Friday, 22 January 2010

Make SharePoint Count

If you are a regular reader to my SharePoint blog you will have guessed that the only place to start this week is by congratulating Aston Villa on reaching the Carling Cup Final. There were joyous celebrations on Wednesday following a game that had more goals than you get site templates in the popular ActionSharePoint Bumper Bundle. Yes, at 6-4 (sounds like a tennis score) it wasn’t always easy to keep track, so this week I am going to discuss some of the unused ‘Totals’ features in SharePoint. The BBC must have been delighted with ten goals, a sending off and incidents galore. I have never seen Alan ‘Captain Scarlett’ Hansen so excited. But even Mark Lawrenson would have sounded interesting talking about that game.

So how could SharePoint have helped keep track of the goals? A great feature is ‘Custom List’ and these are often the best starting point for creating any form in SharePoint as you can define all the fields/columns yourself. On Wednesday we could have had a custom list called ‘Semi Final Goals’. In this list we could have created fields for the following ‘Time of Goal’, ‘Villa Scorer’, ‘Blackburn Scorer’, ‘Description of Goal’, ‘Reason for Sam Allardyce to moan’. Then each time a goal was scored added an entry. The next part which a number of users don’t use to its full capabilities is the create View option.

When creating a ‘View’ you can decide which columns you need to display and how to display them. There is an option here to display them as a Data View (this means it will look a bit like a spreadsheet). A rule I always use is only display the columns that contains vital information as the user can always click on the link from one of the records to see the full item. Try to make it so the user does not have to scroll to the right on the list by reducing number of columns to display. Also useful sometimes to think about the length of the column name as this can also cause scrolling. If you wish the users to be able to update items you also need to make sure that either one of the columns contains an ‘Edit’ or ‘Link’ option otherwise a trick I use is to add the ‘Edit’ column as the first column to display. When you see the list of Columns in the View you will see that some columns have in brackets after their name ‘Edit item’ or ‘Link to item’ this means that they will be hyperlinks for the user to click to be able to edit or view the whole form.

Now you have your View created you can modify it to set things like ‘Sort’, ‘Group By’ or ‘Filter’. With ‘Filter’ you could select ‘Show items only when following is true’ select the field ‘Villa Scorer’ and then select the options ‘is not equal to’ then leave the next box blank. This will then only display goals scored by the mighty Villa. The other option on the Modify View which would help us count the goals is the ‘Totals’. From here you can add a total for each of the columns. The options under ‘Totals’ include Count, Sum, Average, Maximum and Minimum. If these are selected they will display the appropriate Total at the top of the column. So if we added the ‘Count’ option to both the ‘Villa Scorer’ and ‘Blackburn Scorer’ columns we would see a 6 and a 4 appear. So we could keep track of all the goals that went in. With the other Semi Final at Old Trafford next Wednesday you could also use these totals to calculate the ‘Fergie Time’. During the game Alex Ferguson could add an item for every injury, substitution or time wasting during the game. One of the fields could be ‘Length of stoppage in seconds’ and on the View this could be totalled using ‘Totals’ and ‘Sum’. Then after 90 minutes Sir Alex could start waving his laptop at the 4th Official and pointing to his SharePoint List.

So with my train from Birmingham Snow Hill to Wembley Stadium booked for 28th February I can now start work on my Carling Cup Final Souvenir SharePoint Template. This will be available free of charge as soon as we know which club from Manchester will be runners-up to the Villa in the 50th League Cup Final. Now who won the first one.....oh yes Aston Villa!

Friday, 15 January 2010

SharePoint Awards 2010 - Nominations

New SharePoint Awrds 2012

In England we will soon know the finalists of the first football tournament of the year and after last night I am very hopefully I will be visiting the new Wembley for the first time on Sunday 28th February.

After the success of last year's Andy Dale SharePoint Awards I have decided to repeat the awards this year and I am seeking nominations for 2010. The closing date for all nominations will be 28th February 2010, yes the date of the Carling Cup Final. A few things I ask though, firstly please do not nominate yourselves and secondly let's stick to WSS 3.0 or MOSS 2007 applications. Then in the first week of March I will announce the three finalists in each of the ten categories (which will be the same as last year). We will then announce the overall winners at the SharePoint Summit 2010 between April 12th and 14th thanks to kind offer by Chair of the summit Dany Boulanger.

Let me remind you then of last year's winners of the Andy SharePoint Awards and then you can start thinking about nominations for this year;

1 Best SharePoint Information Site 2009
WinnerSharePoint Reviews

2 Best SharePoint Webpart Provider 2009
WinnerSharePoint Boost

3 Best SharePoint Administration Tool 2009
WinnerControlPoint from Axceler

4 Best Website built on SharePoint 2009

5 Best SharePoint Training Package 2009
WinnerCBT Clips

6 Best SharePoint Offline Solution 2009
WinnerColligo Contributor from Colligo

7 Most Useful SharePoint Webpart 2009
WinnerBatch Check-in from SharePoint Boost

8 Favourite Free SharePoint Webpart 2009
WinnerGoogle Search Webparts

9 Most Fun Free Webpart 2009
WinnerPicture Puzzle Widget from Spring Widgets

10 Biggest SharePoint Mess-up 2009
WinnerMicrosoft for 180 day expire error on SP 2.

So please email any nominations to or leave a comment here.

Hopefully in next week's blog I will be celebrating Aston Villa's place in the Carling Cup Final, but there is still a big game to come next Wednesday. It could be a cracker like in 1994.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Snow Go SharePoint

Unlike many other countries a few inches of snow in the UK means that everything grinds to a stop. This week was one of those weeks when thousands of schools closed, many roads became impassable and worse of all the Villa’s Carling Cup Semi Final was cancelled. But things have changed lately and it was interesting to see how many Facebook status updates told us the person was working from home (I don’t know when Facebook became part of working from home) . Now with the rapid improvement of Broadband technology around the world it has made ‘working from home’ a real option. No longer is it just a term for watching Jeremy Kyle with your pc on in the background bleeping when a new message arrives in your Inbox. Now with so many companies moving to SharePoint all your Office files really can be at your finger tips and reduce the need to dig the car out of the snow.

Now companies have three ways of letting users access their SharePoint environments from home.

1. Firstly, and still one of the most popular is a VPN (Virtual Private Network). This allows the user to connect into the Corporate network and work as if they were sitting inside the network. If your company has already setup a VPN Server then connecting to it is very simple. This youtube video shows you what to do, as long as you know the IP address or DNS Host Name, How to Set up VPN. If you r company hasn’t got a VPN setup this can be done fairly easy using Windows Server 2003 especially if you have a spare network connection.

2. It is also possible to expose your SharePoint as an Extranet where users can access their SharePoint sites via a URL address and are then required to add their network logon details. This usually uses port 80 and Forms Authentication can be used to allow you to change the default Windows logon screen. The default Windows logon screen can be confusing with users not being sure where they should enter the domain name. With Forms Authentication it allows an extra screen to be designed that takes the user logon details and passes them to Windows. The following article describes setting up a SharePoint Extranet and Forms Authentication – Click Here.

3. The final option is to consider using a Hosted SharePoint solution either WSS or MOSS. Office Talk will happily advise you on suitable suppliers of these. One of the advantages of hosted solution is that it is easy for anybody with a logon to connect to wherever they have an Internet connection. But perhaps the greatest advantage is the cost savings. You don’t need expensive hardware, backup solutions and 24 hour IT support as this is all done for you.

With all of these three options the snow and non-gritted roads become less of a problem. Employees can stay in their homes, by the nice warm fire drinking hot tomato soup while accessing all their normal office files.
Of course this all assumes that you have SharePoint so if you haven’t you might need to put your wellies and a spade in the boot of your car ready for when your car gets stuck.

Now, how can we make sure the Villa finally play this week? Perhaps one day all games will be played indoors and broadcast via the Internet. I hope that never really happens. Let’s get back to playing in the snow with an orange ball.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

SharePoint 2010 - The Story Continues

So we enter a new year and a new decade. We have said goodbye to 2009 a year that saw the first nearly black US President, Tiger Woods playing a few extra rounds, MPs fiddling more than Nigel Kennedy, Michael Jackson never performing at the O2 and England cricketers regaining that little urn. It seems impossible to believe that it has been ten years since the Millennium celebrations, but I suppose a lot of things have changed in those ten years (apart from Ryan Giggs, of course). The biggest change has probably been in technology with smart-phones, digital cameras, Ebay and of course ‘Social Networking’ becoming such a big part of our lives. Interestingly SharePoint is a product of the ‘noughties’.

SharePoint began with its first version in 2001 which was hardly a great success before really starting to make an impression with a revised version in 2003. This is when I first became a fan and started to understand the real potential of this Microsoft product. A system that allowed full text searching, let companies turn network drives into Intranets, encouraged collaboration, allowed version control of documents and so much more. I was hooked on SharePoint and after leading several projects as an IT Manager in 2007 decided to become a Specialist SharePoint Consultant. Yes the first decade of the twenty-first century saw a number of life changes for me; I got married, gained a step-daughter, my mother sadly died and I became a SharePoint Consultant with Office Talk. Unfortunately despite lots of promise the Villa failed to win a trophy in the decade (first time this has happened since 1940’s).

The most successful change for SharePoint was in 2007 when Microsoft introduced Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (still a free download) and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. These are the versions of SharePoint that have became popular and been so beneficial to so many companies and organisations across the globe. With the additional functionality of Item Level Security, Blogs, Wikis, Email integration and a closer relationship with Office 2007 this really is a product that everyone should have. The rapid growth of SharePoint over the last two years has seen it introduced to many schools, hospitals and workplaces around the world. The 2007 version has become the standard with so many excellent third party add-ons now available to enhance its performance. Websites like have appeared as a valuable source to find the very best SharePoint products. If you haven’t yet experienced SharePoint then why not start 2010 by downloading the free Windows SharePoint Services from the Office Talk website.

So what of the new decade (is it the ‘teenies’?) and what will it bring. Hopefully Aston Villa being champions of Europe again. Maybe we might even see a male King. If Prince William became King and David Cameron becomes Prime Minister then we would have a country run by Villa fans. One thing we know is that sometime this year the new versions of SharePoint will be released. SharePoint Foundation 2010 is replacing WSS, but it is not yet known if it will be free. SharePoint Server 2010 is due mid-year (otherwise it might need a rename) and promises much including being easier to customise and a faster search all with a dash of Silverlight. You can download a copy of the beta version by visiting now.
The main drawback with SharePoint Server 2010 (apart from the fact it isn’t available yet!) is that it needs both 64 bit hardware and Windows Server 2008 (oh, and doesn’t support IE 6), so it will require some financial investment. I also believe it will take a year for many of the third party vendors to start creating add-ons for 2010. So I would recommend at the moment that companies, or organisations, who are looking at SharePoint this year, do stick with installing the current 2007 version. They will be able to migrate to the 2010 version later on. There is a pre-upgrade checker available to see which webparts or add-ons will upgrade to 2010.

For the New Year a bumper bundle of SharePoint Templates have been released by Office Talk that are a great starting point for anybody currently starting to use SharePoint. Built to easily install on either WSS 3.0 or MOSS this set of 9 includes IT, HR, Finance, Safety and many more.

So let’s raise a glass to the new decade and wish all of you a belated Happy New SharePoint Year.