Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hey, get your free pass here!

Everyone wants a free pass, right? Whether it ’s getting to see a baseball game from those field-level corporate box seats that we ordinary fans can no longer afford, or to get backstage for the “we really mean it this time” last reunion of your favorite band from the ‘70s, nothing beats going on someone else’s dime. Well, Microsoft and BZ Media want to give someone the opportunity to get up close and personal with SharePoint by offering free full-event passes to two of the best SharePoint conferences of the year.

Microsoft is making a pass available to its SharePoint Conference 2009 (Oct. 19 –22 in Las Vegas) to the person who designs a new look for the conference website —built in and on SharePoint, of course. Go here for more details. And BZ Media, through SharePoint Reviews, will award a pass to SPTechCon, the SharePoint Technology Conference (June 22 –24 in Boston), to a contributor to their website.
-- David

SharePointers: SharePoint Service Pack 2 is your friend!!

By Shane Young

Have you installed the SharePoint Service Pack 2 yet? No? Why not? You just aren’t excited? Well, that is crazy talk.

Maybe you are yawning at all of the awesome fixes that are listed here and here? Or perhaps you heard about the teeny, tiny bug with it resetting your license to trial, discussed here. (Actually, this is really important to read!) Or it could be that new stuff scares you and you are sticking with RTM even though it is no longer supported, as mentioned here. Then what compelling reason can I offer you to install Service Pack 2?

It is a simple extension that has been added to SP2, stsadm.exe, or preupgradecheck. That, in a nutshell, is why you should upgrade. I can still hear the objections: “But Shane, we aren’t worried about upgrading, it is a long time away.” That is true, but I am not excited about the command for that reason. Instead, I am excited because this tool makes a great health checker. You can run this command against your production server because it makes no changes; it only reads your databases, and then reviews the output to make sure things are running okey-dokey.

When the command finishes processing, it will spit out a wonderful report in the form of a Web page and will open it with your favorite browser. Now you can kick back in your easy-chair and read all about your farm. Some of the information you will find includes:

a list of your SSPs and the associated index and database sizes
what Features you have installed and their current status
a listing of all large lists you have that exceed best practices
any customized list views and field types that will not be upgraded
and a host of other issues that SharePoint feels that are just not right


So now aren’t you excited? I know I am.

If you need more reasons to install SP2, check out Todd Klindt’s post on new commands in SP2. And as always, if you need an install guide for SP2, I wrote a quick blog post on the topic.

Until next time, keep mooooooving along.

Shane Young is the principal consultant at SharePoint 911 and a member of the advisory board for SPTechCon

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

SharePoint, Salesforce.com Come Together

Both are billion-dollar businesses, having achieved phenomenal success in a relatively short time. Many companies are using both technologies. So SharePoint Solutions has brought them together, releasing today a software bridge between Microsoft’s SharePoint and salesforce.com.
The new software is an extension to SharePoint’s Data Zoom Web part, which enables users to build data-driven content into any page, according to the company. With the extension, salesforce.com data such as contacts and accounts can be pulled into SharePoint, where reporting and querying of the data can be done. The extension costs US$4,995 per server.
-- David

Titus Automates Document Classification in SharePoint

Content management software provider Titus Labs is taking its experience in the classification of documents in the Office platform and bringing it to SharePoint with four new add-ons related to security.
The first add-on, Metadata Security for SharePoint, enables organizations to set permissions based on metadata, so that a metadata tag of “legal” could restrict access to that document to the legal department, explained Charlie Pulfer, vice president of product development for Titus.
Pulfer explained that in native SharePoint, you either have to go into each document one at a time to set restrictions, or create multiple document libraries to apply broad permissions. The maintenance of multiple libraries is high, he said, and “not the best way to share information.” Titus’ solution uses the custom columns feature within SharePoint to create new categories that become the metadata that Titus’ software uses for security, Pulfer said.
The other add-ons are PDF Control for SharePoint, which automatically creates a PDF version of any document stored to a document library; Document Marking for SharePoint, which automatically puts the metadata classifications into the document as a header, footer or watermark when the document is uploaded into a document library; and a small utility that converts Office 2003 documents to Office 2007 documents.
-- David

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bridging the SharePoint-IBM divide

Word is just out that Mainsoft, which offers software to bridge the .NET and Java worlds, will be at the IBM Rational Software Conference next week previewing a solution that integrates SharePoint’s social networking capabilities with IBM Rational Team Concert. It’s called Document Collaboration for Rational Jazz, and according to the company, it connects Team Concert with collaboration environments based on either IBM Lotus Quickr or SharePoint. The software will enable users to incorporate their SharePoint personal profiles into Jazz user profiles, making developer information such as skill levels, memberships in networks and user groups, and interests available by hovering over the name. It also will enable SharePoint people search, team wikis and blogs to work from inside the Eclipse IDE’s search menu. Mainsoft will be previewing the software at their booth, Pedestal B in the Ready for Rational Pavillion. Also, on June 3 at 10 AM, IBM’s Bernie Coyne, marketing manager for Rational Team Concert, and Yaacov Cohen, CEO of Mainsoft, will present a session entitled “Driving Business Value Using IBM Rational Team Concert with Microsoft SharePoint and Lotus Quickr.”
-- David

