Monday, 28 September 2009

SharePoint - Fading Eyes

All good things come to an end and that is what happened to the Villa’s winning run on Saturday. Thanks to a referee who for once had good eye-sight. The ref noted that the ball ACCIDENTALLY hit a Villa defender’s arm and gave Blackburn a last minute penalty. So what about fading eye-sight and SharePoint? I have certainly notice in the last few years that I find it harder to read smaller text on the screen. When I am with customers whose screen resolution is set to 1280 by 1024 or greater I end up having to virtually sit on their lap before I can read the screen. Not all customers are happy with me doing this. So SharePoint needs to allow for individuals having different viewing requirements and one of the latest webpart offerings from SharePoint Boost goes a long way to doing just this. Like many of SharePoint Boosts products the ‘SharePoint Text Size Zoom’ (sorry SharePoint Boost but I am not too excited by the name) is very simple to install and use. All it does is makes available a webpart to any site that simply lets the user increase, or reduce (for those with bionic eyesight) any text on the site. So people like me instead of sitting on a customer’s lap can simply click on the big A on the page and make everything bigger. A really useful tool and a quick win for many SharePoint Administrators. If only I could have clicked a button on Saturday that made the Villa goalkeeper bigger, then he might have saved the penalty. Or a button that reduced the size of the goal would also be as good. Have a look at the Office Talk website to find out more about SharePoint Boost’s ‘SharePoint Text Size Zoom’. Accessibility in SharePoint is certainly a talking point and even with the latest SharePoint Accessibility Kit from HiSoftware it leads to many arguments. Even without installing the Accessibility Kit (which should always be tested in a Test Environment before installing on a Live system) you can make some basic Accessibility considerations when creating your SharePoint sites. These are three rules that I always try to follow and I always mention when I am running SharePoint Designer Workshops. 1. Don’t Forget Alternative Text. On all images fill out the ‘alternative text’ entry. This allows Screen Reader software to describe the picture 2. Use black text on a white background. If you must use colour, use two colours that have the most contrast. Think about people who are Colour Blind and try to avoid the use of blue, red and green. 3. Think About Hyperlink Text. A Screen Reader does not want to read “Click Here” several times on the same page. Instead but a quick indicator to what happens if you click this button. Accessibility in SharePoint’ is a big subject and needs to be part of any successful SharePoint project. A great blog on ‘Accessibility in SharePoint’ is written by Andrew Woodward and well worth a read. Hopefully Villa will bounce back next week when they play Manchester City. Now if they could just find a way of reducing the size of Man City’s purse strings.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

SharePoint – Be Prepared (SharePoint Emergency Repair Kit)

This week I am going to talk about running repairs to SharePoint and what to put in your SharePoint Emergency Repair Kit. Last week I attended a wedding at a posh hotel in Derbyshire (Breadsall Priory for any old monks reading) with my wife and daughter. The morning before the wedding (which didn’t start until 1:30pm – meaning dinner would be well after 3pm) we sat down in the hotel for a coffee (well, I had a hot chocolate because I am not a coffee drinker) and a Danish pastry. Everything seemed to be going well until my observant wife noticed that a hole was appearing on the seam of my trousers that might well get larger as the day progressed. My wife is always prepared (even though she was never in the Boy Scouts) and within seconds was taking out a miniature sewing kit from her handbag and sewing up the offending hole. I was slightly taken back as I was wearing the trousers and it was in full view of the waitress, but a very quick and effective job was achieved. The rest of the day went well and I even managed to catch a few glimpses of England’s emphatic World Cup victory over Croatia. So how can you be prepared for little SharePoint emergencies? The option of restoring from a full backup is always there but often a less painful solution is necessary. Here is what I call my SharePoint First Aid Kit; 1. Recycle Bin – SharePoint 2007 and WSS 3.0 both come with a Recycle Bin for Users which is great for restoring documents, list items or whole libraries. You can set how long users can keep items in the Recycle Bin for. Oh, there is also a second recycle bin for Site collection administrators. 2. SharePoint Designer – When you get errors on the browser and you think all is lost opening the site in SharePoint Designer can often spot the problem. By simply then removing an unhappy webpart can fix the issue and get you running again. 3. MS Office Diagnostics – If the problem is only with an individual user and there is a problem with Document Libraries or opening Word or Excel files then run MS Office Diagnostics from their local machine. a) Open an Office 2007 b) Click the Office button (that big one at the top that wasn’t in older versions) c) Click the Word Options (or Excel Options) button. d) Select the Resources tab on the left. e) Click the Diagnose button. f) Start the diagnostic tests and follow the prompts. 4. Event Viewer – First port of call for any SharePoint server problems should be the Event Viewer (both Application and System) this will quickly show any problems and give you something to search Google (or TechNet) with. 5. IIS – Check that the website and corresponding Application Pool have not stopped. An IISRESET from Run command on the Server is always worth trying. 6. Check SharePoint Services – The Event Viewer should alert you to any services that have stopped, but it is still worth checking the services on all the SharePoint servers to see that all the services that mention ‘SharePoint’ and are set to ‘Automatic’ are running. So be prepared and have these six items available to you at all times. Did I say that the Villa motto is ‘Be Prepared’? They certainly seem to be doing that of late with five straight wins. Maybe it is too early to be preparing for the Villa in the ‘Champions League’ next season. Mind you with England now qualified for the 2010 World Cup I will have to soon start creating a World Cup 2010 SharePoint Template so I can follow their progress to World Cup Glory.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Feeding SharePoint (Document Uploads)

Unlike the good old days when teams could buy and sell players whenever they want we now have the UEFA imposed transfer windows. I don’t know why they are called ‘transfer windows’ maybe it would be better to call them ‘transfer doors’ because only when the door is open can you do business. As Monday was a Bank Holiday the Premier League decided to make Tuesday 1st September 5pm the deadline for this summer’s transfers. Yet for some reason the final Villa transfer of Richard Dune (Manchester City’s player of the year last season) did not get cleared until around 10am Wednesday 2nd September. The reason why seem to be because all the required paperwork had not reached the big-wigs at the Premier League. What isn’t clear is how this information should be received. Is it via an old fax machine (that was probably used back in the days of Jimmy Greaves), via a PDF file in an email or does the Club Secretary have to charge around to FA Headquarters waving pieces of paper? If they were using SharePoint to record all the transfers and necessary paperwork what options would they have for entering the documents? So what I am going to talk about this week in my 50th SharePoint blog is the different ways of getting documents into SharePoint. Option 1 – Uploading For many the preferred option as all you do is click ‘Upload’, then decide if you are uploading multiple documents or just the one and then browse to the document. It works, it’s easy and can be used with all kinds of files including videos of each of Emily Heskey’s seven England goals. Option 2 – Open with Windows Explorer This is pretty neat. Just make the SharePoint document library into a Windows Explorer window (seem to be using the word ‘window’ a lot today). This is done by clicking ‘Actions’ – ‘Open with Windows Explorer’. Now you can open another Windows Explorer window and navigate to where your documents and files are kept. You should now have two windows open and you can copy and paste documents between the two using the right-click. You can even copy whole folders from the Documents window into the SharePoint Document Library Window. Very useful, but be warned that all the properties will be reset. You will become the author of the document and it will have a created date of today. Well, you can’t have everything. Option 3 – Email to Document Library All Document Libraries and most other lists can be set to receive emails. When you create a new list or library the option to receive emails is available. You just say ‘yes’ and then enter a new unique email address for the folder. You must have your SharePoint server configured for incoming emails in the Central Admin, but other than that it is straightforward. The emails arrive in the document library with fields including ‘To’, ‘Sent’, ‘From’ and ‘Body’ all available. You may want to add a rule to your email to forward certain messages straight to the Document Library. Office Talk has developed several Email Listener solutions for to help with this process and will be happy to discuss them with you. Option 4 – Scan to Document Library A number of Office Talk customers have documents in paper form and have asked for ways to get these into their SharePoint. The scanning solution Office Talk recommends is the one with the funny name – Dark Blue Duck. Perhaps they should have called in ‘Green Duck’ and based it on Orville. This simple to install product adds an extra item on the Action tab dropdown called ‘Scan Document’. It then allows you to use your local scanner to add it to SharePoint. It is brilliantly simple and effective. So in the next transfer window perhaps the FA could use SharePoint, although this won’t be relevant to Chelsea. If you have any other suggestions for how to get documents in SharePoint please feel free to comment on this blog.