Thursday, 30 October 2008

SharePoint - Content Types 'Out of This World'

Officetalk have SharePoint customers all over the UK and as one of their consultants I am often visiting clients in some quite remote parts. This week I have been working in the Orkney Islands with one of the Councils we support. The Island of Kirkwell is a lovely area and in daylight has many spectacular views, but in October when it is dark by 6pm and usually raining it isn’t the most lively of places. So with five nights on my own to fill I decided to start watching my ‘Life on Mars’ Series One DVD box set. Now, for some reason I didn’t watch the ‘Life on Mars’ series when it was on TV, probably because I was too busy watching re-runs of ‘Only Fools and Horses’ on UK Gold, but everyone kept telling me how brilliant it was (abit like some companies and SharePoint). So I decided to buy the box-set as it was half price and I had been given an HMV token for my birthday. So in my hotel room in Orkney I started to watch the first episode and within minutes I was hooked. It had it all mystery, sci-fi, comedy, 70’s nostalgia and lots of hidden gems. It is the hidden gems that really make it and this is where I think SharePoint scores as well, so this week whilst I sit in the Departures Lounge at Edinburgh Airport waiting for my plane back home I am will look at one of SharePoint’s ‘hidden gems’. I am going to write about how Content Types can be used to force (sorry 'encourage') users to save documents directly into SharePoint Document Libraries. In ‘Life on Mars’ I really enjoyed the character of Nelson, the slightly ‘way out’ barman. Nelson adds to the humour, but also offers wisdom. In the full Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) Content Types play a very important role, but are often not really exploited to their full capabilities. They can be used to change the fields viewable to users when they are adding a new item in a SharePoint list. Yes, with Content Types enabled (under Advanced Settings in the Document Library settings) you can even hide the annoying ‘Title’ field. Content fields can also be used to filter searches and used with the impressive ‘Content Query’ webpart to select which items can automatically be displayed in other areas of the portal (they can even be made in to RSS feeds). These are all the fancy features of ‘Content Type’ but the easiest and most practical part is to allow users to create Excel spreadsheets, powerpoint presentations, blogs and letters straight from inside the correct Document Library without the need to open up the appropriate Office application. Yes, you do need office installed on the client PC but the rest is very quick and fairly straightforward to do. Firstly, you need some company templates. You know, the ones with the logo on in that strange looking font that somebody decided would make a good 'corporate' standard. These templates might be designed for letter-headed paper, just a blank excel spreadsheet or a corporate Powerpoint presentation template. Don’t get too carried away though and try and not add more than ten templates to a Document Library because you want them to all fit on one page when scrolled. You might want to include versions for Office 2007 and Office 2003 if your organisation uses both or some of your users just can't cope with some of the strange features of 2007. Next job is to create some new Content types on your Top Level Site. To do this open ‘Site Actions – 'Modify all Site Settings’ and under ‘Galleries’ choose ‘Site Content Types’. You are now able to create different content types hopefully giving them names that help users know what they are (i.e. ‘Letterheaded Document ver 2003'). It is worth creating a new ‘Content Type Group’ when you do this the first time to help you find them later. Perhaps each department or location could have their own ‘Content Type Group’. As with all of SharePoint you can always customise these later. Customisation is another great part of SharePoint similar to the way the girl from the testcard keeps appearing in ‘Life On Mars’. When did television start being twenty-four hours a day? Once the ‘Content Types’ for each type of template have been created the actual templates can be added. To do this go to the ‘Content Type Gallery’ open the created template and select ‘Advanced Settings‘. You can now upload the appropriate template so that when a user starts that Content Type the correct office application will open (although you not just restricted to Office applications). PDFs and CAD drawings can also be included. Although, I should promote a special CAD application for SharePoint called CAD Connection here that Officetalk offer. Choose 'Upload a new document template' and you can browse your SharePoint or local network or just your very full desktop. When you have added a template for each 'Content Type' you have created in the 'Content Type Gallery' you are now ready to add them to your Document Libraries. To do this open 'Advanced Settings' in your Document Library. Then check the first box to allow 'Management of Content Types'. Click OK to save this change. Nearly there now, which is good because my plane boards in ten minutes. Now, in 'Settings' on your Document Library you will have a new section called 'Content Types'. Here you can add the Content Types you want be clicking 'Add from existing Site Content Types'. Add as many as you want and that is all there is to it. When this is done the next time a user goes into the Document Library if they click the down arrow to the right of 'New' they will get a list of the templates available to them. So Sally from Sales can perhaps create her new sales report using the correct 'Sales Report Template' in the correct SharePoint Document Library. Brilliant just like 'Life on Mars' which has proved so successful that there is soon to be an American version for American television. Well, I suppose they let us have SharePoint. I suppose the final question must be - if there life on Mars? One thing is if there is and they are advanced they will certainly be making the best of 'Content Types' in SharePoint. Let's finish this week with David Bowie's Life On Mars.

Friday, 10 October 2008

SharePoint Video Star

The Buggles song might go ‘video killed the radio star’, but radio stations are still going strong twenty years on and it is video that has been rapidly changing. The pioneering video recorders of the late 70’s were replaced by DVD recorders and even the DVD recorders are now being superseded by systems like Sky Plus. I no longer have a machine capable of playing my cherished VHS Video of the Villa winning the 1982 European Cup. We now have a remarkable system called YouTube that has revolutionised the storage of video. Now, I can just type into Google ‘Villa European champions 1982 YouTube’ and the classic Peter Withe goal is available on my PC to watch over and over again. So what has YouTube got to do with SharePoint? YouTube contains millions of short video clips and some of them are even quite useful in a business environment. Yes, there are thousands of slightly inappropriate ones and many more that are just boring even if they are of cute kittens, but YouTube can have many positive uses. As well as reminding us of the adventures of Captain Pugwash it can also show important Safety Demonstrations or promoting new systems. So why not play a useful YouTube video in a SharePoint webpart? It could be the same video every day or easily changed for a different video that is appropriate to the SharePoint Site. Maybe companies can store their own training videos on YouTube and then play then through their own SharePoint. The question now is how do you get your YouTube video to play in SharePoint. Well, it is very easy to do and doesn’t cost anything (providing. of course. you already have either WSS 3.0 or full MOSS). All you have to do is add the much under used webpart ‘Content Editor’. You can add this by simply choosing ‘Edit Page’ and then click ‘Add Webpart’ in the column where you want the video screen to appear. Then scroll down until you come to the ‘Miscellaneous’ section and the ‘Content Editor webpart’. After you add this powerful little webpart you can click on the ‘open tool pane’ and then you are ready to add your video clip. I know I normally don’t mention code in my blogs and usually leave this to the officetalk Developers but this time it is so easy I am going to mention what you do. 1. Just copy the code below to your clipboard (select it all and right-click ‘Copy’ on your mouse) zobject width="425" height="344"@zparam name="movie" value=""@z/param@zparam name="allowFullScreen" value="true"@z/param@zembed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"@z/embed@z/object@ 2. Open Notepad and copy in text. 3. From Edit - Replace replace all of the z for < 4. Back from start of text with Edit - Replace replace all the @ with > 5. Select all the text and then 'Copy'. 6. On your SharePoint Site Edit Page and insert a ‘Content Editor Wepart’. 7. Click on ‘open tool pane’ and then open the ‘Source Editor’ option. 8. Paste in the copied code. 9. Say Ok and you have a classic cartoon video inserted that advertises the popular backup software AvePoint which Officetalk sell. The video is of one of the early version of AvePoint so please don’t try and win the motor bike. 10. It is probably best to then change the title of your webpart from ‘Content Editor Webpart’ to something more appropriate. That is how easy it is to enable a YouTube Video webpart in SharePoint. You can also resize it by changing the width and height in the code, but make sure you keep the ratio or you might get some strange results. It could be that you want to insert a video other than the one I have given you. Well, it gets easier because to insert any YouTube video all you have to do is search for the video on YouTube. Select it and on the right you will see a box called ‘Embed’ and there you will find all the code that you need. All you do then is copy this code into your ‘Content Editor’ webpart and Bob’s your Uncle.