Tools of the Trade

A recent discussion on the LinkedIn group Weekend Woodworkers asked members to talk about their favorite hand plane. Right away I knew the person starting the discussion was a real woodworker. A real woodworker knows better than to ask “what’s your favorite tool?” There are simply too many favorites. And, a real woodworker knows the attachment woodworkers have for planes. My favorite, shown here, is a Stanley Low-angle Block Pane. When it comes to the work I do with SharePoint, choosing a favorite tool is hard. In fact, I don’t really use that many tools. Even though I’ve been working with SharePoint for five years, there are still a lot of things I like to do by hand, to fully understand the options, features and capabilities. After I have this understanding, if the task is difficult or tedious, then I decide to buy a tool to help. One such tool we recently purchased is MetaVis Architect Suite.

MetaVis presents you with a graphical view of your SharePoint environment and lets you manipulate that view. The cool thing is that you can do the manipulation in a modeled environment and, if you like what you have, you can push it out to your SharePoint server. You can compare sites to make sure they have the same elements (lists, libraries, content types, etc.) and you can create new elements in the model instead of at the server. One very nice benefit of this feature is the ability to build and configure sites, in front of a user, without waiting for SharePoint to build actual pages and, even better, without having to tear it all down when they realize they want something else. Still even better is the ability to show the user other sites and, when they see something they like, be able to copy it to their site. Another thing I like about MetaVis is their pricing. Architect Suite is priced by seat. So the one copy we have cost us 1x their License fee. They offer discounts for more than one copy but, our one copy can be used to work on our internal server, our Internet facing server and our test server. I like pricing that makes sense, pricing that matches use, and, in my opinion, MetaVis got it right.

We’ve only recently started working with MetaVis so the things I’ve accomplished with the product don’t do justice to its capabilities. I hope to share some interesting stories in the future but I wanted to write about it now for two reasons. One, it’s a really cool product! Two, I want to answer some backchannel e-mail I’ve received titled “Who pays for SharePoint Stories?” Who pays? – I do. OK, I don’t pay much, this is on Blogger so the blog is free, but I did pay $8 for the domain name. The company I work for bought MetaVis along with SharePoint, a few other tools and a bunch of web-parts. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have taken a free copy, but if I did, I would let you know at the beginning of this post and I’d still post the truth about the product. You might also note that there aren’t any ads here. If you’re going to be distracted while reading my blog, please read my recent Tweets, my previous posts or check out the links to people I find interesting.
Now that the fine print is out of the way, let me say that if Stanley Tools wants to send me another low angle block plane, I’ll take it.