16 November 2018

SharePoint Contracts Management with Reminder Flow

SharePoint iconI continue writing articles with demos about SharePoint and Microsoft Flow, and in a new Tip I describe a model for Contracts Management in SharePoint.

Library content type
I recommend that you use a specific Contracts content type for SharePoint document libraries that contain contracts. That way you can make sure that they will contain the desired content and is managed in a consistent way.

A content type is a reusable collection of metadata columns and settings that describe the shared attributes and behaviors for a specific kind of content. By default, SharePoint has many predefined content types, such as Document. All document libraries are built on top of that content type. In the reminder flow I create in the article, I am using the Name property that the Document content type uses to store the name of the file.

You can also create your own custom content types. These build on the predefined content types, and when you create a custom content type for a Contracts document library you should create it from Documents. In the Tips article I show how to create such a content type.

Reminder Flow
Microsoft Flow iconAll contracts have an expiry date, and someone has to keep track of them. If a flow sends an e-mail message to the responsible person one week before a contract expires, the chances increase that it will not be forgotten.

The flow I build sends such a message. It has a Schedule trigger and is rather straight-forward, except for the crucial point: the formula that decides when the e-mail should be sent.

That formula is a bit complicated, but you can find it in the article's step-by-step instruction. I actually made a mistake when I recorded the demo. I let it stay, because trouble-shooting is an important part when you learn how to automate SharePoint processes, and here I had a chance to demonstrate it.

I hope the Flow demo above will be useful. It builds on the content type I show in the Tips article, but you can of course also use the flow for a standard document library. Just make sure that it has columns for Responsible person and Expiry date.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

13 November 2018

Let a Flow Set "Assigned To" in Tickets

Microsoft Flow iconWhen people report a problem, ask a question or order something via a SharePoint form, they probably don't know who will take care of their ticket. The responsible person must be set by someone else – or you can let a flow set a default responsible depending on issue category. That is what I show in the latest Tips article.

SharePoint lists
The flow uses two SharePoint lists, one for the default assignee settings and one for the tickets. The 'Assigned To' column in the tickets list should have a description that says that its value is set by a flow, and it should not allow multiple choices. At present, a flow cannot handle that.
SharePoint icon
Both lists have a column called "Ticket Category" with the same choice options. I have created it as a site column to be able to re-use it and have its values automatically indexed by the SharePoint search engine.

Please visit the Tips article about this "Set Assigned" flow if you want to see how I create those two lists.

SharePoint flow
The flow runs when a new item has been created in the reports list. It reads the value of the "Ticket Category" column in the new item and picks the default assignee for that value from the settings list.

The default assignee for a category should of course be the person who most often takes care of that kind of issues or orders, but he/she can also easily assign the ticket to another person. The flow just means that the assigning does not have to be done each time.

If a person needs to be replaced as default assignee, just edit the settings list and set a new default assignee. The flow will not be affected. It will continue to run as before and just show the new person as responsible in the tickets.

This demo is yet another one that I have created for my upcoming book SharePoint Flows from Scratch, and there will be more of them. Keep a lookout!

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

07 November 2018

Diwali Celebration in New Indore Office

The Indian members of the team work hard together, but we also celebrate together! Right now, it is the Diwali holiday, and this Diwali was special for all of us as it was celebrated at our new office in India.

New office in India
The business is growing, and to keep up the good progress we need a bigger workplace. In 2018 several new people have joined the Indian team, and we are planning to hire more SharePoint Developers and QA testers. Therefore, the Indian staff has shifted to a bigger office in Indore.
Puja ceremony

Recently the team gathered in the new office for an inauguration ceremony. Puja, an Indian prayer ritual, was conducted to celebrate this auspicious event.

 In the picture above Jayant Rimza, Lead Developer and Director of the Indore office, is leading the prayer along with his wife Sushma. After the Puja, the whole team went out for a celebration lunch. (The little boy in the middle belongs to the next generation: Jayant's and Sushma's son Atiksh.)
The team in Indore

Spacious office
The new office is spacious and very well furnished, and each employee has a separate cubical for him/herself. The office is located near Vijaynagar, one of the main and fast developing areas of Indore.

Diwali celebration
The team celebrates every festival with utmost energy and cheer. This was our first Diwali in the new office, and that gave us double cause for celebration.

‘Diwali’, or ‘Deepawali’, is one of the biggest Indian festivals. It celebrates the homecoming of Lord Rama and his wife Sita after 14 years of exile and his victory over the demon Ravan. People rejoice the victory of good over evil by decorating their homes, lighting earthen lamps, also called ‘diyas’, burning fire crackers and giving delicious sweets.
We also make ‘Rangoli’, not just for decoration but also as a symbol of good luck. Like every year, the Indore staff made a Rangoli this year as well. The image above shows my colleague Rituka Rimza and me at the Rangoli made by the team members.

Days Off and Support
Every year the team gets two days off for Diwali. This year, Peter and Jayant decided to extend the leave to three days, so that team members from outside Indore would get enough time to celebrate the festival with their family and friends.
Pivot Explorer icon                      E-mail Converter for Azure and SharePoint icon
Another reason for the extended leave was that the team worked really hard this year to release some new products: Pivot Explorer and E-mail Converter for Azure and SharePoint. The managers thought that we deserved a break!

Even though the team is on leave, our lead developer Jayant and senior developer Jitu will be available to answer support e-mails and online chats. Due to the festive season they might not be able to answer as promptly as they normally do, but they will surely get back to you as soon as they can.

From all of us at, we wish you a very Happy & Prosperous Diwali. We hope that the divine festival brightens up your lives and fills it with never ending happiness!

By Dipti Francis
Executive Assistant Business Solutions

06 November 2018

SharePoint Automation with Flow or Workflow?

SharePoint iconIn my previous blog post I showed how to create both flows and workflows that achieve the same thing: automatic SharePoint tasks creation. That was an example on how flows and workflows can be used for the same kind of SharePoint automation, even if they are created in different ways.

There are however important differences between flows and workflows, and you have to consider them when deciding which tool to use for each process automation. Here I will discuss some of these differences.

Why automate at all?
Before we go into the two major Microsoft tools for SharePoint automation, I want to point out why you should automate business processes in the first place. I explain that in more detail in the demo below, but the main reasons are:
  • Accuracy – a flow or workflow always works in the same way.
  • Tracking – process documentation is boring to do manually but easy with a flow/workflow.
  • Speed – even if you include the delay before it runs, the flow/workflow is quicker than humans.

Traditional workflow
SharePoint Designer iconDuring the last ten years, workflows have been the traditional way of automating business processes in all kinds of SharePoint editions, both online and on-premises. Microsoft has given us a few built-in workflows, but other SharePoint workflows are created from scratch in a free designer tool, SharePoint Designer.

Workflows cannot easily connect to apps or services outside the SharePoint site where it is running. There are two versions of SharePoint workflows, 2010 and 2013, but there will not be a 2016 update.

New flow
Microsoft Flow iconAt the beginning of 2016, Microsoft introduced a new service for workflow creation: Flow. This is a cloud based service, and a flow can connect to many other online services. Flows are created on a website, and the SharePoint Online modern interface also gives a possibility to create a flow directly from inside the list or library that you want it to manage.

If you use a flow for a business process, you must be aware that flows are stored in the personal account of the user who created them. Therefore, organizations who want to use Microsoft Flow should use a dedicated account for all flows. Then you can continue using and editing the flow even if a user leaves the organization, and you can also manage potential costs in cases of high volume flows.

In workflows the storage is not a problem, as workflows are stored in SharePoint and not in a user account.

Workflows can start automatically when an item is created or changed, but flows have many more available triggers. This is partly depending on the multitude of services that flows can be used with, but also if you look at SharePoint only there are many more triggers than for workflows.

Microsoft wants Flow to be simple, easy to use automation tool so they offer a multitude of flow templates. Workflows, on the other hand, has no templates at all. Using templates can of course be a good way to start creating flows, but I actually prefer to start with a blank flow. Then I will have a clean flow that does not contain anything but the parameters I add to it.
StorageUser accountSharePoint
ServicesMany cloud basedOnly SharePoint
CreationWebSP Designer
Works after change of list/column nameNoYes
MS DevelopmentYesNo

Name changes
I also want to mention a less obvious issue with flows: if you change the name of a list or column that is monitored by a flow, you must change the name in the flow also. Workflows don't use the names you give to lists or columns. Instead they use the internal name, a GUID, and therefore workflows are not affected by any name changes.

Both flows and workflows have their benefits, and ideally you should learn both to be able to select the best option for each occasion. Flow is the future, but inside SharePoint the workflows are still very useful. In the Tips section you can learn much more about both flows and workflows.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

02 November 2018

Automate Tasks for New Employee Equipment

SharePoint iconThis week, I have published two new Tips articles on automatic task creation with flows and with workflows. Each article has two demos, as I describe an easier flow/workflow as well as a more advanced one that gives many benefits in the long run.

Equipment for new staff
When new staff joins an organization, there are certain things that always have to be done. The new employees will for example need some equipment, and the people responsible for arranging the equipment needs to be informed. This is a situation I have chosen to automate in my new articles.

Below I have included the two video demonstrations from the Flow article about automating tasks for new employee equipment, but if you prefer using a workflow, please study the Workflow article about  automatic task creation instead.

Hard-coded or dynamic?
You need some practice before you can create a really good flow or workflow, but it is of course better to automate business processes in a basic way than to not automate them at all. One common issue is how much you should hard-code.

It is often easier to hard-code data than to use dynamic content, and that is what I do with the equipment items in the first demo.

With dynamic content the flow/workflow will be much more flexible and user friendly. In the second demo, the equipment items are entered in a SharePoint settings list, from where the flow/workflow fetches the values as dynamic content.

The benefit of using dynamic content from a settings list, is that data can be changed without affecting the automation. This means that users can change values in the settings list when needed without problems. The flow/workflow will continue to run as before. That is not possible with hard-coded values. If they are changed, the flow or workflow must be modified too.

Flow or workflow?
As I use the same scenario of new staff equipment for both a flow and a workflow, I will soon follow up this blog post with a post about SharePoint automation in general, where I also mention some advantages and drawbacks of these two automation tools. Stay tuned!

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

26 October 2018

Azure Edition of E-mail Converter Released

E-mail Converter for Azure and SharePoint logotype I am happy to announce the release of our first Azure product, E-mail Converter for Azure and SharePoint, an add-in/app that automatically converts e-mails into SharePoint list items. The solution uses a Scheduler in Azure to manage the e-mail conversion time.

E-mail Converter for Outlook and SharePoint was first
E-mail Converter for Outlook and SharePoint icon The Outlook edition of E-mail Converter has been in the market since 2010, earlier with the name HelpDesk OSP. We changed the name, because it was too limiting. It turned out that organizations use this Outlook add-in for all kinds of conversion of e-mails into SharePoint list items, not only for support cases.

E-mail Converter for Outlook and SharePoint requires Microsoft Outlook to be installed on each PC. With the Outlook edition, you can not only create SharePoint list items by converting e-mails but also create new list items. E-mails can be converted either manually or automatically, but the conversion process stops when the user logs off.

E-mail Converter for Azure and SharePoint
Azure-icon The team has now developed an Azure edition of E-mail Converter also, as many organizations require e-mail conversion to be a non-stop automatic process. This has been requested by many of our E-mail Converter users as well.

With E-mail Converter for Azure and SharePoint, you can have e-mails converted into SharePoint list items automatically 24x7. The solution supports all Exchange Web Service e-mails like Office 365, Windows Live and Microsoft Exchange. You must have a Microsoft Azure account to use the solution, of course.

Many features are the same in both editions of E-mail Converter:
  • add ticket URL to converted e-mails
  • monitor multiple mailbox folders
  • transfer attachments and inline images from e-mails to SharePoint list items on conversion
  • keep e-mails concerning the same issue in one thread
  • merge related list items into one
  • generate Excel reports from list data
Azure Scheduler icon When you install E-mail Converter for Azure and SharePoint, it deploys three resources: App Service plan, Scheduler Job Collection and App Service. The Scheduler Job Collection is used to manage the e-mail conversion frequency in any way you want. By default, e-mails are converted every 5 minutes.

We use a free plan for the App Service, as it doesn’t affect the functionality of E-mail Converter, but we use a Minimum subscription to the Scheduler, which is EUR 12 or USD 14 per month.

Monitor multiple folders of a mailbox
When you install E-mail Converter for the first time, you must log in using the credentials of the mailbox that you wish to monitor with E-mail Converter.

After logging in you only have add the mailbox folders that you want E-mail Converter to monitor. All e-mails in a folder added to the E-mail Converter will be automatically converted into list items in the SharePoint list you select. You can very well let E-mail Converter monitor several folders and distribute the e-mails to different SharePoint lists.

Trial and Subscription Trial icon If you are looking for a solution that converts e-mails into SharePoint list items 24x7, I recommend that you try E-mail Converter for Azure and SharePoint. You can get the solution from the Azure Marketplace and evaluate it for 30 days. The demo above shows how to install and configure, E-mail Converter but in case you need assistance, our Support team is here to help you.

You can subscribe to E-mail Converter on a monthly or yearly basis. Our Sales department will be happy to assist you if you have any queries regarding the subscription.

By Dipti Francis
Executive Assistant Business Solutions

18 October 2018

Re-use Flow to Merge Forms Data into SharePoint List

Microsoft Flow iconIn a new Tips article, I show how to re-use flows and how to create a flow that merges information from several SharePoint forms lists into one tasks list.

Common use case
Most companies have a department that handles a lot of different tasks for the rest of the organization. In the new Tips article, I have used this common organizational use case to show how a flow can merge data from different forms. I also demonstrate how to re-use a flow by first exporting it and then importing it and create a new flow from it.

My imaginary department manages delivery of flowers, desks or computers. I have built one form to handle all the flower orders, another for the desks and a third for the computers. As always when it comes to forms, there is a list behind it, and each time someone fills out the form, a new list item is created.

Easier ordering and handling
In this case the same people will fulfill all the orders, no matter what is being ordered. Having all data that users enter in the order forms transferred to the same SharePoint tasks list, means that the order handlers do not have to check in three places to find orders that all need to be tracked and managed in the same way.

For the users in the organization, it is easier to have three different order forms. They see one form especially for flowers, with only the relevant columns for flower orders, one for computers and one for desks.

Another benefit of using a flow like this, is that you don't have to create extra columns for all the different order needs. For example, you don't need to create a column in the tasks list to contain the ”Computer Size”. That info is fetched from the form and transferred into the Description of the task that is created.

Data from any online form
As I am a SharePoint nerd, I let my flow send data from order forms in a SharePoint site to a SharePoint tasks list. Similar flows can be used whenever people input data in an online form. It can be requests for a quote or survey results, and the services might be Excel Surveys or Microsoft Forms. Flow also supports multiple third party forms solutions that give input from users.

Export and import
The flow in my tutorial is used for three different forms, and these forms need one flow each. Instead of creating three flows, I only create the first flow from scratch. After testing that flow, I export it to my PC and import it from there as a new flow. Then I only have to change the applicable flow settings to get a second and third flow.

As I have mentioned earlier, I am working with a new book: SharePoint Flows from Scratch. Links to my Flow articles will be included in each chapter, but a book can of course give much more information in a more structured way.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

15 October 2018

SharePoint Editions of Kanban Task Manager Updated

Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint logotype The SharePoint editions of Kanban Task Manager have been updated with a new view and the possibilities to add multiple responsibles on a single task and create checklist templates.

Kanban Task Manager helps a workgroup to collaborate on projects and tasks on a virtual kanban board in SharePoint or Outlook. For SharePoint we offer two editions: sandboxed solution and add-in. Kanban Task Manager has several features to manage the tasks efficiently:
  • Color code tasks or projects.
  • Drag and drop tasks between phases as work proceeds.
  • View tasks related to multiple projects on one kanban board.
  • Create checklists in complicated tasks.
  • Keep track of the work done with a time logging feature.
  • Generate Excel reports that show statistics on tasks management.

Updated version with enhanced feature
We always welcome enhancement suggestions from subscribers, and we try our best to add all the useful features that are requested. As Kanban Task Manager is one of our most popular products, users send us many ideas, and the features in the new versions are some of them.

In a previous version of the Kanban Task Manager SharePoint editions we added a Checklist feature, that helps users to break down a complicated task into checklist steps. We have been upgrading this feature since then, so now you cannot only create checklists but also checklist templates.
Checklist-templates icon icon
Creating a new checklist for each task is inefficient when is the steps are the same for similar tasks. With the new feature, the Kanban Task Manager admin can create checklist templates for tasks where the same steps must be performed. Users can then select among the templates when they start working with a task or create a new checklist if none of the templates is suitable.

Multiple Responsibles
In organizations or teams it is common that more than one person works on a single task. Many users of Kanban Task Manager have therefore requested a possibility to assign a single task to multiple team members.

Multi-headed icon The updated Kanban Task Manager gives the possibility to add multiple responsibles to one task. In that case, the task card will have a multi-headed icon instead of the responsible person's photo.

Not Assigned view
There are various views in Kanban Task Manager where you can see the tasks on the basis of month, year, projects, responsible and their working status. This time a new view has been added to Kanban Task Manager: the ‘Not Assigned’ view.

The ‘Not Assigned’ view displays the unassigned tasks along with their descriptions. The view also shows all people who have been assigned tasks earlier, so you only have to drag and drop a task to assign it to a team member.

Upgrade and Support Upgrade icon We always recommend our customers to use the latest version of our solutions, and upgrades are always included in our subscriptions. If your organization is a subscriber to a Kanban Task Manager SharePoint edition, you can download the updated version from the website.

Our Support team is always here to help you, if you need assistance in upgrading the solution.

Trial and Subscription Trial icon You may download the full version of one of the Kanban Task Manager SharePoint editions from the website and evaluate it for 30 days without any obligations.

We have separate manuals for both the editions, that explains the solutions in detail. In addition to that, we also have video demonstrations by our CEO, Peter Kalmstrom, that can help you in understanding and evaluating the solution better.

In case you are new to Kanban Task Manager and need a skilled person to install and configure the solution, you may take advantage of our experts, who can do the work for you in a paid remote session.

Kanban Task Manager can be subscribed to on a monthly or yearly basis. You are always welcome to contact our Sales department in case you need assistance.

By Dipti Francis
Executive Assistant Business Solutions

09 October 2018

Enhance SharePoint Search with Update Title Flow

SharePoint icon Data in Title columns is prioritized in the SharePoint Search, but in many library documents the titles are inaccurate or not filled out at all. In a new article in the Tips section, I describe how to create a flow that sets the title to the same as the file name. That will enhance the search results considerably, because document names are often descriptive and give relevant information on what the document contains.

When you make a search in SharePoint, the title hits are displayed on top. In SharePoint lists, the title is mandatory to fill out and is therefore never overlooked. In document libraries, however, the title is rather hidden, and it is a common problem that files are not given a title at all, or have non-descriptive, automatically set titles like "Document" that does not help the search at all.
Microsoft flow to set title in SharePoint library
In file systems, the titles don't have the same importance as it has in SharePoint, so files that are imported to SharePoint libraries often lack titles. Furthermore, the properties of such uploaded files do not open automatically. Instead, users must actively open the properties and add a title, and most users don't do that.

An easy way to solve the title problem is to let a flow set the value in the Title column to the same as in the Name column. The name is hopefully relevant, so this flow solves the problems with non-existing as well as irrelevant titles.

In the demo above, I have used the trigger "when an item is created or modified". This trigger is suitable to use in a library that already contains a lot of files that need to have a better title. In Edit mode, you can just add a dummy title and then drag it down the Title column of all files. They are then modified, and the flow will update the column and replace each dummy title with the value in the file's Name column.

Microsoft Flow icon For a new document library, I would instead recommend the trigger "when an item is created". Then the flow will set the title to the same as the name for all new files – but there will also be a possibility to change the title manually, to something else than the name value, without having the flow thwart your modification. The rest of the flow will be the same, and all steps are listed in the article about the update title flow.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

05 October 2018

Folder HelpDesk for Outlook Released with New HTML views and features

Folder HelpDesk for Outlook logotype The issue tracking tool, Folder HelpDesk for Outlook has been updated. This time we have added new HTML views and given a possibility to show the e-mail received date on the ticket.

Folder HelpDesk for Outlook
Folder HelpDesk is an Outlook add-on that helps a workgroup collaborate on support cases or issues inside Outlook. With Folder HelpDesk users can convert e-mails into tickets, either manually or automatically. Along with converting e-mails into tickets, Folder HelpDesk gives users more possibilities to work efficiently with those tickets:
  • fetch tickets from an online form, manually or automatically
  • keep all the e-mails related to the same case in the same ticket
  • make a call from inside a ticket via any desktop calling application
  • reply to an e-mail from inside a ticket
  • generate Excel reports on ticket data for analysis and statistics

Improved Design of HTML views
Among the many Folder HelpDesk features is the possibility to visualize tickets in different HTML views: Kanban, Month, Year, Timeline Responsibles, Timeline Incidents, Timeline Callers and Incidents.

In this version, the design of the HTML views is improved and has been made more user friendly. Now you can reach all the HTML views from a single dropdown.

Folder HelpDesk - HTML views

New Feature
Folder HelpDesk gives various options to customize the ticket form, among them the option to automatically save non- existent values, assign default values for minutes worked and more.

Now a new feature has been added to the ticket form settings: ‘Show e-mail received time in the ticket’. Several subscribers have asked for this feature, so we know that it will be appreciated. Upgrade icon Upgrade
Our subscriptions include support and upgrades. If your organization is a Folder HelpDesk subscriber, you are welcome to upgrade your installation. You may download the setup file from the website. Trial icon Trial and Subscription
If your team wants to cooperate on support cases in Outlook, I would recommend that you try Folder HelpDesk. You may download the full version of Folder HelpDesk and try it for 30 days without any obligations. Do not hesitate to contact our Support team, if you need assistance during your evaluation period.

Folder HelpDesk can be subscribed to on a yearly or monthly basis. Our Sales department is here to help you if you have any queries regarding the subscription.

This update was just minor, but the developers are working on a major new version with several important enhancements. I will come back and tell you more about them in a later blog post.

By Dipti Francis
Executive Assistant Business Solutions

03 October 2018

SharePoint Approvals in Multiple Steps

SharePoint iconIn earlier blog posts I have described different ways to manage approvals of documents in SharePoint libraries. As an example, I have used a Procedures library where new documents need to be approved by another person than the author.

But sometimes one approver is not enough. In a new article in the Tips section, I suggest a solution for SharePoint document libraries where new files must be approved by several people.

SharePoint workflow
I use a SharePoint workflow to automate the multiple approval process, and the idea behind the workflow is that each approver is given a task to approve or reject the new document. When that task is completed, the workflow goes to next approver if the document is approved. If one of the approvers reject the document, the process is stopped.
SharePoint Designer icon
This workflow is a totally custom solution. I neither use the built-in approval status column nor any of the out-of-the-box workflows that Microsoft supplies.

The benefit of using a custom approval solution is that you have total control of the process. The downside (as you will see if you watch the video) is that it is rather complex and time-consuming to create. On the other hand I am using as much as five approvers. The workflow can of course be used for less people also.

Approvers in teams
Each approver in this example workflow belongs to a team, and all teams and approvers are stored in a SharePoint list. I use the team names in the workflow, so you don't have to modify the workflow if the person that approves or rejects documents must be replaced. The workflow will continue to run as soon as a new document has been added to the library.

Follow the process stages
The approval task for each approver is represented by a workflow stage. These stages are called "Waiting for [TEAM]", and if a team approves of the document, the workflow goes to the next stage.
Approval process

When I have created all the stages, I add two more stages: the Rejected stage and the All Approved stage. These stages both ends the workflow, but under different conditions. The Rejected stage is used when someone rejects the documents. The All Approved stage is used when all stakeholders have approved the document.

The benefit of working with stages in this way, is that everything is visible in the library. The approval status column shows "Waiting for [TEAM]", "Rejected by [TEAM]" or "All Approved", and in the document's version history you can see the whole process with details on when and by whom the document was approved or rejected.

Testing and error correction
The workflow I suggest is long and rather complicated, and when recording the demo below I made a few mistakes. To make the demo shorter I copied and pasted stages, and that also gave some errors.

I have chosen to include the testing and error fixing in the demo, as it can give valuable information to someone who tries the workflow.

Tips article
I have recorded this demo about approvals in multiple steps for my book SharePoint Workflows from Scratch. I have not finished writing it yet, but for now you can read the article in the Tips section. It has the demo and also a description of prerequisites and instructions on how to create the different stages.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

26 September 2018

Automate SharePoint Approvals with Flow

Microsoft Flow iconWhen someone creates a new business document, it must often be approved by someone else in the organization before it is made available to more users. The approval process can be configured and managed in many different ways, but it is of course an advantage if it is automated.

In two new articles in the Tips section, I describe how a flow can be used to automate the approval process for files in a SharePoint Online document library.

The library approval setting
SharePoint document libraries have an approval checkbox under 'Versioning settings'. This feature is disabled by default, but when it is enabled, each new or changed document must be approved. Only after approval will it be shown to all users of that library. This setting has the advantage of preventing other users than the author and the approver from seeing non-approved document versions.

When the approval setting is enabled, a new column called 'Approval Status' will be added automatically. This is convenient, but currently this column cannot be used together with an "update item" action in a flow or workflow. It always has to be updated manually, and a flow or workflow can only automate the sending of an e-mail to the approver. In the demo below I show how to create such an e-mail sending flow.

Custom column for approval status
When you choose not to enable the approval setting but instead use a custom column for approval status, a flow or workflow can manage the whole process, including the update of the document library.

A drawback with a custom column is that the document can be seen by everyone even when it is not approved (if you don't set special permissions on it). In the demo below, I add a library update action to the flow that I created in the demo above.

The two demos above are included in a Tips article that also gives some more background and explanations. I recommend that you study the demos more closely there, if you are interested in trying one of my solutions.

Create a flow in the mobile
The Microsoft Flow mobile app makes it possible to create a flow like the one above in a mobile device. The demo below is included in a SharePoint Flows article that also gives step-by-step instructions. I use a custom column for approval status and show how the flow can be set to send an e-mail to the approver as well as update the document library.

Next article and blog post about business approvals in SharePoint will be about approvals in multiple steps, where several people in sequence must approve a new document library file.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

18 September 2018

Flow for IM to Assigned

Flow icon SharePoint tasks lists are a good way to organize tasks within an organization, and it gets even better if you use a kanban board, like Kanban Task Manager, to visualize the tasks and the work process. When someone creates a task for another person, it is convenient to have a message about that sent out automatically.

Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint logotype In a new article in my SharePoint Flows series I show how to create a flow that sends a Skype message to a person who has been assigned a new task. This flow can be used whether you use the tasks list with Kanban Task Manager or not.

New task alerts
The SharePoint 'Alert me' command cannot be used to send notifications for new tasks to the assignee, but I have earlier published several Tips articles on how to use different kinds of workflows for e-mail alerts to the person who has been assigned a new task. Such automatic e-mails can also be sent automatically with a flow.

Sometimes an instant message is more efficient than an e-mail, and in the new Tips article I describe how to create a flow that sends a Skype message to the assignee. To make the flow more useful, I add a link to the new task in the message. Thus the assigned person just have to click on the link to reach the task.

Complex and simple flows
Flow is a versatile tool that can be used with a wide range of cloud based services, not only with SharePoint, to automate processes that need to be performed repeatedly. In some cases it can be rather complicated to create a flow, and I showed an example on that in the beginning of this month, when I wrote a blog post about a flow that sends e-mails based on list data and where attachments needed to be included.

Skype icon To create a flow that sends a Skype message when a new task has been created is a much easier process. If you have never before created a flow, this flow is a suitable one to start with. In my Tips article about the IM to assigned flow I have listed the steps as a further help to follow the demo.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

05 September 2018

Flow that Sends E-mails Based on SharePoint List Items

Flow iconAs you probably know, the YouTube channel has many subscribers, currently nearly 15.000, and I am glad that my demos attract such great interest. I am often asked to create demos on specific topics, but I have no possibility to comply with all requests without charging for it.

