Create web forms and questionnaires

An important feature of collaboration workspaces is the ability to easily create web forms to collect data (figure 3). For example, it only takes a few minutes to create an online questionnaire: all that has to be done is to define the questions and the type of answers (e.g. yes/no, choice between possible values, or free text).

The collected data is stored in lists (figure 4). A list is similar to a spreadsheet or a database table that is managed online. To create a web form simply define the columns of a custom list, then a corresponding web form is generated automatically to feed the list.

Similarly, users can create and publish different views of the collected data. The list data can also be exported to a spreadsheet for analysis.

Use lists to share information

Several predefined lists exist in collaboration workspaces, such as contact lists, task lists and shared calendars. These provide a convenient way to share this information with others.

The lists can be connected to Outlook as additional contact, task or calendar folders, so that you can manage them side by side with your private contact, task and calendar folders (figure 5). The connection to Outlook also enables the online information to be synchronized with mobile devices such as phones and PDAs, as well as providing an offline copy of the information.

Exchange points of view on web forums

The discussion board feature enables web discussion forums to be set up quickly and to be opened to contributors outside CERN.

Stay connected with RSS feeds and alerts

All lists, document libraries and discussion forums expose RSS feeds, which is a standard notification protocol. Users can subscribe with their favourite RSS feed reader (readers include Internet Explorer, Outlook 2007 and Mozilla Thunderbird) and receive notifications about updates without having to connect to the collaboration workspace. RSS feeds combined with web discussion forums are an interesting alternative to newsgroups (figure 6).

Users can also register to receive a mail alert when something is changed in a list or document library that interests them.

Work with people outside CERN

In order to provide collaboration features, collaboration workspaces need to identify individual users. CERN users can of course authenticate themselves with their computer account, but external users can also authenticate themselves by attaching a password to their e-mail address: this is the "CERN external account" option.

The same "external account" registration is shared with other CERN applications such as Indico, CDS and the Simba mailing-list service, so that external users can use a single password to access any of these CERN applications as well as collaboration workspaces. New users can register at

When configuring the access permissions for a collaboration workspace, you can specify external users using their e-mail address or with Simba mailing lists (go to

Getting started with collaboration workspaces

Collaboration workspaces are created and managed in the same way as other types of website, from the central Web Services site at (figure 7).

Read the guide "Getting started with SharePoint" (located in the section "Working with collaboration workspaces" on the Web Services site) along with the SharePoint online help. Support is provided as usual by the computing helpdesk at Seminars will be held after the summer period; watch the CERN Bulletin for announcements.