Tuesday, 30 March 2010

SharePoint Designer - Seven Goals

Well, I have had three days of receiving texts from forgotten friends and acquaintances to gloat about the fact that the Villa let in SEVEN goals against Chelsea. Their worse defeat during my time supporting them.

Probably the funniest text was “Newsflash : Following Saturday’s events the Chelsea Villa Semi Final has been moved from Wembley Stadium to Lords Cricket Ground”. Now everywhere I go the number seven appears whether it is the highest scoring ball in snooker, the number of days in the week or just the picture here on my blog. So I have decided to go with the flow and use SEVEN as the theme for this week’s blog. I am going to talk about one of my favourite free applications ‘SharePoint Designer’and the SEVEN great uses of SharePoint Designer both the current version and the new SharePoint Designer 2010. The new SharePoint Designer 2010 will be available soon, but be warned it isn’t backward compatible and will not work on your current SharePoint sites.

1. Design Sites, Pages and Master Pages
Out of the box SharePoint is effective, but a lot of organisations want to really brand it and make it their own. With SharePoint Designer you can change columns, add text or pictures, add headers or footers and generally change the layout of the page. Each Site is linked to a Master Page and by changing the layout of the Master Page you can change the look of all sites that use that Master Page. Interestingly in the soon to be released SharePoint Foundation the Default.Master page is actually the Windows SharePoint Services ver 3 Master Page. So if you are an old fuddy-duddy like me you can make your SharePoint 2010 look like SharePoint 2007 and even lose the ribbon by just applying the Default.Master.

2. Develop Cascaded Style Sheets
All Graphic Designers these days think tables are old hat and that the world is a better place with CSS (Cascaded Style Sheets). They might just be a trend but SharePoint Designer lets you create and modify all these style sheets. Meaning that uneducated SharePoint Administrators will then not understand why when they try to change the font to that new trendy one it keeps changing back to the company standard font.

3. Data Views (Combine multiple SharePoint lists into one and link to external data sources).
With SharePoint Designer you can create so many more views of your data. You can link information from different lists even from different sites. You can take data straight from SQL and Oracle databases and display them in a snazzy SharePoint table. Then when you are confident you can add the power of ‘Conditional Formatting’. This means for example if your rating score in a SharePoint Survey goes below 6 out of 10 the entry could turn yellow, be a bigger font and even flicker.

4. Create Quite Advanced Workflows
Creating Workflow to automate those tedious jobs is one of my favourite features of SharePoint Designer. Straight away you can add over 50 Conditions and Actions to a SharePoint Library or List. For example,a new IT Helpdesk Form is submitter about a printer problem then use Workflow to set up an automatic Email to the person responsible for printers and move the form from the ‘Submitted’ to the ‘In Progress’ section. Send an email back to user saying call has been logged and who it has been assigned to. All with a simple SharePoint Designer workflow which works effortlessly in the background as the IT team debates whose turn it is to fetch the drinks from the vending machine.

5. Backup, Restore and move SharePoint Sites
Even Administration can be done in SharePoint Designer. The option to complete real-time backups of SharePoint sites simply by copying the URL (and having the appropriate permissions). Backup and Restore are simple procedures and it is also possible to transport sites across servers using SharePoint Designer.

6. Add big buttons
Nothing says press me more than a big button. So the easiest way of leading users is to put buttons on your SharePoint Site. The best way to do this is to insert them in SharePoint Designer. You have a choice of over 50 Interactive buttons in various styles and colours. All of these you can add hyperlinks to and appropriate text.

7. See how sites look in different browsers
I started up my Windows 7 PC the other day and was hit with a choice of all the different browsers I could install. As a Microsoft man I always have tended to use Internet Explorer but have now given myself a choice by also installing Google Chrome. I have to admit to been rather taken back by how fast the Google Chrome pages load. My Facebook now behaves three times better than it used to on Internet Explorer 8. So, more SharePoint users will start to vary browsers with more using Firefox, Safari and Google Chrome than before. When you create sites now in SharePoint Designer you have option to view them in any of the different browsers you have installed on your PC. You get to see the problems before the users start howling.

So as Chelsea stopped at 7 I will to but SharePoint Designer has many more hidden features. If you haven’t used it yet then I strongly recommend downloading it free now by Clicking Here.

SharePoint Designer Training courses are all available from all good leading SharePoint Trainers. I would recommend taking a look at Office Talk but then you might end up with me.

So a week on Sunday sees the Villa yet again face Chelsea. This time for a place in FA Cup Final and strangely I feel quite confident. Maybe I need a new pair of lucky pants though.

Don’t forget if you haven’t already voted in the Andy Dale SharePoint Awards 2010 that the closing date is 7th April. So vote now.

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