However, a couple of days ago I read a question that really interested me: how to send e-mails from a shared mailbox with content based on SharePoint list items. If you don't allow e-mail attachments, this is easily managed with a flow that picks e-mail data from a SharePoint list item.

But this subscriber wanted to include attachments in the outgoing e-mails. That makes it a lot more complicated, and this is what intrigued me. I decided to find out how to manage the process the subscriber asked about – for my own sake! I began searching and found inspiration from several sources, but a blog post by Django Lohn put me on the right track. You can see the result in the demo below, and as usual there is also an article in the Tips section.

So, why did I find this question so interesting? It was not only that I did not know how to do it from the beginning. Letting users add e-mail data to a SharePoint list is in some cases better than letting them send from a shared mailbox:
  • Using a SharePoint list and a flow gives better control of what is sent.
  • The data of the outgoing e-mails is gathered in a SharePoint list, where it can be sorted, filtered, searched and displayed in different views – something that is more difficult to do in a shared mailbox.
  • You don't have to give a lot of people access to the shared mailbox. They only need permission to create items in the SharePoint list.
This demo is created for my upcoming book about SharePoint Flows, and it will be one of the most advanced ones. I have listed the Flow steps in the Tips article, so please give it a try!

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

31 August 2018

Pivot Explorer for SharePoint List Items Released

Pivot Explorer logotype Today I am happy to announce the release of a new product: Pivot Explorer for SharePoint Lists is a SharePoint add-in that helps users explore, analyze and visualize list data directly in SharePoint, without exporting it to Excel.

Explore SharePoint list data
Pivot Explorer for SharePoint Lists is designed for workgroups or organizations who store data in SharePoint lists. With the help of Pivot Explorer, users can visualize the list data online.

The Pivot Explorer add-in makes data exploration flexible, as it supports a range of multidimensional charts and tables.

For numerical data, various aggregate functions like count, average, percentage and more can be applied to get sum details for different parameters.

Save or export views
Users can save and load their favorite views with just a few clicks and make them available to all users of the site. The current view can also be exported to Excel, image or PDF. Trial icon Trial and Documentation
If your organization is looking for an option to explore SharePoint data effectively, I recommend that you try Pivot Explorer. For evaluators who don’t want to use their personal data, we have given an Example list with some data you can play around with.

We give full support during the 30 days free trial, so you don’t have to hesitate to contact our Support team whenever you need assistance. Please also study the Pivot Explorer manual, which explains the features and functionality in detail.

You may subscribe to Pivot Explorer on a monthly or yearly basis. Our subscriptions include free support and upgrades, and on top of that, an unlimited number of users and installations without any extra fees.

Welcome to contact our Sales Department in case you have any queries regarding the subscription.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

27 August 2018

Flow Alerts With Links To SharePoint Items

Microsoft Flow icon In an earlier blog post, I announced a new Tips article about links in workflow generated e-mail notifications. Now I have created a similar links article for Flow.

Flows versus workflows
Microsoft Flow is a cloud based service, part of Office 365, so currently it cannot be used with SharePoint on-premises. Workflows, on the other hand, are created in SharePoint Designer and can be used with all SharePoint editions.

Enter in e-mail body
In the demo below, I create a flow that sends an e-mail notification when a new document is created in a SharePoint Online library. I paste links to one specific document in various modes into the e-mail body, and then I replace the specific parts of the link code with dynamic fields that can be selected in the flow editor. This way, the links will always point to the new document.

You may of course also write in the links and directly click on the dynamic fields you need, to insert them in their proper places in the link code. I had some trouble getting them in the right place with my method!

Beware of name changes
If you are using a link with the dynamic field "File name with extension", which I do in one of the links, you should be aware that the link will stop working if the filename is changed after the notification e-mail has been sent. Name changes of documents are especially common when users create new documents directly in the SharePoint document library. That document will automatically be named as "Document", "Presentation" and so on, depending on file type.

Hopefully users have learned to rename the document into something more descriptive, but if they are allowed to create new documents and not just upload them, the flow must be given a delay before it runs. That way users will have time to re-name their documents.

I hope my two tips about links in workflow or flow generated e-mails have been useful! People might forget or ignore notifications without links, but if they can interact with a new document by just clicking on a link, there is a much better chance that it is actually read.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

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