26 February 2014

Simplified User Installations

I am happy to tell you that the Solutions will be easier to deploy for many users, thanks to a new possibility to use Active Directory to define the path to the database used with the solution.

Public folders "de-emphasized"
When Microsoft first announced that they wanted to direct users from public folders to SharePoint, I begun researching alternative sharing options for the Solutions. I understood that we could not only offer SharePoint instead of public folders. We needed more options, so that all current users would be happy to continue using our software even if they had not implemented SharePoint.

A shared mailbox was an alternative that already existed. It works well for smaller organizations but is not a good options for organizations with many users. We needed a sharing method that could use as well SharePoint as more traditional databases.

KBase iconNew sharing method
I found a method that the technicians developed and refined, and it is now used in our knowledge base, KBase, and in Kanban Task Manager for Outlook.

Kanban Task Manager icon In these solutions the sharing options are a SharePoint site, an SQL Server database and an Access database. No public folder or shared mailbox is necessary, and a network folder is only needed for the Access option.

TimeCard icon TimeCard Workgroup also uses the same method, even if the SharePoint option remains to be added, and the new sharing options will eventually be implemented in Folder HelpDesk and Calendar Browser too.

Install on each client
The Outlook Solutions should be installed on each PC that will use the solution. This installation can be made centrally via Active Directory for all users but the first one – which is most often the administrator. When the admin installs one of the products that has the new sharing method, he or she also defines what sharing option should be used.

Always correct sharing info
Earlier the sharing options dialog was opened the first time each new user opened our solution, and the user had to give the same sharing option as the admin had defined. From now on, this will only be necessary for the SharePoint option. When a database is used for sharing, the path or connection info can be given for all users via Active Directory before the actual user installation. How this should be done will be described in the manuals.
TimeCard clock
TimeCard update
We will soon release a new version of TimeCard Workgroup, the add-on that lets you report time and expenses from inside the Outlook calendar. It will be the first solution where we have added the new possibility to set sharing option centrally – an important enhancement, especially for some Premium subscribers who have several hundreds of TimeCard users within the organization.

The new version of TimeCard Workgroup will also have another new, sponsored feature, but I will tell you more about it when I announce the release. Or take a look at the Plans page, if you are curious!

By Peter Kalmstrom
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

24 February 2014

Create SharePoint Containers With PowerShell Script

PowerShell iconIn my series of tutorials built on my session at SharePoint Saturday in Stockholm I have now published the last article about file migration into SharePoint in the Tips section.

In the Sharepoint Saturday session I shared my experience of planning the move of a huge number of files into SharePoint. This task begun with a  fileshare inventory, and after that old Office files were converted into modern formats.

These two steps have already been described in blog posts and Tips articles, as well as the creation of Site collections with a PowerShell script. Now it is time for the final step, the actual file transfer from folders to SharePoint.

What kind of SharePoint containers?SharePoint 2013 logo
SharePoint can have a folder system in a document library that resembles the old fileshare. However, SharePoint is a modern platform that gives more and better possibilities, so we should try to think differently and not get stuck in old habits.

Avoid folders
The immidiate answer to the question on how to get files from a folder into SharePoint is perhaps to drag and drop or upload them to different folders in a document library. This is a tedious work if you have many files, but it is also a bad solution even for fewer files. The navigation becomes more difficult the more folders and subfolders you add, and the SharePoint search will work badly.

Better solutions
SharePoint gives better options than folders. You can use site collections or subsites, or a number of document libraries. In any case you should use tags and metadata. It requires some end user training and an agreement on what tags are needed, but in the long run it will make it much easier to find information.

PowerShell scripts
In the article about SharePoint containers in the Tips section I am sharing two PowerShell scripts. One is for the creation of different SharePoint containers, specified in a CSV file, and the other one is used to transfer the files into the containers.

You are welcome to download the scripts and use them with your own material. In the demo below I go through the two scripts and explain how the are written. The Tips article also gives a step by step instruction on the process.

By Peter Kalmstrom
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

20 February 2014

Create Site Collection With PowerShell

SharePoint logo In my series of articles on how to move huge amounts of files into SharePoint I have now published the third Tips article. It contains a demo where I explain the PowerShell script I am using. There is also a download link to the script itself.

Show options to clients
When you are moving many folders and files into SharePoint you often have a client with opinions on how the end result should look. However, sometimes you might want to suggest a better solution, as you probably have more knowledge about the SharePoint possibilities than your client.

Or maybe the client does not know at all and wants to see different options before making a decision? In both cases you need a way to quickly create site collections in which you can implement your ideas and suggestions, to show the client how they work.

PowerShell iconTo automate the site collection creation I suggest using PowerShell, Microsoft's task automation and configuration management framework. In the demo below I go through my script for site collection creation and explain how it works.

If you need something like this, you are welcome to visit the Tips article about the PowerShellscript that creates a site collection and download the compressed .ps1 file.

Last article
My next blog post about moving files into SharePoint will be the last one in this series. I will then show how to let PowerShell scripts create SharePoint containers and copy files to them, and I will also discuss different kinds of containers and show how they work in SharePoint.

By Peter Kalmstrom
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

18 February 2014

Convert E-mails To SharePoint Kanban Board Tasks

Sometimes subscribers to Solutions use more than one product, and often they can enhance each other. Here I will explain how the add-on HelpDesk OSP for Outlook and SharePoint can help you to get more out of Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint.

Kanban Task Manager
Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint logotypeKanban Task Manager is a virtual kanban board that works in Outlook and SharePoint. The kanban tasks are standard Outlook or SharePoint tasks, but we have added dropdowns for selection of tags, for example project and phase. This way the tasks can be categorized, and you can drag and drop them between phases as work proceeds.
Convert e-mails into tasks
Sometimes you get information in an e-mail that you would like to save in a task. To get it to the two Outlook versions of Kanban Task Manager is easy, because you only have to drag the e-mail to the Kanban Task Manager Outlook folder.

If you are using only the SharePoint version, it gets a bit more complicated. You need a way to convert the e-mail to a SharePoint list item – and Business Solutions has such a tool for you.

HelpDesk OSP
HelpDesk OSP logotypeThe Outlook add-on HelpDesk OSP converts e-mails into SharePoint list items, manually or automatically. As HelpDesk OSP can place the converted e-mails in any SharePoint list you can also use this add-on for conversion into tasks on the virtual kanban board created in SharePoint by Kanban Task Manager. Should you want to create a new, blank kanban task from Outlook is that also possible with HelpDesk OSP.
Select tag value
By default the Kanban Task Manager SharePoint dropdowns don't require a value, so therefore you must select those in the task you create from an e-mail with HelpDesk OSP before it can be displayed on the kanban board in SharePoint.

This is acceptable if you convert an e-mail manually now and then, but if you use automatic conversion of all incoming e-mails to an Outlook folder it does not work. Then you need a way to see what new tasks have not been properly tagged, and you want to see that directly on the kanban board.
"Not assigned" values
In the Kanban Task Manager Settings, add a new phase "Not assigned" and set it to the first in the phase sequence. Also add "Not assigned" values for the other dropdowns, but as they are sorted automatically you have to call the value "1 Not Assigned" to make sure it is placed first in the dropdown list.

If you now also change the Kanban Task Manager task list setting so that a dropdown value is required, this first "Not assigned" value will be selected – because the first value will be selected automatically. In the demos below I am showing how to make that change in the list settings for both SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013.

Now each new task that has been created from an e-mail with HelpDesk OSP will be placed in the "Not Assigned" phase on the kanban board, and from there you can change the tag values when it is convenient.

Are you using two Solutions together in some smart way? Please tell us, so that we can spread the idea to other subscribers.

By Peter Kalmstrom
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

17 February 2014

SharePoint List Items Limit

SharePoint 2013 logo Sometimes a SharePoint admin might want to limit the number of items allowed in a list. This can be done in various ways, but in my latest Tip I am showing how to use the validation settings to stop new items from being added.

Edit but not add
You can of course use SharePoint permissions to prevent users from adding list items, but SharePoint has no permission level that allows users to edit a list but not add items to it. The method I am showing restricts users from adding new items, while they still can edit the existing items.

Booking limit
I made this demo for a client who lets students notify their presence at lectures by booking a seat in the room where the lecture will be held. This client wanted to limit the number of bookings in a classroom, so that each student got a chair to sit on. Only 25 students should be able to book a place in a room with 25 seats.

Validation setting
Each classroom has its own SharePoint list, and the first step is to add the maximum number of items to each classroom list. Then I will use the validation settings to make sure no more than the allowed number of items can be used.

Validation settings are normally used to guarantee that no invalid items will be entered in a SharePoint list. In those cases a formula sets certain conditions that must be true for a new item to be allowed in the list.

To limit the number of items I use the validation the other way around: I set a condition for new items that will never be true, and that way no new items can be added.

The Tips section
New tips are added to the Tips section of the website almost every week. Now they are so many that we have had to create a new content page. The old content page did not give a good overview anymore, even though we separated the articles into two content pages: one for SharePoint and one for Outlook, Excel and the rest. Now links to all articles are gathered on one page again, and I hope that the new content will make it easier to find what you are looking for.

The Tips articles are financed by advertisements, so they do not burden the Solutions – but we know that users of our software often visit the pages and learn from the articles. You are welcome to do so you also!
By Peter Kalmstrom
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

13 February 2014

Kanban Task Manager Single New Solution

Kanban Task Manager for Outlook logotype I am proud to announce that we today have published a Single version of our popular Kanban Task Manager. It has all the features of its older siblings, but there is no synchronization and no Responsible selection, as this solution is intented for only one user.

Variety of user cases
The Single version of Kanban Task Manager can be used by anyone who wants to manage tasks or notes in a way that is efficient and easy to grasp. It might be an author who today scribbles notes of plots and characters on cards or pieces of paper, a painter who wants to keep track of work orders or a building contractor planning the construction of a house. Only your fantasy sets the limit!

Kanban Task Manager series
The Kanban Task Manager workgroup solutions, for Outlook and for SharePoint, have been appreciated among companies and organizations. Since 2012, when the first of them was released, many new Community Members have begun using the virtual kanban boards.

With the release of the Single version, Kanban Task Manager has three versions. In a month or so we also hope to release a Kanban Task Manager App for SharePoint.
Single version with all features
Ever since the first Kanban Task Manager solution was published, we have been asked to develop a single version. We decided to do that, but we did not want to create another one of those simple kanban style Outlook add-ons that already existed on the market.

Instead we wanted to give single users something that would help them keep track of projects and tasks in the same way as the Kanban Task Manager workgroup versions do. Many parts of the Single version are actually borrowed from the workgroup version for Outlook, which was published in its second major version in January. That is why Kanban Task Manager Single starts at version 2.

Kanban boardOutlook tasks
Just as the workgroup version for Outlook, Kanban Task Manager Single uses Outlook tasks. You can handle these tasks like you handle the standard tasks, but we have added dropdowns where you can select project and phase for each task. Should you want to mark your tasks with another parameter, we have made it very easy to add another dropdown.

With Kanban Task Manager Single you can also:
  • drag and drop tasks within or between phases
  • filter tasks
  • search tasks
  • see more of the task text in a details pane
  • hide a phase you don't want to see on the kanban board
  • select what should be done with finished tasks
Excel iconStatistics reports
Kanban Task Manager Single creates an Access database on your PC, and all task data stored there is used in the integrated Excel reports. These reports may be used with all standard Excel features.

Try it! download iconYou are welcome to download and try Kanban Task Manager Single without any obligations. It will work for 30 days, and then I hope you will start a subscription and continue letting Kanban Task Manager make it easier to manage projects and tasks.

By Peter Kalmstrom
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

12 February 2014

The Rock Of

Five years ago I hired a new developer to the team. At that time the team was small, but this developer has helped me make a more important brand on the world market. His name is Jayant Rimza, and today he is my friend and partner, someone I can always rely on.

Lucky day
I did not understand it by then, but I soon realized it was a lucky day when Jayant joined the team. I of course knew that Jayant had a good education and the relevant experience after some years with other companies, but things like dedication and problem solving capacity are difficult to judge from a CV, an interview and a test task.

Director and Lead Developer
In 2010 I appointed Jayant Lead Developer, and when we moved the Indian office from New Dehli to his home town, Indore, he also became the Director of the Indian branch. It was one of my best business decisions, because from then on the team has expanded in both numbers and skills. Jayant has built up a qualified team, and users of the solutions have praised the enhancements of the products.

New solutions
HelpDesk OSP iconAfter Jayant joined the team we have also released totally new products. HelpDesk OSP for Outlook and SharePoint was the first one, an Outlook add-on that converts e-mails to SharePoint list items and makes it possible to create new list items directly from Outlook.

Kanban Task Manager iconAfter that Jayant has lead the development of Kanban Task Manager. This solution for kanban style project and task management will very soon come in a single version, in addition to the two workgroup versions for Outlook and SharePoint.
Jayant Rimza image
Growing team
Jayant has gathered a team of skilled and dedicated people around him in Indore, and in September last year it was time to move to a more spacious office situated in a prestigious building in the center of the city. Now we have more room for new employees, so the team can continue to grow.

Calendar Browser icon Rebuild
I talk to Jayant on nearly daily basis, to discuss both development details and long term plans. In 2011 we decided to rebuild our mature Outlook solutions Calendar Browser, Folder HelpDesk, KBase and TimeCard.
Folder HelpDesk icon
By that time their basic architecture was around ten years old, and we knew we had to modernize it to be able to continue developing them in the very best Outlook or SharePoint solution they are using.
KBase icon

It was a huge undertaking that had to be done in several steps, and it took part of our development resources in 2012 and 2013. Jayant supervised the rebuild in an excellent way, and now the work is nearly finished and our software is built with the latest and best techniques.TimeCard icon

Today we have such a qualified team that we in the future can keep modernizing the solutions little by little instead of having to make these major rebuilds.

During our five years of close cooperation Jayant and I have become friends. I have seen him grow on a professional level,  from a young, talented developer to a responsible and experienced business leader.

When we first met Jayant was a bachelor, but now he is a married man and father to little Atiksh, who will soon celebrate his second birthday and seems to have inherited his father's flare for software development!
Jayant Rimza Wedding photo 2014
I attended Jayant's and Sushma's marriage, and it was a great experience for me to take part in the event, that spanned over three days. That was also when I first met the rest of the Rimza family. After that I have visited their home several times, and I really appreciate their kindness and hospitality.
Thank you for these five years, Jayant! I enjoy working with you, and I am looking forward to continuing doing so for many years ahead.

By Peter Kalmstrom
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

10 February 2014

Book A Tram With Calendar Browser For Outlook

Calendar Browser logo The resource booking tool for Outlook can be used in many ways. In our example data we have rooms as example, but Calendar Browser can be used to book anything – for example a tour with a vintage tram through beautiful summer Stockholm!

Charter a tram
In Stockholm you can rent vintage trams from different eras back to the 1910s for a tour with refreshments or meals. The line goes along the Stockholm waterfront, from the center of the city out to Djurgården,"The Royal Game Park". This is an island with extensive forests and meadows where you can find historical buildings and monuments, museums, galleries, an amusement park and an open air museum.

Outlook add-on
Calendar Browser uses Outlook calendars for the booking. Each resource has its own calendar, and you book the resource by making an appointment in its calendar. It is possible to book supplies with each booking, and the administrator can also let the users select different place settings in a dropdown. So, how does this work with trams?

The organization managing the Stockholm trams, Stockholms Spårvägar, has decided to use Calendar Browser for the booking of trams and meals. The standard solution meets most of their requirements, but Stockholms Spårvägar needs a possibility to change the captions of the Extra meeting information dropdowns.

We think more organizations would find this feature useful, so we have offered Stockholms Spårvägar to sponsor the development of this feature in the standard product.

Community icon A sponsorship is a win-win solution for both parties. Stockholms Spårvägar gets the feature they want at a lower cost than if they order a custom application, a feature that they know will be upgraded to work with future versions of the Microsoft platforms Calendar Browser builds on. And we get help in developing a feature that will make Calendar Browser a better product!

Tram calendars
To make the trams bookable via Outlook, Stockholms Spårvägar will create one shared mailbox or public folder calendar for each tram. In the Calendar Browser settings they will add the supplies choices in form of menues and refreshments.
Then the booking staff can make appointments in the tram calendars and select the supplies that the customer requests. In the Extra booking information dropdowns all the drivers and conductors are listed and can be easily selected for each tram booking.

In the Calendar Browser Overview the booking staff can easily see what trams have been booked, and they can also book new trams directly from the Overview. When the renting party wants a dinner or some snacks, Calendar Browser gives a possibility to send automatic e-mails to the responsibles for the different extras that are booked with the tram.

I am happy to know that Calender Browser will make the booking of trams easy and efficient, because these old vehicles enhance the Swedish capital.

Imagine sitting in a charming, carefully renovated vintage tram with shining brass details, eating a delicious meal and looking out on the glittering water and the magnificent buildings of Stockholm city. Combine it with a stop at one or two of the interesting places on Djurgården, and you will have a great staff outing!

Peter Kalmstrom
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

07 February 2014

Show Folder Contents As Excel Chart With PowerShell Script

PowerShell iconWhen you are working with a client's files and folders you probably want to discuss the content with him/her, but that is easier if you can visualize and show statistics on the folder content. In a new tutorial I am demonstrating a PowerShell script that lists the folder contents in CSV files.

SharePoint Saturday
Two weeks ago I had a session at the Stockholm SharePoint Saturday event. I talked about my current commission to move thousands of Office files into SharePoint. I have been asked to share my session with a larger audience, and therefore I have begun publishing a series of tutorials about this project in the Tips section.

PowerShell scripts
Before I begun moving the files I converted all Office files with the old formats into the modern Office formats, and that process is described in another blog post in the series. All steps are described in the Tips section, where you also can download the PowerShell scripts I have used in the demos.

Fileshare inventory
The first thing I wanted to discuss with my client was if some of the old files should be deleted or not moved into SharePoint. To visualize and give statistics on the content of their 225 000 directories I created a PowerShell script that loops throught the files in each directory and gives the output of three CSV files: Folders, Files and Permissions.
Folder content Excel chart
Visualize folder contents
When I open the CSV files in Excel I can study the folder contents with all the features of Excel, and I can also make a chart of it. When data is visualized this way, it is often easier to make decisions on what to do with it.

Script explanation
In the demo below I go through my PowerShell script and explains it, so that you can use it as a starting point for your own script. In the Fileshare Inventory Tips article you can download the PowerShell script, and I hope you will find it useful when you need to create statistics out of folder contents!

At least I know that many of the visitors at SharePoint Saturday in Stockholm appreciated my session. I was judged second best of the 21 speakers, and 96 % of the voters gave me happy smileys :-)
SharePoint session poll
By Peter Kalmstrom
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

05 February 2014

Calendar Browser Update With Faster Overview

Calendar Browser logo Today we have released an update of Calendar Browser, the resource booking tool for Outlook. Later this year we will come with a new major version, but we wanted to first give users a quicker overview and a new design of the Excel reports. Some bugs have also been fixed.

Resource calendars
Most organizations have resources that need to be booked. It can be rooms, cars, equipment or even people. In Calendar Browser each such resource has its own calendar in Outlook, and you book the resource by making an appointment in its calendar. Also extras and supplies  anything from coffee to computers  can be booked with the resource.
Faster Overview
The resources can be seen, searched and booked in the Outlook calendar view,  but Calendar Browser also has another way of booking and viewing bookings: the Overview. Here the resource calendars, the bookings and the supplies are shown in several different ways for different periods, and it is possible to book resources directly from the Overview.
We have made it easy to use several Calendar Browser installations and group the resource calendars, but in organizations with many resources the Overview will still take long to load  especially if images are used in the Overview.

This has not been satisfying, and the problem has been nagging us. Now we have found a solution, and it will be implemented in two steps. In today's release we are using a new method of reading data that is much faster and has nearly doubled the speed of the Overview loading in our tests. We have also added a progress bar informing users of what calendars are loaded.
HTML5 icon
The second step will come in the next major release, when the Calendar Browser Overview will be rebuilt with HTML5 techniques. As I described in an earlier blog post this development work has already begun, and it will increase the loading speed further.

New statistics design
The Overview gives information on future bookings, but managers also need to analyze passed resource usage. This is done with the Calendar Browser Excel reports.

The statistics reports were implemented with the release of version 8, but at that time we concentrated on the actual appointments and costs reports and did not spend much time on the design. Now we have made the Calendar Browser Excel reports a bit more elegant.
You are welcome to try the new Calendar Browser, and if you are a current subscriber I recommend you to take advantage of the free upgrades.

By Peter Kalmstrom
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

03 February 2014

Microsoft Answers About InfoPath Future

InfoPath 2013 iconIn a couple of earlier blog posts I have told you about InfoPath articles in the Tips section. I find InfoPath a very useful tool for handling electronic forms, but the future of InfoPath has been questioned. Now we know more, as the Microsoft Office team informed us about their InfoPath plans in a blog post this last Friday.

Using forms is a good way to make business processes structured and user friendly, and when you use an InfoPath form users can fill it out in any webbrowser, without downloading anything or having InfoPath installed.

In the tips articles I mentioned, I have explained how to use InfoPath with SharePoint. InfoPath forms store data in XML files, so compared to list forms they are more flexible. List forms store the data directly in a SharePoint list so data can only be saved to that list, but data from an InfoPath form can be saved to various locations.  But this of course requires more knowledge from the administrator who creates or modifies the form.

Last versions
Microsoft Office InfoPath is included in the Office package, and the InfoPath Forms Services are included in the Enterprise versions of SharePoint 2010 and 2013. Now Microsoft has declared that InfoPath and InfoPath Forms Services 2013 are the last releases.

New forms technology
Office 2013 logoInstead of InfoPath, Microsoft will develop "intelligent, integrated forms across Office clients, servers, and services—forms that everyone can use on their PC, tablet, or phone." Evidently the new forms will work with SharePoint, Access, and Word.

Continue with InfoPath!
At the same time as Microsoft is retiring InfoPath they encourage current users to continue with InfoPath until they can give more details. Parallell to the development of the new technology Microsoft will find ways to migrate InfoPath forms to forms of the next generation, and right now there are no better alternatives.

Until 2023, except 365
Both the InfoPath 2013 client and InfoPath Forms Services for SharePoint will be supported through April 2023. However, when it comes to InfoPath Forms Services in Office 365 Microsoft only says that it will be supported "until further notice" – a rather worrying statement!

SharePoint Conference 2014 logoMore info
At the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas in the beginning of March we will know more about the new form technology. I am still not sure if I will join it or not, but of course I will make sure I get this interesting information anyway. We will have to wait until the last quarter of this year until Microsoft reveals more about the migration process.

InfoPath tutorials
My InfoPath Tips articles are "Customize a Task Form with InfoPath in SharePoint 2013" and "Add An InfoPath Form to A SharePoint 2013 Form Library".

Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint logotypeIf you are using the Solution Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint, you might also be interested in my blog post about InfoPath customization of a Kanban Task Manager task form.

The YouTube video included in the Form Library tips article is the second most watched of all the demos. Also the tutorial about customization has been popular, so it is evident that people use and appreciate InfoPath. It will be interesting to see what Microsoft will come up with to replace it!

By Peter Kalmstrom
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions