30 January 2013

The Document Tagger Hashtag Story

We all know the symbol #, but what do you associate it with at the first glance? A number? A keyword? A telephone? A programming language? Or maybe a note that should be played a half tone higher? This sign is widely used and may have many different meanings.

Document Tagger logotypeDocument Tagger symbol
When our technicians begun developing the latest solution, Document Tagger, we discussed what icon to use for it. Our Senior Designer Jitendra Joshi created a very simple, yet striking, image of just a document sheet and a symbol.

At that time we called the symbol a hashtag, but the team discussions triggered my curiosity on this sign, that I had earlier associated with other meanings.

# = number
In parts of the world, like in the U.S., the # sign is commonly used before numbers, like "#5" instead of "number five". Here in Europe this use is not common, even if it is understood, but I think it is a convenient way of marking a number, and we have also used it in the applications.

# on telephones
The most wide spread use of the # symbol is probably on telephone buttons. This is the button you must press after entering a number that is received by an automatic answerer.

Here in Sweden the # sign is called "fyrkant" when used on telephones. This word means "square", and that is a bit strange as it is not a square at all. Possibly a square with arms and legs!

Sharp Symbol# = higher
I play the piano, so to me the # sign also stands for the sharp symbol, which raises a note by a half tone. It is not exactly the same, but as the sharp symbol is not present on keyboards the # sign is often used instead  like in the names of the Microsoft programming languages C# and F#. Here the # sign is of course pronounced "sharp".

# = keyword
Today, in the Twitter era, # is used to denote a metadata tag. The technology name for the sign is hash, so a word marked with # is called a hashtag – but the definition has widened so that the symbol itself also is called hashtag.

# = Document Tagger!
Document Tagger icon Even if the # symbol has different meanings and is known by various terms, I don't think anyone will mistake it for a number or telephone sign in connection with a document.

All who see the blue # in the Document Tagger icon will surely associate to keywords and metadata.  Document Tagger is a solution that helps you tag documents in  SharePoint libraries, so what symbol can better express this than the #?

28 January 2013

SharePoint 2013 Tutorial - Create Small Business Intranet

Peter Kalmstrom imagePeter Kalmstrom, CEO and systems designer of Business Solutions, is a Microsoft certified SharePoint expert, and he has made a series of video demonstrations about SharePoint 2013.

One of these tutorials shows how to create a small business site collection, and it is now published in the Tips section of the website. You can also see it embedded here below.

Contoso Bicycles
As an example of a small business that would benefit from a SharePoint site, Peter takes a company that sells bicycles. It has three departments, Sales, Production and Support, and each department needs their own online area where they can share documents, photos, appointments and tasks. The best solution for this is a SharePoint site collection with three subsites, one for each department.

Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint iconFor the task sharing the app Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint would give a much enhanced value, but we have other demos for that. In this tutorial Peter uses only the built in SharePoint task app.

Why SharePoint?
By using Microsoft SharePoint this company does not restrict itself to a geographical spot, as their intranet can be reached from every computer or device that has an internet connection. Another advantage is the possibility to grow, as it is easy to expand the intranet if needed. And if Contoso Bicycles uses other Microsoft platforms, like Word, PowerPoint, Excel or Access, SharePoint is built for a smooth integration of them.

In the demo Peter uses the Office 365 version of SharePoint 2013 Enterprise, but the process is similar with other SharePoint versions.

Common navigation
As the staff of the three Contoso Bicycle departments collaborate a lot and might need to use each others sites, the site collection Peter creates for them should have a common navigation. This way team members can easily reach the intranet areas for the other two departments.
SharePoint apps icon
Subsites, apps and pages
To build the three department areas of the intranet Peter needs to create three subsites to the root site of the site collection. Then he adds apps for the requested sharing of photos, appointments and tasks. The document library does not have to be added, as SharePoint adds it automatically.
Each departments request three different pages on their subsite, for progress, problems and plans, so these also have to be created.

Marketing website
Contoso Bicycles has a website with information about the products, and it is convenient for the staff to be able to reach that site from within the intranet. Therefore Peter adds a link to the website in the top navigation bar of the site collection.

When Peter has done the first subsite with its three pages he creates a template from it to use for the other two subsites. That makes the process quick, and the template, called Department site, will be there if Contoso Bicycles needs more subsites in the future.

SharePoint themes
Separate themes
The staff of Contoso Bicycles must be able to easily recognize what department area they are in, so each site should have its own theme. It is possible to create custom themes in SharePoint via Master pages, but for this purpose Peter uses three of the inbuilt themes provided by Microsoft.

A little extra
Now the employees of Contoso Bicycles may start using their new intranet, but Peter wants to give them something extra: a video embedded in the home page of the Sales department subsite. Therefore he finishes his tutorial with a demonstration on how a YouTube video can be embedded in a SharePoint page.

Add more apps
Organizations that use Microsoft SharePoint should also make use of the applications built especially for this platform. Currently they are three:

I have already mentioned Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint, a sandboxed solution that visualizes project and task management. Kanban Task Manager for Outlook may be used with the SharePoint version on the same data.
HelpDesk OSP icon
HelpDesk OSP connects Outlook to SharePoint and converts e-mails into SharePoint list items. You can also create blank list items from Outlook.

Document Tagger iconDocument Tagger, still in Beta, helps you tag documents and presentations in SharePoint libraries with keywords and metadata and also gives additional possibilities to use the tags to find relevant information.

Peter and his team plan to add SharePoint as a sharing option to all products, so more will come and I will surely tell you about it in this blog.

Please have a look at the demo below. For a more detailed explanation of what Peter describes in the tutorial, you are welcome to the "Build intranet" page of the Tips section.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

25 January 2013

3D In Future Apps?

Sonal Desai photo The team has a new member, graphic and web designer Sonal Desai. She is an ambitious girl, so each evening after work she studies 3D techniques.

Sonal grew up in the city of Guna in central India. First she aimed for a different career, so she moved to Indore to study biotechnology and completed her degree in 2009.

Change of plans
However, Sonal changed her career plans. She decided that she wanted a future where she could make use of and develop her interest in art and design. After new studies in this field she worked for other companies as a concept and storyboard artist, as a game, graphics and web designer and also as a Wordpress developer, before she joined the team.

Tips page and Excel reports
I have already told you about one of Sonal's tasks, the new homepage of the Tips section. Another task has been to make a nicer default design for our Excel reports. These reports were introduced with Kanban Task Manager, and they are also used in the latest version of Calendar Browser, our resource booking tool for Outlook. Excel report graph
We plan to add Excel reports to all applications, so a good design will benefit many users. The old design was not bad, but it was a bit dull because enhancing the design was not our highest priority at that time. Now when we have a second designer we can take better care of the visual impression our applications give.

Sonal's closest family are her parents, sister and brother, and this is how she describes herself: "I am really honest when I see myself. This is the best part of my character, and it keeps me confident". I notice this confidence when I work together with Sonal. It is a nice kind of self-reliance that we all appreciate.

Sonal likes to sketch, and below you can see one of her drawings, "Person behind paper".
3D studies
In the evenings Sonal continues to expand her skills, and we hope to soon be able to take advantage of her knowledge of Autodesk 3ds Max, which is a software for three-dimensional models, animations and images. It will be interesting to see how we can best make use it!

Together with the rest of the team I welcome Sonal Desai to Business Solutions. You will be an asset to us, Sonal, and I am sure users of the products will appreciate the enhancement your work will give them!

23 January 2013

Microsoft SharePoint and Office Tips In New Design

The Tips pages are popular, not only among users of the applications. Now the homepage of the Tips section has its content in a new, accordion style design.
The Tips content

Share expert knowledge

TimeCard iconThe first Tips pages were created two years ago, after we had seen a need for something more general than our product FAQ. Members of the team have specialist knowledge in Microsoft Office and SharePoint, and we decided to share that knowledge among website visitors when time allowed. After that one tip after another has been added, and now I think we have an impressive collection of tips, tutorials and suggestions.

Outlook how to
Calendar Browser iconThe first tips were about Outlook. Most of the kalmstrom. com products are Outlook add-ons, such as the first products created by our CEO, Peter Kalmstrom. When he built TimeCard, Calendar Browser and Folder HelpDesk he had recently become a Microsoft certified Outlook expert, and the add-ons were first created for Swedish customers who hired his consulting services. This happened around the turn of the millenium, and after that Peter's knowledge of Outlook and the other Office products has deepened with each new version.

Folder HelpDesk icon
SharePoint tutorials
In the last years Peter has also become increasingly interested in SharePoint. He finds SharePoint a splendid platform for information sharing, especially for companies with staff located at several offices and for employees who travel a lot. Via the internet the team site is always accessible. A number of SharePoint tips have been added to the Tips section, and this year Peter will add several new tutorials on SharePoint 2013.
HelpDesk OSP icon
HelpDesk OSP, on the market from 2008, was the first Outlook add-on that used SharePoint instead of Exchange or a database for sharing within the team. Now this issue tracking application has two successors that both make use of SharePoint. Kanban Task Manager comes in two versions, one for Outlook and one for SharePoint, and the Outlook version can use SharePoint for sharing. Document Tagger, released as Beta earlier this month, is a sandboxed solution created to facilitate the management of SharePoint libraries.
Kanban Task Manager icon
This and that
Beside the two big groups, Outlook and SharePoint, the Tips section includes tips on how to use these platforms with others to get additional benefits. We also give tips on other IT-related subjects. For example, under the Miscellaneous tile Peter explains how to get high value out of free Skype chats, an inexpensive laptop or a low cost sms plan.

New design
Document Tagger iconAt first the Tips section only had a simple start page with links to the different tips. Later I rebuilt it to make it more appealing and easier to overview, but I was not satisfied until I got help from our new designer, Sonal Desai.

I will tell you more about Sonal in another blog post. For now I will just say that the new homepage of the Tips section is nice and easy to navigate. Have a look for yourself!  A treasure is hidden behind these tiles and you will reach it by simply opening them and click the links!

16 January 2013

Facebook Launches Graph Search Engine

Yesterday Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook is launching a search engine called Graph Search.

Run inside Facebook ...
In the first place the new search engine will  run inside Facebook and will focus on people, photos, places and interests.

... but will take help from Bing
However Facebook is in a partnership with Microsoft's Bing, and search results from Bing social search will also show up when you use the Graph Search.

Ask about friends
According to CBS News, Zuckerberg explained that the Graph Search will give answers to questions like "Who are my friends that live in San Francisco?"

"Friends" are not friends
To someone not used to Facebook it sounds crazy to ask who of your friends live in a certain city because you normally know where your friends live - otherwise they are no real friends. But to the Facebook founder a friend is something else.

Photos, places and times
To show the difference betweeh the Graph Search and a standard web search Zuckerberg gave more examples of suitable search terms for the new Facebook feature: "Mexican restaurants in Palo Alto, Calif, my friends have been to", "Photos of me and Priscilla." "Photos of Berlin, German from 1989," "Photos of my friends before 1990" or "Photos I've liked."

Facebook has privacy settings, but I wonder how many are aware of them - or were in the early stages of Facebook usage? This is a subject that will probably be much debated. I often wonder about photos and comments published on Facebook: "Do you really want to let this loose in the cyber space?"

Closed beta
The Graph Search is still in a closed Beta version. Users who want to sign up for the test can join the waiting list on Facebook's website.

Better times for the share holders?
Facebook, with a billion users, has had a tough time since the IPO last year. After the introduction in May the value of the company plummeted from $ 100 billion to less than half, but after on Monday the company shares finally showed a value of over $ 32 since last July, says Chicago Tribune.

It will be interesting to follow the development of the new search engine, which will be introduced slowly according to Zuckerberg.

15 January 2013

Another Prince For

Jitendra Patidar imageSaturday was a happy day for the whole team, as our senior developer Jitu Patidar and his wife Rashmi had their first baby.

Both parents developers
Jitu and Rashmi are both developers, and they met at work and married three years ago. I came to know Jitu when he begun working with the products on the 1 of May 2012, and not long after that he told us that his wife was expecting a child.

Punctual baby
When Jitu said he would be on paternity leave next week because the baby was due on the 13th of January we joked with him and said that more experienced people knew that babies seldom arrive on the expected day.

Well, this little one did not either, but very near, just one day early! And as you see he is already curiously looking out on the world around him.
Baby Patidar Photo
Skype message
After Jitu had informed that he could not come to work Saturday morning because he had to take his wife to the hospital, we were all eager for more news. It took a few hours, but then we did not have to wait any longer.

Skype emoticonsLead developer Jayant Rimza gave us the message in the Skype chat we use for information to all team members: "Got call from Jitu, and he is blessed with a baby boy!" As you can imagine there were many happy emoticons in the chat after that!

In smaller groups the Indian team members went to the hospital to see the little boy and his happy parents. The Swedish team members could not do that, so we had to content ourselves with sending our well wishes with a big bouquet of flowers.
Rashmi Patidar Photo
Jitu on leave
Jitu Patidar is responsible for the Support Services, but users and evaluators of the applications don't have to worry. Sigge, Vipul and Jayant will be here for you, and there is no problem for Sigge to take over the responsibility temporarily. He was the responsible earlier, before we decided to put a developer in that position instead.

New life
Now a new stage of life has begun for Rashmi and Jitu - because life is never the same after you have had a child. The team wishes them and their son all the best for the future and send them our warmest congratulations!

Maybe you wonder why I use "another prince" in the title? Last year Jayant had his first child soon after the Swedish crown princess had a daughter, and then I wrote about it in a blog post called "A prince for". Now we have two small baby princes, two nearly grownup princes (Peter's sons) and princess Elsa, Peter's daughter!

13 January 2013

SharePoint 2013 Content Types

The CEO, Peter Kalmström, is a Microsoft certified SharePoint specialist. Peter has felt the need for a demo about Content types in SharePoint 2013, and here is his own introduction:
Peter Kalmstrom image
Content Types avoid repetition
When managing a SharePoint site you want to centralize the administration as much as possible, so that changes and additions are easily distributed and you don't have to repeat them many times. One way of achieving that is to use CSS files in SharePoint, just like you do on other websites, but you should also take a look at the Content Types.

Do like Microsoft!
Using SharePoint Content Types is a bit like using CSS for a website you only have to change in one place. In SharePoint Microsoft builds all of the inbuilt lists on Content Types, and any SharePoint administrator can do the same. For example, if you connect several Document Libraries with the same Content Type, you can handle updates in the Content Type instead of changing each Document Library separately.

Content Types at its best in 2010
Content Types were introduced in SharePoint 2007, and in SharePoint 2010 the use of Content Types as the basis for building page layouts was front-and-center in SharePoint Designer 2010.  I really liked the concept and published a video demonstration in the Tips section of the website to encourage people to use Content Type more.

More hidden in 2013
Unfortunately Microsoft has taken a step back in SharePoint 2013, when it comes to Content Types. They are still relevant, but they are more hidden and not as easy to start working with. You no longer find the Site Content Types under the Site Settings, as in SharePoint 2010, but they remain in SharePoint Designer 2013. There they can be used as before, but the change makes it a bit trickier.

I will however do my best to show how to get around some of the initial hurdles. Please watch the video demonstration below and give it a try!
I have used the Office 365 version of SharePoint 2013 in this tutorial.

This is the first in a series of video demonstrations for SharePoint 2013, to be published in the Tips section of the website. In total I have planned twelve more, to be released during the first quarter of 2013.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

10 January 2013

SharePoint Document Tagger Beta Released

Document Tagger logotypeSharePoint is an excellent platform for sharing and for storage of documents, but when the libraries grow big it is often difficult to get an overview of the documents and quickly find the one you need. Now Business Solutions offers a solution to this problem: Document Tagger for SharePoint. The Beta version was been released yesterday.

Not only does Document Tagger help you tag documents and presentations in SharePoint libraries but the solution also gives additional possibilities to manage them.

With Document Tagger you can
  • Upload and tag a file in one flow
  • Tag one or several files that are already uploaded to a SharePoint library
  • Find related documents by clicking a tag
  • Group keywords and metadata by category for a better overview
  • Filter documents by tag
  • Create views to show documents tagged with one or several keywords
  • Create a page to show keywords and links to documents tagged with them on the same page
  • Add a Tag Cloud Web Part to a SharePoint page
Some of these are SharePoint features that Document Tagger helps you to make better use of, others are new features that Document Tagger adds to SharePoint 2010 Foundation or Enterprise.

OpenCalais logotype
The Beta version of Document Tagger uses the OpenCalais Web Service for the text analysis, and when we have perfected the SharePoint integration of Document Tagger we will give more options for how the analysis should be performed. In this Beta release we have instead focused very much on the user interface and on making the usage as streamlined as possible.

We have a detailed manual that I recommend you study. Microsoft certified SharePoint specialist Peter Kalmström has also made several video demonstrations where he explains the benefits of using tags, and you can find them all in the playlist below.

Now we are eager to hear comments from evaluators. You are welcome to download the Document Tagger .wsp file, upload it to your site collection, activate it and try it. Then please contact us and tell us how you like it!

03 January 2013

New Possibilities With Applications Of 2012 And 2013

Peter Kalmstrom imageThe kalmstrom com team is looking forward to the new year with optimism, as we have more products to offer than ever before – at the same time as we are keeping the Community system with one subscription for any number of products.

We are also re-building most of our applications using the latest techniques and platforms. Here our CEO and applications designer Peter Kalmstrom gives a summary of what we achieved in 2012 and what we plan to do in 2013.

Kanban Task Manager for Outlook and/or SharePoint
Kanban boardDuring 2012 the team developed a totally new application: Kanban Task Manager. It was a big undertaking, and we are all happy that we now have released the SharePoint version as well as the Outlook version of this application for project and task visualization.

The two versions may be used separately or together. We are ourselves using both the Outlook and the SharePoint version of Kanban Task Manager on the same data for the project management.

New techniques
The development of Kanban Task Manager took some time, not only because it was something totally new but also because we used the most modern techniques when building it. I wanted to change the architecture of the products, to get them perfectly equipped for future development, and I decided to give the new application the same modern foundation.

Therefore Kanban Task Manager for Outlook was the first product using solely the new techniques, but now work is in progress to re-build the rest of the applications. Users will still recognize their software and be able to do what they did before, but under the surface the applications will be as new.

SharePoint sharing option
We also want to help Community Members embrace a future where teams get more mobile and geographically dispersed, and therefore the use of SharePoint is an important part of the new architecture. I am a Microsoft certified SharePoint specialist and can see the great possibilities of this platform. Kanban Task Manager was also the first application to offer a SharePoint site as an alternative to a database for sharing and storage of data.

Excel reports
Excel iconThe statistics tool used in most of the products will be replaced with Excel reports.
The old tool is a bit complicated to use, and it requires Office Web Components for Office 2003 to be installed on the computer. This requirement is becoming increasingly troublesome even if the 2003 version works well for later versions of Office too.

Excel has grown into a powerful platform for statistics and reports. and most managers already know how to use it. If not, there is a multitude of tutorials on the net. Excel is also very suitable for use with other Microsoft platforms, which further increases the benefits of using Excel reports for statistics.

Each application will have a number of product specific default reports, but these may be modified using all the standard Excel features and new ones may be created and included in the reporting system.

Re-usable parts
Much of what we learned and developed when we created Kanban Task Manager has been, or will be, reused in other products. Therefore the time spent on Kanban Task Manager was not just a benefit for this application but for most of the others too.

I have a lot of plans for Kanban Task Manager, but for now they will have to wait. Instead we will concentrate on our other products for a while.

Calendar Browser for Outlook V8
Calendar Browser logo
Calendar Browser was next application to be released with the new techniques and the Excel reports. Our resource booking tool still does not have the SharePoint option, but it will be added in version 9. Before the next major release we will however give you an update of Calendar Browser which has several new features, sponsored by one of our Community Members.

Folder HelpDesk for Outlook
Folder HelpDesk logotypeIn May we published a new version of the issue tracking application that was earlier called Public Folder HelpDesk. As this Outlook-addon can be installed in a shared mailbox too, we decided to call it just Folder HelpDesk from version 12.

Now we are already working on version 13, which we hope to release in the first quarter of 2013. It will have most of the new techniques and Excel reports just like Calendar Browser, but the SharePoint integration will have to wait until version 14. Here we also have received a generous Member sponsorship that will add a number of new features to Folder HelpDesk V13.

TimeCard and HelpDesk OSP
TimeCard logotypeIn the beginning of 2012 TimeCard Workgroup was updated with a possibility to report on behalf of someone else, and after that we have released two minor updates. HelpDesk OSP was updated to be able to convert incoming Outlook e-mails  into SharePoint tickets even when the have very big attachment files.

These two applications work well, and the support team seldom has to assist users, but they  need an update too and their turn will come during 2013. TimeCard V5 and HelpDesk OSP V4 will both get a new architecture and Excel reports, and we hope to be able to add a SharePoint option for TimeCard also.

HelpDesk OSP already builds on SharePoint, but I want to make more use of all the possibilities given by SharePoint  – and of the Outlook functionalities in SharePoint! Apart from that HelpDesk OSP is the youngest product after Kanban Task Manager, so it already has a more modern architecture than the more classic applications and no extensive changes are needed.

KBase logotypeLast but not least KBase V3 will be released later in 2013 as a totally new product. By changing the architecture we will make the knowledge base better and more stable, and it will get many good new features.

Document Tagger
Very soon I hope we can release another new product as a Beta: a document tagger for SharePoint libraries. I am sure Kate will tell you more about it in a later blog post.

As you see we are keeping busy. We actually have so many plans that more developers are needed, so we are in the process of hiring more people. It is bound to be a very interesting year!

01 January 2013

Happy Events For The Team In 2012

Together with the rest of the team I wish all blog readers a happy, peaceful and satisfying 2013!
New Year Card
 It has  always been a joy writing articles in this blog, but last year it was better than ever, as I had so many happy events to tell you about. Here is a reminder of some of them. Click the images if you want to know more!

June wedding
The CEO, Peter Kalmström, and our Sales and Relations Officer, Siret Toots, got married in a beautiful ceremony by the sea near the office. Siret took the name Kalmström, and she is now not only my work mate but also a beloved family member.
Siret and Peter second Photo

First baby
In March 2012 Lead Developer Jayant Rimza and his wife Sushma had a son, their first baby. It was a day of happiness not only for the new Mum and Dad but also for the whole team. We had all waited for this day and were delighted everything turned out so well. And now it seems as if young Atiksh has inherited his father's flare for IT!
Baby with computer Photo

Engagement and marriage

In the beginning of the year developer Kanak Joshi become engaged, and a little more than a week ago she married her Rugved Ambekar in a ceremony in Indore. We wish the young couple all the best, even though we are sorry that the wedding meant that Kanak left us, to move to another town.
Kanak and Rugved at wedding
Kanak was responsible for the Support Services, but fortunately our developer Jitu Patidar was well fit to take over that task.

Himalayan pilgrimage
Another team member, Designer Jitendra Joshi, fullfilled a long time dream when he made a pilgrimage to the sacred Amarnath Cave in the Indian Himalayas last summer. The journey was not easy, as it took him high up in the mountains, but he found it a fantastic experience that he will never forget.
Himalaya Photo

Summer delights
These were four milestones, but I like to mention one more thing that was important to Sigge and me: for the first time Peter and Siret spent the whole summer near us on Öland. Work and leisure were mixed in a comfortable way that we all enjoyed, and we hope this summer was the beginning of a long row of similar ones. board photo
How about the products then? After all, the team exists because of the products, not because of events and celebrations. Don't worry, I will soon come back with another article about the applications, and many more will follow in this blog during 2013.

A heartfelt thank you to all who follow the Blog and give me a reason for continuing writing it!