Author Archive

SharePoint Pivot Charts and Pivot Tables with New PivotPoint v2

Date:July 8th, 2011 Author: Tags: ,
Category: General, PivotPoint Web Part Comments:0 ;

Eagerly awaited v2 of PivotPoint web part for SharePoint is now available for you to try, or buy.

We think you’re going to like this one.

Some of you will be familiar with PivotPoint already; it lets you summarize complex SharePoint list data by creating Pivot Tables.  These update dynamically, as your list data changes. So they are great to use in dashboards for things like keeping an eye on how sales are going, keeping tabs on how your helpdesk is performing, seeing who’s taking way too much sick leave.

People in the finance sector and statisticians have always been really keen on PivotPoint; they understand how useful Pivot Tables are and feel right at home looking at rows of figures all day.  For the rest of us  a nice colourful chart tends to make things easier to understand at a glance, so that’s what we have added to PivotPoint version 2.

As well as creating Pivot Tables, which are linked directly to your SharePoint list data and therefore update automatically as your list data changes, you can also create Pivot Charts, which are also linked directly to the list.  You can choose bar charts, line charts, column charts, funnels, pies – the world’s your oyster!  Color code as you wish, and if you want the visualisation and the detail you can display a chart and a table together.

Another advantage of having the web part directly connected to the list is that we have been able to include drill down, from the chart or table, to a filtered view of the list.  So for example when I am looking at my “Sales by Product, This Month”, chart, I will be able to hover over the enormous, sky rocketing column which represents this month’s sales for PivotPoint version 2, click on it, and go directly to a list view showing just the sales records for all the people who have bought PivotPoint this month – how cool is that?

The new version also has other handy features, like export to excel, so that you can do more analysis on your figures if needed, and easy printing, because we know SharePoint generally isn’t all that print friendly.

If you are an existing customer you can upgrade to v2 without disrupting any of your existing settings.

If you’re not a customer yet, well what are you waiting for?  Take a free trial and see what your SharePoint deployment is missing!

SharePoint Highlighter New Version Release with improved Performance

Date:July 1st, 2011 Author: Tags: ,
Category: Highlighter Comments:0 ;

We have just released v1.3.8 of SharePoint Highlighter.SharePoint Highlighter Features

As well as fixing a couple of little bugs, the main advantage of the new version is improved speed and performance.

When we released Highlighter we had looked at its performance on very long lists, ensuring even with number of Highlighter’s visual enhancements applied long lists still loaded and refreshed quickly.

But when we thought about how people would use Highlighter we envisaged them using maybe 2 or 3 Highlighter columns on a list, certainly no more than 10.

What we have found is that quite a number of customers are using far more Highlighter columns on one list than we had ever expected – over 20 in some cases. Having this many Highlighter columns applied to the list was slowing things down.

So for the new release we have worked on performance, so that now you can use just about as many Highlighter columns as you wish on one list and still maintain good levels of speed and performance.

You can download the new version of Highlighter here.

For those of you who, like use, are wondering how you could possibly use over 20 Highlighter columns on one list, the examples we have seen so far seem to be around multiple status indicators. Next week Stuart will post an example use case, showing the kind of scenario where multiple Highlighter columns might be sueful.

SharePoint Calculated Column Cheat Sheet

Date:May 19th, 2011 Author: Tags: ,
Category: Calculated Columns, SharePoint Ideas Comments:13 ;

Calculated columns are a really useful feature of any SharePoint list.

Whether you want to automatically show the profit on a sale, or the financial year that a date falls in to, or tidy up sloppy user input by capitalising names.  There is a lot you can do it with a Calculated Column.

But remembering the formulas and functions needed is not always easy, especially before the first coffee of the morning.  I know there is a way to get rid of the decimal places on a number but is it TRUN, or TRUNC, or TRUNK – oh no, hang on, that last one is just to do with elephants!

So, over the years we’ve gathered together a quick reference of some of the most commonly used functions and formulas – stuck on a wall above the desk it saves a lot of time and head scratching.  We’ve found ourselves sending it to clients from time to time, and they seem to find it quite handy too.

So we decided to tidy it up – clean off the coffee stains and make a nice PDF of it – and make it available to download, free – yes that’s right, FREE!

