Thursday, September 30, 2010

Idera Releases Productivity Tool

By David Rubinstein

Idera, a provider of Microsoft SharePoint management and administration solutions, today announced the availability of its SharePoint productivity toolbox, which combines the company’s PowerShell Plus IDE and SharePoint page profiler for performance tuning.

PowerShell Plus IDE gives users a library of PowerShell scripts that can be used to work with PowerShell cmdlet commands for SharePoint, saving time for developers and administrators. The IDE also supports PowerShell remoting, which lets users run scripts on multiple computers at once. This, the company said, is a big benefit for the administrators of SharePoint farms.

SharePoint page profiler provides rapid detection of performance problems, eliminating manual troubleshooting when performance drops.

“Because SharePoint implementations have skyrocketed, organizations do not always have a dedicated SharePoint administrator, and developers often fall into the role,” said Rick Pleczko, president and CEO of Idera. “This toolbox is designed to give both developers and administrators an inexpensive yet powerful solution to ensure the highest level of SharePoint performance and productivity.”

Idera SharePoint productivity toolbox is available today for $295.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Top Five Things to Consider When Creating Custom Branded SharePoint Sites

By John Ross

Let’s face it: Out-of-the-box SharePoint isn’t going to win any beauty pageants. Whether you are talking about SharePoint 2007 or SharePoint 2010, one of the most common requests we hear from clients is, “Can you make it not look like SharePoint?” And the simple answer is “Yes.” But the less simple answer is that how much you want to customize the SharePoint user interface is going to determine the overall level of effort required.

The following is a list of the top five considerations to keep in mind when you are planning out your custom-branded SharePoint site. I’ve tried to keep them in order of importance and potential impact to the level of effort and approach:

1. Version of SharePoint: First and foremost, there is no bigger decision point than what version of SharePoint you are using. Is this SharePoint 2007 or SharePoint 2010? Do you have SharePoint Server? The biggest distinction here is going to be whether you are talking about SharePoint Server or not (i.e., Windows SharePoint Server 3.0 or SharePoint Foundation). SharePoint Server gives you the ability to take advantage of Web Content Management functionality in the site, which is ideal for making custom-branded sites. There are plenty of things you can do if you don’t have SharePoint Server, but it simply might take more time to achieve the same or similar results in WSS or SPF.

It should be obvious that if you have SharePoint 2007 or SharePoint 2010, it is going to make a big difference in the level of effort. There’s a different set of functionality available in the newer version that can open the doors for different requirements or sometimes make things easier. For example, in SharePoint 2007, you had the option to apply branding as a theme. However, in SharePoint 2010, themes are drastically different. If you had some specific branding requirements, it might have been possible to achieve the desired results as a theme in SharePoint 2007, but in SharePoint 2010, that might now require a custom master page.

2. Size and complexity of effort: Normally, right out of the gate, you should have an idea about how big and complex your SharePoint design effort is going to be. Usually there is a deadline and ultimately a budget associated with the effort as well.

One of the biggest issues faced in a SharePoint branding effort is that even very skilled designers have a ramp-up time associated with creating a design in SharePoint. If your team is new to SharePoint, it is important to account for the learning curve. This means that things your designers might have knocked out really fast in other technologies will take more time than you expect.

I don’t know of a good metric to simply apply at the beginning for estimation purposes, but initially saying something would take twice as long as it might in a technology your designers were more familiar with is a good start. Keep in mind, this is to account for the learning curve; over time, the process goes much more quickly. Underestimating the number of hours required is one of the most common issues faced by SharePoint projects, and this is mostly due to not accounting for the learning curve!

3. Creating your design: You don’t want your site to look like SharePoint, but what do you want it to look like? Where do you start? My suggestion is to start by looking around on the Web to find other sites you like and ones you don’t like. Try to identify specific elements of other sites that stand out to you and make a list. What colors, fonts, general layouts and the like do you love, and what do you hate? Once you have all of those things—along with your company’s corporate style guide—you can start the design process.

If you are looking for some inspiration, a good place to start is either wssdemo.com or www.topsharepoint.com. Both of these sites are filled with lots of examples of SharePoint sites. Obviously these are all public-facing sites, but they can still serve as great ideas for design.

Also, one other word of advice here when it comes to creating an intranet design: Try to avoid making your intranet too heavily styled. I’ve made that mistake myself despite being warned against it by designers.

4. What is the main purpose for each site? At a high level, SharePoint sites can serve one of two purposes: Communication or Collaboration. I’m sure there’s someone out there reading this that can come up with some example of some hybrid type of site, but at the end of the day, the scales will always tip in one direction or another. A site geared towards communication would be like the home page for an Internet site or the main page for your intranet portal. A collaboration site would be one where the focus is on actually doing and sharing work, like a project, department or meeting site.

The primary difference between the two is that communication sites are likely going to be more heavily styled and collaboration sites will be more focused on the actual content being collaborated on. When you are planning your custom-branded site, it is important to keep in mind the overall purpose for the total implementation as well as keeping tabs on how many communication vs. collaboration sites you’ll have, because each requires a slightly different approach.

5. Client configuration: One of the most common topics that gets debated with customers is around what browser should we be developing for and for what screen resolution. For intranet environments, this is usually far more tightly controlled. But in many other environments, it isn’t so easy to control the configuration of the client machine.

The old rule of thumb was to develop for IE6 and a resolution of 800x600. Many are surprised to learn that IE6 now represents just more than 6% of the browser market on the Internet and almost 98% of machines are running resolutions higher than 800x600. Check it out for yourself.

The key to remember here is that the more varied the client specs are that you need to support, the more time that should be allocated to development and testing for your branding to ensure that all scenarios are properly supported. In addition, it is important to make sure you test your branding with real content! Greeking doesn’t count as real content either. Have a small set of users enter some content that would typically go on the site and make sure everything looks as expected.

These are just a few of main considerations to think about when creating your custom branded SharePoint site. Some of these points might seem like overkill for very small projects, and that might very well be true. But in most cases, these points can be applied to just about every custom SharePoint branding effort. For more information on SharePoint branding, be sure to check out my new book, "Professional SharePoint 2010 Branding and User Interface Design," from Wrox.


John Ross is a SharePoint MVP and Senior Consultant with SharePoint911.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Office Anywhere, Anytime

By Joshua Haebets

SharePoint 2010 gives us the capability to work anywhere through a range of new capabilities. Organizations are now more dispersed than they once used to be. Some employees are on the road so much we rarely seem them in the office, and more organizations are accommodating the request to work from home.

This can present the IT group with a new set of challenges when asked to deliver the content these users require, no matter where they are or what device they are working with. With all this in mind, how can we use some of the new capabilities of SharePoint 2010 to give employees the functionality they need?

Office Web applications give you Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote in the browser. From the browser, you can now coauthor documents—that is, have two or more people working on a document at the same time using section-based locks to the paragraph level.

Using OneNote, we can create shared notebooks with the ability to see who wrote each section or who updated content. And, using Excel, we can work with data and see updates immediately to charts in the browser.

So what does this mean to users? Now we are no longer restricted to either being on the corporate network or having a copy of Office on our home or Internet cafĂ© machine. You can now have people working on documents from home, a family member’s laptop or an Internet kiosk at the airport.

PowerPoint in Office 2010 also has PowerPoint Broadcast, which allows you to publish a presentation to either a SharePoint server or the Microsoft Live broadcast system, and to invite users from anywhere to view the presentation. This is much easier than setting up Live Meeting or Webex sessions.

There are also the cases where a user is on the road and needs access to documents and other records, but does not have Internet access. This is where SharePoint Workspace steps in. Users can now take documents, lists and external list data offline, work on the documents, and sync changes when they are back on the network. Workspace has a smart conflict-resolution engine that sends only changes to documents back to the SharePoint site, not the entire document. If a conflict is detected, Workspace will try to merge the two documents without any intervention required from the user, and if it can’t, the user has the power to manage the changes in the documents.

The latest and greatest addition to the anywhere feature set is Office 2010 for mobile phones. This is a free download for current Windows Mobile Phone owners. I was lucky enough to have a Windows Phone 7 for a couple of days a few weeks ago. Office 2010 allows you to take documents with you using SharePoint Workspace for the mobile, and also edit documents from the phone.

As you can see, SharePoint and Office 2010 give IT the ability to create a flexible and adaptable experience for the 21st-century workforce. Using tools like SharePoint Workspace, we can work offline, and by adding Office Web Applications, we can work from almost any browser on any device and with the right architecture from anywhere.

Joshua Haebets is the Principal SharePoint Consultant at Evolve Information Services in Australia. He can be contacted at Joshua.haebets@evolve-is.com.au.

 

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Main SharePoint Events

There are lots of training events coming up in the weeks ahead. SharePoint consulting firm DataLan is hosting a series of events up and down the Eastern Seaboard, focusing on the most common business needs addressed by SharePoint 2010, including document management, workflow, business intelligence and more. Registration for all the events is now open.

Meanwhile, down in Washington D.C., Innovative-e is sponsoring a work-management event for executives using Microsoft SharePoint and Project. Decision-makers often have limited understanding of the benefits of the platforms they choose, and this one-day “Executive Insights” event is designed to address that. Innovative-e’s Dux Raymond Sy will be present, as will Mindsharp’s Bill English and Microsoft’s Arpan Shah. It’s by invitation only, but you can request an invitation on their website.

Finally, there’s a SharePoint Saturday this weekend in a unique location: Ramallah, in the Palestinian West Bank. Joel Oleson and Paul Swider are among the experts scheduled to make the Middle East trip to present sessions there. Closer to home, there are also events in Vancouver, B.C., and Boston.

*     *     *

If you’re joining us in Boston next month for SPTechCon and want to share your experience there with a legion of followers, you can sign up for liveblogging/tweeting from the conference. Put together by conference sponsors MetaVis Technologies and EndUserSharepoint.com, your words will go out to thousands of people online and will be displayed on a 100-inch monitor at the conference so fellow attendees can see what you thought of a speaker or a class, or the ice cream at our social.

The more folks who get involved, the better the experience. So here’s your chance to tell us what you REALLY think about SPTechCon!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Davinci Migrator for SharePoint 2010 Released

By David Rubinstein

Davinci Migrator, the first product introduced since Axceler’s acquisition of echoTechnology, was released Monday to provide control over the move to SharePoint 2010.

As more organizations adopt SharePoint 2010, the need to manage migrations from earlier versions of the software becomes critical. Davinci Migrator eases discovery of assets, establishment of project scope, and migration planning, resulting in fewer failed migration attempts and shortened project schedules, according to the company.

Davinci Migrator includes a rules engine to help identify issues during planning, rank them by importance, and recommend actions, and it supports both granular and site-wide migrations from SharePoint 2003 or 2007, the company said. With Davinci Migrator, migration is not an all-or-nothing affair, as the tool enables migration in stages based on the company’s timetable.

“Davinci is powerful and revolutionary for three main reasons," said Garry Smith, general manager of echoProducts. "First, Davinci lets managers know whether the migration will succeed before the migration is done, saving precious time. Second, Davinci provides the granular control that an enterprise needs to prioritize, plan and execute a SharePoint migration. And third, Davinci provides the deep SharePoint environmental analysis a migration requires to understand what’s involved ahead of time."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Some Links For You!

This week, The Linker is cutting down on the links—sausage links, that is. Mrs. Linker has declared The Linker’s body a no-fat zone (as if)! OK, he’ll admit he can stand to drop a few pounds, but taking away a Linker’s breakfast meats isn’t the best way to say ‘I love you!’ Or is it???


SharePoint 2010 Reference: Software Development Kit...


Rational Guide to Multi-Tenancy in SharePoint 2010 (All Six Parts!)...



Using the Content Organizer to Route to a Document Set...


Create Themes for SharePoint 2010 Using Word 2010...


PowerPivot for SharePoint: Existing Farm Installation...



Not-so-random YouTube entry: Jimmy Dean

GOLD SPONSOR

Friday, September 17, 2010

Quick Actions in SharePoint Designer 2010

By Jennifer Mason

One of the things that I love about 2010 is the ability to save my users a few clicks when they are completing common tasks.

We may not always think about it, but saving a few clicks over the course of the day can prove to be quite the time-saver for users. One way to do this within 2010 is through the use of Quick Steps and Custom Actions. You can think of these as a shortcut to common locations that your users access on a regular basis.

For instance, you may have a document library with several different approval workflows. Instead of having users click on the Workflows option in the Item Drop Down and then select from the different workflows, you can add Custom Actions for each of the approval workflows. Once the custom actions are added, users can start specific workflows directly from the Item Drop Down menu. Since they can select the specific workflow they want from the Item Drop Down, you are saving them at least one click every time they kick off a workflow.

Custom Actions and Quick Steps are created using SharePoint Designer. You can get started by opening the list within the browser and then selecting the Library tab in the Ribbon. Within the Library Ribbon tab, you will see an option to create a New Quick Step. Selecting this option will open the list within SharePoint Designer 2010 and allow you to configure the new Quick Step.

Additionally, you can open the list directly within SharePoint Designer and then create a new Custom Action from the List Summary page. You can add Quick Steps and Custom Actions to several different locations, such as the Ribbon or the Item Drop Down, and they can be links to the following types of content/actions:

Navigate to a Specific List Form
Initiate a Workflow
Navigate to a URL


To see these steps in greater detail, including screenshots, you can refer to this blog post.

Jennifer Mason is a consultant with SharePoint911.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A SharePoint Who's Who

Who are the main influencers in SharePoint?

Global 360 and KnowledgeLake have commissioned a study to identify the top 50 most influential experts in SharePoint. According to a post on endusersharepoint.com, The SharePoint50 Project is not a popularity contest.

Mark Miller, endusersharepoint.com's founder, writes, “You will be surprised by some of the people included. I seriously expect to hear ‘Who is THAT?’ and ‘How come S/HE was chosen and not me!’ That’s OK. The results are based upon how well and how far a message goes towards influencing people, not how many ‘friends’ someone has on Facebook or how many ‘followers’ they may have on Twitter.”

The study takes into account a series of factors, including message independence (I guess this means it’s not a sales pitch), peer references, expertise and persuasiveness. I’m not sure how all this gets quantified, but, like any list, it is certain to get people talking—like the 100 greatest movies of all time, or players in the baseball Hall of Fame.

*  *  *

Take the continued rapid adoption of SharePoint and couple it with many of the top experts on the software, and what do you have? A sold-out SPTechCon in Boston next month! (Technically, as of this writing, there are 15 slots open for just the workshops. And of course, admission to the exhibit hall remains available.)

For those who wanted to attend but were unable, the good news is that registration for SPTechCon 2011 in the San Francisco Bay Area is now open at the conference website. There are plenty of new sessions, as well as many of the old sessions (on document management, forms, search and others that are core to SharePoint) on that program.

We’d like to know: Are there any specific issues or topics you’d like to see addressed at the next SPTechCon? Write to me at drubinstein@bzmedia.com and we’ll see if we can get it covered by one of our faculty members.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Some SharePoint Information to Share

There’s a lot of information to be had about SharePoint, but between blogs, websites, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, it’s often hard to find.

So along comes something called #SharePoint Daily on Twitter, which is a daily virtual newspaper of tips, tricks, Twitter feeds, blogs and the like. In fact, you’ll soon be able to read the stories from this newsletter, as well as the SPTechBlog and our tweets there.

And, there’s a new website in the works called NothingButSharePoint.com from endusersharepoint.com founder Mark Miller, “SharePoint Joel” Oleson and Jeremy Thake. The new website will incorporate the best of all of their work, and should quickly become one of the top SharePoint sites on the Web.

And, as a special bonus to those planning to attend the SPTechCon SharePoint conference in Boston next month, the guys are hosting a coming-out party. (The final deadline for a discounted rate to the full conference is this Friday, Sept. 10, so register now to save $300 off the full price.)

Hope to see you all there.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Idera Rolls Out Diagnostics Manager for SharePoint

By David Rubinstein

Microsoft SharePoint management and administration solutions provider Idera has announced the availability of SharePoint diagnostic manager 1.2 to quickly identify, diagnose and resolve performance and availability problems within a SharePoint environment.

SharePoint diagnostic manager offers continuous monitoring from a central console, an intuitive dashboard interface for gaining an overall view of the health and performance of the SharePoint environment, and component-level performance analysis.

“SharePoint 2010 is driving even more organizations to leverage this powerful communication and collaboration platform,” said Joshua Haebets, a Microsoft Certified SharePoint specialist with hundreds of completed SharePoint implementations. “Idera SharePoint diagnostic manager is the tool SharePoint administrators have been waiting for. They now can easily ensure optimal performance of their SharePoint environments.”


Idera’s SharePoint diagnostic manager is available at US$995 per server.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Some Links For You!

As the Linker has mentioned before, her excitement for autumn is only building as we get into the waning days of summer. However, there is one thing she is a little less excited for, and that is school traffic. The Linker supposes, though, it could never really be that bad considering the almost two-week-long, 62-mile traffic jam on China’s National Highway 110. So, the Linker will tell herself the next time she is stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic: It could be worse!

How to increase the SharePoint Foundation site template size limit…



Video: Automating document assembly…


Migrating picture libraries from MOSS 2007 to SharePoint 2010…



Understanding approval workflows in SharePoint 2010…


Video: Create an approval workflow in SharePoint Designer 2010…


Video: How to connect SharePoint 2007/2010 lists to external data sources…


Random YouTube Entry: It could always be worse…

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Making the Case for MySites

By Todd Klindt

I have a great job. I spend my days installing SharePoint for people. If SharePoint’s already installed, I might spend my time fixing it when it’s broken, or maybe showing someone how to use features that they’ve never used before. It’s a good life; I can’t complain.

