EndUserSharePoint.com: Six tools for SharePoint Users

After you have been working with SharePoint for awhile, is there anything that can help you quickly become more of a Power User? Check out this toolset and see if there is anything there for you.

  1. SharePoint Explorer
    One of the most useful tools you can have in your arsenal. It displays your entire SharePoint site in an Explorer type view in the left pane of your IE brower.
  2. SharePoint Designer
    Microsoft rewrote FrontPage to act as the authoring client for SharePoint. If you are going to be doing customized workflows, redesigning your layout or accessing data through the Business Data Catalog, this is the tool for you.
  3. SharePoint 2007 Templates
    Extend the templates available during site creation by utilizing one of these.
  4. CodePlex
    Free code and extensions for SharePoint written by various authors. Supported by Microsoft.
  5. SharePoint SDK
    This is the big one… if you are going to be developing code for SharePoint, this is a must have download.
  6. MindManager
    Nice mind mapping software that lets you free form your site plan before starting to build. Really nice when working with a team to build your information structure.

Yep, before you say so, there are a lot more available. I’d love to get your input so I can develop a comprehensive list and make it available to everyone. The doors are open… what are you using and why?


EndUserSharePoint.com: Tricks and Traps 2008-01-30


The major topic in the EndUserSharePoint.com Shanghai workshops this week has been structuring information. The tip of the week is this: Consider creating "buckets" (libraries) for each of your major content areas and utilize views to recreate the feeling of hierarchical structure.

Here’s an example…

The Power User group yesterday was trying to manage all of the documents for global training. They have several major "buckets": Presentations, Documentation, Training Materials, etc. We decided that all Presentation Material for all presentations for all projects should go into one library. Columns were created that helped define the properties (metadata) for the presentations. Who was the original author? How long is the estimated delivery time? Who is the audience? What level is the content - Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced? What project is it associated with?

By utilizing these types of columns, they can now have a complete archive of all past and current presentations. The added benefit is the ability to filter output through use of the properties (metadata), giving access through customized views.

Why would we do that? Ease of maintenance and access. Now the Training Group has one central location for all presentations. Anyone needing presentation material can create a filtered web part on their project site and point to this library from anywhere within the site collection, pulling in only the documents desired for their specific need.

Clean, simple and works like a charm.


Posts on this week’s EndUserSharePoint.com

EndUserSharePoint.com: Shanghai - Day 3

The weather in China continues to be of major concern. There are now over 70 million people without power and hundreds of thousands stranded at train stations throughout the country.  It’s hard to comprehend the affect it is having on the country.

This is supposed to be one of the busiest travel weeks of the year as people who work in the major cities go home to celebrate with their families or take a vacation. Domestic travel is at a stand still in parts of the country with no way of knowing when it will be back up again. Snow and sleet is scheduled for the next three days, so it doesn’t look as if it will be getting better anytime soon.

From a personal perspective, international travel is still moving out of Shanghai Pudong airport, so I’m continuing with my plans to fly to Singapore on Saturday.

On a lighter note, I think there was something lost in the translation here. The water was only about 8 inches deep. "Paddling" would have been very difficult.

Shanghai - Lost in Translation

Shanghai - Lost in Translation

Shanghai - Power User Training

Shanghai - Power User Training


EndUserSharePoint.com: Can I store terrabytes of data in SharePoint?

The question of the day comes from Rudy:

Is it feasable to use SharePoint as a document management system  with several terrabytes of documents and less than 50 concurrent users?

Is it possible… yeah, I guess so. But my real question would be "Why?" Is your current data storage system working for you? Could you access it through the Business Data Catalog (BDC) and use SharePoint as an interface to the existing system? I think there should be a needs analysis done to see why you would tackle this thing and if it is really necessary.

My gut tells me that you would probably be better off with something like Documentum, using SharePoint as a work environment for document creation, collaboration and project management.

Give us some more background and we’ll see what the DMS people have to say.