So why not download our free Calculated Column Cheat Sheet and save yourself some time and headaches?  This easy 3 page reference sheet gives you a selection of commonly used calculated column formulas, along with a pretty thorough reference of most of the functions and operators you are likely to need in your day to day work.

Download, print, stick it on the wall, and we hope you find it as handy as we do!

Simple SharePoint workflow use case with SharePoint Reminder – Invoice Approvals

Date:May 19th, 2011 Author: Tags: , , ,
Category: General, SharePoint Ideas, SharePoint Reminder Comments:0 ;

Simple SharePiont Workflow - Invoice ApprovalSharePoint Workflows are one of the magic parts of the solution – the bits when even the most cynical and sceptical end user gets to see the benefit.

Instead of emails and bits of paper flying round your organization, getting lost, forgotten and falling between the cracks, everything is managed and driven centrally by SharePoint.

There are a whole load of scenarios where you could use workflows:

SharePoint can handle all of these processes seamlessly and automatically.  Seeking appropriate approvals, escalating, notifying, referring back and reminding as needed, whilst keeping all documentation secure in one central location.

So, that’s the upside.  The downside is that to create a SharePoint workflow you need to use either SharePoint Designer or Visual Studio.  Whilst SharePoint Designer isn’t all that hard to master it is a very powerful tool and capable of doing serious damage in the wrong hands, for this reason many organizations keep it looked firmly away from most users.  Visual Studio on the other hand really is hard to master – strictly for the mega-brains in your IT department.  So this means that cooking up a bit of Workflow magic out of the box is out of the question for most SharePoint users.

The alternative is to use SharePoint Reminder to create your SharePoint workflows. Using SharePoint Reminder and some clever filtered list views you can easily create multi stage workflows to cover any of the scenarios listed above.

This use case walks you through how to create a 2 stage supplier invoice approval workflow, using SharePoint Reminder and a standard SharePoint document library.

Reminder only drives simple workflow, it doesn’t have the advanced logic of SharePoint OTTB Workflows and it won’t do things like automatically updating lists or other systems.  But for a lot of your day to day processes, you might find that it does just what you need.

Download SharePoint Reminder


SharePoint Highlighter Released for Sale – See it, Try it, Buy it!

Date:May 6th, 2011 Author: Tags: , ,
Category: General, Highlighter, SharePoint Ideas Comments:0 ;
At last we are there!

After months of heated debate, midnight-oil-burning and general blood, sweat and tears, our latest new product, SharePoint Highlighter is released for sale today!SharePoint Highlighter Features

So come on, what are you waiting for? Get those credit cards out! You know you can’t do without the ultimate tool-kit for brightening up your SharePoint lists!

We realise that although Highlighter has been the centre of our universe for the last few months, some of you may have had other things to think about.  So, in case you have forgotten Highlighter is a custom column for SharePoint that lets you add:

  • Highlighting,
  • Color coding
  • Icons
  • Progress bars
  • Countdowns
  • And more

Let’s face, it compared to a lot of things we look at on our screen every day – things like the Facebook Wall, or a Google Search, or even an Outlook Calendar – a SharePoint list can look pretty dull.  You can easily find yourself staring at a mass of information, wondering “What is exactly is going on here?”, and “What on earth am I supposed to do with this?”

So Highlighter gives you a whole box of tricks to brighten up those lists and libraries, and make them much more user friendly.

You might choose to highlight high priority items in red on an issues list.

Or flag unpaid invoices by color, depending on just how old they are.

Or use color coded progress bars to show where you are in relation to your KPI’s or targets.

Or countdown to a task or event due date.

The possibilities are endless and with Highlighter you have a whole range of visual indicator options, allowing you to mark up your lists exactly as you want them.

We set ourselves two challenges when developing Highlighter:

  • Give people flexibility, a choice of options within one product.
  • Keep it simple, and easy to use.

We looked at what was on the market already and we found that although you can buy a progress bar, or a color coding column, or a KPI column for SharePoint, there isn’t anything out there that gives you a whole bundle of these options, all in one tidy product.  In fact, to get all the features you will find in Highlighter from anywhere else you would have to go to at least 3 different software providers – and pay more than double the money. 

So we think we are there with the flexibility, but what about ease of use – don’t all these choices make for a really complicated set up interface?

Well, hopefully not.  The really complicated (and powerful) bit is there, in our “Advanced Rules” section, but lots of people will never have to use this.  We have spent time developing the user interface, making it intuitive, so that lots of scenarios are actually set up semi-automatically.  When you use the software you will see that what you want to achieve can often be managed in just a few clicks.

So, what’s this all going to cost then?  Well just $995 for a single server license.

Plus, of course our 30 day free trail, which will give you plenty of time to see just how handy Highlighter is.

We hope you will give the product a try, and look forward to hearing your feedback.

Download the 30 Day Free Trial Today.

SharePoint Highlighter – Beta Testers Needed!

Date:April 15th, 2011 Author: Tags: ,
Category: General, Highlighter Comments:0 ;

We’re very nearly there – a couple more weeks and with a fair wind and a bit of luck SharePoint Highlighter should be ready for full public release (i.e. the bit where we actually get to charge people for using it!).  But first we need some Beta Testers.

Public Beta testing is the last and maybe the most important stage of the product testing process.  This is where we get to find out how people are really going to use the software. Whether we have got it right – or not, nerve-wracking doesn’t really cover it.

So we really want you to get involved.

Let me just remind you what SharePoint Highlighter does.

It’s a custom column for SharePoint that lets you add highlighting, color coding, icons, progress bars, countdowns, dynamic highlighting and more to your SharePoint lists.  We think it’s probably the only SharePoint tool on the market that has all this in one easy to use package.

And it really is easy to use now.  Our final stages of in house testing saw us making some changes to the user interface, which mean that for the great majority of highlighting you may want to do, you will be able to use our new “automatic” button, and set things up in just a few clicks, and a few seconds.  Whilst for those who want to do something a bit more fancy the full power of Highlighters “Advanced” options are just a click away.

So, why be a beta tester?  Well you get to be one of the first to play with a brand new SharePoint tool and try to break it. We’ll be really grateful, and we’ll give you a nice discount when the product is released for sale – and it’s fun!

But beta testing isn’t for everyone.  There isn’t a full manual yet, so you need to know your way around SharePoint reasonably well.  The software is still in development so there may still be bugs.  You should never install a beta on a live SharePoint environment; you need a test or development server to play.  And we will be looking for lots of feedback, so you are going to need some time to play with the product.

So, now you’ve had a look at all the warning signs, if you still think beta testing is for you we would be really grateful for your help.  You can download the beta here.

If beta testing doesn’t sound like your kind of thing you can still pre-register here for the full public release, which we expect to have ready for you at the beginning of May.

SharePoint Charting in PivotPoint – Coming Soon!

Date:April 13th, 2011 Author: Tags: ,
Category: General, PivotPoint Web Part Comments:0 ;

I am sure you have noticed that there is a lot going on here at Pentalogic lately.  Just a couple of months ago we launched FilterPoint, which brings fast, flexible filtering to SharePoint lists and web parts.  Then we unveiled SharePoint Highlighter which gives you a whole range of color coding, icons and effects to brighten up your lists.  And our new free tool View Rescue sorts out an annoying niggle for SharePoint 2010 users.

But we haven’t forgotten our existing products.  Feature requests for Planner, Reminder and PivotPoint come in from customers all the time and new versions of all 3 are planned for the coming months.

First off the blocks is PivotPoint with the new version out by May.  We are very excited about this and we hope you will be too.

PivotPoint v2 includes a host of handy new features like drill down form the Pivot table to relevant list items, the handy “Add New” button which Planner users will be familiar with at the bottom of the display, and charts and graphs.

The charting and graphing functionality will mean that you will be able to choose to view bar, line, pie. Column and area charts as well, or instead of the traditional Pivot table.

We think that this is really going to bring dashboards to life – imagine your Sales Team being able to view “Sales to Date” as a dynamic color bar chart, generated straight from the SharePoint list?  Or the Helpdesk viewing a pie chart of current open requests by status, or age?

We have always thought PivotPoint was pretty nifty:  it’s the only tool we know of that applies Pivot Table, or Cross Tabulation functionality directly to SharePoint lists.  But as they say, a picture speaks a thousand words (or in this case should it be numbers?) and we think that when you see the charts PivotPoint can produce directly from SharePoint lists, you are going to wonder how you ever managed without it.

PivotPoint v2 will be available in the next few weeks.  For immediate notice of the release subscribe to the blog RSS feed, or email me at: clare.stone@pentalogic.net

SharePoint Reminder and Upgrading to 2010

Date:April 11th, 2011 Author: Tags: ,
Category: SharePoint Reminder Comments:0 ;

We have noticed that lots of you seem to be upgrading to SharePoint 2010 now.  And lots of you are asking what you need to do to upgrade Reminder.

We know the whole process of upgrading your whole SharePoint installation to a new SharePoint version can be quite stressful.  So we have put some work in to trying to make the bit of that upgrade that relates to Reminder as simple and painless as possible.

We have put together a step-by-step guide to painless Reminder upgrading, which you can see here.

In summary:

  • If you hold a commercial license for SharePoint Reminder there will be no charge for moving to 2010, unless you are adding additional servers to your installation.
  • You should be able to move to 2010 without losing any of your existing Reminder settings.
  • If you are moving to a new server we may need to issue you a new license key, there will be no charge for this as long as you are de-commissioning your old server.

Read the full guide to a smooth Reminder 2010 upgrade here.

And if you have any questions or queries please do let up know.

Use SharePoint Reminder to Email Your Customers

Date:April 4th, 2011 Author: Tags: , ,
Category: General, SharePoint Reminder Comments:0 ;

We all know how great SharePoint Reminder for sending internal reminders and driving simple workflow. But have you tried it yet for managing the bits of your processes that happen outside of your organization? Sending emails to customers, suppliers or other contacts who are not members of your SharePoint deployment, or even members of your organization.

This is really easy to do and there are lots of places you might use this. Let’s look at some of the issues you’ll need to bear in mind.

General Tips

When you are sending emails to people outside your organization you need to ensure that:

  • you can actually send external emails from SharePoint
  • the email comes with a recognizable “from” label.
  • any replies go to an address where they will be dealt with.
  • don’t send a hyperlink to the list item in your email

inbox from

First,  to be sure that your STMP server allows relaying to outside addresses then you may want to use the diagnostics tool to send a test email to a private email address. – http://www.pentalogic.net/sharepoint-products/reminder/reminder-manual?p=configurationtool%2Fdiagnostics.htm

When sending emails to people outside your organization you will want to make sure that what shows up in the inbox is recognizably from you.  You don’t want your customers getting emails from “SP2010 Intranetxyz”, or some other random label. SharePoint automatically labels outgoing emails with the name of the site or subsite they have come from.  So for this example we are going to set up a sub site called “Locks and Latches CS” so that all of our emails to customers and suppliers will be clearly identifiable as coming from Locks and Latches Customer Services.

config reply toWhen a customer or other external contact replies to your email it’s important that that reply gets routed to an address where a real person is going to read it and deal with it.  You can write “please contact service@zyz.com in the body of your email until you are blue in the face – but you can be sure that a good percentage of customers who want to reply to you are just going to ignore that and click on “Reply”.  By default SharePoint will route all replies to emails it has generated to one central address – one address for the whole SharePoint deployment.  This address typically gets lots of mail, and often doesn’t get very closely monitored, so in Reminder we have the ability to override that and specify a “Reply To” address for each Reminder you set up.  For this example we are going to have all replies go to customer.services@locksandlatches.com.  If in your own set up particular people are responsible for their own order you might choose to have replies going to the person who created the order record “Created By” or maybe the account manager for that customer “Assigned To”.  The main thing is that you ensure replies go to an email address which is monitored, and where they will be responded to.

include HyperlinkDon’t send out dead end links or useless information. Both SharePoint’s built in Alert Me feature and SharePoint Reminder send out a hyperlink to the relevant list item in the alert/Reminder email by default.  If you are sending emails to external contacts this link will very likely be of no use, as the contact probably won’t have permissions to view your SharePoint site.  In SharePoint out of the box alerts you can’t customize your alert emails, but in Reminder you can, so when sending emails to an external contact remember to uncheck the “Include Hyperlink” box.

