Wednesday, 25 February 2009

SharePoint Hazards

Monday mornings are not much fun at the best of times, but this week’s began expensively for me thanks to a Worcestershire pothole. There I was driving my normal journey to the Officetalk offices in Evesham when I had a very nasty jolt. Bang! I had hit an unexpected hole in the road. There were no warning signs and I had no idea how much damage had been done to my car. So this week I am going to write about SharePoint Potholes and how to stop them halting your SharePoint system. SharePoint is a very flexible product, but it can also be quite frustrating to administer especially without any kind of training. Like my journey to work SharePoint can remain smooth and straightforward for weeks then suddenly quite unexpectedly an error occurs. In an ideal world you would get some kind of warning first like “Please be careful a pothole has opened up ahead” then you could find a way of avoiding it. SharePoint isn’t that kind though and instead just stops you dead when an error does occur. Anybody who has been a SharePoint Administrator has almost certainly seen the dreaded SharePoint screen. But what does “An unexpected error has occurred” actually mean? It could be anything and we have no idea how major it is. It would be like a road sign saying ‘Problem Ahead’. It is very easy for somebody new to SharePoint to panic when they first hit this error, but the truth is that 90% of the time this error can be fixed quite quickly using SharePoint Designer as the problem is usually just a simple error on the page. This could be a webpart it doesn’t like, the wrong masterpage attached or even an image that can’t be displayed. All you have to do is copy the URL of the page where the error is then open it in your trusty SharePoint Designer. You will then quickly see which part of the page it doesn’t like and remove it (or maybe if you are lucky fix it). Save the page in SharePoint Designer and then reopen it in the browser. Most times your page will reappear and you can relax. So in the words of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy ‘Don’t Panic’ SharePoint Designer has its critics, but it is a very powerful tool that is vital to any SharePoint Project. Any organisation who has SharePoint, either WSS or MOSS 2007, should have at least one copy of SharePoint Designer. It can be installed at either Server or Client level and is surprisingly affordable at around £200 (the same price as my wheel is going to cost to repair). Once purchased (or even with the 30 day free trial) you can then use your SharePoint Designer for designing pages, Custom Style Sheets (CSS), adding Workflow, changing MasterPages, adding HTML, combining lists into one Data View or just adding some nice buttons. You will wonder how you ever managed without it. To get the full use out of SharePoint Designer I would recommend a SharePoint Designer Training course. Combined Knowledge offer an excellent one week course using the Mind Sharp material which is bookable through us at Officetalk. If you want a less formal course Officetalk will happily run a two or three day course at your premises for up to twelve people. Just drop an email to if you need any SharePoint Designer training. So I now have to put together my letter to Worcestershire County Council to request compensation for my badly buckled wheel, damaged tyre and any other damage that I haven’t discovered yet. I wonder if Worcestershire Council uses SharePoint? They could use it to report and monitor repairs of Potholes. With SharePoint Designer they could even set up the workflow so it regularly updated the person who reported a pothole on the progress of any repair. If you are reading this blog from outside the UK please don’t think that all of the roads in England are full of potholes. The reason there are so many at the moment is that we have recently had a very cold spill with a lot of snow and ice. OK a lot for England! I am sure they have much more in Moscow where the Villa are playing tomorrow. So we don’t normally have so many potholes, but saying that I have just read that £53,000,000 was paid out to drivers by Councils in compensation during 2008. Hopefully I will get some of that.


Chris O'Connor said...


If you can't use Sharepoint Designer (don't have it, or on a server), then can do some WEB.CONFIG settings to show the error...>

I haven't tried the SharePoint Designer way - but thanks for the tip !

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