29 May 2014

SharePoint Recurring Tasks Management

SharePoint logo Let SharePoint create tasks for recurring events! When you have all these events in a SharePoint list you will get a good overview over them, and a combination of two workflows can create a reminder task for the responsible person. In the Tips section we now have a new article that gives a step by step description on how to set up reminders for recurring events in SharePoint.

When I talk about subscriptions I usually refer to the licensing model we use for the Solutions, but in the new Tips article I have looked at subscriptions from another point of view – the view of a company with a lot of different phone subscriptions to handle. I have used these subscriptions as an example on when it is useful to let SharePoint handle recurring tasks.

Renewal reminder
SharePoint logoWhen organizations pay monthly for a Solution the fee is taken automatically from a credit card, but for yearly payments we send a reminder with an invoice in good time before the exipry date. I assume most companies who sell subscriptions do in a similar way, to avoid that customers suddenly find themselves without a valid subscription.

More control
The reminder from the service provider should not be the only way a company keeps track of subscriptions and renewals. Most companies have a method for keeping track of renewals, to get better control over subscriptions and fees. These methods may be more or less elaborate, but ideally the subscriptions should be easy to overview and there should be an automatic reminder when a subscription renewal should be considered.

Custom list and calculation workflow
SharePoint logoIf you want to try my SharePoint method for recurring tasks, you need to create two workflows and set up a timer. The workflows and timer will connect to a SharePoint list that contains the relevant information.

For the subscriptions example I create a custom list with just the title and three more columns: expiry date, renewal date and responsible person. Title, expiry date and responsible have to be set manually for each subscription, but the date for the renewal reminder task is calculated by the first workflow. Should you prefer to set the renewal consideration date manually for each subscription, you can go directly to the second workflow.

Reminder task and timer
SharePoint task iconThe second workflow creates a task for the responsible person that it is time to consider a subscription renewal. To tell SharePoint when to run this workflow I need a timer setting, and this is done via the list control "Information management policy settings" and a retention stage.

Regretfully SharePoint 2013 workflows cannot be started by a retention stage this way, so the second workflow needs to be a SharePoint 2010 workflow. If you so wish, also the first workflow may be a 2010 workflow. I used SharePoint 2013 when I created the demo below, but everything works just as well in SharePoint 2010.

The video is rather long for being a demo, almost seven minutes, but I hope it will be useful and give some insights in how SharePoint workflows can be set up and used.

By Peter Kalmstrom
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

27 May 2014

Technical Writer With Coding Skills Strengthens

Today we are glad to invite a new guest blogger, the Technical Writer Sapna Shah. Sapna joined the team just two months ago. Here is Sapna’s story in her own words.

First of all I like to thank Peter and Kate Kalmstrom for providing me the opportunity to introduce myself to readers of the Blog through this post.

Story behind Technical Writer technical writerI never thought to become a Technical Writer while pursuing my Master of Computer Applications (MCA) degree, as I always wanted to become a coder. From the beginning I was good in JAVA and PHP coding, and even got a Best IT Project certificate from the college.

During that time I never realized that I am good at writing and documentation, even though I created several documents on my projects.

In an interview for PHP developer in a well-known Indore company, my interviewer observed my talkative nature and writing skills and asked me if I wanted to work as a Content Writer. I thought a lot about it and finally grabbed the opportunity.

After eleven months I was promoted to Proof Reader. I worked there for two years and eight months. For around nine months I also worked simultaneously as a freelancer for another company as a Project Manager and Technical Writer. experience
In April 2014 I joined the team. Working with the Business Solutions is completely different and a new experience.

Here I am cooperating closely with Kate Kalmstrom, and I am learning several things from her. She has a great experience of more than 35 years in writing, and she gives me important tips on how to make content attractive and meaningful. I hope her guidance and support will assist me in improving and making me perfect in my work.

Calendar Browser version 9
Calendar Browser version 9 logo At I have come to know about different new platforms and products. During my first two months here I have worked with Calendar Browser version 9 Admin and User manuals. Calendar Browser is a Microsoft Outlook add-on for efficient booking of corporate resources.

Personal life
kalmstrom Technical Writer Sapna Image I am a very fun loving, caring, friendly and talkative kind of person and ready to learn new things in life. I always believe in hard work to make things perfect and smooth.

My family, buddies and well-wishers support me a lot. The willingness to achieve something better provides me great strength. I believe in social service by teaching and helping the poor. It provides me a happiness which is beyond words.

I see a great future at I strongly believe that Kate’s guidance and experience will help me in exploring new heights in my field.

Sapna Shah
Technical Writer Business Solutions

23 May 2014

3 SharePoint Alerts For Changed Items

SharePoint logoWhen you share SharePoint documents and list items with other people, it is often useful to be informed when these documents and items have been changed. In a new article in the Tips section I describe three different ways of setting SharePoint to send e-mail notifications about changes in lists or libraries.

SharePoint Alerts
SharePoint AlertWith the SharePoint Alert me buttons Microsoft has made it easy for us to set alerts for changes in specific items and files as well as in whole SharePoint lists and libraries. The alerts can be received by e-mail or SMS, and there are different options for when they should be sent.

All alerts for one site can be managed in the same place, so the inbuilt SharePoint alerts are easy to use and a good option for change notifications. The message you get has relevant information and a link to the item or file. There is however no possibility to customize the message. For that you need to create a workflow.

SharePoint Workflow
SharePoint logoSharePoint workflows can be very useful, and in the Tips section I have published several articles on how to create them. When you want to customize SharePoint alert messages, for example to add metadata, you should create a workflow. This is done in SharePoint Designer.

In the demo below I explain how to create a simple workflow that sends an e-mail notification when a list has been changed. Any metadata from the list columns can be added to the message as lookup fields. I add a status lookup field to the message to show how this is done.

The workflow can of course also be used for SharePoint libraries. Just open a library in SharePoint Designer instead of a list and follow the same process.

Use for Solutions
HelpDesk OSP logotypeHelpDesk OSP is an Outlook add-on that connects Outlook to SharePoint, so that you can create SharePoint list items directly from Outlook. You can also convert e-mails to list items, manually or automatically.

HelpDesk OSP
can connect to any SharePoint list, so the alerts on changed items described in my new Tip may be used for those lists too. We even have a workflow manual for HelpDesk OSP, where we have described step by step how to create several other useful workflows.

Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint logotype The principle is the same also for Kanban Task Manager SharePoint lists. This Solution for kanban style project management creates a virtual kanban board in SharePoint. Here color coded tasks can me dragged within or between phases as the work proceeds. However, there is also a list with all the tasks, and it is in this list – or in the phases or projects lists – that you should set the alert.

By Peter Kalmstrom
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

22 May 2014

IE 8 Users Restricted to Outlook Web App Light

Office 365 logo Today Microsoft has announced restrictions for Office 365 users who use Internet Explorer 8. From June 30th these users will only have access to the light version of Outlook Web App.

Use the latest versions
Microsoft's cloud platform Office 365 is designed to work with modern version of Internet Explorer, and for the best experience Microsoft recommends the latest browsers, Office clients and apps. They also recommend users to upgrade all software when new versions are released.

This is the same recommendation as we give to subscribers of the products and our reason for always giving free upgrades. We generally follow Microsoft's support practices. This means that we are quick to support new versions of the Microsoft platforms but also that we stop supporting old versions when Microsoft does so. I wrote about this in an earlier blog post titled Goodbye Windows XP.

Continue with IE8?
Maybe you still want to use an old version of Internet Explorer, to access older web apps and services? What will happen in this case is that newer Office 365 features will not work, and user experiences will diminish. One example on this is that only the light version of Outlook Web App will be displayed if you are using Internet Explorer 8.

Outlook Web App Light
The light version of Outlook Web App has fewer features than the standard version. One of the limitations is that the light version does not support shared mailboxes or shared calendars, something I think many organizations consider to be a serious drawback. Neither can you import or export messages and contacts or create or modify tasks and notes. For more information on the limitations, refer to Microsoft's detailed comparison.

IE11 Enterprise Mode
Office 365 logoTo help users avoid the disadvantages of keeping an old browser version, Microsoft suggests these organizations to upgrade to Internet Explorer 11 and use the new Enterprise mode. This mode eliminates common compatibility issues, and at the same time you get the speed and performance of a modern browser.

By Peter Kalmstrom
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

20 May 2014

SharePoint Archive Tool Free For Subscribers

SharePoint logoToday I have good news for all users of SharePoint Solutions, as they soon will be offered a free archive tool. SharePoint users who don't subscribe to a Solution yet, will have a possibility to subscribe to the archive tool separately at a low cost.

Extended use of SharePointHelpDesk OSP icon
SharePoint is an important platform for the Solutions, and more and more of our products are given a SharePoint option.

KBase icon Our first SharePoint solution was an Outlook add-on that converts e-mails into SharePoint list items: HelpDesk OSP, released in 2009. Today KBase (knowledge base) and Kanban Task Manager (kanban style application for project and task management) work with both Outlook and SharePoint.

Kanban Task Manager icon We will continue on this path. Currently we are developing a SharePoint version of our time tracking tool TimeCard, and when it has been released we plan to update Calendar Browser and Folder HelpDesk with a SharePoint sharing option.

Standard features

When we develop the Solutions we always try to make use of the functionality Microsoft TimeCard iconhas already integrated in the platforms we build on. This makes our products easy to learn, and our aim is that everything you normally do in Outlook, Excel or SharePoint should be possible to do in the same way with your Solution.

However, in the case of archiving SharePoint list items with a workflow we want to give another method. The tool we are planning does not require a workflow creation, and it will be beneficial to all organizations that use SharePoint.

Archive old list items
The Tip on how to build a workflow that archives old SharePoint list items was first created for SharePoint 2010, and now we have a version for SharePoint 2013 also.

This tip has become very popular, but unfortunately the simple workflow I show in the demo cannot be used for Kanban Task Manager tasks. Even if these dragable, colorful tasks are just standard SharePoint tasks with some extras, they have dependencies that must be taken into account when creating an archiving workflow. That makes the workflow much more complicated to create, so we have decided to instead give subscribers a free archive tool.
Kanban Task Manager in SharePoint 2013
For all SharePoint users
The archive tool will not be given only to Kanban Task Manager users but also to subscribers of HelpDesk OSP and eventually TimeCard, Calendar Browser and Folder HelpDesk when their SharePoint versions have been released. A solution that archives SharePoint list items will be useful for all these subscribers, and it will be easier to handle than a workflow.
SharePoint or database choice
First database, then SharePoint
The SharePoint archive tool will read information from a SharePoint list, based on user selected filters, and copy all the information into a database or SharePoint list. There will be an option to remove all the data from the original SharePoint list. I guess most organizations want to use that alternative, but it should still be optional.

The development will be done in two steps. The first version will only copy the data to an Access or SQL Server database. In the second version we will add a possibility to copy the data to another SharePoint list instead.

Separate subscription
We will market the new archive tool as a new Solution, and for organizations who are not Members of the Community it will be possible to subscribe to the tool separately.

We hope to release the first version of the archive tool for SharePoint in about two months, and I will come back with more news about it before that.

By Peter Kalmstrom
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

13 May 2014

HTML5 In Updated Outlook Resource Booking Tool

Calendar Browser logo With its 14 years on the market, Calendar Browser is one of the most mature Solutions, which means that we have had plenty of time to refine this resource booking tool for Outlook.

We plan to keep Calendar Browser alive for many years ahead also, and therefore we are in the process of replacing old technologies with the very latest ones.

Rebuild with .NET and HTML5
Net iconIn 2013 we replaced all old VB6 coding in Calendar Browser with modern .NET techniques. This was a crucial step, both for further development and for support of the latest Microsoft platforms.

After that we could add several new features to our resource booking application, some of them sponsored by organizations who already subscribe to Calendar Browser.

Now it is once again time to update the architecture of Calendar Browser. In the next version we have removed some third party tools that we found to slow. Instead we have used what is often referred to as HTML5.

HTML5 & friends
HTML5 iconThe term HTML5 actually stands for two things. It is the latest version of the HTML code language, but it is also a short form for "HTML5 & friends" – a set of other technologies that together with the latest HTML version enhance both web sites and applications.

The HTML5  friends include CSS3, JavaScript and new APIs, and it is the whole set of new technologies that the developers have used in Calendar Browser V9.

Faster Overview loading
Calendar Browser uses several forms, like resource descriptions, search, supply bookings and settings. All these forms load faster in version 9, but if you have booked resources with Calendar Browser before, you will notice the biggest difference in the Overview.

The Calendar Browser Overview shows information about bookings from several different aspects. Some user organizations have the Overview displayed on a wide screen in a reception or similar,so that the staff can easily see what resources have been booked.

Each person who has the Calendar Browser client installed can also see the Overview in Outlook, or even in Outlook Web Access. Outlook users can also book resources directly in the Overview.
Calendar Browser Bookings Overview
New design
The Overview has a new design, just as the Calendar Browser logotype and icon. I hope you like the new style? I think it looks modern and in line with Microsoft graphics, which is what we aim for.

Calendar Browser V9 is now in the last testing phase, and we have begun updating the documentation. We hope to release the new version in a week or two, and in the meantime you are welcome to have a look at the new slideshow below. I will come back with more info once we have released the new version.

Peter Kalmstrom
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions