Friday, 5 September 2014

Office 365 Rejuvenates SharePoint

Apologies that it is four months since my last SharePoint blog, but my passion for SharePoint has now be reinvigorated (big word for a Villa fan) by the sudden phenomenal explosion of SharePoint in the UK. It would be easy to blame my lack of blogging on the poor performances of Aston Villa, the UK recession or being regularly stuck on the M25, but I think the real reason is I just got bored of SharePoint.

I had been a SharePoint fan since my first exposure to the joys of Document Management Systems at Chemical Site in Wolverhampton back in 2002. For years I rode the SharePoint bandwagon and was so impressed that in 2008 I even bought my own SharePoint company. But there were issues and things that although could be partly fixed with third-party tools (or just turning it on and off again) just weren't right. SharePoint for however impressive it was had it's limitations. Branding wasn't quite right (with some obscure HTML), cost was simply too high in today's market and as for Microsoft trying to get us up in the 'cloud' (let's try to forget about BPOS) it was a disaster.

But suddenly my passion is rekindled and the reason is Office365 and the joy of working with SharePoint 2013. It now is really available up in the famous 'cloud' and to even the smallest company. From less than 5 employees to over 50,000 Office365 takes information to a whole new level. I love the fact that I can just get my iPad out and connect straight to a customer site to fix an issue they might have (with the right security, of course) or even on my smart phone when I am eating my KFC at the motorway services. With a small bit of CSS knowledge I now find I can easily change the colours and look of sites to match the customers corporate colours. Instead of having to prepare my excuses and take a sharp intake of breath before telling them how many days this would take. Yes, I am excited again by SharePoint and see a future where everyone (even Mac users) will be SharePoint converts.

Office365 of course is much much more than just SharePoint, but the ease in which in just a few minutes you can start building your own document management system, intranet and external facing Website is certainly eye-opening. Although, you might still need help of SharePoint companies like 'Office Talk' to really give you take-off.

Over the next few weeks my blog will show you some of the quick wins you can get with your Office365 and SharePoint 2013. They will include;

1. Running a PowerPoint Presentation inside a SharePoint Web Part.
2. Styling your dynamic navigation bars.
3. Removing left-hand navigation on your Home Page
4. Hiding the Edit Toolbar option
5. Styling the PromoLink tiles
6. Adding icons to indicate external links
7. Adding live content with customised  RSS feeds
8. Colour code calendar entries by type of appointment
9. Add comedy videos to your SharePoint
10. Automatically creating actions in individual task lists from Meeting Minutes.

SharePoint is back in a big way and the Villa are third in the league so life is pretty good. Of course with games against Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea up next the Villa might not keep gaining fans but SharePoint certainly will.

On the plus side though playing Liverpool means an excuse to play my favourite video again of the legend who is Mario Balotelli.

Happy SharePointing.

  Try Office365 now free of charge at Office Talk.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Andy Dale's SharePoint Famous Five

Even after working with SharePoint for over ten years I still find myself learning new things. So in today's blog (yes, I know first one for six months. See Official Apology at the end) I will reveal five tricks that I have recently discovered.

Versions of SharePoint come and go, but they don't basically change that much. Ok the way t looks might change and new features are added but behind the scenes it is all still pretty similar. All of these tricks work from 2010 onwards and most of them in 2007 also.

So here are my SharePoint Famous Five

1. Add a print form option to any list item

i) Simply Edit page for Display Form (List - Form Web Parts - Default Display Form)
ii) Add a Content Editor Web Part
iii) Click 'Edit Source' to get to HTML
iv) Paste in code

2. Quickly Customise your Forms

Use the icon in the List/Library ribbon 'Customize Form' (sorry it is American so the 'z' stays). If you have InfoPath Designer installed on your local PC this button takes the form into InfoPath and lets you change it. Add tips, columns, hide fields and add submit/save buttons.

Your users don't need InfoPath to see and complete the form. Great way of avoiding need for extra Content Types.

3. Use SharePoint Designer workflow for automatic numbering

Many people try to use ID numbers in calculations to add automatic numbering and soon find it starts to fail.

Instead add a simple workflow with SharePoint Designer Workflow that when an item is created fills in the reference number field with the ID value plus 1. Use 'Update Field in Current Item' as the action.

Word of advice though when creating new workflows for SharePoint 2013 use 'Platform Type' as 'SharePoint 2010 Workflow'. This works while for some reason 2013 Workflow doesn't.

4. Tag documents to help you find them

Probably like many of you I find the Like\Tagging function that suddenly appeared in 2010 a bit naff. With Microsoft just trying to bring 'Social Networking' into the Corporate world. Yet 'Tagging' can be helpful. Tags can be filtered by in a search. On the left-hand side filters on Search Results pages is the option to show only items that have a tag. So why not tag that important document now.

5.Future-proof Searching

Sometimes other users aren't as quick at checking documents as you. So you are searching for a document you know is nearly finished but in your Search it frustratingly doesn't find it. Don't worry because at the top of Search Results page is the famous 'Alert' icon. So click it and ask to receive an email when a new item is added to this search criteria.

So when the document is checked in (providing it meets the Search criteria) you will be notified.  

I hope you find at least one of these five tricks useful. Please share them around so other people can find out new things about SharePoint.

Of course calling these the 'Famous Five' means I have to include a 'Famous Five' video so here is one from my childhood;

Official Apology

I confess it is over six months since my last blog. Many apologies for this and no it is not due to the abject failures of Aston Villa Football Club this season. Main reason has been that I have been very busy in my spare time creating a new system based on SharePoint 2013 (and Office365) called 'Surgery365'.

Sugery365 is a complete online management system for a whole range of medical surgeries ranging from Chiropodists to Dentists. It includes full appointment booking, patient records, treatment notes and patient receipts. We are very excited about the system at Office Talk and are aiming to launch it in September. Anybody interested in finding out more about it please drop me an email to

About the Villa

Despite the recent depressing run of results I do believe that the Villa will avoid relegation but maybe only on goal difference. Really is squeaky-bum time.