There are three basic ways to store content in SharePoint: lists, libraries, and pages. Each of these has a number of interesting variations, but it is important to understand the differences between these three fundamental types so you can best decide what you want to migrate to. Each type is described briefly here; subsequent posts will explain in detail how to migrate content to each from Lotus Notes applications.
Lists are similar to tables in a relational database. A list is a flat collection of data records (called items in SharePoint) with a fixed set of data fields (called columns). Each data column has a fixed name and type. For example, a customer list may have a Text column called “Customer Name,” a Date column called “First Purchase Date,” and potentially dozens of other columns. One particularly interesting column type is Rich Text (also known as a “Note” “Body” column); this is where one would typically store large amounts of rich text. Lists can also have one or more binary attachments and may have one or more views, which allow users to select and sort the items in various ways.
All of this should sound pretty familiar to Notes customers, because a list is actually the closest thing in SharePoint to a Notes database. The biggest difference is that SharePoint lists are highly structured with a fixed schema (like a relational database), whereas Notes databases can be very unstructured, with every document having a different set of data items.
Libraries are collections of binary files, such as images, Word documents, or audio clips. While lists and libraries are very similar internally, the metaphor is very different: in a list, the document may contain several binary file attachments; in a library, the binary file is the document. The emphasis in libraries is the document management functionality, including versioning and check-in/check-out. As with lists, libraries can have many additional data columns defined for capturing additional information about each document.
In the Notes world, the closest thing to a SharePoint library is a Domino.Doc file cabinet. (Domino.Doc was a popular document management system built on top of Notes.) Many organizations also built custom Notes applications that attempt to implement document management functionality. Any time you see a Notes application where the file attachment is “the document,” consider migrating it to a SharePoint library. It is also common for Notes “team site” applications to have a document library section as part of the overall application.
Pages are the building blocks of all SharePoint sites. These are the web pages you actually see in the web browser every time you click on a link to view a site, open a document, enter some information, or do just about anything else. Most people do not realize that the same pages that make up the sites themselves can also be used as data documents. SharePoint actually allows you to create several types of content pages, including basic pages, wiki pages, web part pages, and publishing pages. SharePoint Online Dedicated includes several nice publishing site templates that are designed to manage the authoring, approval and display of rich text web pages.
While content pages have no exact equivalent in the Notes world, they can be a great way to migrate certain types of Notes applications. Any time you see a Notes application in which the main intent was to publish a library of rich text pages to a large number of users, consider migrating it to a SharePoint page library or a publishing site. This includes the many Notes applications that implemented public web or extranet sites.