Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010 in Review

This has been an exciting year for SharePoint and for the Keller Schroeder SharePoint team. From the successful launch of SharePoint 2010 to the ensuing migrations, it seems like we never slowed down. We are continuing to work with some of our great clients to migrate their existing portals to SharePoint 2010. In addition, we worked with a number of new clients and new-to-SharePoint clients in 2010. We are grateful for each one. It has been gratifying to work with a product that has provided cost saving solutions to real world challenges, but even more gratifying to be blessed to do work for some of the best businesses and business people imaginable.

There is another group of people we want to thank: our readers. So far this year, we have had over 4,200 unique visitors to our SharePoint blog. This is our eighteenth article posted this year. Our most popular posts have been about jQuery, forms, and Data View Web Parts – combining for about 7,000 page views. You can expect more posts on those topics in 2011 – along with some other great topics.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

SharePoint and Your Health, Part 2

In my previous post, I introduced you to our Step It Up wellness portal at a high level. In this post I will get a little deeper into the infrastructure and SharePoint architecture.


Our infrastructure consists of a combination of physical and virtualized servers. SQL Server 2008 is installed on a dedicated physical server. SharePoint is installed on a virtualized server using Microsoft’s Hyper-V. We use Microsoft’s Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2006 (ISA) on the perimeter (now called ForeFront Threat Management Gateway 2010) to manage authentication (Kerberos), serve the digital certificate, and proxy requests to our SharePoint farm. This is a great model if you need to build-out multiple servers efficiently in a semi-dedicated environment.

On the home page, I am going to explain the features in eight different zones on the page:

1. Left upper: The “My Activity” web part is a Content Editor Web Part that includes icons and links to ease navigation, resulting is a better user experience. The links simply link to the new page, list view, and calendar view pages for the user’s Activity Log list.

2. Left middle: This is a custom web part (written in Visual Studio) that uses SharePoint’s Object Model to calculate how many drawing chances I have earned to date and how many wellness minutes I have accumulated to date.

3. Left bottom: My activity as of the current date is displayed. We have a summary list that stores the amount of activity for a user by month. When an entry is added or removed from the activity log, an event handler (written in Visual Studio) increments or decrements the monthly total for the currently logged-in user. The presentation on this page is another custom web part that uses the Object Model to query the user’s totals.

4. Center top: The welcome message is in a Content Editor Web Part that is edited by the program administrator. The content contains a hyperlink for displaying the complete rules. When clicked, the hyperlink executes jQuery script to show or hide the complete program rules. If you are interested in learning more about jQuery in SharePoint, check out our earlier blog posts.

5. Center bottom: The chart that appears in this section is a visual representation of the company’s progress – averaged by user. This is a nice feature on any SharePoint site to give it that dashboard look-and-feel. While this chart could have been built dynamically using jQuery, it only takes a few seconds to build it in Excel and save it to a SharePoint image library. Since it is only updated once a month (after the preview month’s data has been tallied), we decided to take this approach to save time. We believe in using the right tools for the job out-of-the-box, and customizing when it is necessary or produces a Return on Investment.

6. Right upper: The “Company Progress thru [Month]” section numerically displays the company-wide average activity to date. This is the same information that is plotted on the center chart by month.

7. Right middle: The “Monthly Drawing Winners” image link links to the list view for a custom list that simply displays the winners for each month in columnar format.

8. Right bottom: The “Team Bragging Rights” section displays the totals for our two teams (Applications and Infrastructure) to date and for the last month. A lookup column is included in our Participants list to link a participant to a team. A custom web part uses the Object Model to summarize the results by team.

That gets us a little closer than the 20,000 foot view. Whether this blog series lives on or not is up to you. If you are interested in learning more about how these sections were developed, leave a comment and tell which of the sections (1-8) is of interest to you. I will talk about the nuts and bolts of how these sections were developed only if you ask.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Warning: SharePoint Can Be GOOD for Your Health

I am often asked by clients and prospects how we use SharePoint at Keller Schroeder. There are a couple of reasons they ask this. First and foremost, they seek to validate our team before they engage with us on a SharePoint engagement. Second, they are looking for ways that to use SharePoint that they have not have considered. Obviously many software solutions span verticals or industries. SharePoint solutions are definitely no exception to this. While most of our clients would not benefit from seeing how we use SharePoint to track consulting opportunities and schedule consultants, we do have internal solutions with a more universal appeal. One way that we are excited to use SharePoint at Keller Schroeder may come as a surprise to you, and it has generated a “healthy enthusiasm” among our employee-owners for many months now. Allow me to introduce the Step It Up wellness program. I will introduce the program and the SharePoint site at a high level in this post. Next month I will expand on the details.


Wellness is something we are serious about at Keller Schroeder – from our walking-fanatic president to our globe-cycling account managers and engineers. We started a wellness program several years ago, with various contests and campaigns since then, and have found that simple is better. This particular campaign started this month. There are monthly drawings for gift cards. Everyone who meets his or her exercise goal for the month gets one or two chances. Those same qualifying people are given chances for a larger drawing at the end of the wellness program cycle. We have added some flavor to this cycle by pitting our Sales and Infrastructure employee-owners (EOs) against our Applications EOs for bragging rights.

The picture above is a personalized dashboard that I see when I log on to the site. Since this is the end of the first month, you will notice on the bottom-left that I have already met my goals for the month. At the start of November I will see metrics telling me how many minutes I have left to meet my “goal” and my “stretch goal.” On the right, you will notice that we have no monthly metrics yet for performance against the “company goal” or for the team competition. Next month I will show you a screen shot with all of these metrics tabulated, including some nice charts to show company and team progress.

The site has all the characteristics of a successful SharePoint implementation, including:

  • Top-down support (C-level involvement and promotion)
  • Broad-reaching appeal (all EOs use it)
  • Consistent usage (it is used daily)
  • Governance and continuous improvement (it is reviewed regularly by the steering team; this is the second version and is better than the first)
  • Dynamic content (daily and monthly metrics; monthly content changes; regular email newsletters referring to the site)
  • Usability and functionality (it has a friendly user interface and we looked for every opportunity to reduce required mouse-clicks and replace confusing out-of-the-box controls)
  • Aesthetic appeal (thanks to our in-house SharePoint branding team)

Some of the SharePoint Features represented are:

  • Sites – A primary site personalized for EOs, views for the administrators, a sub-site for the SharePoint implementation team
  • Content – Dynamic content and user content that draws a continued interest in the site
  • Insights – Metrics provided in the form of calculated fields, charts, calendar views and other custom views
  • Composites – Custom-developed and no-code solutions for EOs to enter time and track their activity
  • Communities – Discussions and tasks on the implementation team site facilitate continuous improvement

What I appreciate about the site is that it depicts all of these elements in a simple and concise fashion. If you have read about SharePoint at all, you have probably seen many of the buzzwords I mentioned above. Many organizations feel overwhelmed when evaluating SharePoint or get lost in the terminology. As you can see, a SharePoint implementation does not have to be complicated to be successful. In fact, sometimes less is more. Next month, I will follow up with more detail on the site and infrastructure.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

SharePoint Pillar: Composites

The sixth and final pillar in my “Pillars of SharePoint” series is “Composites.” The concept of composites in SharePoint is to enable lay people to build their own business applications without requiring code. This is accomplished by hosting as services on SharePoint tools that these people are used to using, such as Excel, Access and Visio. In addition, developers may develop Business Connectivity Services components, or building blocks, to allow a non-developer to create web pages to view and edit functionality against the core business systems.

SharePoint has been designed to present data from your disparate business systems in one place without the requirement to duplicate that data in the SharePoint database. Rather than using Enterprise Application Integration or Business Process Management to keep disparate systems in sync, consider using SharePoint to allow real time access to view and update data on those systems from a central location with which your users are already familiar.

Another solution in the Composites area includes using InfoPath Forms Designer and SharePoint Designer to build business forms and workflows without the need to write code. These tools are efficient and are steeped in SharePoint integration. In fact, many developers have leveraged InfoPath and SharePoint Designer to deploy codeless solutions to save time and money on a development effort.

In conclusion, I hope it is apparent to you that Microsoft did not choose six feature areas that they hoped to address with SharePoint and then start writing components that they thought would fit nicely into those areas. On the contrary, SharePoint has evolved over a period of time (about a decade) in response to incremental feedback for functionality enhancements requested by Microsoft customers and partners. In the end, SharePoint offers a wide array of features that had to be categorized somehow so that the product could be introduced more succinctly. That is where the feature areas, or pillars, come in. So it is impossible to understand what the pillars mean without diving into the specific feature areas, but the specific functions are better explained when grouped by feature area. Hopefully I have given you a good taste of the specific functions by feature area. Although the format will be different, I will continue to dive deeper into specific SharePoint functions in future posts.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

SharePoint Pillar: Insights

The fifth “Pillar of SharePoint” is what is now known as “Insights.” Microsoft touts three benefits on the Insights Capabilities Page: help ALL your people be decision makers, improve your company’s effectiveness and make IT more efficient. Videos are provided that show you how to use a decomposition tree to perform root cause analysis and how to use a dashboard to aggregate content from multiple data sources.
The key thing here is that Business Intelligence is available at every level of an organization through SharePoint and SQL Server. From the shop floor, to the tacticians and strategists, every employee can have a dashboard that will help him or her make the proper decisions – at a cost much lower than traditional business intelligence platforms.
Some of the Business Intelligence components in SharePoint 2010 Enterprise include: PerformancePoint Services, Excel Services and a Chart Web Part. Using these components, employees can see information that is relevant to them when they need it, in the form of charts, scorecards, drill-down reports and more. The information can literally come from any place within the organization, but is displayed in one place in a familiar environment. Contact us to learn more about how you can leverage the SharePoint platform to gain Insights at your organization.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

SharePoint Pillar: Search

I continue the “Pillars of SharePoint” series with an exploration of the Search feature. In my opinion, search is one of the most underappreciated and underutilized features of SharePoint. Given the proper care and attention, SharePoint Search can greatly improve productivity in an organization. Know that if you are only using SharePoint Foundation, you have limited search functionality. For a comparison of which search features are available in each edition of SharePoint 2010, refer to the editions comparison page for search.

Rather than duplicating all of the content that is available on the Microsoft product page, I want to emphasize a few that I think will make a positive impact on efficiency in an organization. By eliminating duplicate search results, adding visual cues (e.g. thumbnail previews of PowerPoint presentations) and adding filters for refining search results by various categories, Microsoft has made it much easier to find the information that you are looking for quickly. Add some of your favorite features from Bing and Google, such as “Did you mean…?” and related queries, and you have a first class search experience on your portal.

As a search administrator, you have the ability to tune the results based on reports. You may create a vocabulary that maps your business terminology to common search phrases, tweak the relevance of search results and even target certain search results for particular groups of people. An administrator may also supply “best bets” so that a particular search result always appears at the top of the list when a certain keyword is used. With the addition of FAST search, SharePoint 2010 provides a powerful search tool for connecting your people with the information and peers for which they are searching.

Monday, July 12, 2010

SharePoint Pillar: Content

In this third post on the “Pillars of SharePoint,” I will focus on the Content feature area. Note that Microsoft does not include managing web page content in this category – that is the Sites feature area. Content is about managing the business documents and information that are part of your daily business activities and decision making, plus the records that you keep for compliance reasons. SharePoint has long had document libraries for managing documents – including the ability to manage permissions and check documents in and out. Document retention policies and records management are really not new either. However, Microsoft has made improvements to the user interface to make these features more intuitive.

In working with documents, you now have the ability to select multiple documents at a time from a document library and perform certain actions on them. The fluent ribbon design on the web page works nicely with the multi-select functionality to greatly reduce the number of clicks required for manipulating documents and other information. Also, with just a few clicks you can mark a document as a record – which means that no further changes can be made to it. This is helpful for organizations with regulatory compliance requirements. Retention policies dictate when documents are allowed to be archived or disposed of.

New in SharePoint 2010 is the concept of Document Sets. Document sets allow you to group together a number of documents that belong together so they may be acted upon as if they are one. Microsoft mentions on the product feature page that this would be useful for “speeding up common processes like RFP responses.” I think it would also be useful for maintaining documents for large project teams, the annual budgeting process, the internal quoting process and so forth. By creating a document set, I can create a version or snapshot of my entire set of documents at a given time. I may also send the entire set through a workflow process for approval. What is nice about these sets, too, is that the documents may still be treated individually as well as collectively. Considering the improvements in classifying documents that we explored in a previous post, grouping those similar documents into a set will most certainly result in streamlined workflows and error reduction.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

SharePoint Pillar: Communities

In this post of the “Pillars of SharePoint” series, I aim to help you make sense of SharePoint’s Communities feature area. SharePoint is often referred to as the “Facebook for the enterprise” to the dismay of some. The idea of calling it that is to relate the features of SharePoint in terms that people understand by comparing it to a product they may have used already. Facebook is actually a novel concept – even though the application of the concept may leave a little to be desired (courtesy of loose governance controls and the often fallible human nature). Be that as it may, what a great platform for describing yourself, sharing experiences, finding similar interests among acquaintances and reaching out (if you so choose) to encourage those that are in your circle of influence! That may be the most rosy description of Facebook ever! Seems like a good time to relate it to SharePoint…

Microsoft’s product page for SharePoint’s Communities feature touts two things: My Profile and Tags. My Profile is useful for learning about your co-workers, including: “biographies, job titles, location, contact information, interests and skills, and previous projects.” That does not sound so bad, does it? In fact, it sounds very useful to me. In an age where conducting business is plastered in time constraints, travel and a remote workforce, it is important to be as efficient as possible when connecting people, skills and projects. SharePoint has made that a reality. It has essentially combined your company’s employee directory, with your skills inventory and employee resumes. Not to mention that you can receive automatic updates when any of this information changes, such as contact information, job titles and responsibilities. And to answer the obvious question: yes, you can choose which alerts you wish to receive. In fact, your SharePoint administrator can disable alerts that you consider unimportant so that your users cannot subscribe to them. That is an example of SharePoint providing controls to assist in your governance process.

One of my favorite features of SharePoint Server 2010 is the Tags feature. To me it is so valuable to be able to mark a document for future reference, but to be able to share those marked documents with my colleagues and for them to be able to share documents with me is invaluable. This can always be accomplished with email, of course, but tagging is so much more efficient in terms of bandwidth, organization and search. Tagging essentially allows people in the organization to classify documents using words and phrases that are meaningful to them and/or their workgroups, or using predefined words and phrases established by a SharePoint administrator. In addition to tagging, one may comment on documents and other artifacts.

I should also mention that Office Web Applications, which plug right in to SharePoint, give you the ability to perform multi-person, real-time editing of the exact same document! And then there are the long-time Communities features of SharePoint, such as: blogs, wikis, discussion boards, meeting workspaces, slide libraries and so forth. So as you can see, calling SharePoint “Facebook for the enterprise” is underselling it. In my opinion, SharePoint is now the collaborative enterprise standard to which all other similar products will be compared.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

SharePoint Pillar: Sites

The first feature area I want to explore in my Introducing the Six Pillars of SharePoint series is the Sites feature area. In SharePoint Foundation 2010, Microsoft has provided some rudimentary capabilities for maintaining content in SharePoint – for intranets, extranets and public web sites. SharePoint Designer 2010 (available as a free download) adds some functionality in terms of designing, creating and managing pages. However, if you want a more feature rich web content management system, you may want to consider purchasing SharePoint Server 2010 Standard Edition or Enterprise Edition.

Some of the additional features you receive in the Standard and Enterprise editions include:

  • A mature publishing infrastructure
  • Ability to customize page layouts
  • Additional workflows for content approval
  • More user-friendly controls for your content editors
  • Ability to publish content to additional SharePoint farm(s)
  • Ability to target content to specific audiences

Some would argue that SharePoint is not a full-fledged web content management system, but I disagree with that sentiment. It is true that a fair amount of customization may need to be done to suit your needs, but for some companies what is provided out of the box is sufficient. It is by design that Microsoft allows you to customize the publishing features. In fact, I have never worked with a pure content management system that did not require a degree of customization. With SharePoint, you get content management and then some. You may indeed find that the content management in SharePoint is not for you. It is ok to use SharePoint for its other capabilities while not taking advantage of the Sites features.

I do want to address one thing regarding the look and feel of SharePoint. Many companies speak of “branding” their pages so they will “not look like SharePoint.” This stems from the idea that SharePoint has a typical look and feel that is simplistic and overused. Many companies choose to keep the out of the box look and feel. In addition, many SharePoint experts have public sites that retain the default look and feel. I would like to suggest that if the default look and feel does not work for you, then do not use it. That may mean you purchase a template from one of the many providers that create templates for SharePoint. But what you should not do is try to make your design fit inside of the SharePoint framework. In other words, start from scratch rather than trying to modify one of the default templates. Take a page that you created and add SharePoint controls to it. You will find it is more flexible than you imagined once you get the hang of it.

Another thing to consider is that SharePoint is a platform that is service oriented. So if you have an existing intranet – maybe even one that resides on a different platform – you can take advantage of RSS feeds, web services and so forth to pull content from SharePoint’s repository for display on your existing site. This is often used as a transitional solution where a company wants to move to the SharePoint platform for content management but is not ready to roll out the user interface to the masses just yet, however, it is also acceptable as a long term solution in certain cases.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Introducing the Six Pillars of SharePoint

The six pillars of SharePoint (also known as the SharePoint “feature pie” or “feature wheel”) were first introduced in SharePoint 2007. Back then, Microsoft touted collaboration, portal, search, content management, business forms and business intelligence all centered around SharePoint’s “platform services.” Beginning in SharePoint 2010, the feature areas, or “pillars”, have been rebranded in an attempt to better relate to our business psyche. The new pillars are: sites, communities, content, search, insights and composites. While the new terminology does seem to have less of a technical bent to it, I would not necessarily say that it is self-explanatory. Over the next six posts I will explain that terminology in more detail.

It is worth mentioning that SharePoint SharePoint 2010 comes in multiple editions: Foundation, Standard and Enterprise. SharePoint Foundation 2010 is included when you buy the Windows Server operating system, but the other two editions require a one-time software license fee and a user access license for each user. Some organizations will only require the Foundation edition to satisfy their needs. Others will need some of the features of the higher end editions. Many organizations will not use all of the feature areas and that is fine. The key is to use SharePoint where and how it is beneficial to you.

I like the new name given to the Foundation edition. When I think of pillars, I think of vertical columns that are used for support in a physical structure. While the pillars must definitely be strong to support a roof, for example, they are useless unless they are erected on a solid foundation. The Foundation edition will give you a start in all six of the feature areas. However, your needs may quickly outgrow the features provided by the Foundation edition. You have options at that point: you may write your own programs that run on top of the Foundation server to fill in the gaps, purchase third-party components that run on the Foundation server, or upgrade to the Standard or Enterprise edition to take advantage of the components Microsoft has pre-written. The first option may depend on whether you have a development staff available to you. The last option may depend on your budget.

As you will see in the next post, Microsoft does not assume that purchasing SharePoint Enterprise 2010 will satisfy all of your organizational needs. In fact, even the Enterprise edition is customizable. That is because every organization is unique and has unique business requirements. The Enterprise edition definitely provides the building blocks to help you meet some information and collaboration challenges more efficiently. In my next post, I will explain the “Sites” feature area in more detail.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

SharePoint 2010: Let the blogging begin!

The biggest challenge for blogging about SharePoint 2010 has literally been narrowing down the list of excellent topics. I considered breaking down the new SharePoint feature wheel (Sites, Communities, Content, Search, Insights, Composites) into business dialect – one feature at a time. I also considered going through the new and improved Central Administration area (teaser below) to showcase the new functionality and improved navigation.


I want to demonstrate the improvements in user experience for end users, but I also want to show how SharePoint Designer 2010, InfoPath 2010 and Visual Studio 2010 have streamlined the development process. If blogging were my full time job, I would not be able to write about all the things I want regarding SharePoint 2010 in a timely manner. However, I have got to start somewhere. One of the nice things about blogging, in contrast to writing a book, is that I can jump around from topic to topic and not have to follow an outline. I will probably do just that. So prepare yourself for the deluge of SharePoint 2010 blog posts that will ensue. As we say in southern Indiana: “It’s gonna be real good!”

Monday, April 26, 2010

SharePoint 2010 Released to Manufacturing

Several days ago, SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 were released to manufacturing. The bits became available for download on MSDN and TechNet late last week. The products will be generally available on or after May 12 – which coincides with the official announcement of the release out of Redmond, WA. We will be watching the announcement live at 10:00 a.m. Central Time with the Evansville SharePoint Users Group at the Oaklyn Library at the corner of Lynch and Oak Hill in Evansville.

So it is decision time for most people now. Often, many companies tend to play it safe and not be early adopters. With SharePoint 2010, the trend seems to be changing. Microsoft attributes that to two things: an abundance of new features that the SharePoint community has been seeking and a highly successful beta testing campaign. Those who have been involved with the beta tests (us included) really like what they see. In his article titled “Chomping at the SharePoint Bit,” Jeffrey Schwartz writes of this phenomenon in the April 2010 issue of Redmond Partner Channel magazine.

The decision to go/no-go, however, is not as simple for some as it is for others. SharePoint 2010 will require a little more horsepower on your servers and is only available in 64-bit. If you are currently running SharePoint and/or SQL Server in a 32-bit environment, this will require a little more thoughtful planning. Keller Schroeder is among a select group of Microsoft Partners known as SharePoint Deployment Planning Services providers. If you are weighing the pros and cons of upgrading to SharePoint 2010 – or if you are looking at implementing it from scratch – contact us to learn more about how we can help.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The SharePoint 2010 Client Object Model

Last Thursday I presented "SharePoint 2010 Development" at the Western Kentucky .NET Users Group at Murray State University. The group is a nice cross-section of students, faculty and area professionals. We had a lot of ground to cover and there were many great questions. I want to thank the group for their hospitality and encourage anyone in the area to check them out. Find out more at http://www.wkdnug.org.

One of the topics of particular interest was the new Client Object Model in SharePoint 2010. I demonstrated how to write a WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) desktop application against a SharePoint announcement list using the Visual Studio 2010 Release Candidate. The attached Visual Studio 2010 solution is a quick-and-dirty approach to updating an announcements list. Feel free to try for yourself after updating the server name in the program code, but keep in mind this is bare-minimum and not production-ready. Watch this blog for more posts about the Client Object Model. I am going to walk you through extending this solution to allow you to choose your server and list dynamically.

Download Presentation from WKDNUG

Download Sample WPF Solution

Monday, March 8, 2010

Important 2010 Launch Dates

Arpan Shah of the SharePoint Product Team announced that May 12 is the official launch date for SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 -- with Release to Manufacturing set for April. Excitement continues to swell and the number of potential early adopters seems to be on the rise. Woody Windischman breaks the launch down succinctly in his blog with some key points to consider regarding SharePoint Designer.

Microsoft previously announced that the launch date for Visual Studio 2010 will be April 12. Having worked with the beta, my opinion is that this is going to be the most significant Visual Studio release yet -- especially if you are a SharePoint Developer.

Keep an eye on our blog to see what this means for you. 2010 is going to be an exciting year for SharePoint!

How to Set Up a Development Environment for SharePoint 2010 Beta

In case you have not had the chance to set up a development environment for SharePoint 2010 Beta, I have jotted down some notes following my experience.

I had two options for creating my development environment:.

1. Install SharePoint on a virtual machine running Windows Server 2008
2. Install SharePoint on my Windows 7 machine

I chose option #2 so I did not have to build the Windows Server 2008. I am running Windows 7 Ultimate on a Dell Latitude with 8GB RAM and an Intel Core 2 Duo processor. It is important to understand that Option #2 is for development purposes only and it cannot be used in production.

1) Read all these steps before implementing Step 2.

2) Read the entire set of instructions from Microsoft’s site on “Setting up the Development Environment for SharePoint Server. You can find Microsoft’s instructions at this web address:

3) Before running the SharePoint configuration wizard be aware that there are a couple of hot fixes that you will need to successfully install prior to running the wizard. They are SQL Server 2008 hot fixes and can be located at http://support.microsoft.com/hotfix/KBHotfix.aspx?kbnum=970315&kbln=en-us. You will need to request these hot fixes be sent to you via email.

4) After installing the hot fixes, I ran into an error running the wizard. To get around this error you will need to install the Microsoft Geneva Framework v1.0 at this location:

5) Run the Configuration Wizard.

Done! You now have a SharePoint installation to develop SharePoint solutions. Keep an eye on our blog for developing future SharePoint solutions.

I hope this saves you some time. Good luck!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Slide Deck from SharePoint Saturday Indianapolis 2010

Thanks to everyone who attended my session on "Streamlining Business Processes with InfoPath and SharePoint Workflows" at SharePoint Saturday in Indianapolis over the weekend. What a great turnout! Here are the slides from my session. I hope you found the presentation to be of value.

Thanks to all the organizers, sponsors and presenters. It was an outstanding event!

We will be looking at InfoPath forms in more detail at some upcoming meetings of the Evansville SharePoint Users Group.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Calendar Overlay Web Part

My latest SharePoint calendar customization was inspired by the Outlook calendar overlay feature and the Google calendar. My goal was to create a similar user experience on a SharePoint web page.

The calendar overlay web part gives users an efficient and easy to read way to view items on separate SharePoint calendars simultaneously.


Dynamic Refresh

By leveraging the ASP.NET AJAX UpdatePanel built into the ASP.NET 3.5 framework I am able to dynamically show and hide calendar items without a page refresh or post back.

The calendar overlay web part color codes each calendar’s events so it is easy to tell which calendar an item belongs too. The calendar has also been customized to show all calendar entries automatically, removing the need for the Expand All and Collapse All buttons.

Print View

A print icon is also built into the calendar to let the users easily print the customized calendar. This allows the users to print just the calendar section of the page and just the items from the calendars that they have selected.

Item Details

You can view an item's details by clicking on the item, from here you can view or modify the item just as you would from the standard SharePoint calendar.

Using AJAX with SharePoint

In order for the calendar to refresh dynamically without posting back to the server, the .Net 3.5 Framework must be registered in SharePoint’s web.config. There are good instructions for modifying the web.config at the link below. Please remember to make a backup of the web.config file before you make any changes. Also, saving changes to the web.config will automatically reset IIS on the server.


Monday, January 4, 2010

The Value of Forums

In recent years I have come to value blogs and other social networking sites. It has been rewarding to meet people with similar professional interests. In addition to new and potential clients, I have built a healthy network of experts that I exchange ideas with often. It is exciting to wonder what the next decade will bring when you consider that social networking software was not even thought of a decade ago – or was it? It is true that Twitter, Facebook, Live, LinkedIn and others are still fairly recent phenomena, but I recall using forums prior to the turn of the millennium. In fact, some suggest that the earliest web forum software was W3 Interactive Talk (WIT), created in June 1994, but Google has USENET archives dating to May 1991.

Do people still use forums? Absolutely! I would suggest that they are more popular today than ever before. Blogs have their place. Personally, I subscribe to over eighty blogs in my RSS reader. I read my favorite bloggers and favorite product blogs to stay current, and I share my favorite articles using FriendFeed. Still, though, I am limited to a relatively small number of authors and their experiences. Enter web forums…

Many people think of forums as a last resort – if they cannot solve the problem themselves or through other conventional means, they may post a question on a technical forum. While that is not a bad strategy, I want to also make the case for forums as a preventative maintenance tool. Think of the event log on your servers. Many people do not look at their event logs until they have a problem they are trying to diagnose. If they had seen the warnings in the event viewer before the “disaster”, however, they may have prevented unnecessary downtime. That is why I visit the SharePoint Forums regularly – not because I am trying to solve a particular problem, but because I want to see what business or technical challenges that other people are facing. It may be that I or a client will eventually face the same challenge. The new forums provide some cutting edge social networking features, too. If I help someone solve a business or technical problem, then they can rate me, recommend me or follow me.

My favorite SharePoint forums are Microsoft’s Technet Forums and Developer Network Forums. They are essentially one and the same with only a few subtle differences. .NET developers who are fans of the popular stackoverflow.com forum will be pleased to know that there is now a sharepointoverflow.com forum. As you consider the case that I make for forums and other social networking software, do some introspection and consider how these same technologies could enhance knowledge sharing in your own organization. Watch for a future post about the new social networking features in SharePoint 2010. Happy New Year!