Reminder Set Up

order conf email edit email

In this example we have used Reminder to send an email to a customer each time a new order is received.  The set up of a Reminder when sending an external email is really much the same as the set up of any other Reminder.order received config

In this example Reminder is set to watch our orders list.  It’s set to watch the “Order Received” column, and email the address in the “customer email” column when “Order Received” is “Due Today”  – or equal to today.  Reminder is checking the list every hour, which means customers should get a confirmation email within an hour of their order being received.

Because “customer email” is simply a text field, and not recognized by SharePoint as containing an email address you will need to check the “Show all fields” box.

Customize your emails with merge data from your list, just as you would with a Word Mail merge.

And away you go, SharePoint Reminder emails for your customers.

Where Else Might I Use This?

There are loads of places where you could use this with customers, suppliers or other external contacts:

  1. delivery notification emails for customers
  2. overdue invoice emails for customers
  3. stock re-order emails for suppliers.
  4. meeting reminders for contacts.

to name but a few.

And if you have other examples of using Reminder to send emails to external contacts we would love to hear them.

reminder-download

SharePoint Highlighter – new product, coming soon.

Date:March 16th, 2011 Author: Tags:
Category: General, Highlighter Comments:0 ;

We are delighted to be able to let you know that we are about to add a new member to our family of SharePoint products.

Highlighter will let you bring your SharePoint lists to life with:

  • Highlighting – duh!
  • Color coding
  • Icons
  • Progress bars
  • Countdowns
  • And more …

Why did we feel the world needed SharePoint Highlighter you may ask? Well, SharePoint lists can be a little dull on the visual side. As people get more are more into dashboarding, finding ways of picking out different bits of information easily becomes ever more important.

When we looked at what’s on the market already we realised that though there are quite a few products that will give you one highlighting option – say progress bars, or KPI columns, or some kind of icon, there didn’t seem to be anything out there that would give users flexibility and choice in how they mark up their lists. So we thought we’d have a go.

After all how hard could it be?

“Looking back I think it would have been easier, and less painful, to eat my own eyes.”

Bjørn Furuknap

I’m quoting Bjorn because he kind of became our hero during the product development process. The problems challenges fell into three main areas.

First there was the inevitable SharePoint issue. Everything looks simple on the surface. The examples given look straightforward, then you start digging into SharePoint’s dark and dusty undocumented corners and everything suddenly becomes a lot less clear. Once you get in to custom columns you are heavily into uncharted waters. Which basically means you don’t know what you don’t know – and neither does anyone else. There is very little reliable information around on this area, so we do owe a debt of gratitude to Bjorn Furuknap,his blog and his excellent book: “Building the SharePoint User Experience” (APRESS). Rare beacons of light in our darkest hours!

The second challenge was narrowing down our options. There were so many things we could have put into Highlighter – bells, whistles, flashing lights, Unicorns. The temptation to make it all singing, all dancing was almost overwhelming. But we had to resist. If we had put everything we wanted to in it a) it would have been totally unmanageable, and b) we wouldn’t have released in until 2099. So we narrowed it down to the features that we thought would be most useful. The rest remains on our private list of “Shiny Things” possibly for future releases, depending on how many customers say that really need to have unicorns prancing through their lists!

And finally there was the user interface challenge. Though we have been quite strict with ourselves in terms of the number of features we have put in, Highlighter still does some pretty fancy stuff. So keeping the user interface simple and intuitive was always going to be interesting. What we wanted to avoid was presenting users with so many options at the outset, that they just ran away screaming. What we have come up with is an interactive interface – almost a “wizard” (but definitely not a helpful paperclip!) We think it is pretty easy to use and we hope you will agree.

Highlighter is a bit of departure for us, it’s not a SharePoint web part, it’s a custom column. Every time I go to switch it on I have to remember not to “add a web part” to the page, but to add a column to the list instead. I am a mere marketer and my feeble brain struggles with such changes in routine!

And the other first for Highlighter is that it’s a first as project lead for our new developer Stuart Pegg – new job, new project, new area of SharePoint – we really believe in trial by fire for our people! But Stuart has come through with flying colors and a great product that we think you are going to love.

Highlighter is now in the final stages of testing and will be available in public beta in the next few weeks.

We are inviting you to pre-register for the free trial now – which will mean you will be one of the first to get the product and will qualify for our product launch discount.