(Rating: 5 out of 5)
Bamboo’s World Clock and Weather web part is without a doubt one of the most popular free web parts for the SharePoint community. But being free is not the main reason why this web part is so good. It addresses a pretty basic need that SharePoint does not have out of the box.
SharePoint is collaborative software intended to bridge the gap between remote locations within an organization or a network of people. This web part delivers a nice GUI display of time and weather and it helps keep all users connected to each others’ environments.
For 2009, Bamboo has updated this popular web part from 1.0 to 2.0. They’ve included a few additions to the feature set and improvements in the usability and design department as well. Although 2.0 is the latest version of the product, you can only download this from Bamboo’s online store. The version that is currently included in the Community Kit for SharePoint is still the older 1.0 version (as of March 16, 2009).
New 2.0 features:
- New digital/analog clock styles
- Weather effects to the web part page
- Custom holiday message
- Ability to render clocks with Microsoft Silverlight
- Improvements to the way locations can be managed with the ability to specify Celsius or Fahrenheit for each specific location instead of only globally
As you can see above, the new clocks look great in Silverlight. I personally prefer the clocks over the weather display, but that is entirely up to you! The only downside to enabling Silverlight is that Silverlight is still incompatible with 64-bit browsers, so you will see an “Install Silverlight” button when connecting to the web part. But you’ll notice how smooth the clock hands move with Silverlight enabled that this downside should be overlooked. I’ve made use of another new feature by setting international locations to Celsius and domestic locations in the U.S. to Fahrenheit.
It’s difficult to show the new weather effects without a video, but they are very cool. You can enable rain or snow, and you have the ability to choose the density as well. If you choose snow, the snow will actually collect at the bottom of the page for a nice effect. This is not the most practical feature, but little things like this can add a lot of flare to your web part page.
The only lacking feature for the web part is the inability to cache data. On every page load the web part queries weather.msn.com. If for some reason the query fails or lags, then your entire web part page may hang for a while. If you are running file version 188.8.131.52 for the web part, then they have patched the web part to display an error message rather than preventing the user from accessing the page. In prior versions there was an issue where you may not be able to connect to a web part page if this web part was unable to connect to MSN Weather. This has now been fixed, but data caching would still be nice. If coupled with a custom setting for timeouts, then this would alleviate most of the connection-related issues.
There’s not much to complain about in a free web part that can immediately spice up your portal and add real value to the user’s experience. This should be a must install for any SharePoint admin as there are no strings attached!