Tuesday, 28 July 2009

SharePoint Site Permissions

This week I am going to try and simplify how the Site Security works in SharePoint as it can be as confusing as the Villa manager’s transfer strategy. Who will he sign next? As a SharePoint Consultant for Office Talk I spend quite a few nights in hotels and last week I stayed in an old hotel in Fleetwood just a tram ride from Blackpool. Apart from the fact that everybody else in the hotel appeared to be a lady in her late 70’s, who were all there for a bowls tournament, the hotel stay was very pleasant. It was the kind of hotel that had carpet on the restaurant ceiling and bedrooms that had not yet discovered the modern duvet. The best old fashioned part of all, though, was that my room actually had a ‘real’ key that I could turn and not one of those annoying plastic keys that don’t even remind you of your room number. The kind of plastic cards that never seem to work for me with them refusing to go green even though I have stuck it in three times and said the magic word. Failing to gain access to a SharePoint Site or list can be equally annoying, although I suppose this depends on what you are wearing when you became locked out of your hotel room and discovered your plastic card no longer worked. So what makes SharePoint Site Security so difficult to work out? The blame is often that we create new Sites too quickly and are too keen to accept the defaults. We are all guilty sometimes of pressing the mouse too fast or clicking ‘OK’ too early. When creating a new site from Site Actions – Create – Sites and Workspaces there is a section called ‘Permissions’. Now, by default this is set to ‘Use Same Permissions As Parent Site’ and it is very tempting to keep it this way, but always think about what you really want. If it is off a corporate Home Site do you really want the same permissions? The alternative to ‘Use Same Permissions As Parent Site’ is ‘Use Unique Permissions’ and this allows you to create your own groups and add your own permissions to this site without having to have the same ones as the site above. One reason people take the default is because they can easily change it later. To do this all you do is under ‘Site Permissions’ select the ‘Actions’ tab click ‘Edit Permissions’ this then warns you ‘..Changes made to the parent site will no longer affect this site’. So this stops the inheriting, but doesn’t break all connections because the groups you have listed on this site now are actually still the groups from the parent site. Let’s give an example. When you create a site called ‘Site 1’ (easiest name I could think of) it automatically creates the flowing groups ‘Site 1 Visitors’, ‘Site 1 Members’, ‘Site 1 Administrators’. If you then create a second site below it called ‘Site 2’ and keep the default to inherit then ‘Site 2’ will also use the original ‘Site 1 Visitors’, ‘Site 1 Members’, ‘Site 1 Administrators’ groups. However, if you then choose the option to ‘Edit Permissions’ on ‘Site 2’ the groups listed on ‘Site 2’ will still be ‘Site 1 Visitors’, ‘Site 1 Members’, ‘Site 1 Administrators’. This means that if you add a user to one of these groups you are actually changing the permissions of the parent site ‘Site 1’ not to ‘Site 2’. Hope you are following this. So how do we get around this problem after we have stopped inheriting? The answer is to delete the groups ‘Site 1 Visitors’, ‘Site 1 Members’, ‘Site 1 Administrators’ from ‘Site 2’ and then create new groups on ‘Site 2’ called ‘Site 2 Visitors’, ‘Site 2 Members’, ‘Site 2 Administrators’. I suppose the moral of this is to think very careful when you are creating a new site if you want to have the same permissions as the parent. If in doubt or you think your needs will change in the future then always select ‘Use Unique Permissions’. Now, if I can just work out what Martin O’Neill is planning for Villa next season. Don’t forget to claim your FREE ‘My Team’s Performance 2009/10 Season’ Template by emailing me at andy.dale@office-talk.com. Please tell me which team you support in the Subject title.

Monday, 20 July 2009

SharePoint Wow Factor

SharePoint might be a sound business solution with great Document Management skills, impressive Search capabilities and features easy to configure Workflow, but does it really have the ‘wow factor’? These days a lot of End Users have the internet at home and are experts in the use of social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. So can you really excite them with this business looking SharePoint? The answer is very much ‘yes, yes, yes’, SharePoint can have the ‘Wow Factor’. This week Martin O’Neill finally spent some of the Villa's money on England international Stewart Downing. A signing that pleased Martin but it didn’t really have the ‘wow factor’, probably because Downing arrived for his medical on crutches with a broken foot (which he injured in a game against the Villa last May). Downing will not play until October which really won’t excite the Villa crowd. So again lack of ‘wow’ in the same way that a SharePoint Project Team try and sell SharePoint to End Users and then announce it doesn’t Go Live for another three months. So how can we give SharePoint this extra ‘Wow Factor’? I have put together my Top Ten ways to achieve the ‘Wow’ with very little cost; 1. Add video. We live in a video age so make sure some of your sites contain embedded video. Short clips are great and you can even copy code straight for YouTube using the Content Editor Webpart. Why not add a bit of humour, as somebody said about my blogs the other week. 2. Add Audio and sound clips Users now expect to hear their PC as well as see it (many teenagers like to hear it very LOUD). So if you have audio clips add them to a Document Library and they can be run straight away using Windows Media Player. 3. Add Flash Users seems to like animation and you can easily add flash (swf) files to SharePoint. Click here to find a very useful article on how to get a flash movie into SharePoint. 4. More Exciting Themes The out of the box SharePoint themes are quite bland and in March of this year Microsoft released an additional ten themes that are slightly more exciting. You can download these by clicking here. 5. Live Chat Many users chat away at night with instant messaging packages like MSN Messenger. Some of them are chatting with more than one person at a time and occasionally sending the wrong message to the wrong person (yes, we have all done that!) A webpart called Chatterbox helps you to put a chat box onto your SharePoint Site. If you have a Communication SIP Server, online chat is also available. With a SIP server you can keep the chat inside your network. 6. Mobile Devices SharePoint can be accessed from PDAs and mobile phones. It is worth showing End Uses how superb SharePoint is when accessed from iPhones. http://www.networkworld.com/community/node/29262 7. Link to other systems Demonstrate SharePoint very much as a front end to other systems. Let users access your ERP (Finance etc) systems from a SharePoint site. Use snazzy looking dashboards to present data from other SQL Systems onto the SharePoint site. Many managers can be easily impressed by a colourful dynamic pie chart. 8. Clever Workflow All of us like things that make our lives easier whether it is self-defrosting freezers or Hot Dog Toasters. So use the Workflow in SharePoint to automate any routine tasks that a number of users have to do. This could be submitting expenses or booking a training room. 9. Live Feeds RSS feeds for latest news can be fed straight into SharePoint using the XML webpart. Just as I am hearing that England have won the second test you could add a feed to your website to keep the End Users up-to-date with the latest cricket score. Click to find out how to link the cricket scores to SharePoint. 10. High Quality Photographs Nothing makes SharePoint look more appealing than glossy pictures of people the End Users actually know. So why not include pictures of members of staff maybe at social events. I mean after all embarrassing photographs is what Facebook is built on. Hopefully now you can get the Wow Factor in your SharePoint, but if your End Users are still not showing their excitement then I think you need to add my popular ‘My Team’s Performance Season 2009/10’ football Site Template. With this they can enter their team’s football performances over the next eight months. Just click below to send me an email but please let me know the team you support. Send Me 'My Team’s Performance Template Season 2009/10'

Monday, 13 July 2009

Impressive SharePoint Column

SharePoint lists may not be favoured by many developers but can be a great tool for all sized companies, especially as Windows SharePoint Services is a free download. In my blog this week I am going to show the different columns available in a SharePoint list and especially how powerful the ‘Lookup’ and ‘Calculated’ fields can be. Then for all the football fans out there (and Man United followers) you will be able to download free of charge the ‘My Team’s Performance 2009/10 Season’ site template. I say it is free of charge but if you would like to send a donation to the ‘Help Aston Villa Buy a Gareth Barry Replacement Fund’ this would be gratefully received by Martin O’Neill. So what fields (SharePoint calls them columns) are available in a SharePoint list? I always suggest that unless you need a Document Library that you start by creating a ‘Custom List’. This means you don’t have to mess around with that silly ‘Title’ column that forces you to have a text entry. With a custom list you can define exactly what fields you have. You can then create as many columns as you need and for each of them can select any of the following; Single Line of Text Allows you up to 255 characters of text. Try and avoid these if you can use dropdown lists instead. Multiple Lines of Text You can have as many lines of text as you want. This can be useful for adding information later. For example if your list is for Customer Records you can add a line every time the customer contacts you. Choice (Menu to Choose from) A personal favourite because it is so easy to create a dropdown list or a set of radio buttons. My rule is if less than 4 options to use radio buttons. Great thing with this type of column is you can copy and paste from Excel or any other list you already have. You can also keep customising entries in the Choice menu so that you keep up with latest options. Number (1, 1.0, 100) This is where the entry will definitely be a number. You can define the number of decimal places and even lower and upper limits. However, if you ever want a entry in this field that contains any none numeric entries use ‘Single Line of Text’ instead. Be warned by default you will get the comma delimiter for thousands and this can only be changed using a Data View option in SharePoint Designer. Currency ($, £) It does what it says and you can select the currency. Date and Time The option to add the date with or without the time. Make sure if you are in the UK the regional settings in SharePoint for the site are set to English (United Kingdom) as we like the month second. The first Ashes Test was on 8/7/09 which is 8th July not 7th August although perhaps if we could put it back to August our bowlers might be able to learn how to bowl straight. Although perhaps England fielders could start having bigger trouser pockets – Strangest Ever Dismissal Lookup (information already on this site) The much under used column that I tend to use more than most and the ‘My Team’s Performance 2009/10 Season’ is riddled with them. The idea is why enter the same information twice on a site when you can use the ‘Lookup’ column to give us a dropdown list for data in another field elsewhere on the site. Certainly worth trying this one but a word of warning – it doesn’t work if you choose a ‘Check Box’ Choice column because it only works off single value fields. Yes/No (Check box) Not a favourite of mine because it has to have a default value. It is really just a tick box. I prefer to use the Choice instead and include the entries for Yes and No. Also sometimes you need a ‘Maybe’ for people feeling indecisive. For example the question “will the Villa win the league next season?” would probably need a ‘Yes’, ‘Maybe’ and ‘No’. Person or Group Very useful as you can add users from your Active Directory. You can then use these to filter by and even use that useful filter [Me] that shows items only where the person logged on is listed in the column. Hyperlink or Picture Make the entry dynamic with the ability to add live links to web addresses, SharePoint addresses or pictures on SharePoint. You can also add email addresses using mailto: before the address. Calculated (Calculation based on other columns) Allows you to add an Excel based calculation to SharePoint. You can use the ‘=’ formula or add fields already on the list. One I use a great deal is a ‘Review Document’ field. To set a review date as one year from the date the entry was created. To do this use Calculated field and enter =[Date Created]+365 So those are the different basic columns available in SharePoint (WSS 3.0) now you are ready to see how all these columns can be used to create a complete solution. With the Premier League Football season now just over a month away you can receive a download of my new ‘My Team’s Performance 2009/10 Season’ Site Template and follow your Premier League Team’s Performance during the coming season. You can record all their transfers (in and out), league results, cup results, goal scorers and even choose your goal of the season. Best of all it is free and all you have to do is drop me an email to andy.dale@office-talk.com. Please just put in the subject the team you support so I can make sure they are going to good homes. The Site Template can be adapted for teams from other countries or divisions by simply editing the ‘Teams’ Tab. So what are you waiting for post an email to andy.dale@office-talk.com and start adding your squad players. If the Villa manager, Martin O’Neill, is reading this please just start adding to your squad before Man City buy all the best players.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Mind Your SharePoint Language

Another busy SharePoint week, that has seen me and the other Office Talk consultants travelling the UK. Today I have been in the capital and I am now waiting for my train at Euston station comparing the merits of Harry Ramsden’s and Burger King. Don’t worry I am not going to start comparing one of them with SharePoint. On the table to my left are two women who I think are Spanish and because I think they are Spanish I am assuming they are speaking in Spanish. This could be completely wrong and they could actually be from another country and speaking a totally different language. You will understand from this that I am not exactly multi-lingual. In fact the only non-English based language I can vaguely understand is French. I did French at school, but I certainly didn’t shine and it was probably my worse subject (although my Woodwork teacher might disagree). In fact everything we seemed cover in French appeared to involve Jean Pierre going to Dieppe on his bicycle. I did start to dislike Jean Pierre and hoped one day he would fall off his bicycle on the way to blooming Dieppe. So what has this all got to do with SharePoint? The answer is multi-languages. The women next-door are happily chatting away in what I think is their native tongue, but it might just be a code so SharePoint Bloggers can’t write about what they are saying and then link a funny video to it. Of course, it’s always possible that the translation of what they are saying is in fact “what do you think that baldy man is typing over there and do you think he is going to buy any Harry Ramsden’s chips?” The cosmopolitan side of London is one of its charms and you can hear so many different languages as well as regional dialects. So why shouldn’t SharePoint reflect these different languages as well? The answer is it can and many companies use it this way. All you need is the free SharePoint language packs and you can give site administrators the option to create sites in any language they want (as long as a language pack is available for it – Klingon is not currently available). The advantage of the language pack is that for a global company that has offices at countries speaking different languages the offices can all have SharePoint on the same Web Application yet still use their own native languages. You can even allow users to configure their search requirements so only items in their own language are returned. Although, I do understand that many people are better at languages than myself and can happily converse in more than one. I am sure that blinking Jean Pierre could speak English probably better than I can as well as French even when he was riding his bike. SharePoint Language packs have been around since SharePoint 2003. You can download the latest Language Pack for SharePoint 2007 at the following link; http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=2447426b-8689-4768-bff0-cbb511599a45&displaylang=en The following table lists the language packs that are available: Arabic Bulgarian Catalan Chinese (Simplified) Chinese (Traditional) Croatian Czech Danish Dutch English Estonian Finnish French German Greek Hebrew Hindi Hungarian Italian Japanese Kazakh Korean Latvian Lithuanian Malay (Malaysia) – Only available for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Norwegian Polish Portuguese (Brazil) Portuguese (Portugal) Romanian Russian Serbian (Latin) Slovak Slovenian Spanish Swedish Thai Turkish Ukrainian If Martin O’Neill finally does start signing some of the players he is being linked to then perhaps he will need to have some language packs inserted in him. Don’t forget in next week’s blog I will be giving away the ‘My Team’s Performance’ Site Template for the new 2009/2010 season.