28 October 2015

Outlook Kanban View For Support Tickets In Updated Folder HelpDesk

Folder HelpDesk logoNext version of the issue tracking tool for Outlook, will have three new views. Today I can show you one of these views: the Folder HelpDesk kanban view, where open incident tickets are visualized with color coded cards.

Messages become tickets
With Folder HelpDesk a support team can cooperate in an organized manner in Outlook. E-mails or messages from a web form are converted into tickets manually or automatically and gathered in a list with several different views in Outlook.

New tickets can also be created when information is received in other ways, for example by telephone or sms. All open tickets are shown in Outlook, and they can be displayed in various views.
Folder HelpDesk kanban view
Move kanban card between phases
On a traditional kanban board, cards with task information are moved between phases as the work proceeds. The kanban board gives a quick overview over the tasks, and bottlenecks are easily discovered.

On the Folder HelpDesk kanban board, each open ticket is represented by a card that shows the most important ticket information. The ticket opens when you left click on the card. When you right click on the card, a reading pane with more of the body text will be displayed at the bottom of the screen.

Kanban Task Manager
Kanban Task Manager for Outlook logotype already has four versions of another solution that uses a kanban view: Kanban Task Manager. Two of these versions are for Outlook, so it is a logical step that we use our experience to enhance Folder HelpDesk with a similar view.

Drag between status phases
Folder HelpDesk ribbon groupIn the Folder HelpDesk kanban view we use the status values from the Folder HelpDesk settings as phases, which means that each organization will have the phases they need in the preferred order. The ticket status information is updated automatically when a kanban card is moved to a new phase.

Color codes
The tickets on the Folder HelpDesk kanban board are color coded by either Incident Type or Responsible. In the demo below we are using the Folder HelpDesk example data colors, but you can use any colors you like.

Filter, search and zoom
The Folder HelpDesk kanban view has many of the features you find in Kanban Task Manager. The tickets can be filtered by Incident Type, Responsible, Caller and Priority, and there is an Instant Search feature that searches all text in the tickets. With the zoom bar you can resize the kanban board and show more or less tickets in the view.

Use custom field as lanes
The Folder HelpDesk ticket HTML form can be customized, and organizations who have created custom ticket fields can use one of them to group the tickets in horizontal lanes. The cards can of course be dragged and dropped within and between the lanes too, in the same way as in the status phases.

We hope that the new kanban view will make work with Folder HelpDesk tickets even more efficient and enjoyable. As I mentioned above we plan two more new views, and I will come back and show them when the development process has come a bit further.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

27 October 2015

SharePoint Links, A Crucial Concept

SharePoint iconWhen you write, post or create something in SharePoint, you most likely want to make it easy for the appropriate people to find it. A link is most often the best solution, but a link can be created in various ways. The tutorials about links in our series SharePoint Online from Scratch have now been published, and I hope you will find them useful.

My demos are recorded in Office 365 SharePoint Online, but links work in the same way for SharePoint 2013 on-premise.

The same technique in all links
SharePoint is a web-based application, so links are at the core of everything. Every clickable navigation link, button and image use the same hyperlinking technique, and therefore it is crucially important to understand the concepts behind linking and how to make your own hyperlinks.

Everything on the web has an address, also called a URL (Unique Resource Locator), which at least contains a protocol, most commonly http:// or https://, and a domain, such as The URL can also contain a more exact specification of which file is to be displayed. Additionally the URL may have parameters that indicate what part of a page should be focused or displayed.

Links in text
Inserting a link in a text, like 'here' in “There are lots of more tips articles here!” is easily done from the INSERT tab in the ribbon. When the link has been created you can edit it, for example decide if the link should open in a new tab or not. It is common practice to open a link in a new tab when it points to content outside your main content area.

When editing the link, you can also add a small document type icon next to it. That icon is especially useful if you are linking to a document with a recognizable icon, such a Word document or a PDF file.

Clickable images
Image links are popular, and users often expect to be able to click on images to know more. When you insert an image in SharePoint it will not be clickable by default, so you will have to do the extra work of selecting the image, inserting a hyperlink and deciding what should happen when you click on the image – usually the user is taken to another web page.

SharePoint Designer added picture in SharePoint

Hotspots images
Making parts of an image clickable and linked to different locations is slightly harder to do, since the editor in SharePoint does not yet have this capability. The process involves creating a map of the areas in the image that should be clickable.

You can do this manually by editing the html code but that is a bit tricky and prone to errors. Therefore I show you no-code ways of doing it with Visio, PowerPoint and Excel.

Promoted links
When you first create a SharePoint team site, it has links in the shape of moving tiles on the start page. These links are called promoted links, and in two articles we describe how to create images for promoted links and how to  add promoted links to any SharePoint page.

Custom promoted links in SharePoint

Wiki linking
If you are linking to content within your site, SharePoint offers a functionality to help you build links to existing pages, views and items within that site. You can also link to non-existing pages, which is way more useful than it sounds. This technique is known as wiki linking.
Wiki links double square brackets

The hardest part about wiki linking is the syntax – double brackets before [[ and after ]] the text you want to link. When you start typing the two double brackets the SharePoint editor helps you with a little drop-down. I recommend that you use your keyboard to navigate this drop-down. If you want to change the caption of the link but not the destination, use the pipe symbol for that.

In other articles I describe how to use links in SharePoint Newsfeeds and lists and how to link to a shared drive. There is considerable power in using hyperlinks to help your readers find their way through your content, so welcome to have a look at the examples and step by step instructions in the Links articles and demos.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

23 October 2015

SharePoint Categorization With Rates And Keywords

SharePoint iconIn an earlier blog post I introduced some tools for SharePoint file categorization: folders, document libraries and columns. Now we have published more tutorials about the same subject, in which we take a closer look into what you can do with different kinds of SharePoint library columns.

Rate or like
A categorization method that I find too rarely used is the rating. SharePoint gives two rating options: likes (as in Facebook) and 1-5 stars. This is something people are used to, so no extra training is necessary for this kind of categorization. You can of course filter and sort the rating column by ranking.

By default the SharePoint Search shows the highest ranked hits first. You can take advantage of this by only adding rating to very important document libraries, because then these documents will always show up first in searches.

Required values
SharePoint gives the option to make it mandatory to add a value to any certain column before other users can access the file.  When no column is marked as required, a file that is created directly in a library or uploaded to it will be accessible to all users at once. To categorize it you have to open the file properties, and there is a risk that users will forget or skip this step.

If you really want files to be categorized, you should set at least one column to required. Then each new file has to be "checked in" before other users can access the file. A check in cannot be done until the required value has been filled out or selected.

Default values
In some cases values can be calculated and set as default, something that lessens the burden on users and guarantees a correct categorization. Other default values instead increase the risk of wrong categorization, if uses don't change them when needed. Default values can help users get used to categorization, and maybe it is worth it to have some wrong categorizations in the beginning, compared to no categorization at all.

Enterprise Keywords
An Enterprise Keywords column is a Managed Metadata column where SharePoint automatically sets the connection to the Term Store, where the keywords can be managed. The Term Store serves the whole organization, so once a keyword has been added in one library it will come up as a suggestion when a user starts writing a similar word in the same or another library.

Term sets
You can of course also create your own Managed Metadata columns and connect them to the Term Store. It works in the same way as the Enterprise Keywords column, but by having various term sets in the Term Store you can connect different site collections to different sets of keywords.

In the Tips section we have an introduction page with links to all SharePoint categorization articles. I strongly recommend you to use some of these options to tag your documents. They will make it much easier to find the files you need among all you have stored in SharePoint.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

21 October 2015

1 000 000 Views For The YouTube Channel

YouTube icon Today we celebrate that the YouTube Channel has reached one million views, an impressive figure for a specialized channel like ours.

My colleagues and I are happy that so many people want to watch our demos about SharePoint and Office and about the Solutions that build on those platforms.

