(Rating 4 out of 5)
The Taxonomy Extension by SharePointXXL enables documents and list items to be organized cross-site as part of a connected network model. It is, for the most part, a very well thought-out product which cleverly takes advantage of the intrinsic structure of SharePoint in order to provide a lot of functionality not considered by other tagging or taxonomy systems.
It’s clear that the developers carefully architected the solution and, further, have either used it extensively or proven responsive to developer feedback as the features encapsulate most functionality a taxonomy manager will require on a day-to-day basis.
Despite that, there are two features I’d like to see improved in this product. First, while I understand the intrinsic challenges of this based on the SharePoint architecture, the ability to cross-reference multiple tags would make this significantly more powerful. Second, while many users may be satisfied with the built-in category templates, customizing the site template (beyond the web parts and list definition) is likely not an option – even for seasoned SharePoint developers, modifying the onet.xml file can be tedious and frustrating due to SharePoint’s poor debugging tools.
- Categories can be filtered against individually in standard SharePoint lists.
- Linked taxonomy allows centralized management; tags can be moved or renamed and will be updated immediately in content.
- Master categories list appears in a hierarchically sorted format (based on path) making it easy to add new categories to the taxonomy.
- Supports import and export of taxonomies via an XML format, making it easy to synchronize with a master taxonomy schema.
- Parent categories can (optionally) be auto-selected during tagging process making it easy to implement an exclusive filtering model.
- Clever implementation of tag pages as sites which presents a number of benefits including a) a REST-like resource hierarchy for tags, b) inclusion of tag indexes in search results, c) ability to seamlessly integrate with SharePoint’s existing Site-based navigation hierarchy and d) exposure of built-in features such as alerts and RSS for tags.
- Centralized tag page template allows a site owner to customize the presentation and organization of tag pages in one place and publish out to all tag pages via a simple GUI-driven process.
- In standard view mode, automatically exposes category list as a “Related Items” field showing content related via categories.
- When selecting categories or viewing a category-based tree view, the count of associated content is always displayed.
- Provides a built in Taxonomy Administration site which includes a number of useful tools for publishing, synchronizing and recalculating categories across sites as a means of ensuring content and categories are always up-to-date.
- Category indexes can be filtered by a particular node in the hierarchy, even made contextual (for tag pages).
- Built-in logging including logging of debug messages, info, warning and errors (very nice!).
- While the concepts are initially difficult to understand, the post-installation process hand-holds the user through the available features making it easy to understand the new functionality.
- Supports suggestions of tags based on evaluation of content. By default, this ships with a regular expression categorizer, but users can upgrade to a rules-based mode, a semantic model and also an automatic categorizer (required the “Advanced” version). I haven’t played with these much, but they look promising.
- Comparatively complex; took hands-on-experimentation to understand the features outlined on the website.
- Does not appear to support multiple taxonomies or remote taxonomies – although the “Advanced Version” allows one taxonomy to be shared across multiple site collections on a single server or farm.
- Incapable of cross-referencing multiple tags at once (e.g., all items categorized as “x” AND “y”). No support for user-contributed tags (for me this is irrelevant, but that depends on business requirements).
- Categories stored in a serialized array format which isn’t compatible with client integration (including DataView) and will require special parsing if you write custom XSL wrappers for Web Parts (such as the CQWP). Note: This is not uncommon for complex field types in SharePoint, including out-of-the-box lookup fields.
- Does not support subscription to tags.
- Multiple web parts added to library; not all of these are intended for end-users (some are infrastructure parts intended for its management console).
- Does not provide an immediately obvious way to customize the location of its Taxonomy Administration website, which always appears at the top level.
- While category indexes can be filtered by a particular node, this node must be set via it’s unique ID. While easy to lookup, this is an extra step; being able to select via a tree view of the category hierarchy would be friendlier.
- While SharePartXXL offers the ability to replicate out an “Items Template” for the tag pages, it is only able to replicate list and web part settings. In other words, if you want to change site settings (such as the theme or how the navigation is displayed) then you can’t do this via the GUI. This must be done, instead, by modifying the source template’s onet.xml file (as discussed via the developers’ FAQ).
This is a product that I will be recommending to clients – especially clients who require (or may ultimately need) the ability for automatic categorization based on a pluggable categorization system.