13 August 2018

Add Links to SharePoint Workflow E-mails

SharePoint iconDo you use a workflow to send e-mail notifications about changes in a SharePoint list or library? In that case, you might be interested in my new Tips article where I show how to add various links to the e-mail body.

Built-in alerts
Automatic e-mail notifications are useful when you want to draw attention to changes in a SharePoint list or library. Microsoft has given an Alert feature for such e-mails, and it is very easy for users to turn on such alerts for themselves. However, these alerts give no possibility to customize the body of the e-mail.

Custom alerts
SharePoint Designer iconMany organizations prefer to create their own notification workflows, to have better control over when and to whom the e-mails are sent. A workflow also gives many options for customization of the e-mail body.

You can for example add links in the e-mail, so that the recipients quickly can reach various kinds of information. It might however be complicated to get these links to work as intended, so I hope my article in the Tips section will be helpful.

Workflow generated e-mail with links
Link code examples
In the demo below, I show how to build different links that might be useful in automatic e-mails. The demo is included in the Tips article, and the article also has all the link codes so that you can study them more easily.

In a later article, I will give examples on how to add links to e-mails that are sent by a flow. Flows are easier to work with than workflows, but they only support SharePoint Online and they also have some other limitations.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

26 July 2018

E-mail Converter for Azure and SharePoint Works 24/7

E-mail Converter logotype Last week I told you about the update of E-mail Converter for Outlook and SharePoint, the add-in that creates SharePoint list items from e-mails. Now we will soon release E-mail Converter for Azure and SharePoint. The Azure edition will convert e-mails automatically 24/7.

HelpDesk OSP on a sever
E-mail Converter was earlier called HelpDesk OSP, and under that name it has been sold as an issue tracking tool to organizations all over the world. It has worked excellently for companies that only uses the add-in for manual conversion and for creating new SharePoint list items from Outlook.

For automatic conversion, the solution has been less perfect, because E-mail Converter for Outlook and SharePoint requires that each user has the add-in installed and that one of the Outlook instances is running. When customers want the conversion to take place even if no user has Outlook open, we have so far recommended them to install the add-in on a server where Outlook is running all the time.

The support team has used HelpDesk OSP/E-mail Converter this way on a virtual computer for many years, and it has worked fairly well. It has however not been a perfect solution, as there were downtimes when the VM had to be restarted. Now we have solved this issue by developing E-mail Converter for Azure and SharePoint.

Lower cost and better performance with Azure
When the QA team found E-mail Converter for Azure and SharePoint ready for it, we started to use the new edition for the support e-mails. Our callers have not noticed any difference, of course, but for the company it has meant improved operation and better economy, compared to using a virtual machine.

Azure icon
We are using a free plan for the E-mail Converter for Azure and SharePoint web site on Azure, so we only have to pay for the Scheduler, which is EUR 12 or USD 14 per month. That is only a fifth of the cost for the VM we used before!

During the month we have used E-mail Converter for Azure and SharePoint in production there have been no downtimes, and we don't expect any such issues to happen in the future. We have thus managed to combine increased performance with lowered cost, something that always makes me, as a business owner, feel very content :-)

For auto-conversion only
E-mail Converter for Azure and SharePoint can of course only be used for automatic conversion of e-mails. That is what we need for the support mail, E-mail Converter for Outlook and SharePoint icon but we will continue using the Outlook edition of E-mail Converter for manual conversion and to create SharePoint list items from Outlook. Both editions have their benefits and range of application.

E-mail Converter for Azure and SharePoint will be published in a few weeks, and we will of course announce the release here in the blog.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

16 July 2018

HelpDesk OSP Becomes E-mail Converter

E-mail Converter logotype An update of the add-on that connects Outlook to SharePoint has been released. This time, the product has been renamed from HelpDesk OSP to E-mail Converter. As it can be used to create SharePoint list items from all kinds of e-mails, we found the "helpdesk" name too restricting. Changing product name is not something you do easily, but in this case we found it justified.

Convert e-mails manually or automatically
When HelpDesk OSP was first built, it was sponsored by a customer who was already using Folder HelpDesk for Outlook but wanted to have the helpdesk tickets in SharePoint instead. That influenced us when we named the new product, but later we have seen that customers find the product useful for other purposes than helpdesk and user support.

Finally we decided to change the name to better reflect what the add-in actually does, and the new name is E-mail Converter. With this product, users can convert e-mails manually and place them in any SharePoint list that has been added to the E-mail Converter.

E-mail Converter can also convert e-mails to SharePoint list items automatically, by monitoring an Outlook folder. An Outlook rule can direct certain e-mails to that folder, and users may of course also drag e-mails they want to convert to the folder. It is a good idea to use several monitored folders and let them convert e-mails to different SharePoint lists.

Create blank tickets
With E-mail Converter installed, users can also create totally new SharePoint list items from Outlook. They don't need to have SharePoint open, because the item will be shown in Outlook so that the details can be filled out.

When a helpdesk team uses E-mail Converter, they can either fill out the details for the person who reports a problem or select the caller from the organisation's global address book.

Everything is kept
If the e-mail has attachments or embedded images and links in the e-mail body, this is transferred to the list item. Converting an e-mail with E-mail Converter is actually a good way of getting embedded images into SharePoint list items. To add them directly in the item is more complicated.

The fifth version of HelpDesk OSP - or the first of E-mail Converter - has more news than the name change. A big part of the code has been updated to work better in the future and make further enhancements possible.

A few improvements have also been added, for example the automatic upgrades. Once users get version 5 installed, they will no longer have to download new versions from the website. Instead E-mail Converter will give an upgrade prompt when there is a new version. Upgrade icon If your organization has subscribed to HelpDesk OSP, you may upgrade it to E-mail Converter by downloading the setup file from the website.

Trial and Subscription Trial icon Would your organization benefit from a solution that converts e-mails to SharePoint list items? In that case, I suggest that you try E-mail Converter. You may evaluate the solution for 30 days without any obligations. In case you need assistance during the evaluation period, do not hesitate to contact our Support team.

E-mail Converter can be subscribed to on a monthly or yearly basis. My colleagues at the Sales department are always here to help you, if you have any questions regarding the subscription.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

20 June 2018

SharePoint Online Exercises With A Modern Approch

SharePoint Online Exercises Cover My book SharePoint Online Exercises has been updated with a new chapter on modern sites, where I include many tips for use of these limited but easily created communication and team sites. The new chapter has a link to a Tips article with the demo below, which I hope will be a useful complement to the more detailed information in the book.

Visio Web Access deprecated
SharePoint Online Exercises was first published in January 2017, but frequent updates are necessary as Microsoft develops SharePoint Online rapidly.

Microsoft also removes things from SharePoint Online, and that is what will happen to the Visio Web Access web part on 30 September 2018. I had an exercise with this web part in the earlier versions of the book, but now it has been replaced with a modern sites exercise.

Modern sites
Apart from the classic team site, which all SharePoint users have come to know, Microsoft has recently introduced a modern team site that is very easy to create. The modern team site is created from the SharePoint home page, so it doesn't require access to the SharePoint admin center. A modern communications site can also be created from SharePoint home.
SharePoint modern site options
The modern sites have limitations, compared to classic sites and subsites, but there are also advantages apart from the easy creation. They adapt well to mobile devices, and an Office 3565 group is created automatically when you create a modern team site.

Modern SharePoint sites are mostly used for short-term cooperation and announcements, for example around a specific project. It is however also possible to create a simple intranet with modern sites, and in the new exercise I show how you can get the navigation to work when there is no hierarchy and how you make it easily available to all users.

Confusion and assistance
Modern sites have no support for SharePoint add-ins and sandboxed solutions, so the SharePoint products can only be used on classic sites. The support team has however noticed a certain confusion among evaluators who are not clear about the difference between classic and modern team sites.

For new users SharePoint can be overwhelming, but the support team is always there to explain and assist. Apart from the product development, we also help organizations to build and manage their SharePoint systems.

Use with SharePoint Online from Scratch
SharePoint Online Exercises can very well can be used stand-alone by readers who already have some knowledge about SharePoint, but for a more comprehensive learning I recommend to combine it with my book SharePoint Online from Scratch.

While SharePoint Online Exercises contains a number of hands-on step-by-step instructions on how to create specific business solutions, SharePoint Online from Scratch explains in detail how SharePoint is built and how it can be used, from the very basic to advanced features.

Peter Kalmström on Both books are sold through Amazon, and they are available in paperback as well as Kindle e-book format.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

05 June 2018

SharePoint Kanban Board - Sandboxed or Add-in?

Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint logotype Kanban Task Manager is a solution that helps a workgroup manage their projects and tasks on a virtual kanban board. Apart from the Outlook Workgroup and Single editions, Kanban Task Manager comes in two SharePoint editions: sandboxed solution and add-in/app. Here I will discuss benefits and drawbacks of the add-in as compared to the sandboxed solution.

Sandboxed solution and Add-in/App
We have chosen to develop and market two SharePoint editions of Kanban Task Manager, a sandboxed solution and an add-in. Even if nearly all the features are the same, there are some differences that made us decide on two editions. I will mention a few of the differences here, and you can find a full list on the comparison page.

If you are using SharePoint 2010, the Kanban Task Manager sandboxed solution is the only option, because add-ins were not introduced until SharePoint 2013. However, if you are using a later SharePoint on-premises, or SharePoint Online, you may use either edition.

Different installation
Some organizations prefer the add-in edition of Kanban Task Manager, because it is easier to install. The sandboxed solution must be uploaded to each site collection's solutions gallery and then activated there and on each site where it should be used. Kanban Task Manager SharePoint Add-in, on the other hand, can be added to a SharePoint site directly from SharePoint Store, and it can also be published to the farm's or tenant's App Catalog and then added to a site with the "add an app" command.

Add-in limitations
Even if there are a few less clicks to install Kanban Task Manager SharePoint Add-in, it has some limitations, like all SharePoint add-ins. These depend on the fact that the add-in architecture creates another SharePoint site to contain the app, what is called the "app web". The communication between the "host web" and the "app web" is constrained both by the way the SharePoint API works and by browser security limitations.

Therefore, it is not possible to move tasks between different kanban boards or to show tasks from multiple boards in "My Tasks", when you use the add-in. With the sandboxed solution of Kanban Task Manager, users can do this if enabled in the settings.

Another add-in limitation is that the task form does not support attachments, videos and inline images in the description field, something that works well in the sandboxed solution. To solve that problem, we have given the add-in a Kanban Task Manager App Part with another task form. This form works in the same way as in the sandboxed solution.

When you are using the sandboxed solution, you can save a site with a Kanban Task Manager installation as a template, and that is not possible with the add-in.
SharePoint groups
The sandboxed solution also supports all kinds of SharePoint groups, while the add-in only allows you to select a person or a permission group as responsible for a task. However, we have an idea on how to make the add-in also support all groups, and we hope to include this enhancement in the next version of Kanban Task Manager SharePoint Add-in.

Add-in support for modern team sites
SharePoint Online has two kinds of team sites: the classic team site that is created in the SharePoint Admin center and the modern team site that all users by default can create from the SharePoint home page. I have discussed the differences in a Tips article about modern and classic site collections.

The modern team site is more limited than the classic one, so the sandboxed solution of Kanban Task Manager cannot be used with these sites. The add-in, on the other hand, works well with both modern and classic team sites.

Trial and Subscription Trial icon If you have not yet tried Kanban Task Manager, you may download the full version of the sandboxed solution or the add-in and evaluate it for next 30 days. We provide full support during the evaluation period. The Support team is always here to help you if you should need any assistance.

You can subscribe to Kanban Task Manager on monthly as well as yearly basis. In case you have any queries regarding product subscriptions, please do not hesitate to contact our Sales department.

Peter Kalmstrom
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions