24 January 2017

The Puzzling SharePoint Title Field

SharePoint iconThe SharePoint 'Title' field has been there from the beginning, inherited from the Office applications. I have noticed that this field often is left empty in library files, which is a pity as it is important for the SharePoint search. On the other hand, if people don't use it, why have it there at all?

Today I will show how to hide the 'Title' field, but first I will give two suggestions on how to actually get data into the field instead.

Title in lists and libraries
When you create a new list item, you cannot save it until the 'Title' field has been given a value. Therefore most users learn to fill out the title field with relevant information in lists.

When you create a new file in a SharePoint library, there is however no such compulsion. On the contrary, the title field is rather hidden to users. To enter something in the title field, they actually have to edit the file properties and how many regular users do that?

SharePoint Search leading field
In SharePoint searches, the title field has the highest rank of all, so that is where SharePoint starts to search, and hits in the title comes first in the results. If the title field is empty, the file name becomes prominent. Imagine how the SharePoint library searches will work if users leave the title field empty and don't change the default file name, Document, Book or Presentation!

Change the display name
Sometimes people avoid filling out title fields, or fill them out badly, because they don't understand the meaning of the field. Therefore, the easiest solution to the title problem is to simply go into the library or list settings, open the 'Title' column and change 'Title' into something else. Use a word that is more explanatory, or rename the 'Title' column instead of adding a new column.

When you change the list column name in this way, only the name displayed to the users will be changed. The column name will still be 'Title' in flows and workflows. It works well in SharePoint lists, where something has to be written anyway and a relevant name gives relevant input.

In libraries, users might be more inclined to actually open the properties and fill out a field called 'Keywords' or something similar, but this method does not force them to do it.

Auto-fill the title
If we assume that users change the default file names when they create new files in SharePoint libraries, it is possible to let a workflow add the same text as in the file name to the 'Title' field. The solution is not optimal, but it is better to have the file name in the title field than having it blank. This workflow is also useful if you want to add titles to a lot of files where the field is empty.

Hide the title
As a last resort, you can create a new document content type where the 'Title' field is hidden. I would only do this when the 'Title' field is not used or is repeatedly filled out in the wrong way. In a new article in the Tips section, I have described how to hide the 'Title' field, and you can also see it in the demo below.

I have created multiple articles and demos where I have stressed the importance of using metadata. This new demo does not mean that I back away from that, but in special cases, when SharePoint Search is not important, hiding the 'Title' field can be the best option.

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

18 January 2017

Auto-Creation Of SharePoint Project Site Collections

SharePoint icon The team has recently finished a custom SharePoint project that gave us good experience and a very flattering testimonial. I will describe it here, because I think that many more organizations would benefit from our solution for automated creation and configuration of site collections.

Randek is a Swedish company that delivers high performance woodworking machinery to house manufacturers all over the world. The company runs large and long projects for their customers, and they contacted to have assistance with their project management system.

Before they started to use our solution, Randek created a subsite for each project and configured it manually. This is of course a time-consuming method that is prone to errors, so they wanted our help to develop a solution that automates and improves the current system.

I will let Marcus Englund, Software Developer at Randek, explain the situation, so I quote from the testimonial you can find in full on the Services page:

Randek icon"The goal was to automate the creation of SharePoint project sites that will be used by Randek personnel as well as consultants and customers. The project sites act as a collaborative platform for our often long and work intensive projects."

After a workshop where we got to know Randek's situation and heard their requests and suggestions, we offered a solution that worked as the Randek people had intended, but with a few enhancements.

For example, it is easier and more user-friendly to enter information in a SharePoint list than at a script prompt, so we suggested that a SharePoint list should be used instead of a script. Then a script could get the parameters from that list.

"The project became both a development project as well as an education in SharePoint and project management."

Kanban TaskManager for SharePoint iconThe solution we offered, auto-creates a site collection for every new project entered in the SharePoint list. Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint is installed in a subsite to each site collection, so that the Randek staff can manage the tasks connected to the project in an efficient manner.

The configuration of these sites is of course also automatic and builds entirely on Randek's requests. When the solution came into place, Randek changed some of these requests to make the solution work better.

This is something we are used to in custom projects, because it is difficult for a customer to take everything into consideration from the beginning. Sometimes we can do such changes quickly, while other changes take more time.

"The team has given progress updates on almost a daily basis, and the collaboration has been excellent. As the project developed some issues occurred, and the flexibility of the team to adapt to new demands has been perfect. The final product is all that we asked for and more."

PowerShell iconChanging systems is never easy, but we included migration services in the offer: a manual/scripted migration of existing information from subsites to the new structure. For Randek this was a smooth operation, and they could quickly start working with the new system without any disturbances for their customers.

"We can, without hesitation, recommend Peter Kalmström and his team to anyone in need of SharePoint development, and although there is a significant distance between our companies we have, throughout the project, always felt as if the team has been very close through chat-sessions, Skype calls and emails."

The site creation application we created for Randek is automatic, correct and easy to use, and we are all happy that the customer is satisfied with it. We can also honestly return the praise and say that working with Marcus Englund and Randek was a positive experience not only from a development point of view. My colleagues and I also got to know some nice new people!

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

11 January 2017

SharePoint Online Exercises - New Book Released

SharePoint Online Exercises Cover Learning by doing – we are many who consider actually doing things is the best way to learn. That was my starting point when I wrote my latest book, SharePoint Online Exercises.

Student exercises
I have been a SharePoint teacher for many years, and I have often given my students practical problems to solve. I might for example ask them to create a phone messages app that receptionists could use instead of handing out yellow post-it notes to people who had been unavailable.

After an introduction the students tried themselves, and to their help they had suggestions with step-by-step instructions. Working this way, the students did not only learn how to create a phone messages app for SharePoint. That was not even the primary goal! The purpose of the exercise was instead to let the students try many useful SharePoint features and techniques in the process of solving the exercise.

Step by step
It was when I saw how much my students appreciated the step by step instructions that I decided to create SharePoint Online Exercises. Among all exercises I have chosen twelve, which together cover many important SharePoint areas. I had good help from my mother Kate and from General Manager Rituka Rimza. As usual our Lead QA Vijayant Rimza created the book cover.

We adapted the exercises for SharePoint Online, as Microsoft's cloud platform is becoming increasingly popular, but I hope students with on-premise editions of SharePoint will also find them useful.

Video demonstrations
YouTube iconEach exercise in SharePoint Online Exercises has a link to a Tips article with a video demonstration. In the demonstration I show a similar project as the one described in the step by step instruction, which gives another dimension to the exercise.

Use with SharePoint Online from Scratch
My earlier SharePoint book, SharePoint Online from Scratch, give a more thorough and detailed description of Office 365 SharePoint, and it has a careful progression from easy to complicated. SharePoint Online Exercises does not have the same dept, but if you study both books you will have a more varied learning process.

Kindle and paperback on Amazon
Peter Kalmström on Amazon.comBoth books are sold at Amazon, just like my first book, Excel 2016 from Scratch, and all three are available as both e-book and paperback and included in the Kindle Matchbook program. On the website you can see presentations of all three books and also have previews of the Kindle versions.

I like recording demos and writing books, so SharePoint Online Exercises will not be my last one!

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

10 January 2017

Kanban Task Manager With New Design and E-mail Management

Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint logotypeKanban Task Manager is the most popular product among new subscribers, so it evidently serves its purpose well even as it is today. But Kanban Task Manager also has great development potential, so in 2017 we plan to enhance Kanban Task Manager in several ways. Both the Outlook and the SharePoint editions will have a new look and be easier to work with when there are many tasks on the kanban board, and we will also include better e-mail management.

New design
We have understood that the current  kanban board design is not optimal for big teams with many open tasks and projects. Therefore we have already begun working on a total re-design of the kanban board, with smaller and clearer kanban cards. We have also moved the filter options to a left pane, to make better use of the vertical space. The image below shows the new design of the SharePoint editions, and the Outlook editions will have a similar look.
Kanban Task Manager Current Development
E-mail management
Another idea will require more research and longer development time: we want to add an e-mail management feature to the SharePoint editions of Kanban Task Manager. With such an enhancement, organizations can handle e-mail conversations on the kanban board, all the way from the initial issue report to the final closing of the ticket. This way Kanban Task Manager can be used for issue tracking and user support as well as for projects management.

Kanban Task Manager for Outlook Convert iconThe Outlook editions of Kanban Task Manager already have a "Convert e-mail" button, and so here we only have to make the e-mail conversion automatic to get a good function.

For the SharePoint editions we have to add an e-mail feature. E-mail management is already possible if you combine one of the Kanban Task Manager SharePoint editions with our product HelpDesk OSP, but we can do better.

Add-in enhancements
There are currently two SharePoint editions of Kanban Task Manager: a sandboxed solution and an add-in. There are some differences, but we plan to enhance the add-in edition so that it works more like the sandboxed solution. At the same time we will of course keep the add-in advantages, like the easier installation.

We want to move more of the functionality to the host web, thus avoiding the problems of cross-site scripting. That will remove the need for having a special edit form, which we currently have in the add-in edition. It will also make the 'My Tasks' embedding work better in the add-in edition.

The only thing we cannot change is the support for SharePoint 2010. Only the sandboxed solution of Kanban Task Manager supports that version, because Microsoft did not introduce add-ins (or apps, as they were called at that time) until SharePoint 2013.

The whole team is looking forward to the development of new Kanban Task Manager versions, and I hope you are looking forward to using them!

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

04 January 2017

Yoga, Cooking, Sketching And Road Trips - Meet New Developer

Really good developers are curious, imaginative and open-minded, and I have found that these qualities often go hand in hand with having other interests than programming. Today I have the pleasure to introduce one of these multi-talented people: our new Software Developer: Abhishek Sharma. Below Abhishek tells his story.

IT Career
I completed my Bachelor of Technology in 2012, but gaining knowledge is useless if we don't use it, so I started my professional career. I worked with technologies like WPF, MVC, ASP.NET, JavaScript and SQL Server, which helped me to polish my programming skills.
Abhishek Sharma photo
Eager for challenges
Sugar is not the only taste of survival, and it is the same with programming. I am always eager to try new things and explore new logics that carry out difficult tasks in a simple way. Finding something challenging beyond my experience makes me happy, because that way I can raise myself one step further and eventually the challenge seems smaller than nothing.

Coding is not my sole interest. I love to sketch, dance and photograph – and to help my mother in her cooking. I know she doesn't need it and never even wanted it, but  I still always try to do some "Abhishek special" to take over all credits from my mother.
Sai Baba of Shirdi

Indian spiritual master 
In the sketch above, I have tried to depict Sai Baba of Shirdi. He was an Indian spiritual master, regarded by his devotees as a saint, fakir or satguru. सांईं means Sai and is written with Hindi letters.

The other word, ॐ, stands for a mantra that sounds like "Om" or "Aum". It is written in the ancient Indian language Sanskrit, and its meaning is beyond explanation. But you can feel it! Sit straight with your body and mind relaxed, and take a slow deep breath. Then start chanting the mantra, and you will feel the effect it creates on mind and body.
Abhishek Sharma photo
Road trips 
Another thing I like, is to make adventurous road trips with friends. At one occasion we covered more than 700 km in single day on bikes. It was in the middle of the winter, and the visibility was less than 10 meters.

Some people said it was foolish and dangerous, but my reply was: "It might be dangerous for one or two persons, but it was worth living the moment with a group of friends I trusted." That trip taught me that we can achieve something unexpected when we work as a team, no matter how bad the situation gets.

PowerShell scripts
PowerShell iconDuring the two months I have been working with the team, I have been involved in a couple of PowerShell projects, directed by Peter Kalmström and our Lead Developer Jayant Rimza.
I created PowerShell scripts for automatic e-mail notifications and for automatic installation and upgrade of SharePoint sandboxed solutions.

Kanban Task Manager
Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint logotype I also worked on the My Tasks app part, which is included in our popular Kanban Task Manager SharePoint Add-in. There I used client side scripting language. gave me a chance to explore new logics to satisfy our customer requirements, and I believe I will meet their expectations in the future.

Abhishek Sharma
Software Developer Business Solutions

02 January 2017

SharePoint Plans After Brainstorming

SharePoint iconEveryone in the team wishes customers and other blog readers a prosperous and happy 2017. Our world is not exactly peaceful, but each one of us can try our best to bring harmony within our own family and work area and aim for future enhancements of both. Today I will share some plans for my work area, Business Solutions.

Valuable visit to India
In December I visited the Indore office and discussed future development with the team there, and now, at the beginning of a new year, it is a good time to disclose some results of our brain-storming sessions.
At Indore office
I am surrounded by ingenious people, and subscribers to our products often contact us with enhancement suggestions, so we never lack plans for the future. To be honest I must admit that I have a few ideas myself too – my mother Kate sometimes complains that they are too many!

From all suggestions, we have now agreed on a few areas where we will make an extra effort. Not surprisingly, most of them involves SharePoint and the SharePoint solutions.

PowerShell iconCustom site creation
Automating SharePoint Online with PowerShell is a growing part of our work with custom projects. Creating client, project or department sites in a structured way has been the focus of a range of custom solutions in 2016, and this year we will continue to build on those experiences.

Templates Manager with auto fill and categorization
Templates Manager for SharePoint icon We have a lot of ideas regarding Templates Manager for SharePoint. Right now Templates Manager makes it possible to distribute Office templates to the whole organization by clicking on a button. The solution also helps users to find the right template, both when they work in a SharePoint library and when they create documents in their PCs.
Word 2013 icon          PowerPoint 2013 icon          Excel2013 icon
That sounds like a lot already, but we will not rest on our laurels. In the near future, we hope that Template Manager will also help with filling out content in the documents as well as categorizing them automatically.

SharePoint Online Exercises coverNew books
During the last months you might have seen that we have published several new Tips articles in the Office 365 from Scratch series. These are a preparation for the new book I am writing: Office 365 from Scratch. It will be published on Amazon as e-book and paperback, but not yet! There is still a lot to polish. In the meantime, I hope to release SharePoint Online Exercises very soon.

New website design
The website has served us well for many years, but it is not fully responsive and looks a bit old-fashioned. As you know it has a lot of pages, so it is not an easy task to modernize it, but we will start the process now in January.

Last but not least we have big plans for Kanban Task Manager, but this is so much that it deserves its own blog post. Keep a lookout, if you are interested in our tasks and projects management application for Outlook/SharePoint!

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions