Archive for the ‘Highlighter’ Category

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.

How to create a Countdown in a SharePoint list

Date:May 17th, 2011 Author: Tags: , , , , ,
Category: Highlighter, SharePoint Development, SharePoint Free Tools, Training Comments:0 ;


If you’ve got a list containing important dates (such as the above example), it’s very useful to be able to easily see how long is left before that date, or how long since it has passed. Unfortunately basing a calculated column on the current date isn’t supported by SharePoint natively, as discussed in my previous article: How to use [Today] in a SharePoint list

So how can we work around this shortcoming without having to wave signs and shout outside Microsoft’s offices? The are a few options available to us:

  • JavaScript: Use a Content Editor Web Part.
  • Designer: Create a custom view in SharePoint Designer.
  • Code: Make your own custom field type from scratch.
  • SharePoint Highlighter: Buy our custom field type.

JavaScript document_into83

Since SharePoint is so uncooperative about using the current date on the server side (i.e. with a calculated column), we can wait until the information gets to our browser and fix it there with JavaScript.

We can get JavaScript onto a page using a Content Editor Web Part, which is added just like any other web part. Christophe at Path to SharePoint has put together a script that displays the date difference on hover, that can be modified slightly to display just the countdown: Countdowns – A second method

Adding a CEWP to each page your list is displayed on can become quite arduous if it’s displayed in a lot of places. In addition to this, information in a CEWP is quite vulnerable to accidental edits, as they are accessible to any user that can edit page content.

Designer designer3013

SharePoint Designer is a free and powerful tool from Microsoft for customizing SharePoint. Unfortunately, because it can do so much, its use is often frowned upon by site administrators (and sometimes even banned).

If you’re lucky enough to be allowed to use it, then (in an unusual twist) Christophe may once again be the person to look to. In a break from his many and various JavaScript solutions he’s put together a Designer solution for this problem too: A countdown for tasks lists

As with the JavaScript solution above, the Designer changes will have to be made on each view web part you want to see the countdown on, but fortunately the changes can only be overridden by someone else using Designer, or an administrator.

Code studio63

If you already have the backbone of a custom field type coded, then adding the XSLT to display this in 2010 should be reasonably straightforward. Alternatively this can be done within the custom field type class.

If you’re using 2007, then CAML rendering unfortunately fails you here, and it’s necessary to use a JavaScript workaround in one form or another.

Creating a custom field type from scratch for this sole purpose is probably going to be remarkably costly (in terms of time). Actually making the foundations of a custom field type is a bit of an investment, but thankfully Microsoft has put together a walkthrough to at least help you get started.

The benefit of using this method is that columns created from a field type are displayed on every page without having to add any additional code to the page itself.

SharePoint Highlighter currency_dollar43

Of course, it is possible to get all the benefits of a custom field type with much less pain: Buy a commercial solution.

If you have a glance at out handy product comparison, you can see the wealth of products we managed to find that offer this functionality. So far that grand total is… One: SharePoint Highlighter.

So if you’re looking for a commercial solution it looks like we’re the only option. If you know otherwise then please do tell us; but for the time being we’ll cheerfully carry on being the front-runner in this one horse race.

How to create a SharePoint KPI column

Date:May 12th, 2011 Author: Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Category: Highlighter, SharePoint Development, SharePoint Free Tools Comments:0 ;


Whether you call it a KPI, an Indicator, or a Data Visualization Asset, the chances are that you immediately understand the purpose of the icons in the picture above. The beauty of adding icons to a list is harnessing this instant recognition to make your users work more efficiently with their data.

So how do we add icons to our list? This depends very much on how complex and configurable you want he results to be, so let me give you a run down of the options:

Do It Yourself

  • JavaScript: Do the work on the client-side with a Content Editor Web Part
  • Designer: Customise the list view using SharePoint Designer
  • Download: Download an open source Custom Field Type
  • Code: Create a custom field type from scratch

Buy It

  • Enterprise Edition: Use the Out of The Box Enterprise Edition functionality
  • Buy: Buy a pre-made Custom Field Type

JavaScript document_into8[6]

By adding a Content Editor Web Part to each page you want the icon to display on, you can add JavaScript that will insert icons once the page has been rendered.

Christophe at Path to SharePoint uses his signature HTML Calculated Column to do most of the hard work in his article: Apply color coding to your SharePoint lists. In this instance JavaScript is used solely to render the HTML correctly, as SharePoint renders the output of calculated columns as text normally.

Designer designer30

If you don’t mind spending a little time dabbling with SharePoint Designer, and you can convince your Site Administrator you’re probably not going to do anything too damaging; then Microsoft’s free tool may be the solution for you.

