Tips and Tricks: Deleting a site that has subsites (yes, you can, despite what the error message says)

One of the first things I have students do in an End User SharePoint Workshop is to create a test environment so they can play in a sandbox without blowing away their production environment. ("Who, me?" I know, I know. YOU would never implement untested changes in a production environment, but I guarantee you the person sitting in your chair ten seconds ago would.)

Let’s say you have setup a site to use as a testing environment and are ready to kill it because you’ve finished this phase of testing. The site contains several subsites, maybe a blog or two and a few workspaces.  Have you ever tried to delete a site like that and gotten this message: "Error deleting Web site "/sites/TestEnvironment/YourSite". You can’t delete a site that has subsites."

You probably went through the process of trying to delete the test site from the Site Admin screen using these steps…

  • Site Actions -> Site Settings
  • Site Administration: Delete this site
  • Delete This Site: Delete button
  • Are you sure you want to permanently delete this Web site and all it contents?: OK
  • Error deleting Web site "/sites/TestEnvironment/YourSite". You can’t delete a site that has subsites

Other than the poorly designed workflow that would let you get all the way to the end before displaying an error message, the message itself is incorrect. You can delete a site that has subsites. You just have to do it from a different interface.

Now try it this way…

  • Site Actions -> Site Settings
  • Site Administration: Content and Structure
  • In the left column, move to the parent of the main site to be deleted
  • In the right column, choose the site to be deleted (YourSite in our example)
  • Menu: Actions -> Delete
  • Deleting the selected sites will permanently delete all content and user information. All subsites in this site will also be permanently lost. Do you want to continue?: OK

Relatively painless, right? Now you have no excuses for not creating a test environment.

Using a SharePoint Blog for Change Log Management

This post originally posted as a reply to a question on the SharePoint University forums

Change log implementation is essential, but there might be a better way to do it than the traditional change log management. Let’s think of blogs and wikis as tools for administration and project management, not just applications for team collaboration.

One of the first things I ask a SharePoint administrator (at any level: team site, site collection, server admin) to do is to setup a blog to document changes. At first they all think it’s a pain, but when they have the ability to search, categorize and accurately assess/access this historical reference, they start singing a different tune. Documenting the thought process that helped drive a decision is just as important as documenting the change, itself. A side benefit to using a blog is transparency; your community of users can have visibility into the process of creating, expanding and maintaining the site.

Feedburner visitors: What a kick!

I check in to my feedburner stats each day to make sure I’m not talking to a void. Today was a real kick! I’m posting a screen shot of the cloud of visitors from today’s logs. It’s a blast to see how far a couple of simple blog posts will go. A sincere thanks to those who are making this whole thing work.


Screenshot of feedburner cloud

Managing Alerts is a real pain

One of my main issues with SharePoint 2007 is the poor implementation for the management of Alerts… no central admin panel to manage all users and all alerts. It looks as if the SharePoint Solutions Team had the same problem and is doing something about it.

Check out one of their latest projects, Alert Manager 2007. Flip through the slide show of screen shots and see what is in the works. The date for launch is set for next month, so I’m planning on being one of the first in line.

Tips and Tricks: Use a lookup table instead of a choice dropdown list

One of the column types used when creating new columns for a list or library is the Choice (menu to choose from) type. This is OK to use when there is a short list that will never change, but if the list is long or something that’s going to changed and be updated over time, you’ll need a better solution. That’s where a lookup list comes in.

A look up list is a custom list that holds all the choices you would want for a dropdown list. The trick is to point to the custom list from another list or library when the list is needed. Examples include the days of the week (7), months of the year (12), states in union (50), planets in the solar system (8 or 9, depending upon who you talk to).

Follow these steps to create your lookup table and link it to another list:

  • Create a lookup list
    • Site Actions -> Create
    • Custom Lists: Custom List
    • Configure New screen
      • Name: Lookup_DaysOfWeek
      • Description: Days of the week
      • Display on Quick Launch?: No
      • Click Create button
      • Use the New button or Datasheet view to enter the names of the week in the title column
  • Use the lookup list in a library
    • Open an existing library or create one (that needs days of the week as a column)
    • Settings -> Create Column
    • Column configuration screen
      • Column name: Day of the Week
      • The type of information in this column is: Lookup (information already on this site)
      • Description: Choose a day of the week
      • Require that this column contains information: Yes
      • Get information from: Lookup_DaysOfTheWeek
      • In this column: Title
      • Click OK button

When you create a new item in the library, you will now have a dropdown list available to you that contains the days of the week. This is great when you have to use the same lookup list in multiple places on your site. Create it once and then point to it as needed.

Moral of the story? If your list is longer than three items and has the potential for reuse, create a lookup list and relax.

Tips and Tricks: Access document libraries from your local Taskbar

Bob Fox is moving his blog to another location, so I was flipping through the archive section on his old site when I ran across a screencast called SP Administrators Desktop Shortcuts. Really simple, easy stuff: add an application to your environment variable path, create your own toolbar to point to applications on your harddrive… Stop right there!

If you can point to applications on your harddrive and can place a directory in its own toolbar, why not point to a SharePoint site and view the contents of a document library from a toolbar on your Taskbar, locally? It took me about thirty seconds to verify it could be done. Try this one out for yourself:

  • Create a New Network Place
    • Choose a site or subsite you want to access regularly
    • Copy the URL to your clipboard
    • Move to your local desktop
    • Double click  My Network Places
    • Choose: Add a Network Place -> Next -> Choose another network location -> Next
    • Past the URL from your clipboard -> Next
    • Login, if necessary
    • Enter a descriptive name -> Next -> Finish
  • Create the new toolbar
    • Right mouse click in the taskbar area at the bottom of Windows
    • Choose: Toolbars -> New Toolbar…
    • Expand My Network Places
    • Choose the site and library desired -> Finish

The contents of the library are now accessible from a flyout list on your Taskbar. WAY too easy! This has to be one of the coolest things I have seen all week. Thanks for the brain tweak, Bob. I’m going to add that to my "101 Things You Should Absolutely, Positively Do With SharePoint 2007".

Laptop Crash and Burn: SharePoint to the Rescue

I was in the middle of presenting a four hour SharePoint workshop this week when, during the final hour, the OS on my laptop decided it had had enough and came to an unceremonious halt. (If you’ve been there, you know why the flowery language… it represents a lot of hand waving, nothing up my sleeve, here’s my next magic trick kind of stuff while the participants are grinning thinking ‘I wonder what he is going to do next?")

 I was able to get out alive, but I had to deliver again to another group in four hours… all live, hand-ons on, participatory kind of material. My savior came in the form of SharePoint 2007.

Because all of the presentation material was stored within a Presentation Archive document library on SharePoint, the sandbox subsites created for all participants were within SharePoint and because SharePoint is web based, I was able to switch over to another machine, verify all was working correctly, and then relax a little before the next workshop.

We’ve all heard the expression "Eat your own dogfood." In this case, if I had been running everything locally instead of within SharePoint, I would have had a very disappointed group of participants, not even talking about the corporation that had hired me to present. As it turned out, because web based SharePoint is transparent to the End User through the web interface, it didn’t matter what machine I was presenting from as long as it had access to the training portal.

Moral of the story? I’m using SharePoint to deliver SharePoint training and I’m VERY happy I am.

Similiar war stories would be appreciated. Post yours in the comment section.


Bob Mixon on the Content Query Web Part

If you haven’t subscribed to Bob Mixon’s blog, today’s post is worth the price of admission alone. He demos a step-by-step process for creating a rollup using the Content Query Web Part across multiple libraries. It’s not hard, it’s available out of the box, and is one of the most requested features as sites and document areas grow.

Bob has a clean, articulate style that is refreshing. Highly recommended…

Danger, Will Robinson! I hit a limit on the Quick Launch menu

For the workshops I’m delivering this week, I have created a sandbox environment so each participant can crash and burn at my expense instead of on their production server. I display their site in the Quick Launch bar so they can have easy access.

As we got started tonight, one of the students pointed out that her name was not on the Quick Launch. Sure enough, it wasn’t there. I remembered creating it, so I checked in the Site view and it was definitely there. Just to be safe, I deleted the site and recreated it to see what happened. Nope, nothing showed on Quick Launch.

Then it occurred to me: her name started with a ‘Y’. Looking a little deeper, a name that started with a ‘W’ didn’t show up either. Bingo. They were at the end of the list and once the list exceeded forty, the menu list was truncated on the Quick Launch bar.

So, does that mean I have to limit my cumulative workshops this week to forty participants? No way! I just get them access to the site through the Sites and Workspaces menu and everyone is a happy camper.

Tips and Tricks: Connect to SharePoint Library through Menu Pinning

I love teaching! I learn something everyday through questions asked in the workshops. One of the participants today in the Beginning SharePoint 2007 - The Basics workshop said that he had to update ten documents everyday, each in a different library. He dove down into the first library, connected to the document, did the update and then went on to find the next document. There had to be a better way…

Most people when asked would say "Move the documents to a single library and use the Outlook integration to access the documents". Yeah, but that’s not really where the documents live! He wants them in the location where they belong. Next solution, please….

The simple solution is the one that gets used, right? How about pinning the ‘offending’ documents to the Open menu in Excel and having direct access to them through the menu! Now all he has to do is open Excel and there they are, first thing available on the Open list. Whoo-aaah! What could be easier?

Like I said, I love teaching. It makes me think everyday.