One million

Authentic views?
TimeCard for OutlookHow do we know that real people have watched our demos? Of course we cannot be 100 % sure about that, but YouTube claims that the view count shows quality views by actual humans and that robot views are discovered and not taken into account.
Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint icon
5 300 subscribers
Another reason for me to believe that the views are authentic, is that the Channel has well over 5 300 subscribers. I imagine they watch a demo or two sometimes! The many comments we get also show that people have actually studied and enjoyed our tutorials.
HelpDesk OSP icon
In an earlier blogpost my mother Kate observed that most of the YouTube subscribers are men, while women seem to prefer Pinterest, where we also present our video demonstrations.
Templates Manager for SharePoint icon Solutions
We have found YouTube demos to be a good way of introducing and explaining our Outlook and SharePoint solutions. The manuals have an abundance of screenshots and give all details, but with video demonstrations we can actually show how to do things. A big part of the view count comes from these demos, and we are glad that our customers find them useful.
Study Manager for SharePoint icon
Why so popular?.
Another group of demonstrations are tutorials about the Microsoft Office and SharePoint platforms, and in spite of all the product views the most popular of all our videos is actually a basic SharePoint tutorial.
Calendar Browser for SharePoint icon
Create a Small Business SharePoint Intranet has had over 60 000 views during the last year, even though there are many other demos about the same subject out there. A search for SharePoint intranet on YouTube gave 32 300 hits!

So what do the demos have that makes them special? I think at least part of the explanation is the way we present them on the website.
Folder HelpDesk icon
Team work
Obviously the demos cover subjects that many need to know more about, and as SharePoint and Office are my special competencies I am happy to share my knowledge. Being an experienced lecturer, I also know how to organize the information in a good way.

SP Attach icon But I am not alone in the creation. My colleagues Kate and Rituka edit my recordings, and their work is very important for the result you see. They also write the Tips articles that give more information and often step by step instructions. The Tips section started as an assistance to subscribers but has now grown to an important part of our website.
SP Archive icon
Education without advertisements
To have some revenues from all our work with the SharePoint and Office tutorials we allow advertisements in the demos, but if you want to use them for education you are welcome to buy advertisement free copies of the demos you need.
KBase icon
Some of my demos have even become a book, Excel 2016 from Scratch, and we plan to do something similar with the SharePoint Online demos.

But first we will publish more demos on YouTube and write more Tips articles for the website. So please help yourselves!

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

19 October 2015

SharePoint File Categorization With Folders, Columns and Libraries

SharePoint iconI very often come into contact with organizations that want to move from a file server to SharePoint. Usually this is something they expect to be a fast and painless process without much work and with immediate benefits.

It can be fast, and there are some benefits right away, but I recommend that you think through how your information should be categorized in SharePoint. That way you will gain much more, and you will use SharePoint the way it was intended to be used.

Tips series on categorization
In a series of articles in the SharePoint Online from Scratch series, I give some tips on the categorization of files in document libraries.

It is possible to put all of your files directly into a big document library with lots of folders within folders. Most things will work as they did in the file server, and you will have the additional features of file versions, full text search, workflows, views and alerts. But there are better ways!

What categories?
Categorization is one of these things that everyone has an opinion on but very few companies and individuals actually have any real strategy for.

The only group that really knows categorization well are librarians. You would never walk into a library and find a section of books printed in Stockholm or a section with all the books from the great publishing houses of Ursa Minor, or even a section of the books published in 2014!

However, in most organizations those are exactly the kind of non-standard categorization you will find when exploring their file servers and all the folder hierarchies.

Categorization tools
My Tips articles and video demonstrations will not help you solve the categorization strategy problem, but I try to show you some tools that will allow you to be flexible and use the power of SharePoint.

Starting from the most popular but least recommended I will begin with the old and tried Folder. I will show that it actually does have some benefits, especially when used with OneDrive for Business or the “Open with Windows Explorer” feature.

The main argument for folders is that your users will feel right at home and you will not have to change the way your information is stored on the file server. However, you will quickly experience that folders have some major drawbacks. SharePoint is really not built for handling folders in a good way, and it has some serious folder-related annoyances.

The folder one dimension drawback
Folders rely on information being categorized in one dimension only. Imagine if a site such as were organized into folders. It would start out rather well. I could click my way into the Europe folder and then into the London folder, but then I would quickly realize that once I get into deeper categories it gets complex. Where will I find the hotels that both have both the “Free breakfast” and the “Free wifi”? In one of those folders or both?

As you see, at a certain level of complexity the folder way of storing information breaks down. Most likely your information is that complex too. A good way of categorization is creating list columns and combining them with views, so that your information can be sliced and diced in many ways.

If we continue to use the hotels example from above, I would create a country column based on the choice, managed meta data or lookup column type, and then I would create two yes/no fields for the breakfast and the wifi.

If I fill out the column values for my hotel description documents correctly, it would be very easy for anyone to find hotels with free wifi and breakfast in London by applying a filter.

Multiple document libraries
Once you start building with views and columns it quickly becomes apparent which files fit into your document library and which don’t. To continue with the travel example I started above, it would be silly to fill out the “Swimming Pool” value on an excursion and the “Mode of transportation” value for a hotel.

Thus instead of trying to fit both excursions and hotels in one document library it makes more sense to create one document library for each of those information types. Using multiple libraries for different kinds of files is generally a good idea.

In a following blog post I will expand the subject of categorization a bit more, and include links to more Tips articles with demos. I hope this will be useful!

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

13 October 2015

SharePoint Templates Manager For Easy Publishing And Use

SharePoint has in itself no easy way to distribute templates to all document libraries in the farm, but with our new Solution you only need to click on a button to publish all changes in the templates library to the whole organization. The responsible developer, Arpeet Gujarathi, will tell you more about Templates Manager for SharePoint.

Arpeet Gujarathi photoLast time when Peter visited the Indore team he told us that he had seen the need for a templates management solution in various organizations he had been working with. We discussed how to best create such a product, so I was well prepared when Peter gave us a prototype for Templates Manager and asked us to create a Solution from it. Peter and our Lead Developer Jayant Rimza appointed me as responsible for the development, and I was happy to take on the challenge.

Office templates
Every organization wants their documents to have a consistent look and content, and the best way to achieve this is of course to use templates for different kinds of documents. We wanted to support all the three most used document types, Word, Excel and PowerPoint, already in the first version, so that Templates Manager from start would be able to give users templates for the documents they normally work with. Icons on each template show which type it belongs to.
Word 2013 icon          PowerPoint 2013 icon          Excel2013 icon
Publishers and users
Often a few managers create and distribute the templates, which then are used by a much larger group of people. The development process had to take these two user roles in account, so that Templates Manager would be easy to use for both managers and users.

We decided to separate the two functions by creating two SharePoint features, Templates Manager Publisher and Templates Manager User. Only managers need the Publisher feature, and it is this feature that makes it so easy to publish templates to the whole farm.
Template Manager for SharePoint Search

Find the right template
The admin who activates Templates Manager User on a site also selects what library the templates should be fetched from. This way users never actually see Templates Manager as a separate solution – they only see that they have a set of categorized and searchable templates when creating a new document in a SharePoint library. As Templates Manager provides both instant search and popup descriptions, users can quickly find the correct template for each document.

TMTemplates library
Templates Manager ribbon group in SharePointWhen Templates Manager Publisher is activated on a site, a new document library is created there: TMTemplates. It works as any SharePoint library, but it has two buttons in the ribbon. One of the buttons opens a dialog for management of template categories, and the other one publishes all changes in the TMTemplates library.

When you click on the Publish button to save changes in a TMTemplates library, templates will be updated on all sites where Templates Manager User has been activated and this TMTemplates library has been selected to fetch templates from.  If all users should have the same templates, Templates Manager Publisher only needs to be activated on one site to serve the whole SharePoint farm.

Gold Solution
Templates Manager is a Gold Solution, and this means that you may have more useful SharePoint Solutions included in the subscription for a fee that is only marginally higher than the minimum fee. I hope you will take advantage of this offer! But first you should of course try Templates Manager. We allow 30 days free evaluation with support.

Experience and re-usable code
Study Manager icon I was very involved in the development of two other SharePoint Solutions, the learning platform Study Manager and the resource booking tool Calendar Browser.

Calendar Browser for SharePoint icon This experience, and the fact that we always try to make our code re-usable, helped me a lot when I tried to find the best development solutions for Templates Manager.

It was a great experience to lead the development of Templates Manager! Please contact me if you have questions about our new SharePoint Solution. It will be a pleasure for me to answer them!

Arpeet Gujarathi
Software Developer Business Solutions

12 October 2015

Kanban Task Manager SharePoint Add-in Released!

Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint logotype Our kanban style solution for task and project management in SharePoint has become popular, and now we also introduce it as an app - or add-in. Microsoft is going the change the term "app" into "add-in", to be consistent with supplements to other platforms, like Outlook add-ins.

Drag color coded tasks between phases
Kanban Task Manager builds on the traditional kanban board, where cards are moved as work on a project proceeds. There are two Outlook versions, for workgroups and single users, and now also two SharePoint versions. The virtual kanban boards take advantage of the platforms they build on, and they course have many more features than a physical board.
The Kanban Task Manager Add-in in SharePoint

Two versions – same features
Kanban Task Manager SharePoint Add-in has the same features as the Kanban Task Manager Sandboxed Solution, but there are some differences in use and implementation. I cannot say that one is better than the other, and as the Sandbox Solutions are NCSSs, which Microsoft will continue to support, I see a bright future for both versions.

Runs in browser
In a sandboxed solution it is possible to have some code that runs on the server, but the Kanban Task Manager Sandboxed Solution only minimally uses that possibility. Instead it uses JavaScript as much as possible, and the code runs to 99% in the browser. Therefore our solution is very safe and have no impact on the SharePoint performance.

Add-ins don't run on the server at all. Instead all functionality runs in the browser, and that might give SharePoint admins an extra reassurance that the Add-in cannot harm their servers or reduce the performance of their SharePoint Online websites.

Add-in only for 2013 and higher
One important difference between the Add-in and the Sandboxed Solution is compatibility. SharePoint 2010 does not support add-ins, so you must have at least SharePoint 2013 or Office 365 SharePoint Online to use Kanban Task Manager SharePoint Add-in. The Sandboxed Solution supports SharePoint 2010 too. Both versions support SharePoint 2016.

App Part
Kanban Task Manager SharePoint Add-in may be inserted as an App Part on any page in the site collection where the Add-in is installed and configured. This means that each user may have Kanban Task Manager on the page he or she prefers.

The App Part looks more like the Sandboxed Solution than the Add-in, because it has the SharePoint navigation and the task form is a standard SharePoint list item where the Kanban Task Manager tagging dropdowns have been added.
The Kanban Task Manager Add-in in SharePoint Store

Add-in installed from SharePoint Store
Kanban Task Manager SharePoint Add-in can be downloaded for trial from the website or directly installed from SharePoint Store. From SharePoint you can reach the SharePoint Store  via Site Content >Add an app.

Current users can switch
Subscribers to Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint (the Sandboxed Solution) may switch to the Add-in without any extra costs if they so wish. Just contact the support and we will assist you.

Finally I want to give credit to Lead Developer Jayant Rimza, who has been responsible for the development of Kanban Task Manager SharePoint Add-in. He encountered some complicated problems in the process, but as usual his creative mind found excellent solutions to them all!

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

07 October 2015

Selective Synchronization Between SharePoint And PC

Earlier this week I wrote about my OneDrive for Business tutorials and explained how each SharePoint user can become an administrator of his/her own powerful site collection with unlimited space and full SharePoint functionality.

In the last article and demo about OneDrive for Business I continue on the same subject and explain the advantages of using multiple SharePoint document libraries and synchronize them to computers in a selective way.

Library limitations
If you upload more than 20 000 files in a document library, the OneDrive for Business Windows desktop application refuses to synchronize. But you should not have that many items anyway, because they cannot be shown in one view.
OneDrive for Business logo
SharePoint 2013 has a recommended limit of 5000 items for a view, and in both SharePoint and OneDrive for Business you will see bugs and problems arise once this limit has been broken. The solution is of course to create multiple document libraries instead of storing everything in one library.

Multiple libraries with all SharePoint features
When you create multiple document libraries in the MySite site collection, you will discover that even though the default library has functionality limitations, your new libraries will have all the features of other SharePoint libraries.

The item limitation of SharePoint and OneDrive for Business libraries is a good reason to create multiple libraries. Another reason is that you have a better flexibility when it comes to sharing and synchronizing libraries.

Selective sync
When you have multiple libraries in MySite, you can choose to share or sync only some of them and use the rest as your personal storage.

With multiple libraries on a team site, you can set permissions on library level. Each user can also decide what libraries to synchronize and doesn't have to burden his/her computer with unnecessary files.

One library per customer offers free-standing support and consulting, and most organizations who take advantage of this possibility need help with SharePoint. One of them is a small consulting agency, and on my suggestion they have created one document library for each of their around 100 customers. Then consultants only need to synchronize the document libraries for the customers they work with to their computers.

The managers and consultants are happy with this selective synchronization, and work runs smoothly with the help of SharePoint and OneDrive for Business!

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

06 October 2015

Make OneDrive for Business and MySite Your Own SharePoint Site Collection

A major part of an Office 365 subscription is usually SharePoint Online. Here each subscriber has unlimited online personal file storage as part of a dedicated site collection, often called MySite. Its default document library is reached via the OneDrive for Business icon.

You can of course use that default library to store and share files and also sync them to your PC, but there are better ways to use OneDrive for Business and the MySite site collection. I am showing how in a few Tips articles in the SharePoint Online from Scratch series.
OneDrive for Business logo
What is OneDrive for Business?
The term OneDrive for Business can actually refer to two things:
  • The default MySite library, "Files" or "Documents", which is part of the root site in your MySite site collection. This library only supports a subset of the features in a regular SharePoint document library, but it is what you reach when you click on your OneDrive for Business button in the Office 365 top navigation or on the Office 365 start page.

    However, MySite cannot only be used to store an unlimited number of files. Here you can also create more SharePoint subsites and apps that get the full SharePoint functionality.
  • A range of applications that can be installed to synchronize with the "Files" library as well  as with other SharePoint document libraries. Most commonly used is the desktop application that comes installed with Office 2013 and Office 365 ProPlus, but there are also apps for iOS and Android that interact with your SharePoint document libraries in similar ways.
OneDrive v. OneDrive for Business
OneDrive and OneDrive for Business are sometimes confused, which is understandable as they have the same icon, but they are not at all the same thing. In short the OneDrive service is not built on top of SharePoint like OneDrive for Business is. Instead OneDrive is connected to your Microsoft account – not to your organizational Office 365 account – and it is not unlimited.

Upload, share and sync
SharePoint sync iconIn my first two tutorials I explain how OneDrive for Business works. I also show how to upload both single and multiple files and how to share libraries.

In the third article I show how to synchronize a SharePoint document library with a PC folder. I also explore some of the options of the OneDrive for Business desktop application.

Each user a SharePoint site collection admin
SharePoint iconIn the fourth article I show how I recommend you to use OneDrive for Business: create new libraries in the MySite site collection. Unlike the default library the new libraries have all the SharePoint library features, so they will give you more options than the "Files"  library.

In fact, adding additional apps and subsites to a MySite site collection opens up the whole range of SharePoint functionality for each user. This means that each user is an administrator of his/her own site collection, so the possibilities are actually endless.

In conclusion, OneDrive for Business gives vast possibilities, starting with the ability to use your SharePoint files when you are not online and extending to much more!

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions