Essential SharePoint 2013 – book review

I’m in the fortunate position of books arriving on a fairly regular basis for me to review. A few months ago Essential SharePoint 2013 arrived from Addison Wesley and has stayed on my desk ever since as a definitive handbook on SharePoint 2013. Thinking ahead to meeting Susan Hanley, one of the authors, at IntraTeam in Copenhagen next week it suddenly dawned on me that I had not actually got around to posting a review.

The book is the third in a series. Essential SharePoint 2010 ran to 580 pages but the 2013 version has grown to 750 pages. Scott Jamison and Susan Hanley have worked together on all three books and for the 2013 edition have been joined by Chris Bortlink. The 20 chapters are organised in two sections, with the first 10 chapters (almost 400 pages) in the Planning section and the remainder in Operations. This balance is important because I remain very concerned by organisations who install SP2013 without any forward planning and then make up the governance as they go along. That’s when the problems start. In my view SP2013 is more like a new version of SharePoint, not just an upgrade. Some of the changes are so fundamental that you need to drill deep to get the very best out of the application. I like the way that each chapter starts with an overview of what is new in SP2013 that needs special attention. Comparing this edition with the 2010 edition I felt that there was a little less independent guidance in terms of what SP2013 “can do”,  “can’t do” and “can do but it will take time and effort”. My main area of interest is in the search capabilities of SP2013 and some of the topics (e.g. the difference in the crawl management) are not given in the level of detail that other features of SP2013 receive.

The writing style is excellent. You feel that the authors know their subject so well that they don’t have to struggle to explain the inevitable complexity of the application. However the book is not just a list of functional capabilities but more like having one of the authors sitting alongside you as you being the planning and governance phases of a SP2013 project and subsequently providing a wealth of good practice on operational issues. Each chapter is carefully structured into sections that result in a very usable contents page and the index has been compiled with care. The screen shots are sometimes difficult to understand. They would benefit from the features on the screens being numbered and then referenced in the text, though occasionally there are text boxes and arrows to key elements of the screen shot.

This is a book that no SharePoint team can afford to be without, especially at the planning stage of the installation. Right from the start you get the secure feeling that the authors really do know what they are writing about, and for a technical book there is a sense of passion about their writing style which makes a refreshing change. This is not a techie book. There are no lines of code, just good explanations of what SP2013 offers and how to make the best of the application. Don’t make do with one copy, buy enough for everyone on the SharePoint team. It’s a small price to pay given how much your organisation has already invested in the licences!

Martin White