Friday, May 22, 2009

Replication and deployment

RepliWeb, a company known for its R-1 Web content deployment software, has introduced ROSS (RepliWeb Operational Synchronization for SharePoint), created to address the problems associated with replicating content in tiered, multi-site SharePoint environments. The content can be a site or site collection, or more granular elements such as content types, Web parts or views. A Filter option lets users specify what to include in the replication; the software will only replicate and deploy differences between the source and the target. Further, sites or site collections don't have to be created on the target before replication.
Garrick Herrmann, RepliWeb vice president, said the company looks at application deployment as a business process that requires authorization, governance, audit and control capabilities. One of the key features of the software is its ability to let users stage their deployments for testing and adherence to policies before putting them into production, Herrmann said. The ROSS software also lets users schedule deployments, and roll back to the previous state if something is deployed in error. ROSS also uses encryption and compression to disseminate content reliably, he added.

-- David

Friday, May 15, 2009

Virtual training

.NET component provider Software FX has gone into the professional training with the release yesterday of the Virtual Training Center for SharePoint 2007 (that's VTC for short). The man behind the effort is Devereaux Milburn, a longtime SharePoint trainer and consultant who partnered with Software FX to create the material. VTC, according to Software FX, provides more than 4 1/2 hours of SharePoint content "professionally designed, produced and categorized" in a series of short videos. Software FX VTC is available in a personal edition, which installs locally on a computer; and a server edition, which appears as a new site tab in your SharePoint portal. A trial version is available now. Pricing for VTC starts at US$299.
-- David

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

SharePointers: Workflow options in SharePoint

By Chris Caravajal

One of the increasing uses of SharePoint is to create and configure workflows. What are workflows? In short, they are automated business processes. They follow a predefined procedure to carry out the completion of a task or process. Because these processes are managed by the SharePoint server, they provide a level of consistency and manageability that is unparalleled by user-run processes.

If you would like to use the SharePoint Technologies workflow feature, you have three options to choose from: the out-of-the-box workflow templates, SharePoint Designer workflows or Visual Studio workflows. When deciding on which option to use, you must first take a look at the business process and how it will be used within SharePoint. Then you can take a look at the options, along with the pros and cons that go with selecting that particular option. In most cases, the process will allow you to make a clear decision on the most suitable workflow option to select. To give you a better idea of the options, I will go through how they can be used.

The first option will look at the out-of-the-box workflow templates. Depending on the version of SharePoint you are using, you will have different workflow templates that will be available:

Windows SharePoint Services 3.0:
  • Three-State Workflow
Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Standard and Enterprise:
  • Three-State Workflow
  • Approval Workflow
  • Collect Feedback
  • Collect Signatures
  • Disposition Approval
  • Group Approval
  • Translation Management

The advantage to using these templates is that they come with SharePoint, they are reusable templates and they can be created, configured, edited or deleted by your users. All that is needed is some additional training for your users. The disadvantage is that the templates are very specific as to their capabilities. You will not be able to change the process/steps of the workflow. What you see is what you get, so if your business process varies in any way, then this option will not work.

The next option is to use SharePoint Designer to create a workflow. SharePoint Designer provides a set of conditions and actions that can be used to create a wide variety of workflows. This option allows for much more flexibility than using the out-of-the-box templates, and similarly, your users can create these workflows. The main downside to using this option is that the workflow that is created is not a template; it is a workflow association that is being used by one list or library. As such, any workflows that you create with SharePoint Designer will not be reusable. Each time you want a workflow to be associated with a list or library, one of your users will have to manually create it.

The last option is to create a custom workflow with Visual Studio. This option allows for the most flexibility and options, as well as creating reusable workflow templates. Using custom code, you can create just about anything. However, only experienced developers will be able to build these solutions, and as such, this tends to be a more expensive, and slower, option.

By using the workflow capabilities of SharePoint, you have the potential to drastically improve the way your business processes are run and managed. Having worked with SharePoint for almost two years now, this area of discussion is where we see a large return on investment. Want to impress your boss? Build him some workflows and show him the results!

If you would like to see some additional information on workflows, here is a link to a great Microsoft white paper: Office SharePoint Server 2007 Workflow Whitepaper.

Chris Caravajal is a consultant with SharePoint 911.

Varonis Brings Governance to SharePoint

Unstructured data can be a bear to control. Varonis Systems on Monday introduced DatAdvantage, extending its governance solution into SharePoint environments.

The new governance software gives users the ability to track permissions to data access, and can provide auditing across numerous sites, according to the company. This lets users troubleshoot problems with data access, and ensure the permissions granted are authorized and don’t need to be revoked.

“Securing business data in Microsoft SharePoint is as important as it is in Windows and Unix file system environments, but even more challenging because of significant access control complexity and the rapid proliferation of SharePoint,” said Varonis CEO Yaki Faitelson in a statement. “Varonis has leveraged its vast file system protection expertise to bring comprehendisve auditing and least privilege access guidance to SharePoint data use.”

Monday, May 11, 2009

Joint work on backup, recovery

An end-to-end recovery solution has been spawned from a new partnership between Windows server management software company Idera and the storage management company Falconstor.
Idera’s SharePoint Backup, coupled with Falconstor’s FDS data deduplication and replication technology, offers users end-to-end automated backup and recovery of site collections down to the document level, according to Rick Pleczko, president and CEO of Idera. “This lets end users recover anything they want depending on the conditions you put upon them, and saves admins a heck of a lot of time,” he said.
As SharePoint data grows within organizations, the capability within FDS to do deduplication can result in a huge savings in storage costs. “Users can store masses of SharePoint historical data with very little overhead,” Pleczko said. “The dedupe runs at about 90 percent.”
Idera made the announcement today at Microsoft’s TechEd conference, where Idera also announced version 6.0 of its flagship SQL monitoring product Diagnostic Manager with automated problem resolution and alerting. Pleczko explained that when an organization is running low on space in a database, for example, the monitor will automatically specify corrective action and launch an executable to incrementally provision more space. Or, if a database log file is near full, the monitor can run a job to groom the log, Pleczko said. This cuts down on having to ask the database administrators to take on these tasks, freeing them up for larger projects and cutting down the time and cost of getting these jobs done.
Idera also released version 3.0 of PowerShell Plus, with new “quick-click solutions” that are prepackaged scripts for common management tasks for SharePoint.
-- David

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Conference planning's a lot like cat juggling

Good Lord - I've heard about this - cat juggling! Stop! Stop! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! How could there be a god that would let this happen?” -- Steve Martin, in "The Jerk"

Sometimes, that's what it has felt like putting the conference schedule together for Boston's June 22-24 SPTechCon. One speaker finds he can no longer make it, and you try to move another into that slot, but there's a conflict with a flight out, so that won't work. You end up having to move around six speakers to accommodate the one move, and no matter what you try, you end getting scratched or bitten. I believe planning out the architecture for an enterprise-wide SharePoint implementation is less complicated than this. (Probably not, but you see where I'm coming from!)

It all works out in the end, though, and I'm excited to say we've added some outstanding new sessions, which I'll be highlighting in the coming days. Three will be presented by Microsoft technical directors and a fourth brings back one of the most popular sessions from January's SPTechCon in Burlingame.

As if that's not reason enough to register right now, an early-bird discount expires Friday, May 8. That's tomorrow. Sign up for the conference now and save $330 off the price.

-- David

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Optimizing Search

Had an interesting talk with Kevin Israel last week about SharePoint SEO. Most people think of SEO in terms of keywords and Google rankings. With SharePoint, though, Israel explained that search optimization involves keeping the search engine current as new lists are created. Out of the box, search has a set of properties it indexes and crawls within SharePoint Server and the Shared Services Provider. But as people modify libraries and lists within SharePoint, search does not know to index and crawl these unless the search engine is manually updated. Use "search settings" within Shared Services administration to change the configuration as the content changes. It's an effort that takes governance and communication, he said, but one that will make search more effective. Kevin will be presenting at SPTechCon in Boston June 22-24. Save $330 by registering for the conference before Friday, when the early-bird discount expires.
-- David

Monday, May 4, 2009

A brief XSL primer with the XML Web Part

I recently posted some code to my blog that shows people how to display a styled version of their Twitter RSS feed on any SharePoint page using the XML Web Part and XSL. To see screenshots of the Web Part in action, visit the original blog post.

While the code is quite simple, many SharePoint professionals are new to XSL, so I thought this might be a good time to give a really quick introduction. First, what is XSL and why is it important to SharePoint? XSL stands for Extensible Stylesheet Language, and it is primarily used to transform raw XML into various human readable formats (most commonly HTML). To parse an XML file, XSL uses a technology known as XPath ( XML Path Language). XPath uses expressions to select sets of nodes in an XML file and hands them off in a useful manner to XSL for styling as HTML. Many of the out-of-the-box SharePoint Web Parts utilize XML and XSL to allow developers and designers to style data easily.

For displaying the Twitter feed, I utilized the XML Web Part, which is a very simple Web Part that just connects an XML file (local or on a remote server) with an XSL stylesheet. In this case, the XML file was an RSS feed of my Twitter timeline. RSS is nothing more than XML in a specific format. SharePoint will load this XML data and apply the assigned XSL. To understand the XSL, let ’s look at some of the key lines from my example.

The XSL stylesheet starts with:

<?xml version= "1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
<xsl:stylesheet version= "1.0 " xmlns:xsl= "http://www.w3.org/1999/XSL/Transform">
<xsl:output method= "html" />


This defines the encoding of the stylesheet to allow for non-English characters and defines which version of XSL will be implemented. At the end, the output method is set to HTML (XSL could be used to create displays in other languages as well). The next line is:

<xsl:template match="rss/channel">

The <xsl:template > uses XPath to find a node set in the XML data. In this case, it will look first for a node called “rss” and then for one called “channel ” under it. Once it finds that node, it will perform the defined transformations inside the template. This begins by declaring several standard CSS styles, much like you would in a typical HTML file. These classes will be used in the coming transformations. After the style declaration is this line:

<xsl:apply-templates select="item" />

The <xsl:apply-templates> uses XPath as well, looking for the “item” node inside of the previous node set. In this case, there are several items that are found in the RSS feed (the actual “tweets” or posts from the twitter timeline). Each time an item is found, the XSL will apply the defined template, which comes next in the code:

<xsl:template match="item">

The <xsl:template > contains standard HTML divs with CSS classes declared. Inside the divs is where the actual data is displayed. The first div contains:

<a target= "_blank" href="{link}"><xsl:value-of select= "description " disable-output-escaping="yes"/></a >


This creates a standard HTML <a href> link and sets the URL of the href to {link}, which in this case will refer to the link in the RSS feed to the original tweet. Inside the <a href> , the description (the content of the tweet) is displayed using the <xsl:value-of> . Note that this tag has an attribute of disable-output-escaping= ”yes”. This tells the XSL to pass through any HTML that was listed in the original tweet instead of escaping it.

Also note that we use two ways of displaying values in XSL. The first is curly brackets, which are for when you are using a string value as an attribute of something else (in this case the HTML href). The second method uses <xsl:value>, which should be used for anything that is not a string attribute of something else.
Lastly, the second div contains:

<xsl:value-of select="substring-before(pubDate,' +0000') " / >

This works just like the previous <xsl:value>, only it shows the date and time that the tweet was sent, and it also uses the substring-before XSL function to truncate the trailing “+0000” to make the date look a little nicer on the screen.

There you have it: a super-quick walkthrough of an XSL stylesheet. One last thing worth mentioning: XSL is notoriously tricky to work with and must always be created with proper XML syntax, or you will receive a less-than-helpful error message. Just keep the XML formatted properly and all will be well.

Example Source

Randy Drisgill is the branding and UI lead at software consultancy SharePoint911.

--Randy Drisgill

The SharePoint 'Wow' Factor

It took about three minutes for the folks sitting in on Mark Miller's session at SharePoint Saturday in Washington, D.C., to see it, and then their jaws began to drop. Miller, the creator of endusersharepoint.com, has created a set of templates to enable users to do dynamic site planning. Users can create maps by dragging templates from a library into a map, and then using prompts and drop-down lists to populate the templates to define what it is they are creating. "You can set up a complete configuration for site collection and hand it off the someone to implement," Miller said, demonstrating how the templates can be used to create a team collaboration with document libraries, permissions and a historical archive of decisions that were made when the architecture was planned. What would take weeks to accomplish, he said, can be reduced to minutes. "This is just incredible," said one woman in attendance, who said she has been struggling for months with people who weren't sure what they wanted but who said they'd know it if they see it. The templates were built in MindJet's Mind Manager software, which one attendee noted "looks a lot like Office." Miller replied, "I guess they had something in mind" when they invented it. After a quick demo in the first moments of the session, Miller asked if anyone had heard of MindManager. Almost no hands went up. He then asked if they wanted the templates, and almost every hand shot up, showing the SharePoint users are hungry for shortcuts that make its use easier. Another woman in attendance asked, "Does Microsoft plan on building any of this into SharePoint?" Miller said he couldn't speak for Microsoft, but said the company "is aware of what I'm doing." Miller, an interesting guy who spent some years as a concert promoter in San Francisco before turning to SharePoint -- "you just get sick of all the bull----" -- has created more than 100 templates already, and he offered them to anyone who signed up for his newsletter. Miller will be presenting a half-day workshop at SPTechCon in Boston on June 22, where he said he might be able to reveal more information about the availability of the templates. The SharePoint Saturday session, he said, is "the tip of the iceberg" of what he'll be presenting in Boston. You won't want to miss it!
-- David