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I'm a seasoned developer and CMS consumer, but I've never used SharePoint specifically. Is there a website where I can quickly create and manage a SharePoint site, without installing the entire stack myself?

For example, if I wanted to learn Wordpress, I would create an account at wordpress.com. This would allow me to create sites, manage sites, create and publish content, change the look and feel, etc. with no installation or infrastructure required from my end. I'm looking for something roughly equivalent in SharePoint, even if it's limited in the scope of what I can do with it.

Edit: Trials are great. But ideally, I want something unlimited/free.

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8 Answers 8

up vote 8 down vote accepted

If you don't mind downloading a VHD then Microsoft provides a 2010 Information Worker Demonstration and Evaluation Virtual Machine. The nice thing about it is that it's already preloaded with sample content and user accounts.

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+1 this is not a bad solution. But if it comes to this, I would rather just install everything on my home box and expose it to the internet. Thanks, I might actually do this! –  ashes999 Sep 16 '11 at 19:15
    
@Vassili Altynikov - I've had a bit of an issue with this download - it was updated on 13/9, and whilst it has the User pack installed, there was no content as far as I could tell - have I missed something? A possible alternative, with content, can be found from these older links: projectserverblogs.com/?p=4254 –  Zhaph - Ben Duguid Sep 21 '11 at 16:17
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@Ben Duguid - yes, you are right, I noticed that as well. The prior version of the VM was preloaded with content whereas the new VM only includes sample user records. –  Vassili Altynikov Sep 22 '11 at 1:07
    
Notice that this VHD requires a Windows Server, like Windows Server 2008 R2, with Hyper-V role enabled. If you don't have this requirement then as Jason mentioned, try cloudshare.com (there is a fee). –  Hossein Aarabi Jun 23 '12 at 4:29

You can use SharePoint Online and Office 365 trial to access SharePoint's limited feature and see how it turns up for you. With SharePoint Online you can create sites to:

  • manage and share important documents (My Sites)

  • keep teams in sync and manage important projects (Team Sites)

  • stay up to date with company information and news (Intranet Sites)

  • share documents securely with partners and customers (Extranet Sites)

  • market your business using a simple public-facing website

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Office 365 is beyond what I'm interested in. But +1 since the trial is 30 days. –  ashes999 Sep 16 '11 at 16:19

You could use http://www.cloudshare.com/ where you could spin up an entire environment and have complete access to the back end. It looks like there is a trial period so you could check it out without paying.

I have not used this environment so I can not give you personal experience, but if you want developer level access for learning this seems like a great way to go.

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+1 looks good, albeit the trial is only 14 days. That should be enough for me. –  ashes999 Sep 17 '11 at 11:32

I'd agree with Christophe on this. I think you really need to sit down and work out exactly what it is you want to do.

Wordpress and SharePoint have different business models and you will be extremely hard pushed to find anywhere providing the full features for free; these hosts have to recoup their licensing costs and are businesses trying to make a profit.

The best approach I can suggest if you want to dip your toe in at low cost is to install SharePoint Foundation. You can do this on a 64-bit Windows 7 machine for DEV purposes or properly on a Server OS. The install process is not that onerous and you will get a better understanding of the architecture of the product. You will also have something that is available to you whether you are connected to the internet or not.

Beyond that, you will have to take up one of the hosted solutions such as Cloudshare or invest in the infrastructure yourself to have your own instance.

If you are really serious about progressing with SharePoint, you will have to incur some costs somewhere whether it be a hosted service or getting an MSDN subscription. As above, you need to work out what it is you want to do.

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I use the IW VM, Office 365, hosted sites from Rackspace and FPWeb.net, but by far the quickest way to get an environment you can play with is to use one of these pre-built, hosted in the cloud VM's from Cloudshare: http://www.cloudshare.com/Products/CloudShare-ProPlus/solution-showcase.aspx

The permalinks in the Solution Showcase are different from the 14 day trial. Each link on that page provisions a complete SharePoint Environment for free with registration. The limitation is that the enviornment loses its state after 48 hours, but you can provision a new one the next time you want to expiriment. The first link on the page is a copy of the IW VM from Microsoft, but it's already warmed up and waiting with Visual Studio installed and configured. I use it to expiriment with all the time even though I have a paid account with them and SharePoint VM's spun up on my desktop.

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As far as I know, you won't find for SharePoint the equivalent of Wordpress.com. By the way, note that Wordpress.com allows you to use Wordpress, not really to learn it. It comes with strict limitations, and only the basic features are free.

If you are ok with Foundation and only want to play with the user side (SharePoint UI and SharePoint Designer), you can find a hosting provider for less than $10/month. MSS would be more expensive.

If you are looking at this from the developer side, your best bet is certainly to install it yourself on your local machine.

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Wordpress.com is sufficient for the non-development tasks: publishing content, changing themes, installing some plugins, etc. $10/month is not worth it considering I have zero knowledge. If a dev env is the way I go, I'd rather use the VM. –  ashes999 Sep 16 '11 at 19:15
    
Your call, but if your objective is to become a SP pro and charge $80 to $150/hour, you'll have to explain why a $10/month investment is not worth it! For the record, I use Wordpress.com myself... for my SharePoint blog. –  Christophe Sep 16 '11 at 20:07
    
my long term plan is to be an SP pro, true. But that's not the goal of my question; I'm just looking for a wp.com so I can get basics down. –  ashes999 Sep 17 '11 at 0:17
    
Well, my answer addressed your question. My comment was just a reply to your own comment. SharePoint is no freeware. With the previous version (2007), fpweb.net - a hosting provider - was offering free sites at freesharepoint.com. With the new version, they have a program where they provide free sites to SP community members (bloggers, user groups for example). –  Christophe Sep 17 '11 at 1:14
    
+1 for freehsarepoint.com. :) –  ashes999 Sep 17 '11 at 11:32

You can also try Office 365 Preview which includes Sharepoint (2013) Online.

From the FAQ:

..the Preview will expire approximately 60 days after the next version of Office becomes available in your market. As the date approaches, you will receive notifications in the Office applications alerting you to the pending expiration.

When the Preview ends, all data in the Preview account will be deleted, including email and calendar data, web sites, and uploaded documents

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Yes, I agree with Christophe, if you want only SharePoint Designer and SharePoint UI, please just find SharePoint Foundation 2010 hosting. Hmmm, this is the provider I know that support SharePoint 2010 hosting with affordable rate, please visit asphostportal.com. Fpweb is good, but you need to spend more money. Good luck

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