Archive for the ‘SharePoint Ideas’ Category

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.

What is SharePoint?

Date:February 22nd, 2011 Author: Tags: , ,
Category: General, SharePoint Ideas Comments:0 ;

What is SharePoint?

How often do we get asked this question?

And how difficult is it to find a sensible answer?

There are really helpful diagrams like this one:

Are you any the wiser after looking at that?

Then suddenly we find ourselves spouting all manner of pompous business waffle: “extensible collaboration platform”, “business process automation solution”, “enterprise search capabilities” – oh dear!

And Mr Ballmer from Microsoft is prone to get lost in just the same quagmire of incomprehensible verbosity:

Hmmm . . . not sure that “kind of magical” is going to really enlighten our clients a whole lot!

So we were delighted when we came across this – also from Microsoft incidentally, which actually does explain SharePoint – in plain English:

We really liked that one and feel it gives a good overview of SharePoint for anyone who is new to this “kind of magical” bit of Software.

But for us old hands in need to a bit of light relief – how about this one:

Good for a laugh even if you don’t speak Russian.

And we have a prize for the first person to send us an English translation of the script.

SharePoint and Access: Power to the People

Date:February 2nd, 2011 Author: Tags:
Category: General, SharePoint Ideas Comments:0 ;

SharePoint and Access cater for an essential part of every organisation: the Power User. Whether it’s a full-time SharePoint Architect, or Jeff who’s “Good With Spreadsheets”; both can make use of these tools to help bridge the gap between custom developed systems and bought-in solutions.

The FamilyPowerUserFamily

From my (reasonably short) time using SharePoint, it seems there is a family tree of products that favour the Power User. Right at the top we have the grandfather (or Godfather) Excel, who provides good honest data-entry and hand-tailored analysis.

The middle generation is Access, who took the family-business spreadsheet and took it several steps further. Firstly the data was backed with a database engine, then Forms were added to allow the custom validation and entry of the data, and finally Reports were used to polish the resulting information for analysis and display.

The beauty of this was that an entire useful and end-user-friendly system could be built without needing an in-house development team nor having to buy-in a pre-made solution.

The last generation is Access’s two daughters: the serious older sister SQL Server, and the smart but friendly SharePoint. SQL Server took on the grim and complex business of dealing with data (and later married into the dour .Net family), whereas SharePoint set about taking system creation to the masses.

Of course SQL Server takes care of SharePoint’s data as a big sister would, and more than a few favours are called-in from the .Net family too. This allows SharePoint to concentrate on user interfaces and providing systems to everyday folk put off by SQL Server and .Net’s serious and frowny expressions.

What are you talking about?

To summarise before this analogy runs away with itself: SharePoint is Access with the inner workings of data processing hidden, and the idea of a customisable Power User created interface polished even further.

Why is this a good thing?

For Power Users this is good because they can concentrate on making the systems match what the users need without having to worry about things that they’d much rather a developer would worry about, like “How do I make a page to show an order?”.

Normal users get systems made by people that know the business, and avoid the ominous pause when asking a developer how long (or worse: how much) a small change will be. Having been an in-house developer for a small business I can vouch that anything that lets users do the work they need to do without effecting mine gets a giant smiley sticker (and I mean giant).

Finally, SharePoint is much more flexible and customisable than the earlier generations; all manner of additions can be made that can make it into a tool specialised for an individual organisation.

Why is this not such a good thing?

It’s entirely possible to misuse these tools (for example, using SharePoint as a tea-brewing timer); but it would take some strong arguments from a seasoned professional to dissuade an enthusiastic director deafened by the sound of a new market.

I once worked with an MD who would create a mock-up of the system he wanted in Access, and then hand it over to our team to make it into a reality. In truth the system he wanted looked and worked very little like the database (“if you click that it should actually do this”). While it is possible to create things this way, it was much more efficient (and less nightmare inducing) to talk out the requirements and design from there.

As with many complex tools, it needs someone (developer or otherwise) with a good working knowledge to use them to their full potential. It is important to know the limits of both can be done and what should be done.

In short

These tools give users the ability to easily construct systems and applications that wouldn’t otherwise be possible without a few years of getting to know Mr & Mrs .Net.

However, the more powerful a tool is the more easily misused it is (think chainsaw): It’s best to consult someone with some experience before endangering your limbs.

Free White Paper – SharePoint for Small Business: a viable option?

Date:January 7th, 2011 Author: Tags: ,
Category: General, SharePoint Ideas Comments:0 ;

Well we have been promising you a paper on the subject of SharePoint for Small Business for some time, and here it is – finally.

As a small business ourselves this topic was especially interesting and we spent have spent quite some time digging in to the issues.

SharePoint, Microsoft’s fastest selling server product ever, is rapidly becoming market leader in its space, and almost endemic within the enterprise and large organizations.

But now, SharePoint also comes bundled with Microsoft Small Business Server and many small business owners and managers are asking themselves what SharePoint might be able to offer them.

Though much has been written about SharePoint in the Enterprise, there is surprisingly little information out there for the Small Business owner looking to evaluate SharePoint. We wanted to try and fill some of that information void with this White Paper.

Firstly, we wanted to dispel some of the confusion around what SharePoint actually is, and what a Small Business might be able to do with it in practical terms. Even Microsoft are pretty vague when they try to define what exactly SharePoint is.

Whilst a SharePoint specialist consultancy might be able to unravel the complexity for a client, and help them to understand how SharePoint can work for them, a small business might find that their local IT support firm just don’t have the specialist SharePoint knowledge needed to help them in this area.

Secondly we wanted to address the issue of cost.  Cost is important to all of us now, but for Small Businesses it can be a key driver in the decision making process.

There is a popular misconception that SharePoint Foundation is a “free” product.  This is simply not correct.  We wanted to give Small Businesses an idea of the costs that they might incur if they choose to deploy SharePoint.

Finally, we wanted to explore the issue of control.  The big win for Small Businesses deploying SharePoint, in our opinion, is the degree of control it can give them over managing their own IT infrastructure.

SharePoint has been designed as a platform on which ordinary business users – with no IT developer training – can build and manage their own business applications, to improve the delivery of daily tasks and business processes, like order processing, resource management and project planning.

This is the kind of flexibility that small businesses need to maintain the speed of response and agility which are often our key competitive strengths.

The White Paper is free to download from our website.

We hope the paper will help you decide whether SharePoint is the right platform for your small business.

SharePoint or Google Apps, which is best for you?

Date:December 9th, 2010 Author: Tags: ,
Category: General, SharePoint Ideas Comments:0 ;

apples and orangesWith both Google and Microsoft offering collaboration solutions in the form of Apps and SharePoint it’s only natural that organisations should look at comparing the two. We think it’s worth looking at this debate for ourselves.

So which is better – Google Apps or SharePoint? As ever, the answer really depends on what your business needs to operate and evolve. The key point to remember is that while they offer some similar features, both solutions are very different beasts.


FilterPoint Update

Date:November 30th, 2010 Author: Tags: , , , , ,
Category: Filter, General, SharePoint Development, SharePoint Ideas Comments:0 ;

We have spent a lot of time over the past month working on the beta version of FilterPoint. Our team of professional testers have been working hard to check for compatibility with all versions of SharePoint 2007 and 2010 and a wide range of browsers, as well as looking for bugs and challenging us on some aspects of the usability of the UI.

And we also owe a huge vote of thanks to our beta volunteers who have been testing out the product in the real world.  Our volunteers and not only uncovered some bugs, but also come up with suggestions for additional things that we could include in the first release.  Some of these we have already added and they include:


How Much Does SharePoint Cost?

Date:November 24th, 2010 Author: Tags: , , , ,
Category: General, SharePoint Ideas Comments:18 ;

how much does SharePoint cost- small 2One of the top questions you’ll ask if you’re looking at deploying a SharePoint solution for your organization is – how much is this going to cost us? While the exact answer depends on the size of your business and what you want from SharePoint, this post will look at the cost of entering the SharePoint sphere.

There are many options available and many variables that may come into play here – so the figures we are giving are not designed to cost a solution down to the last cent – rather to give you a “ball park” idea of what each level of the SharePoint solution is likely to cost, and perhaps more importantly the size of the steps between each level.


SharePoint Permissions: What, Why and How? Part 1 Basic Principles

Date:November 19th, 2010 Author: Tags: , ,
Category: General, SharePoint Ideas Comments:3 ;

wrong method largeThe one thing in SharePoint which is sure to create new frown lines on the troubled brow of any SharePoint Newbie is Permissions.

When I first started with SharePoint my first thought on digging in to the whole permissions issue was “What the holy heck is this all about then?”

Permissions – well surely we just decide what we want a user to be able to do and then – give them permission to do it, right?



Editing The SharePoint List Item Menu (Part 3: Other Uses)

Date:November 18th, 2010 Author: Tags: , , , , ,
Category: General, SharePoint Development, SharePoint Ideas, Training Comments:4 ;

In previous posts I’ve used the “Open in new window” function to illustrate the two different methods of adding to the List Item menu, or Edit Control Block (ECB) to use its catchier name.

Part 1 covered the CustomAction element; the developer-leaning Visual Studio method. Part 2 avoided any kind of dedicated program by doing the same directly in SharePoint using Javascript in a Content Editor Web Part (CEWP); for power users or those with software commitment issues.

In this section I’ll be looking at some more interesting, and possibly useful, extra options to illustrate the potential of these kinds of enhancements. These can also be used as stubs to produce more complex functionality along the same lines.

I’ve purposefully kept these changes low-touch (avoiding AJAX libraries for example), to make them quick to try out without installing any additional dependencies.

In each example I’ll give a snippet of code for using a CustomAction or Javascript; these will be brief, as they assume you’ve read my earlier posts.

E-mail a task

This example adds a link that pre-populates a new e-mail with some information from the selected task. It uses the good old ’mailto:’ to open the default mail program for the client machine. If you don’t have a default mail client then, well, it won’t (harsh but fair).

This can be used as a quick way to create nagging e-mails for task owners, or to highlight tasks that may be of interest to others.


To add this option using Javascript, add the following to a CEWP:

<script type="text/javascript">
function getMailTo (ID)
var taskTitleLink = document.getElementById(ID).firstChild;
var mailTo = 'mailto:?subject=';
mailTo += encodeURIComponent(taskTitleLink.innerHTML);
mailTo += '&body=';
mailTo += encodeURIComponent('An intriguing task...\n\nTitle: ' + taskTitleLink.innerHTML + '\n');
mailTo += encodeURIComponent('Link: ' + taskTitleLink.getAttribute('href'));
return mailTo;

function Custom_AddListMenuItems(m, ctx)
CAMOpt(m,’E-mail’,’window.location=getMailTo(‘ + currentItemID+ ‘);’,’/_layouts/images/EMAILPST.PNG’);
return false;

To produce the same result using a CustomAction, using almost the same Javascript in the link; the following UrlAction should be used:

<UrlAction Url="javascript:window.location='mailto:?subject='+encodeURIComponent(document.getElementById({ItemId}).firstChild.innerHTML)+'&amp;body='+encodeURIComponent('An intriguing task...\n\nTitle: '+document.getElementById({ItemId}).firstChild.innerHTML+'\n')+encodeURIComponent('Link: '+document.getElementById({ItemId}).firstChild.getAttribute('href'));"/>

The differences between the two (other than the infrastructure used) are as follows:

  1. UrlActions are ugly not amenable to declaring Javascript functions in an readable way.
  2. URL in an UrlAction is  wrapped in a Javascript function (STSNavigate) when rendered in the OnMenuClick event attribute, so it needs the javascript: prefix to use such. The Javascript version is put in the same event attribute, but without the wrapping function no prefix is needed.
  3. currentItemId and {ItemId} both get the current List Item’s ID in their own contexts.

The code in both of the above examples take advantage of the fact the Title and link are within the div that shares this item’s ID. Using this method limits the amount of information we can get our hands on. We can get a little more using GetAttributeFromItemTable, but to get all the information we’d have to use some more contrived methods.

Shorten an item linkmenushorten

This option opens a new window to tinyurl’s site with the task’s abbreviated link posted through. If you’re using an earlier version of Flash than 10 (rather you than me) it’ll even put it in the clipboard for you.

As you may have previously seen, SharePoint links are often a nest of GUIDs. This allows a neat little link to be produced instead: great for optimising scary archaic communication methods such as paper documents or VoYP (Voice over Yoghurt Pot).

I’ve used tinyurl simply because you can send the link to be shortened in a querystring, and nothing else is needed. Much as I love fetching API tokens and/or posting plain text login details, I used the most straightforward method for brevity’s sake.

<script type="text/javascript">
function getShortenUrl(ID)
var shortenUrl = '';
shortenUrl += encodeURIComponent(document.getElementById(ID).firstChild.getAttribute('href'));
return shortenUrl;

function Custom_AddListMenuItems(m, ctx)
CAMOpt(m,’Shorten’,’‘ + currentItemID+ ‘));’,’/_layouts/images/LINK.GIF’);
return false;

There is very little difference between the two implementations, except as mentioned in the previous section.

<UrlAction Url="''+encodeURIComponent(document.getElementById({ItemId}).firstChild.getAttribute('href')));"/>

Copy to clipboard (IE only)menuclipboard

A slightly more obvious method of copying an item’s direct link to the clipboard than the right-click menu. Handy for quick intuitive copying, or for broken mice.

Unfortunately this functionality is restricted to Internet Explorer (which covers most SharePoint users). Alternative solutions and their problems are covered pretty comprehensively on this Stack Overflow question.

<script type="text/javascript">
function setClipboard(ID)

function Custom_AddListMenuItems(m, ctx)
if (window.clipboardData)
CAMOpt(m,’Copy to clipboard’,’setClipboard(‘ + currentItemID+ ‘);’,’/_layouts/images/CLP16.GIF’);

The above sample takes advantage of the Javascript method’s flexibility, and does not display the option if the window.clipboard object is not present (i.e. not IE). But due to the restrictive nature of the Custom Action, we don’t have that ability.

<UrlAction Url="javascript:if(window.clipboardData){window.clipboardData.setData('text',document.getElementById({ItemId}).firstChild.getAttribute('href'))}"/>


The two methods of adding to the List Item menu each have their own benefits and restrictions.

The CustomAction method allows site-wide distribution and can be bundled with other CustomAction modifications (such as changes to the command ribbon), but it lacks flexibility and has very little granularity in its release (an entire list type). It also requires Visual Studio, and access to install such features.

Using Javascript in a CEWP is very flexible and much more readable for anything more than a very straightforward action. It can be added by power users rather than developers, without even using SharePoint Designer. Unfortunately it has to be added on every target view individually. If the Javascript was added to the master page it would result in an even less targeted release than the CustomAction option.

Both of these methods have very little item data to hand, but both can be greatly extended by making use of AJAX calls to SharePoint Web Services, 3rd party services, or custom pages.

SharePoint in the Cloud – Pie in the Sky?

Date:November 16th, 2010 Author: Tags: ,
Category: General, SharePoint Ideas Comments:2 ;

Yes, we’re wading into the SharePoint in the cloud debate! With major changes to SharePoint Online on the horizon, now may be a good time for us to re-examine the possible benefits that cloud computing could bring to you and your business.

pigs might flyI can’t describe cloud computing as the latest revolutionary breakthrough in software services; in fact, it seems as if the phrase has been around for a long time. But how many of you actually use the cloud to deliver your SharePoint software?