Toni Frankola has risked the wrath of Microsoft and written an article on how to use Designer reproduce Enterprise edition’s KPI columns without having to upgrade: Visual Indicators for the Masses: KPIs in WSS.

As with the JavaScript solution, you’ll have to make this change on every page you want to see the icons on.

Download arrow_down_green4

If you’re and end-user looking for a quick solution, or a developer interested in further developing an existing Custom Field Type, then the IconSet CodePlex project may be of interest to you.

I have enormous respect for those that donate their efforts to the community, such as the developers of this project. Unfortunately open source developers often have a day job and other commitments, so expecting rapid free support from them can be a tall order.

Code studio6

It’s entirely possible to create a Custom Field Type yourself. This is by far the most time-consuming of the options listed on this page, and hence also probably one of the most expensive. However, if you want to avoid some of the initial investment, you could use the IconSet CodePlex project mentioned above as a good starting point (or reference guide).

Fortunately, as the icons are directly rendered onto the page you can avoid the majority of the JavaScript rendering problems I mentioned in How to do list highlighting in SharePoint. If you also avoid [Today] then you can avoid some of the related trouble.

A benefit of all three of the Custom Field Type options is that the results are shown wherever the column is shown in a view, avoiding page-by-page additions.

Enterprise Edition sharepoint

SharePoint Enterprise edition allows you to add KPI information to your site, along with many other additional features. If you’re working with Enterprise edition then take a look at Mark Miller’s article: KPIs for the Masses.

Since use of this functionality is prolific and directly supported by Microsoft it’s very a good option for those that have this version of SharePoint. Unfortunately the functionality isn’t available to those working with Foundation or Standard edition.

Buy currency_dollar4

Many companies don’t have Enterprise edition, and feel that upgrading solely to use the KPI functionality is perhaps not the best use of resources. As a result, the functionality has been reproduced by a great many products (not least our own: SharePoint Highlighter).

Because we have our own product in this area, we’ve created a product comparison to demonstrate the available functionality, and associated cost.

How to use [Today] in a SharePoint list

Date:May 12th, 2011 Author: Tags: , , , , , ,
Category: Calculated Columns, Highlighter, SharePoint Development, Training Comments:0 ;


Quite frequently we see questions about using the current date to display messages on a list when a date or time is (or will soon be) overdue. Most of these queries are from frustrated users who are trying to use [Today] in a calculated column, but find it missing.

I’ll quickly outline why this option is missing from calculated columns, and hence why the notorious [Today] trick is quite so controversial. But most importantly, I’ll run you through ways to actually display the information you want.

Why is [Today] missing from calculated columns?

When we look at a SharePoint list, the vast majority of us are instantly reminded of Excel (or Grandfather Excel, if you prefer). Because of this we quite reasonably expect it to act like Excel, and hence expect it to reconsider every formula and data item on the page each time we view it.

Unfortunately because of the much larger amount of information SharePoint has to pass back and forth, it takes a different approach to updating the data items. It will only update calculated values when the related item is added or edited.

Consider SharePoint as an overworked secretary; if you ask for a file to be updated they’ll find it in the filing cabinet, update the information, and correct anything else that’s awry on the paperwork while they’re there. If you ask for all the files for people named “Smith” to be put on your desk, unless you specifically say “And update the information on every single one while you’re at it”, it’s not likely they’ll do the extra work for no reason.

Because of this change in records-keeping, Microsoft had to skip functionality that would make this lower-maintenance updating method obvious. Since having a [Today] option would cause unedited items to go out of date every day, they had to leave it out. The [Me] option was another casualty, as it would require checking the current user every time the data was displayed.

So how do we get our files updated without further flustering our imaginary secretary? There are several options:

  • JavaScript: Use a Content Editor Web Part. Also known as “Do it yourself.”.
  • Designer: Create a custom view in SharePoint Designer. “Ask the secretary really nicely”.
  • Code: Make your own custom field type from scratch. “Get your own team to do it”.
  • SharePoint Highlighter: Our own solution to the problem. “Hire an extra secretary”.

JavaScript document_into8

Of course there’s always a JavaScript solution, and this one in particular from Paul Grenier uses jQuery to help with the process. This will mean adding the jQuery libraries to your site, and it’s also necessary to add a Content Editor Web Part to each page you want the feature to work on.

A little JavaScript knowledge will probably be necessary to make it fit your requirements, and as with any code tweaking, the more you know the better the result will be.

Designer designer30

SharePoint Designer is a free and powerful (and hence often banned) tool from Microsoft for modifying your SharePoint site. Using Designer it’s possible to alter a view so that it uses Today when rendering the data on the page. This done by modifying the view’s XSLT (the template the view uses to decide what data goes where).

If you’d like a dabble to test the water of such changes, MSDN has a nice tutorial on how to get started.

However, if you already have some experience with Designer (or you’d like to just jump straight in), Greg Osimowicz has an article on using Today in XSLT to calculate holidays accrued to date (scroll down to “Below are the steps I followed:”).

Code studio6

There are a number of possible different methods to solving this problem using a custom field type. As always this comes with my standard disclaimer that developing a custom field type from scratch for a single purpose requires a disproportionate investment of time for the results.

In 2010 it’s possible to do the calculations in the custom field type class (with some light persuasion), however this is not possible with 2007 as it does not use the class to render its information on list views.

Unfortunately not even CAML can save us in this instance, as the View Schema doesn’t provide the current date in a usable form. But if you’re using 2010 you may be able to create a workaround with XSLT and Greg’s Designer XSLT solution in the section above.

The last option is to use the field type to get JavaScript onto the page instead of using a CEWP. This has the benefit that you don’t need to put the CEWP on each page, but as I mentioned in my previous article it can be very troublesome to do so: How to do list highlighting in SharePoint

SharePoint Highlighter currency_dollar4

Normally this is the section where I’d talk about the benefits of a commercial solution, and try to avoid mentioning SharePoint Highlighter too much (I might even link to our product comparison page). However, it’s very difficult to talk in general terms about commercial products on the market that have this functionality when yours is the only one that does.

So I’m not going to beat around the bush: If you want to buy a commercial solution to change your list view display based on today’s date, then SharePoint Highlighter is the only (and hence best) solution. It does much more than just this, but I’m not going to blow my trumpet too much.

If you want to see a real life problem and its solution using SharePoint Highlighter; have a look at this SharePoint Overflow question.

How to do list highlighting in SharePoint

Date:May 11th, 2011 Author: Tags: , , , , , ,
Category: Highlighter, SharePoint Development, SharePoint Free Tools Comments:1 ;


Lists can often look a little bland, and attempting to impatiently skim read them can often lead to missing important information. This is why a bit of well-placed color can really help users with their day-to-day work.

In my last post How to create a progress bar in SharePoint I covered the various methods of displaying a progress bar on your SharePoint list view. For this article I’m going to do the same for row and cell highlighting, as I’ve spent a rather considerable time wrestling with this particular feature in SharePoint Highlighter:

Client based

  • JavaScript: Put some JavaScript code into a Content Editor Web Part
  • Designer: Use SharePoint Designer to set up Conditional Formatting

Custom Field Type

  • Code it yourself: Make your own custom field type from scratch
  • Buy: Purchase a pre-made solution

JavaScript document_into8

If you need a free solution that doesn’t require farm administrator permissions, then using JavaScript in a Content Editor Web Part may be the solution for you. As always with this method, Christophe at Path to SharePoint has a great example.

Alternatively, there’s a slightly off-topic walkthrough by Boris Gomiunik which avoids having to use an HTML calculated column. It has a great deal of useful information, and would only require minor tweaking to do cell or row coloring instead of text.

The JavaScript and CEWP method should avoid having to trouble your IT department to make the change, which I’m almost certain you’ll both be happy about.

Although you’ll have to implement the CEWP on every page you want the highlighting to display (which may cause your view drop-down to disappear), you may not have to copy the full JavaScript into every CEWP, as discussed in my previous article’s comments.

Designer designer30

If you’re lucky enough to have a generous (or inattentive) IT department, you may be able to use SharePoint Designer; a free tool from Microsoft. SharePoint Designer allows you to add Conditional Formatting to your list views in a manner very similar to Excel. This has to be added to each of the views you want to see the highlighting on.

You’ll need a little time to become familiar with Designer, and to set it up for your needs, but once you have done so it can be a powerful tool. Unfortunately it is often regarded by administrators as a dangerous tool for this very reason.

There’s a useful step-by-step guide to setting up conditional formatting in SPD 2010 by Frederique Harmsze at Macaw, and a more straight-laced 2007 version on the Microsoft Office site.

Code studio6

Creating a custom field type to perform highlighting on a list view is in many ways like trying to type on a keyboard on the other side of a crowded the room with a pole (which sometimes gets stolen by the janitor if you leave it out overnight). That might be a slight exaggeration, but it is very awkward.

This is mostly because there is no way to programmatically interact with the row and cell color from server-side code (the distance across the room in my analogy). So you’ll need to get JavaScript onto the page in order to do the highlighting (the metaphorical pole).

The crowd represents SharePoint’s own JavaScript (all 0.5MB of it), which may interfere with yours; an example of this would be the use of AJAX to render Group By views.

Finally, SharePoint seems to passive-aggressively object to script elements, and silently removes them from HTML text stored in the database; the metaphorical janitor. This can be worked around by rendering using XSL (in 2010) or CAML (in 2007).

Buy currency_dollar4

If you want to avoid the unpredictable cost of time spent creating a solution, then you’re better off paying the money up front for a pre-made solution. As a bonus it won’t be you that has to test it to death or maintain and support it.

By some enormous coincidence, we happen to have recently released a product called SharePoint Highlighter that can do this kind of highlighting very easily. Of course, there are other similar products on the market, which we’ve listed on this handy comparison matrix.

How to create progress bars in SharePoint

Date:May 10th, 2011 Author: Tags: , , , ,
Category: Highlighter, SharePoint Development, SharePoint Free Tools Comments:7 ;


Progress bars are a great addition to any list; making percentage values, target achievement, and progress between dates much clearer. Having included this functionality in SharePoint Highlighter, I’ve tried and tested the various ways this can be achieved and thought I’d share my conclusions.

The main methods for getting a progress bar on your list are:

Client based

  • JavaScript: Put some JavaScript code into a Content Editor Web Part
  • Designer: Use SharePoint Designer to create a custom view

Custom Field Type

  • Free Download: Install a community-supported custom field type
  • Code it yourself: Make your own custom field type from scratch
  • Buy: Purchase a pre-made solution

JavaScript document_into

If you need a free solution that doesn’t require farm administrator permissions, then Christophe’s JavaScript progress bar may be what you’re looking for. This uses JavaScript in a Content Editor Web Part along with a calculated column to render the progress bar.

To customise this to suit your needs you need to have some experience with JavaScript. Alternatively, Christophe is very quick to respond to comments, and may be willing to help with minor tweaks or troubleshooting.

Advantages of this method are the flexibility of Christophe’s HTML calculated column, and the low cost (providing you don’t spend too long customising it). Although by far the largest advantage is that most end users will be able to implement this solution without having to contact their IT department.

The main disadvantage is having to implement the CEWP on every page you want to see the progress bar, and the need to change the JavaScript in every CEWP for any future alterations.

Designer designer

If you’re reasonably familiar with SharePoint Designer, or you’re willing to learn a little, then the Microsoft SharePoint Designer Team Blog has a good article on how to use it to create progress bars: CSS Style Bar Graphs using Data Views

The main advantage of this solution is that it is free (SharePoint Designer is a free download), not counting the cost of the time to create it of course. As with the JavaScript solution, you will need to add the modification on each page you want the progress bars to be displayed.

SharePoint Designer has a chequered history with regards to the amount of power it wields (and hence damage it can cause), and so it is unfortunately often the case that SharePoint site administrators ban or severely restrict its use.

Free Download arrow_down_green

If your requirements are quite straightforward, there are a few community supported progress bar custom columns available for download (for example this Codeplex project).

These are single-purpose additions that tend to be low on customizable options (such as conditional formatting), but are good for quickly meeting specific requirements.

These community supported progress bars are usually open source, which allows you to further develop them if you wish. The above example is an exception; being both closed-source and obfuscated. Support for community projects is unfortunately entirely voluntary, and usually forum-based.

Code studio

If you’re reading this section rather than trying to ignore it you’re probably a developer, or thinking about hiring one. I can tell you from experience that unless you have some very specific requirements or intend to re-use the code for other solutions, it will almost certainly be cheaper to buy a pre-made solution.

This is for the most part due to the rather large overhead of setting up the infrastructure of a working custom field type and the daunting learning curve associated with it. For the sole purpose of creating a progress bar, this investment of time may be disproportionately expensive.

Obviously having a vested interest in you buying our product makes my advice somewhat tainted, so I’ll refer you to the impartial words of Bjørn Furuknap on the subject:

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

If you’re brave enough to continue down this path, creating your own custom field type allows you to tailor a solution much closer to your needs, limited only by your determination and ability to think sideways. To help you on your way, there is a particularly useful MSDN walkthrough.

Although MSDN as a whole is a gold mine for such a project, there are some rather troublesome areas that are thinly documented.

Buy currency_dollar

There are a number of commercial products on the market that allow you to add visual indicators such as progress bars to lists; one in particular that springs to mind (for some reason) is our own product SharePoint Highlighter.

Many commercial solutions come with additional features that may make the purchase more worthwhile. Rather than throw marketing bullet points everywhere (Synergise ROI!) I’ll simply nod meaningfully towards this comparison matrix.

Enormous professional bias aside, the main benefits of a commercial solution in comparison to the above alternatives are: guaranteed support, more reliability, and user-friendlier configuration. Of course, the glaring disadvantage is having to spend some money up front, rather than the less visible cost of time.

Conclusion about

Each of these possible solutions caters to a slightly different problem, and there is no single right answer. Obviously if there was a single correct, reliable, unbiased answer it would be to buy SharePoint Highlighter*.

*Possibly not entirely unbiased

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 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.