Friday, 29 May 2009

Get Your FREE SharePoint Here !!

OfficeTalk clients are always surprised when we tell them that they can have SharePoint free of charge. OK it is Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) and not the posh Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) version, but for many medium sized companies and organisations it will do everything they need. On my way home from work the car radio is always tuned to TalkSport. I seem to have reached that age where I no longer seem to follow modern music. Although I do currently like Lady Ga Ga’s ‘Poker Face’, but maybe that is just because it reminds me of the Saturday night quiz show of the same name that ‘Ant and Dec’ used to host. As Newcastle fans I wonder if they have recovered from the Villa relegating them on Sunday. Anyway, back to the reason for mentioning TalkSport in my SharePoint blog. It is just that every Thursday they release the TalkSport Magazine and make a big thing in the fact it is FREE. Ian Wright often says on Thursday evening ‘well, the best things in life are free’. If that’s true why am I currently trying to raise the funds for my Villa season ticket for next season? I suppose my cats Harry and Sally were free when I had them although I have spent a fortune in vets fees since. Especially for Harry, but I suppose me reversing the car over his tail didn’t really help. Like the Talk Sport magazine SharePoint is available as a free download and Office Talk have decided to add to the freebie by offering free email support as well to anyone who downloads Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (including Service Pack 2) from our site. Whose idea was that? Click here to download WSS 3.0 with SP 2 In fact, SharePoint is now full of freebies (providing you have got Windows Server 2003 or 2008 and the necessary Windows Server CALS). Listed below are my top 5 SharePoint Freebies. OK they’re not quite as appealing as some of the articles in the Talk Sport Magazine (you won’t find the popular Sports IQ test) but many of the things needed to get your organisation started in SharePoint are here; SharePoint Freebies 1. Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 2. Office SharePoint Designer 3. SharePoint Learning Kit 4. SQL Server 2005 Express 5. Enterprise Search Server Express 2008 So SharePoint,like Mr Humphries in Are You Being Served, can happily say ‘I’m free’. If I could just get my Villa season ticket to say the same. Good luck to Newcastle next year in the Championship.

Friday, 22 May 2009

SharePoint Pie - Do you want Folders with that?

Life is full of questions. What are men’s nipples designed for? Why have the Villa stopped winning? How come there are so many Scottish people in the English Government when Scotland has its own Parliament? Then the SharePoint question all Officetalk Consultants are always asked “should we use folders in SharePoint or not?” People have grown up with folders since the early days of Windows and often find them very hard to give up. I do understand this because my idea of tidying up at home, or at work, really just involves hiding all my clutter in drawers or cupboards. It makes the place look so much neater. Ok if I do open the door to that cupboard under the stairs it is very unlikely I am going to be able to close it again and will probably suffer a serious injury from the fallout, but at least the hall looks tidy. Folders are like cupboards, although hopefully stored in a more structured way than my tidying up. The nightmare I always find is when somebody has structured their filing so well that they have subfolders with subfolders in with yet more subfolders in and so on. The chance of anybody finding the correct folder can be remote and there is a chance of a repetitive strain injury from the continual mouse clicking. So what is the SharePoint alternative? SharePoint encourages you to use Metadata (columns) to filter your data. The fact that SharePoint can quickly search every word in every document also helps instead of the need to plough through folders. You can choose pick lists that contain the metadata that can replace all your folder names. For example, instead of each member of the department having a folder for their Visit Reports you would add a Column with a dropdown list of each member’s name. So all the Visit Reports are stored together, but by creating views you can decide which Visit Reports each member can see. The manager might have a view that allows them to see everyone’s Visit Reports and individuals might only see their own, but it will all be in one list really. SharePoint Metadata works well and I personally am a fan, but still people want folders and Microsoft includes these in SharePoint. However, Microsoft have found a way around this because when you create, or modify, a SharePoint view you have a very useful option. Two up from the bottom you have a tab called ‘Folders’ if you expand this you have a choice to either ‘Show items inside folders’ or ‘Show all items without folders’. So you can please all the people. Let them have their folders but then have the view set so it doesn’t display them. One thing I would do though to stop the further increase of the number of folders is to set the ‘Advanced Setting’ on each Document Library for ‘Display “New Folder” command on New Menu’ to be ‘NO’. Maybe I haven’t really answered the big question of ‘Should I use folders in SharePoint?’ perhaps I should have stuck to the reason the Villa have stopped winning. Like many things in life it isn’t black or white so here are a few pros and cons. For Folders 1. Stops lists getting too long 2. Works well with ‘Explorer View’ when dragging files from network drives. 3. Unique Permissions can be assigned to folders. Against Folders 1. URLs get too long. 2. Extra mouse clicks required. 3. Cannot see what is in folders so more chance of duplication. 4. Not so easy to sort or filter data (unless you display them without folders). The third point about not being able to see what’s inside reminds me of an experience I had this week whilst holding a SharePoint Workshop at a school in Bristol. At lunchtime I had the joy of having a school dinner. Armed with one of those all-in-one plastic trays (with room for main dinner, pudding and drink) I studied the hot meals on offer. There was a type of stew, a pasta dish and a nice looking crusty pie. I asked for a portion of the pie that was next to the beans and potatoes. Unfortunately as it landed on my plastic tray to my horror I realised it was ‘apple’ and not ‘meat’ as I had expected. Oh well, it tasted nice, but a lesson that you never know what can lie below. Like the folders or my drawers (ooh-err missus) you never know what they might hide.

Monday, 18 May 2009

SharePoint Has Talent

Let me start with an apology for the lack of SharePoint posts recently. This has been due to a sudden explosion in SharePoint projects in the UK. Suddenly everyone seems to be looking at SharePoint and how they can use it. It's almost as talked about as Susan Boyle at the moment, although I wonder what Simon Cowell would make of SharePoint. As fast as my beloved Villa have been dropping in the last two months (best wishes to Martin Laursen on your enforced retirement) Officetalk have been getting busier and busier as SharePoint sweeps the country. It seems to be spreading faster then Swine Flu at the moment. In the last month alone I personally have been involved in SharePoint Projects for Local Government (reminds me I must submit my expenses), a Health Service, a secondary school, an Energy firm and the Fire Service. So why is SharePoint becoming so popular? Microsoft are certainly doing their bit by offering it a very discounted prices to the Public Sector and also more people are becoming aware of the fact that Windows SharePoint Services is free if you have Windows Server 2003. Maybe with the current credit crunch many organisations are looking at how they can make savings and MD’s are all hearing about the impressive feature list of SharePoint and seeing it as a quick win. Of course, this isn’t really the case for although it will produce many long term savings in the short term it needs a budget and a great deal of commitment from the business. A Project Team is vital for any SharePoint implementation. So if I was Simon Cowell (I’ll just pull my trousers up higher) and I was judging SharePoint what would I be saying; Firstly, it looks great and has considerable potential perhaps slightly concerned which area it really fits in. I mean, is it a document management system, an intranet or a Business Process Management tool? It really needs a bit of fine tuning by a SharePoint expert to really bring the best out of it. Perhaps it’s appearance can be updated a bit as it seems to have a limited wardrobe with only a few relatively boring themes. But as it uses basic html and CSS it is fairly easy to do this. Look what has already been done for Susan Boyle. It is one of the best Microsoft products I have seen is recent years (although with recent flops like Vista that isn’t saying a lot) and I can see it has a very bright future. This it is definitely a ‘yes’ a through to the next round. Yes, it would definitely be a thumbs up for SharePoint and even though as a SharePoint Consultant I am biased I would recommend SharePoint to any size organisation. If you haven’t really seen SharePoint take a look at this quick demo. SharePoint Tip of the Week : Make sure any links in SharePoint (ie hyperlinks, picture properties, Quick Link bar etc) do include the name of the web Application (eg http://servername:Port Number). This way they will still work if you move server or create Site Templates.