Creating an External List
In Lesson 34 we looked at creating an external content type that connected to an SQL Server customer table and returned a small set of data. In this lesson we are going to expose that data within SharePoint as a list and have a look at creating a custom Web Part page, again exposing the data to users. Creating the external list is perhaps one of the easier exercises you will do in this book.
This ability to allow users access to external content within SharePoint cannot be underestimated, as among other advantages it gives you a way to expose data held outside the main SharePoint system. In this way some of the pressure is removed from IT staff to provide information from central systems. Many users welcome such access and with this release of SharePoint and SharePoint Designer 2010 it is now possible for such access to be given in a secure controlled way.
There are currently a couple of limitations when using External Lists in SharePoint including:
1. Workflows cannot be associated with the External List.
2. No versioning or version history exists for list items.
3. Users cannot export list data to client programs, including Excel.
4. Unable to add attachments to list items.
5. Dataview features are not available.
This appearance of external data as a standard Sharepoint list can be confusing to users who expect the full range of list functionality to be available. Perhaps the best way to view the External List is as a version one technology ...