Year: 2011

Passed 70-667 exam “Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Configuring”

Today, I took the Microsoft SharePoint exam “Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Configuring” (70-667), and managed to pass it within 20 minutes (50 questions) with a passing score of 950.

I’m definitely not someone with lots of SharePoint administration experience, I never managed a server on my own except for my own virtual machines, so I didn’t quite know how well I’d do in this exam. As you can see, my knowledge was really enough to pass easily.

As for my preparation, I did it mostly with two things:

  1. Reading MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-667): Configuring Microsoft SharePoint 2010 (Training Kits) by Dan Holme and Alistair Matthews, and going through most of the practice examples (skipped a lot which I’ve already done before and felt proficient enough)
  2. Practising a lot in my own SharePoint 2010 virtual machine. What I didn’t know or had never done before, I did in here. As I already did the SharePoint 2007 exams (70-631 and 70-630), there was already a lot of content that I already knew as I had practised it back then. Other things (mostly the newer stuff such as service applications, for example) I had a closer look at to be more or less well prepared (didn’t know how much this exam would different from the 2007 versions)

Opening Office documents received in Outlook Web App directly in the browser

It is now possible to view documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote) that one received through a Office 365 account (so viewing them in Outlook Web App) directly in a browser.

For example, I received an email with an attached PowerPoint presentation:
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If I now want to quickly have a look at the presentation without opening it in PowerPoint, I can simply click on Open in Browser next to the attachment to view it in the corresponding Office Web App:
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A new window pops up and shows the file in OWA, here PowerPoint:
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The big benefit of this is that not the whole file needs to be downloaded in order to see it, having a quick look at the file is much easier and faster.

New articles on MSDN about Business Connectivity Services in SharePoint Online

Finally, there’s some official information on MSDN about the Business Connectivity Services (BCS) in Office 365 (or more specifically, SharePoint Online).

The first article, Introduction to Business Connectivity Services in SharePoint Online, provides a general overview of BCS:

The second article, What’s New for BCS in SharePoint Online, provides some brief information about how developers can manipulate external data sources, or to be more specific, that this has to be done through the client object model. Some code samples are given. This information is given in the first article as well, so it’s enough to have a look at Introduction to Business Connectivity Services in SharePoint Online.

Removing “Pages” from the title in a SharePoint 2010 Publishing Page

This is going to be a very short posting, but something that I came across twice recently, so I just quickly wanted to share it.

Let’s say you’ve got Publishing activated, but when you open a page you’ve got “Pages – ” in front of the actual name of the page. For example, you have a page called Home, and when you open it your browser shows it the following way:
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When you look at your Master Page, you’ll see that the title is actually defined through a placeholder:
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Where is this placeholder replaced with the actual title? In the Page Layout that your pages are using!

Looking at the custom Page Layout that I used, I found the following snippet:
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The two important lines here are 36 & 37. Line 36 adds the list’s name (in our case, Pages), line 37 (<SharePointWebControls:FieldValue FieldName=”Title” runat=”server”/>) adds the title value of the page (so the actual title).

After I removed line 36 (and removed the dash from line 37), the pages’ titles are now displayed as I wanted them to:
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Business Connectivity Services in Office 365 – Search, Actions, Profile Pages, and User Profile Properties

For the reminder of this article I assume that you already have an Enterprise Content Type configured, if not have a look at my previous posting.

As a short reminder, with the recent Service Update to Office 365 (which some customers may still not have as it is on-going until end of November) you get 2 additional options in your Office 365 Enterprise account’s SharePoint Online administration center, namely Manage Business Data Connectivity (where you manage the BCS) and Manage Secure Store Service (where you manage the login data for these connections). In the rest of this posting I’ll work a lot in the Manage Business Data Connectivity area.

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Search
Simply said, searching external systems in SharePoint Online doesn’t work. It’s not activated, you can’t configure it. Maybe we’ll get to see it sometime in the future, but as of now you can’t search your external data.


Actions
Actions in BCS are additional options that you can add to the ECB (the small item menu that you can open when you click on the arrow next to an item). They provide you with the possibility to add a link to a URL to which you can pass information from the external item as a parameter (e.g. quite often you would pass the ID of the current item).

To add an action, select Business Data Connectivity in the administration center, select the (quite hidden) dropdown next to the ECT for which you want to create the action, and click “Add Action”.
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On the following screen, add a name and the target URL. You can specify where parameters should be placed in the URL by adding them in brackets, such as http://site/Pages/products.aspx?id={0}&cost={1}

Under URL Parameters, select the corresponding columns that provide the value that should be used for each parameter.
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Here’s an example that opens Bing Maps and display a location (my ECT contains the City and the Country of a customer). The URL I use is http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&where1={0}, {1}
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Once you click OK, the new action will show up in the overview page of the ECT under Actions:
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Note: the new action will not be displayed in any existing external lists. You need to recreate them before it shows up:
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Profile Pages
A profile page is a normal SharePoint page that shows information about a specific external item. It displays the detailed information of the item as well as any other items associated with it. Profile Pages are used for search results for external data, but as we know that Search doesn’t work for external systems in SharePoint Online, there may be little use for them. Nevertheless, here are the steps to create them:

First, create an empty site somewhere that will be used to store all Profile Pages. For example, under your team site, create a subsite called “BCS” based on the Blank Site template.

In the Ribbon on the BDC page, click on Configure in the Profile Pages group:
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In the following dialog, enter the URL to the site you created:
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Next, select the ECT for which you want to create a Profile Page, and select Create/Upgrade from the Ribbon
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Confirm the following dialog
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The Profile Page will be created, and you’ll get to see the next dialog. Confirm it
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This is where you will get an Error message. Not sure why, but everything seemed to work for me afterwards. Press the small in the top right corner
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Click on the ECT’s name and you’ll see a new action named View Profile:
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When you choose View Profile on an item in an external list, you can then see the Profile Page:
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User Profile Properties
With the “regular” BCS in SharePoint 2010, it is possible to add BCS data to a SharePoint user profile. For example, you could add a custom user profile property “Rank” that is filled with the employees rank (M17, M18, M19, for example are ranks that are used in Singapore’s banks) from an HR database.

In Office 365, you sadly cannot add external data as a user profile property at the moment. In a SharePoint 2010 environment you’d first set up the connection and then add the corresponding external data as a user profile property mapping. SharePoint Online doesn’t provide an option to configure this connection, thus it cannot be done. Just as with Search, I hope that it will be available sometime in the future.

The SharePoint 2010 Handbook–new book available

the-sharepoint-2010-handbook-vol-1-cover

 

In June this year, Paul Beck was looking for people who want to contribute a chapter to a SharePoint 2010 book created by the community. Seeing this as a good chance to share some of my experience with others, I wrote a chapter, in total we had 13 authors and thus 13 chapters.

The book was just published and is now available on Amazon.com as well!

To give you a better overview of the different chapters, here are the introductions for all of them (Links to the LinkedIn profiles taken from Veronique Palmer’s blog):

John Timney – Structuring a SharePoint 2010 Practice

SharePoint 2010 is quite simply ?nothing like SharePoint 2007?! It is vastly more scalable, significantly more complex, and hugely appealing as an information management hub. A consequence of the successful re-architecture of the product to such a strategic hub product and the core of the Microsoft tools strategy is that programmes and projects Employers and recruiters need to think carefully about the new range of planning roles and skill sets required to satisfy a successful ?end-to-end? delivery of SharePoint 2010.

Demand and salaries for SharePoint 2010 Professionals across the board have increased dramatically as organisations perform a land grab on experienced staff. They have realised that those better placed will not only weather this skills storm but also grab a host of emerging new business opportunities.

Unfortunately, few recruiters understand the complexities of delivery and the demands SharePoint brings to staffing delivery programmes or emerging Practices. Typically, neither do internal Human Resource departments. One could argue that this problem is even evident in Microsoft literature as Technet and MSDN also have little information published on how to fill this void.

This chapter seeks to address that by explaining the range of roles and skill sets required to build a successful SharePoint 2010 Practice, to plan for internal career progression and assist with staff retention.

 

Justin Meadows – SharePoint Test Environments

Test environments for most information technology professionals are a no-brainer — major system changes should be tested once, twice, even three times to provide the best possible experience to end users with little to no interruption in service. Recent virtualization technologies have made this easier than ever; one only needs to spin-up a new instance of a virtual machine and off they go with an entire SharePoint environment at their disposal.

SharePoint administrators will painfully learn, however, that this testing model does not adapt well to the componentized structure underlying a well-built SharePoint system. In this chapter we will review a few SharePoint system fundamentals, basic testing guidelines, and explore the case for building and maintaining a fully scaled test environment that is architecturally similar to an organization’s production environment. We will also discuss the justification for why an organization might choose to build more than one test environment.

Using one or more fully-scaled test environments is the only way to understand the implications of a major system change. These environments also provide a mechanism for rehearsing system changes. With such a tool at their disposal, SharePoint administrators can maintain and administer their systems with confidence.

 

Veronique Palmer – SharePoint Adoption

There is a common misconception that merely installing SharePoint makes for a successful implementation. It is how the people in the company effectively adopts the solution that is the true measure of success. Have you asked yourself how you will get the business to use the service?

Anyone can cope when there is only one table booked in a restaurant; but what happens when you are booked to capacity with a waiting list – are you geared to cope with that demand. What if you get no bookings at all? Could you explain to your investors why no-one is visiting?

SharePoint user adoption is about how to get to a full house, how to be prepared for the rush, and how to manage it once it happens.

People will not =magically’ adopt SharePoint, there are measures you need to put into place to ensure that happens. Do this correctly and you will have a very high adoption rate; and consequently good return on investment for the capital outlay of the infrastructure.

This chapter is for anyone responsible for a SharePoint implementation, whether in business or IT.

 

Jasper Oosterveld – Social SharePoint

The word =Social has become a very popular term over the last couple of years. Everyone is familiar with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These so-called Social sites attract millions of visitors per day! So how does this translate to SharePoint 2010? What Social features are available?

Social features were also available (albeit limitedly) in the previous version Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS 2007). The main feature was the My Site. This site is a personal page for every user within a SharePoint Intranet portal. The user was able to share valuable information with colleagues, such as a mobile number, e-mail address, manager or skills. Other users were able to use the MOSS 2007 search engine to find a colleague with the skill “Writing marketing material?, for example. By using these features, users were able to connect and share information with each other.

SharePoint 2010 improves on this and now more new features are available. This chapter describes these features, and how they can improve collaboration within your organisation.

 

Symon Garfield – The Art of SharePoint Success

Over the past five years, through engagements with hundreds of organisations, I’ve developed a framework for ensuring that investments in SharePoint deliv
er long term returns. This chapter is an introduction to the framework which consists of four key elements: Governance, Strategy, Transition and Architecture

 

Rene Modery – Exploring Different Options for Implementing SharePoint Solutions

An important decision to make while planning the implementation of any SharePoint solution is how exactly it should be created. Two commonly used options are leveraging the out of the box available functionality through customization in the browser and development of solutions using custom code.

SharePoint’s out of the box functionality empowers end users to create simple solutions with little effort and in a short time frame, however with a limited customization scope. Development of custom code solutions provides the most flexibility, however at a higher cost in terms of complexity and resource requirements.

Another option is to extend the standard SharePoint functionality with customizations that make use of JavaScript and the Data View Web Part. Using JavaScript has become a very popular way of extending SharePoint without having to rely on custom code. It allows users with some basic development knowledge to create their own more advanced solutions easily.

Considering all these possibilities, when evaluating the correct course to take for a solution implementation, organizations need to take into account the pros and cons of the different approaches, and weigh them against each other. This chapter will compare these approaches with each other and describe the capabilities, as well as the benefits and the drawbacks of each approach, allowing a decision maker to better understand which method is useful in which situation and choose the best option.

 

Paul Beck – SharePoint Server-based Data Storage and Data Access

This chapter guides readers through the basic storage and data access options available in SharePoint 2010 application development projects. The matching of application business requirements with the appropriate storage and data access technique is vital for achieving a successful project. We begin by contrasting SharePoint lists with SQL Server database storage. Thereafter, we shall consider using blob storage and web services for an agnostic storage provider. It is also necessary to consider the limitations of SharePoint to help better understand why particular storage strategies are preferable. Lastly, we examine various data access options that are available for server-side application development projects. SharePoint’s server-side object model is reviewed as well as LINQ, LINQ to SQL, LINQ to SharePoint, Web Services and Business Connectivity Services.

 

Suzanne George – SharePoint 2010 Automated Code Deployment

This chapter guides readers through a variety of SharePoint Code Deployment methodologies for 7×24 production intranet and internet facing farms. SharePoint farms requiring high availability often constrain and challenge the method of deployment and site administration due to customizations, full development and deployment documentation, and 100% reproducibility. In most deployments (old and new), the focus of planning and governance applies to the users and application management of power-users to ensure a deployment is successful immediately after an upgrade or new solution release. However, the same standards and planning guidelines should also apply to the SharePoint development lifecycle.

 

Conrad Grobler – SharePoint Security and Authentication Notes

SharePoint 2010 provides various options for user authentication as well as passing authentication information to external line-of-business systems. During the design and implementation of a SharePoint 2010 solution, the chosen authentication method could affect or restrict the availability of some SharePoint functionality and the options for interacting with external systems.

This chapter will discuss the different options and architectural considerations for user authentication and for further authentication to external systems.

 

Ashraf Islam – InfoPath 2010 – What is new?

This chapter is about highlighting the massive improvements incorporated in InfoPath 2010. The aim of this chapter is to provide enough information to the reader to be able to understand the products strengths and limitations. I will also review key information such as licensing that companies and decision makers must be aware of before selecting InfoPath as a form design solution.

InfoPath 2010 is fast becoming a mainstream product due to its integration with SharePoint 2010 however; it is unfortunate that there still exist some long trailing misconceptions about the product such as:

  • InfoPath web enabled forms need the InfoPath client installed on user desktop to be able to view forms.
  • InfoPath forms can only be designed in InfoPath Designer, etc.

These misconceptions will be reviewed and explained for the readers. This chapter covers points I see as being vital to implementing InfoPath SharePoint based solutions.

 

John Stover – Governance in SharePoint

Governance is one of the most popular words related to SharePoint today. For many, governance means management. Most people use ?govern? and ?manage? interchangeably. However, governance and management actually mean two different things, though they do go hand in hand.

Governance is a framework that defines strategic and goals and objectives. Governance defines who gets to make decisions, how decisions are made and how to communicate those decisions. Governance defines accountability and procedures for reconciling differences. Define governance in a documented
Governance Plan.

Management refers to the action, the processes, the editing process, and the enforcement of the Governance Plan.

Governance is worthless without management, and managing a SharePoint site without a governance strategy is trying to steer a rudderless ship. You have the tools, you have the personnel, and you will end up somewhere. But is it where you want to go?

 

Giles Hamson – Creating Dashboards using Business Connectivity Services, SharePoint Designer and other related technologies

This chapter guides readers into creating dashboards using some of the key technologies in SharePoint 2010.

Throughout my experience as a consultant, piecing together the various tutorials available on the web to achieve the dashboards Microsoft so heavily advertise alongside the SharePoint product can be daunting. This chapter aims to take you through from start to finish creating dashboards using the following areas:

  • Secure Store Service
  • External Content Types in SharePoint Designer
  • Business Connectivity Services (BCS), Business Data Catalog (BDC) permissions and actions
  • Dashboards including:
    Business Data, Filter & Excel Web Access web parts

Other technologies are available for creating dashboards within SharePoint including:

  • Reporting Services
  • PerformancePoint
  • PowerPivot
  • Visio Services
  • Chart Web Part
  • List Web Parts

These however will not be the focus of this chapter.

 

Mark Macrae – Building Business Intelligence Solutions with SharePoint 2010

Business Intelligence is an increasingly desirable commodity in the workplace. IT Managers wish to see how many support tickets are open, executives want to know how the business is doing against their key performance indicators – even I may want to see how much holiday I have remaining to use this year!

However, the answers to simple questions such as those above are rarely self-served, or answered in the timeframe you would expect. These questions often involve multiple people fishing through files or old emails, cutting and pasting figures in Excel or waiting on information to be fed through from an overseas office. Management are often frustrated that they cannot see at a glance how their department is performing without IT spending days developing a custom report, only to be re-engineered the next time the manager wants to know how his department is doing.

The solution to these common problems is a well designed and efficient business intelligence system, and a medium on which to surface dashboards tailored to the needs of the consumer. In the past, such systems have been expensive and generally aimed at the minority of users, however since Microsoft seriously entered the business intelligence market, a BI system can be implemented at an affordable price through SharePoint 2010 and its related technologies for the masses to enjoy.

This chapter explains how SharePoint 2010, and its large suite of business intelligence features, could be used to fulfil the needs of most business intelligence requirements in the workplace. We will explore the pros and cons of the feature set, and look at a couple of example use cases.

Lync and Learn – Introduction on how businesses can benefit from SharePoint Online

Online Webinar
Date/Time:
Thursday November 17th, at 11:00 AM Pacific Time. (1 Hour presentation) (click here to find out about the correct time in your local time zone)

Next week, I’ll give an introduction on how businesses can benefit from SharePoint Online. Attend my session if your organization is using Office 365 or planning to use it, and if you want to find out more about the capabilities of SharePoint Online and how businesses can leverage them.

I will guide you through the various functionalities and benefits of SharePoint Online and will demonstrate them on the basis of a sample company team site. You will get to see

  • how information can be captured and shared
  • how Microsoft Office integrates with SharePoint Online
  • how your employees can collaborate easily
  • how you can create your own custom solutions that suit your needs

No previous knowledge of SharePoint is required for this session.

Visit the official information page for more details, as well as the registration page to sign up for this online webinar.

Hope to see you there!

Free Third Party Tools we use on our Intranet Homepage

Following my session today at the Southeast Asia SharePoint Conference here in Singapore, I decided to write a brief summary on the different free third party tools (both JavaScript code and Web Parts) that we use on our intranet’s (SharePoint 2010, but also works on SharePoint 2007) homepage and on some other related sites (webcasts, news archives) and provide links to the respective sites.

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SPServices  (1)
We’re using SPServices for a few things, on the homepage we grab 3 top stories from a specific list, and “feed them” to AnythingSlider (see below) as content
URL: http://spservices.codeplex.com

AnythingSlider (1)
With the content provided from a Pages Library, we simply provide 3 different articles as content to AnythingSlider, which rotates them (animated!) within a specified timeframe
URL: http://css-tricks.com/examples/AnythingSlider/

JavaScript Poll (2)
Created by Alexander Bautz, I made a few smaller modifications to make it more suitable for our environment. Setup was done within minutes.
URL: http://sharepointjavascript.wordpress.com/2010/11/23/poll-for-sharepoint/

Flowplayer (3, used in individual webcast page)
For our webcasts, we are using Flash-based videos (.flv) and play them with the help of Flowplayer. Flowplayer allows you to easily play a Flash-video on your page, and if wanted you can do a lot of customisations (preview image, controls, autostart, .).
URL: http://www.flowplayer.org

MiniCalendar Web Part  (4)
This Web Part is available on CodePlex for both SharePoint 2007 and 2010. We had to make some smaller changes to the design (only show the days within a month, colours), so I had to update the source code a bit and recompile it.
URL: http://minicalendarwebpart.codeplex.com/

Paging Content Query Web Part (used in news archive pages)
One requirement that we had was to show paging numbers in our news archive, so that you can navigate backward and forward within the current news archive page. OOTB this is not available, but with Waldek’s web part it’s extremely easy to set up and integrate.
URL: http://blog.mastykarz.nl/sharepoint-2010-content-query-web-part-paging/
URL: http://sharepointyankee.com/2011/07/11/imtech-content-query-web-part-for-sharepoint-2010/ (I used this article by Geoff Varosky to set up our implementation, helped a lot).

My slides–Creating an Employee Engaging Intranet Homepage

Here are my slides from my session today at the Southeast Asia SharePoint Conference:

BCS in Office 365

As it was announced a few weeks ago by Microsoft, Office 365 will be able to connect to external LOB systems through BCS with the Service Update that is currently rolled out. I was eagerly awaiting to get my account updated and start testing it, also with the idea in my mind to write some articles about it.

Last week, my account was finally updated, however I didn’t have the time to test it and write about it, as I was away on a business trip, and I planned to do it all this weekend. Yesterday however, Christian Glessner (@cglessner), a German MVP, published an article that guides you through the basic steps to create a Windows Azure database (filled with the good old Northwind data), and connect it to your Office 365 account. Perfect timing, so I could actually concentrate on simply testing BCS this morning, and saved the time to write the article (no need for me to repeat what Christian has already excellently written down).

Within minutes (adding the Northwind data to the database was probably the step that took the longest), I had a working connection between my O365 acccount and my Windows Azure database!

o365-bcs