Thursday, April 30, 2009

Working With InfoPath

One of the more popular sessions at SPTechCon in January involved using InfoPath with SharePoint. At our upcoming Boston event, Larry Riemann will be presenting TWO sessions -- the first on creating a electronic form solution using the two technologies, and the second on using InfoPath and Visual Studio 2008 for advanced forms creation. Larry is a senior SharePoint deeveloper and .NET archiect, with more than 14 years of experience in IT systems.
To start you on the (Info)Path of knowledge, endusersharepoint.com's Mark Miller welcomes Lori Gowin, who has written an introductory piece called "InfoPath: More than Just Buzzwords." It's the first of a two-part series on the subject. So read up, and get your thoughts and questions ready for June's SPTechCon in Boston.
-- David

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Linkapalooza

Well, winter has turned to summer here in the Northeast, skipping right over springtime completely. Even an iced grande decaf caramel macchiato with two Splendas and a dollop of whipped cream didn ’t cool things down in an office where the landlord has yet to turn the HVAC system from heat to cool. The Linker already is in his lazy, hazy, crazy state of mind, and so is offering up a new batch of links meant to take the sweat out of SharePoint and help everyone stay cool!

WSS Service Pack 2 …

The Power of Two …

Fiddle ‘n’ Fetch…

Meet Robert Bogue (He ’s a "rock star" and presenting at SPTechCon).

SharePoint data, Silverlight control …

A random Wikipedia entry: Fahrenheit

Axceler Launches SharePoint Administration Tool Update

Administration software provider Axceler on Monday unveiled ControlPoint 3, the newest version of its administration tool for Microsoft SharePoint Server.

ControlPoint 3 provides such functionality as alerting, moving sites, policy management and scheduled analysis, so managers and system administrators can get a big-picture view of what ’s happening in the SharePoint installation. According to the company, ControlPoint 3 is the only administration software that seamlessly enables analysis and enforcement of SharePoint permissions, as well as analyzing activity storage and content, cleaning up user accounts, moving content within or between farms, enforcing policies, and auditing SharePoint environments.

ControlPoint 3 also enables the movement of site collections, sites and lists within a farm or across farms. SharePoint configuration governance ensures policies, including site themes, search settings and permissions, are enforced. The updated tool also allows for analysis to be done on a predefined schedule; the analysis can then be distributed for regular measurement and sharing of results with others, such as compliance officers.

--David Rubinstein

In the Community

Hats off to the folks putting together this weekend ’s SharePoint Saturday event near Washington, D.C. They came up with the brilliant idea of requesting that people who sign up for the day of classes bring canned food, which will be donated to the local D.C. Salvation Army. Dux Raymond Sy, a popular speaker who will present four classes at SPTechCon in Boston June 22-24, is coordinating the effort.

You don’t have to attend SharePoint Saturday to donate food, and the top 20 donors will get to spend an hour with the speaker of their choice, one on one, to get a personalized, ultra-deep dive into any particular aspect of working with SharePoint. If you ’re going, support this worthy cause. Times being what they are, with so many people struggling to keep their heads above water, a food drive like this uplifts us all. Well done, guys!

--David Rubinstein

An XSL Primer

In today's SPTechReport, SharePoint 911 "branding and UI lead" Randy Drisgill writes about XSL, the Extensible Stylesheet Language, and its role in transforming XML into HTML. Why is this something a SharePoint user should care about? Many of the SharePoint out-of-the-box Web parts use XML and XSL to allows developers and designers to style data easily. Randy's pointers, and others from past SPTechReports, can be read at the SharePoint portal on the SD Times Web site.
-- David

Monday, April 27, 2009

Saturday in D.C.

I'm heading down to Washington, D.C., this weekend for my first-ever SharePoint Saturday event, and looking forward to meeting some friends I made at January's SPTechCon and making some new friends. I'm curious to check out the Microsoft offices down there, and to speak with the presenters and the regular folk who, like me, are looking to learn a few things.

Meanwhile, as my daughter is attending the University of Maryland at College Park (halfway around the Beltway from Reston), I plan on creating an "Offspring Sunday" event during which I'll spend the day with her. No software necessary!!

-- David

Friday, April 24, 2009

Out of this world!

"SharePoint Workflows: From Out-of-the-Box to Out of This World" will be returning to SPTechCon in Boston. This course received rave reviews from attendees to the January event in California, and we're delighted to be able to add it to the upcoming program. In the session, attendees will learn how to shape the workflows that come with SharePoint to an organization's needs, with little or no programming. Frank Cottos, who works in the consultant firm Razorleaf's SharePoint practice, will present. Some 93% percent of the attendees who rated this course extremely highly at our January conference can't all be wrong.
-- David

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Free Internet Access and Parking

We have just successfully negotiated FREE in-room Internet access for SPTechCon attendees from June 21-25 and also FREE self-parking for those staying in the hotel. The Hyatt Cambridge is pretty nice - many rooms with views of the Charles and an excellent restaurant.

See ya there!

-Ted

Understanding SharePoint

The third issue of the "Understanding SharePoint Journal" has hit the virtual newsstand. It's being produced by Bjorn Furuknap, who presented at our own SPTechCon in January. Bjorn has set up the journal as a subscription-based online publication; the cost is USD$14.95. The current issue is called "SPTags Explained," and looks at custom field types and Web Part development. Perhaps folks will pay for online content if it's narrowly focused enough, and provides value to help solve pressing problems. We wish you well, Bjorn.
-- David Rubinstein

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Branded!

Kanwal Khipple certainly knows a thing or two about branding. The man who created quite a SharePoint Buzz with his very popular community portal will share his thoughts on the subject in a new session added to the program for June's SPTechCon. SharePoint Branding 101 will help attendees understand the importance of branding, what to brand and how to do it. SharePoint Buzz is now run on a Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 installation and although I have no empirical data, it's clear that Khipple has developed a site that is visited often and referred to often, based on other blog posts and tweets (and re-tweets) seen around. I look forward to hearing him speak in Boston.
-- David

New Web skin on its way

What do you do when you have so much content you don't know what to do with it? Redesign the Home Page of course! We're giving the SPTechCon skin a whole new look with much easier, quicker access to the content content content! (plus the great line-up of speakers!)

If your team is struggling with SharePoint, or just need to get it all under control... or want to take it to the next level, you should check out the lineup.

New skin coming...I'm betting live on Friday!

-ted

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In the Community

My colleague at SD Times, David Worthington, has been reporting about the widespread cheating that goes on around certification exams. People post “brain dumps”—advice, experience, and actual exam questions and answers—on websites, and the companies that administer the exams do little in the way of changing up the questions to keep everyone honest.

It’s a business, after all, and the more people these companies can get to take the test, the more money they make, pure and simple. The downside to all this is that as more and more people pass the exams, some in more unscrupulous ways than others, the value of the certification is watered down.

In the SharePoint space, at least for now, certifications still are highly valued. Perhaps that’s due to the nascence of the software and the still-strong belief that hiring someone with certification means you’re getting someone who is more expert than a person without it.

Developers seeking certification in WSS 3.0 can sign up for a Microsoft-sponsored coaching session taking place tomorrow, April 16. The MCAD certification session is one hour long and begins at 10 a.m. Pacific time.

How valid are certifications as a measure of someone's expertise? Let me know what you think!

— David Rubinstein

SharePointers: Using Calculated Columns to Store Granular Date Information

By Jennifer Mason
One of the key benefits of SharePoint is the ability to enter information once, and then view the data many different ways through the use of custom views. The views are created based off of the different list columns, and they can be configured through filtering and sorting to provide dynamic views of the data.

One of the most common requests I hear from people who are configuring views is the requirement to view information around dates in a more granular way. For instance, they may want to show all tasks group by the week they are due or show all documents that were uploaded for the month. Many times I find that to accomplish this, they have created additional list columns and require their users to enter the dates in a very granular fashion. While this works, end users don’t like that they have to enter the information in multiple formats.

An alternate approach would be using custom calculated columns that filter specific information out of an existing date column. This allows users to enter the date once and have it stored in multiple formats that can then be used for filtering and grouping the list data. Whenever the date referenced in the calculated field is modified, the calculated values will be updated to reflect the new value. Calculated fields are created by adding new list columns that use the calculated type and providing a custom formula. Some of the most common date formulas that I have used are as follows:

Name Formula Display Type Example
Year =TEXT(YEAR([Start Date]),"000") Single Line of Text 2009
Month =CHOOSE(MONTH([Start Date]),"01-January",
"02-February",
"03-March","04-April","05-May","06-June",
"07-July","08-August",
"09-September","10-October",
"11-November","12-December")
Single Line of Text 01- January
Week =[Start Date]+7-WEEKDAY([Start Date]) Date & Time, Date Only 2/2/2008
Weekday =TEXT(WEEKDAY([Start Date]),"dddd") Single Line of Text Monday

Using this approach allows you to provide a simple way for users to enter data that can then be presented to them in several different formats. Dates are just one example of what can be configured with calculated columns. The links below provide some additional information about calculated columns and can be used to help you get stared:

Jennifer Mason is a consultant with SharePoint 911.

JustSystems Streamlines XML, DITA for SharePoint

Japan-based software company JustSystems has created a version of its XMetaL Author content creator for SharePoint, enabling users of the Microsoft software to reap the benefits of reusable, structured content.

XMetaL Author Enterprise for Microsoft SharePoint, released yesterday, introduces XML and the OASIS-sanctioned Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) specification for delivering technical content to SharePoint. This allows users to collaborate, through SharePoint, on the creation of content, and then store it based on its topic in a SharePoint library for reuse with other documents. When a document is opened in XMetaL, it automatically is checked out of SharePoint, to prevent others from making changes to a document that is being worked on. That document can then be checked back into SharePoint from the XMetaL interface.

The JustSystems authoring tool, which sells for US$1,390, provides the ability to create XML documents; the SharePoint Server communicates with XMetaL through the server’s SOAP interface. This means that nothing has to be installed on the SharePoint Server, and no special server configuration is required.

--David Rubinstein

Using Custom Views for Calendar Data

In the latest installment of Share Pointers, the SPTechReport "tips and tricks" column, SharePoint 911 consultant Jennifer Mason discussing using calculated columns to store granular date information. Very interesting, and helpful for folks who want to reuse date data in different presentations. (Don't miss another issue of SPTechReport, published by BZ Media. Sign up today!)
-- David

Shuffle off to SPTechCon

Dance to the music.... dance to the music!

Be among the next seven people to register for SPTechCon Boston June 22-24 and receive a free iPod Shuffle! Use the code SHUFFLE24 to be eligible!

And, stay on top of SharePoint with SPTechReport, the biweekly newsletter with tips and tricks, the latest news, and updates on what's happening in the community.

I'll see you in Boston, and in the SPTechReport.

-- David

Friday, April 3, 2009

Someone hit the lights

It had all the intrigue of a Hollywood movie. Camerman, down to his last bit of disk space, finally gets the money shot he needs. Editor and director fight over cutting hours and hours of film. Music director pulls hair out looking for just the right score to set the tone. (Okay, so in this case, they all were the same guy -- our own Ted Bahr!)

But after all that, we're proud to bring you the first of two short films -- and I DO mean short -- that were shot at January's SPTechCon in the SF Bay Area. The first is taken from the perspective of the exhibitors, the next will turn the camera onto the people who took the classes and workshops.

So take a second when you can, and hear what the attendees had to say about the experience. That's what we'll be aiming to re-create in June when we bring SPTechCon to the Boston area, June 22-24. Check out the program and speakers, and you'll see that the program we've put together is truly first rate.

"We're ready for our closeup, Mr. DeMille!"

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

In the Community

We should know by now whether the free release of SharePoint Designer rumored for today was an April Fools Day joke or not. Of course, it might come tomorrow, or not at all.

Anyway, the rumor got folks talking in their blogs and on Twitter about the implications of trying to maintain governance with “rogue” SPD creations. How can SPD’s use be controlled, or should it be, in large organizations? Will an organization’s existing policies governing software use be enforced to regulate installation and use of SPD?

An interesting look at all this was posted Monday.

What do you think?

-- David Rubinstein

SharePointers: What Is a Shared Service Provider?

By Shane Young
In MOSS 2007, there is a concept of Shared Services Providers (SSP). The idea is that there are certain services that really make sense to centrally manage and share.

A good example is profiles. With an SSP, we can import all of the profile information from ActiveDirectory once, and then our various Web applications can consume the data. So maybe we have two Web applications: http://marketing and http://accounting. It doesn't make sense for each one to maintain identical profile information, they should share.

The major services that are handled by the SSP are:
  • Profiles and Audiences
  • My Sites
  • Search
  • All of Excel Services
  • All of the BDC (Business Data Catalog)
Sometimes the easiest way to think of Shared Services is the Parent vs. Child relationship. The Parent (your SSP) goes out and does all of the work (pulling BDC data, indexing content, hosting My Sites, etc.), and the child (your Web applications) come to the parents to ask for $5 (requesting data from the BDC or viewing a calculated Excel sheet).

Multiple SSPs. One of the most overwhelming things about SSPs for planners is how many should there be. It is easy to see from the interface that you have the opportunity to create more than one. When should you do this?

As a general rule of thumb, most companies will use one SSP. This is my default answer. So why do they give you the ability to use multiple SSPs? There are cases where you want separate search or profiles. The most common: extranet/internet scenarios.

Maybe your SharePoint farm hosts two primary Web applications: http://portal for your intranet and http://ourcustomers.company.com for your extranet. In this scenario, you probably want separate search and profiles. And now you have found the reason to have multiple SSPs. You don't want to share information that should be unique for both.

Separation of roles. In some medium-sized and large environments, it is not uncommon to have one group administering the physical server farm while another group just maintains search. The SSP concept makes this very easy. Since the SSP is its own SharePoint site collection, you can define a user's access so that they can NOT access central administration, but they CAN access the SSP. And once they get into the SSP, you can even limit them further.

Once inside the SSP you can determine if they can:
  • Manage user profiles
  • Manage audiences
  • Manage permissions
  • Manage usage analytics
Still, this separation of services from the actual administration of the server can be quite useful, especially in companies where the less access you give a user, the better.

Go here for more information on giving access to the SSP.

Moral of the story. SSPs are very helpful and important to understand. They should be part of your initial planning. They can be secured at a very granular level, or they can be given broad access. Just mark this topic down as something else you need to fully think through before you start rolling out SharePoint. And when all else fails, just have one SSP.

Shane Young is owner and principal consultant at SharePoint 911.

CommVault announces enhanced data management capabilities

An updated platform for managing data across Microsoft’s servers and ActiveDirectory was released Monday by CommVault. Simpana 8, the company said, improves recovery management, the ability to organize content and reduce data, and virtual server management.

Further, the software adds heterogeneous online and offline records management capabilities for SharePoint, and it embeds Microsoft’s FAST indexing engine to manage data at a more granular level, the company announced. The release also facilitates disk and tape data deduplication, expanding the benefits of the block-level dedupe for SharePoint Server.

"Simpana 8 software is a significant step forward for Microsoft customers who have come to rely on CommVault for their data management needs," said Randy De Meno, chief evangelist at CommVault. "We're excited to work with Microsoft to deliver innovative features such as Records Management for the Records Center site in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server. With CommVault embedded software deduplication, users can enable a simple Windows Server to be an extremely cost-effective deduplication device.”

--David Rubinstein