In the last couple of months, I’ve spent a lot of time installing SharePoint 2010 for customers or upgrading their SharePoint 2007 environments to SharePoint 2010. Inevitably, the conversation of MySites always comes up. A recent blog post I wrote hasn’t helped. It seems in most cases I find myself defending MySites and trying to convince my unbelieving customer how great they are. I thought I’d take this opportunity to get up on my soapbox with a larger audience and plead my case.

If you aren’t familiar with MySites, let’s take a moment to discuss them. They are a feature that comes with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 and SharePoint Server 2010. Every user can create their own site collection. This site collection serves two purposes.

First, it’s their own personal place to put their documents. They can save Office documents there, pictures of their pets, whatever. Second, it’s also a place for them to publish information about themselves for other people in the company. This is a way to give them their own “website” without it being much work for them. Here they can also share Office documents, pictures, and they can also control what information other people can see about them.

In SharePoint 2010 you have the added benefit of improved social features. A user’s MySite is now also a window into what their colleagues have been doing in SharePoint. If a colleague has tagged an item, it’ll show up in the Newsfeed. Users also have an Activity Feed where they update their colleagues on what they’re thinking. Think of it like the Facebook status or Twitter. All of this and more comes out of the box with SharePoint.

So why do I think MySites are so important? I doubt many of your jobs are to post hilarious pictures of your cats sitting in trashcans, or telling your fellow employees which type of granola bar you just had as a snack. You should all be out making widgets, or selling widgets, or buying widgets, or whatever your job responsibility is.

The unappreciated benefit of MySites is that they get people who are otherwise uninterested in learning yet another IT system interested in playing with SharePoint. They give end users a place that’s kind of fun to experiment with this new SharePoint thing. It also gives them a place that’s safe for both them and IT to do it.

If Harold in Accounting gets excited about SharePoint and has a great idea (but no MySite) what is going to happen? One of two things: Either Harold will never try his idea, for lack of a safe place to do it. That idea might have been a huge timesaver for the entire accounting department. Or, Harold will try out his great idea on the official Accounting site and screw something up horribly. Neither of those is a great option.

I suggest a third option: Give Harold a MySite so he has a place to experiment without causing any real damage. Since MySites are site collections, they are completely isolated from the rest of the farm. No matter how hard Harold tries, he can’t cause any trouble outside of his MySite.

Like we mentioned above, MySites also serve as a way for curious users to noodle about in SharePoint and get comfortable with it at their own pace.

Now that I’ve got you all whipped into a lather about MySites, I don’t want you to run right out and enable them. Like anything in SharePoint, they require some planning to do correctly. First, your MySites should be in their own Web Application. This allows you keep your MySites in separate databases from your regular content Web applications. You can choose to put them on slower discs, back them up less frequently, not mirror them, whatever. It also allows you to have different settings for Web application-specific settings, like recycling-bin settings.

Second, while I’m in favor of every man, woman and dog having a MySite if they want one, I also think they should all get at least some training before they get one. This should be some parts technical and some parts policy. You’ll need to show them how to upload documents and so on, but you’ll also need to make sure they understand what kind of content should and should not be put on their MySites.

Finally, to get the most out of MySites, you’ll need to enable and configure the User Profile Synchronization Service. This is not a task to be taken lightly. It’s not required for MySites, but it adds a lot of functionality. Before attempting to tackle the User Profile Synchronization Service, do your homework. As a bonus, when you get the User Profile database populated, you will also be able to use SharePoint 2010’s new Silverlight-based Organization Browser. That’s always a crowd pleaser.

Hopefully, reading this has convinced you to give MySites a shot. With proper planning, they can be an integral part of helping with SharePoint adoption in your organization.

Todd Klindt is a consultant with SharePoint911
.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"One-stop" for SharePoint

After being challenged to Google “SharePoint Consultants,” my search rendered about 235,000 results in 0.33 seconds. Recognizing this growing load of SharePoint information, Birmingham, U.K.-based Action SharePoint Ltd. (which trades as Office Talk) launched “SharePoint Village” today at 2 p.m. British Summer Time.

The website aims to offer users a one-stop place where SharePoint information is easily accessible, said Andy Dale, senior SharePoint consultant at Action SharePoint.

“We have created six sections of shops with no more than eight companies in each. These sections are Consultancy, Hosting, Software, Web Parts, Training and Design,” he said, adding, “We deliberately limited the number of shops in each section to eight so as to not overload the end user.”

The free website also offers an “Information Point,” which brings together SharePoint community sites, links to SharePoint resources, and a “User Group” section with links to an array of SharePoint user groups around the world, Dale said.