EndUserSharePoint.com: Shanghai - Day 2

If you’ve been reading the news, China is having one of the worst snow storms in fifty years. There are over 60 million people without power and up to 100,000 people stranded at train stations. With the New Years holiday quickly approaching, the forcast is for more of the same. I still walked from the hotel to the training facility, but it is an absolute mess.

I’ve almost been killed a couple times, not because of the ice and snow on the roads, but because cars have the right-of-way without exception. Here’s an example. I was using a crosswalk, I had 43 seconds to go according the walk sign. In Shanghai, it is legal to take a right on read, WITHOUT STOPPING! So as I’m about to walk across the final lane of a six lane road, I almost got run over by a bus because they don’t stop for the crosswalk. Youch! The last time I had this much trouble was when I was in Oxford, England and kept looking in the wrong direction when crossing the street because they drive on the left side of the road.

Yesterday was spent building out the SharePoint Resource Center. This is a Knowledge Base for all things SharePoint at Autodesk. Iain Munro at ContentEditorWebPart sent me an email early last week describing how to use a LyteBox in a Content Query Web Part. It’s one of the slickest applications I’ve seen; pretty brainless to setup and the "Wow!" factor is extremely high. I used it to run the screencasts demos for the resource center. You can check out an example of LyteBox in use on Mike Gannotti’s site. I intend on controlling access to all my screencasts and external links with LyteBox.

Iain also put up a new navigation idea that is definitely worth checking out: use image tabs to control your navigation. This guy is running a knockout site that’s worth the hassle of the confusing navigation to get at the content. Poke around. I’m sure you’ll find something you like.

Today is the beginning of the Power User Workshop. We’ll see what else I can learn with the room scheduled for Standing Room Only.

Shanghai Students

Shanghai Students

EndUserSharePoint.com: How can I display the same calendar on multiple sites?

The question of the day comes from Carol:

How do I display a calendar on multiple sub sites so that they are linked to the parent site? I have used a Content Query Web Part but that only gives me a Link to the Title of the Meeting. I want to display a filtered  view of my calendar on all the each sub site e.g. showing,  Meeting Title, start and end time, attendees, etc How can I do this?

That’s what’s lame about the CQWP… you can only see the title field. There is no OOTB solution for your problem, but if you want to hack the web part and rewrite the XSLT, you’d probably get what you’re looking for.

Do a google search on CQWP and XSLT and see what you come up with.


EndUserSharePoint.com: Shanghai - Day 1

After a 20 hour flight from New York City, I landed in Shanghai last night at 6:00pm. There is a 13 hour time difference. I was determined to stay awake the entire flight so I could get to sleep immediately without too much jet lag. It seems to have worked, since I’ve been able to function all day.

I took the MagLev in from the airport… top speed: 301 KPH! A trip that takes a car one and a half hours took all of seven minutes. After switching over to the subway, I was within a five minute walk of the St. Regis Hotel.

The SharePoint workshop went well on the opening day. Most participants were interested in learning what SharePoint is as much as what it can do. Most of them will be taking the Power User session later in the week. We’re moving the Thursday afternoon session to Friday morning since there are parties to celebrate the beginning of Chinese New Year. I told them as long as I was invited, there was no problem with moving the session.

Some of the guys took me to lunch. It was quite an experience. After walking through ice and slush to get to the restaurant, I passed on the boiled dog, but had a good bowl of noodles and broth with chicken won ton, followed by mushrooms and chicken. The price was incredibly inexpensive, about $3.25 a person.

All in all, other than the weather, it was a good start to my first week in Shanghai.

Mark in Shanghai - Day 1
Justin, Mark and Michael

EndUserSharePoint.com: Can a list in SharePoint be used as a source for a mail merge in Word 2007?

 The question of the day is from Jeroen on SharePointU:

"Can a list in SharePoint be used as a source for a mail merge in Word 2007?"

Here’s how I’ve been able to accomplish it. It requires the use of Access 2007 and can only be done on the Office 2007 platform

  1. Open Access 2007 and create a new database on the local computer.
  2. Inside of Access 2007, choose to import data from a SharePoint list.
  3. Provide the path to the site containing the list and then select the list.
  4. Choose to create a linked table. (This will make sure the data in Access is synchronized with the data in SharePoint.
    Close Access 2007.)
  5. Open Word 2007 and choose mailings from the tabs.
  6. Click Select Recipients and select to use and existing list
  7. Click New Source to create a new data source.
  8. Choose Other/Advanced and click Next
  9. In the list of drivers, locate Microsoft Office 12.0 Access Database Engine OLD DB Provider and select Next
  10. Paste the local path to the access 2007 database and test the connection.
  11. If the connection is successful, click on OK.
  12. Locate your contact list in the available tables. Click Next and provide a file name, description and click Finish.

You should now be able to begin using Mail Merge fields that will link to the SharePoint contact list.

Caveat: Not everyone will have access to Access 2007. I would also classify this tip as highly advanced since so much can go wrong that requires advanced troubleshooting (in particular, if the list hits a limit of around 3000 or more items. Access seems to have trouble with very large lists).

EndUserSharePoint.com: Three questions… three answers

Sometimes questions come up too fast to just post one a day. Here is a set that came from the last set of workshops.

  1. Can a site be shut down for 1 hour while changes are being implemented?
    The only way that this could be done is to remove group rights and then add them back. The SharePoint Farm Administrators can perform this action for the entire farm, but not a single site.
  2. Can each person set regional settings for their own view of a calendar? (Localization issues)
    We had this come up in class and discovered that it can be changed on a site by site basis for each user. The user will need to navigate to the site (say the site’s regional settings are PST). On the site, click on the welcome message ( Welcome Chris Quick) at the top. Click on My Settings and then choose regional settings. Clear the checkbox for always follow this site’s regional settings and then specify your own. It works like a charm for the entire site collection hosting the site the user is accessing. However, if they need two different regional settings for a single site collection, this cannot be done (or at least I don’t see a way). The other caveat is this will need to be done for every single site collection where they access sites.
  3. When a task is assigned in an Issue or Project Task list, why doesn’t it show up in the default task list?
    The only list template that synchronizes straight to Outlook is the task list. The other ones don’t map to the outlook task list properly, so they will not show up in the default task list. This is another one of the "traps" when dealing with task based lists (such as the project tasks and issues lists).

 Chris Quick

EndUserSharePoint.com: Links to Live By

I spend WAY too much time tracking what people are saying about using SharePoint. I save so much, I’ve finally created a folder structure in my Favorites list that organizes the SharePoint sites saved by week. Here’s the highlights of the past week’s favorites.

  1. How to Migrate a SharePoint List and Preserve the Properties
    Not much can surprise both me and Chris, but Henry’s tip is definitely a keeper. If you’re going to be maintaining a site, you’ll need to know how to work around the SharePoint restrictions for moving lists. Put this one at the top of your favorites list.
  2. SharePointCommunity.com
    If you are looking for a comprehensive resource center on SharePoint, look no farther. This site contains an overwhelming amount of content with a reasonably good interface for such a large amount information.
  3. Exposing More Columns in Explorer View
    I like to think I’m pretty good at the Tricks and Traps thing, but this post adds a nice flourish to using the Explorer View.
  4. SharePoint-Screencasts.com
    There’s nothing like a good screencast to clarify points and keep your interest. The presentation on this site is pretty dry, but the content is excellent… probably worth the tradeoff.
  5. Office Hours: Get your docs in a row with SharePoint libraries
    Quote: "Feeling a bit like you’re paddling upstream when it comes to managing team documents? SharePoint libraries help people organize documents and keep up with changes, so your team won’t feel like it’s swimming against the current." This post is a little dated, but still holds relevant content for thinking about your library structure.
  6. SharePointHosting.com, SharePoint360.com
    I get a lot of requests about how to go about setting up SharePoint. My usual response is, "Why bother?" Find a good hosting service and concentrate on your Information Architecture and intuitive Information Access, leaving the hosting chores to those who do it best.

There, that should keep you busy for a couple of minutes. If you’ve found a killer site outside the mainstream, leave us a comment so we can check it out, too.