• The world isn't short on SharePoint conferences. In fact, at any given time, there's some conference or another happening for SharePoint gurus, geeks, and experts. These conferences provide a great way to connect with like-minded individuals, learn more about the industry, and even hear the biggest news first.

    While SharePoint Engine representatives can't make it to every conference, we do try to make it to quite a few. In cases where we are otherwise occupied, we still encourage you to make the most out of the opportunity. One of the conferences going on now – as in now, now – is the SharePoint Connections Coast to Coast Tour.

    The SharePoint Connections Coast-to-Coast Tour

    Sponsored by DevConnections, this tour brings prominent SharePoint speakers to locations around the United States, including Las Vegas, Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, San Antonio, and Chicago. The primary objectives, according to the official website, include:

    • Getting practical guidance on SharePoint.
    • Facing challenges of today's business world.
    • Creating a strategic plan for your company.
    • Mastering the SharePoint technology.
    • Finding local SharePoint resources.
    • Connecting with peers and experts in the industry.

    The tour started in Vegas earlier this week, and is now continuing to Boston. As part of the conference, participants also have the chance to get involved in the Microsoft Developer Bootcamp – without any extra cost.

    The dates are as follows:

    If you make it to the conference or Bootcamp, let us know what you think by leaving a comment below or sending us a message via Twitter or Facebook.
  • Microsoft announced that SP1 for SharePoint 2010 would be released in "late June," which means – whatever the specific date – we're very close. While there hasn't been a monumental amount of concrete details, data was released at Tech-Ed 2011 concerning the nature of SP1. Here's a brief rundown of what it will contain:

    • All current bug fixes. While many bug fixes were previously released in hot fix rollups (also known as cumulative updates), most users didn't receive these updates; they were "on request only." All those fixes will be present in SP1.
    • Extended Office web app capabilities. A number of fixes, interface enhancements, and new features will be available in the Office web apps. This includes the ability to directly insert clip art in PowerPoint, print presentations and documents directly from the page (rather than just from previews), the ability to copy formulae from Excel cells, and support for the .ODF (Open Office document) format.
    • Enhanced performance overall. Page indexing, navigation, and many other elements are receiving an enhancement buff.
    • Support for IE9 Native. The native version of IE9 will now support all SharePoint features.
    • Support for Google Chrome. Chrome, which previously worked fairly well, will now be fully supported.
    • Support for SQL 11. SQL 11, aka Denali, has full support in SP1.
    • Site recycling bin. Deleted items will not be retrievable by an admin without the need for a database restoral.
    • Shallow copy. Any copied RBS database will now re-write the directions to files rather than copying all files over to disk.
    • StorMan returns. The SharePoint 2007 analysis tool that examines where you're using space will be re-implemented.
    These details, while released by official representatives, are still subject to change. However, with the release just around the corner, we'll all be able to see the details for ourselves. These highly demanded features, as well as an untold number of extras, will likely be available in the coming week.

  • If you're going to divide SharePoint into its basic units, one of the most essential is the workflow. Having the automated pipeline of a workflow, as well as the vast customization options provided by SharePoint designer, can reduce the time invested in simple organizational tasks – lowering your costs, allowing projects to be finished more quickly, and making it less likely that projects will got lost as they change hands.

    One of the important steps in making your workflow work for you is having the appropriate column displays. This allows you to have all important information visible at a glance. SharePoint Designer has made the addition of new columns easy through their association columns.

    What Are Association Columns?

    Association columns are data columns (such as URL, workflow name, or any number of custom fields) that are displayed in a reusable workflow. Since the reusable workflow model can be used anywhere within SharePoint, the only columns displayed by defaults are "Created" and "Created By" (the fields that are common through all portions of the site). Any number of additional columns can be added to reusable workflows or to lists. In the case of being associated with lists, association columns will appear on any workflow associated with said list.

    Adding Association Columns

    To add association columns, just follow these steps:

    1. Click on the "Association Columns" icon in the SharePoint designer Ribbon toolbar.
    2. Click "OK" on the warning message that comes up.
    3. Choose either "Select Site Column" or "Add New Column" (dependent on whether you want to go with one of the default options or add your own).
    4. If you're using a default column, simply choose the appropriate option from the list provided.
    5. If you're adding your own column, fill out the field name, description, and data type.
    6. Once you've finished, push "OK" to complete the column addition.
    Note that, because association columns are stored to your configuration files, you won't be able to edit the column after you've implemented it. You can, however, delete it and create a new one.

  • The migration from SharePoint 2007 to 2010 is usually a challenging but pleasant experience. Yes, you may lose some of the work invested in SharePoint 2007, you'll have to do some re-configuration, and it's a good idea to re-train your employees on modified or entirely new features. However, the simplicity of SharePoint 2010 when compared to 2007 is like switching from pounding your head against a rock to pounding it against a mattress.

    Regardless, certain configuration stages are going to present issues, and one that often gets complaints from those who run server farms (or who simply run off a shared server) is the Configure Your Farm utility. This assistance wizard is honestly designed to make your job simpler, but because of one little problem it often doesn't. That problem is that automatic population of a GUID on numerous service application databases.

    Most people will have one of two gut reactions to this problem: 1) They're fine with the problem because they don't see how it will hurt them (such as for those running a private server) or 2) They're not okay with it and now have to manually configure the entire thing. Sadly, those who choose the second column are probably safer. This is because most database backup scripts will break when they run across the GUIDs issued by Configure Your Farm.

    Oddly enough, that includes the Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager, which will return a "tag too long" error when it bumps into one of its own GUIDs. Microsoft's own configuration wizard is making it impossible to use a far more vital tool.

    Now, the $500 question: What should you do about it? Sadly, server admins and DBAs will have to wait for new versions of these utilities (which are on their way, and can even be seen in beta format in the Office 365 suite), will have to work with external tools, or will have to enlist the help of SharePoint experts. This is one of those cases where Microsoft has simply slipped up and the servers admins have to make themselves aware of the issue, the consequences, and the work-arounds.

  • One of the great advancements from SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010 is the inclusion of advanced social features. This means some fairly simplistic features that allowed SharePoint to match several industry standards, but the Microsoft efforts went well beyond the call of duty. One of the most useful elements added by Microsoft is the social bookmarking feature. In this entry we will briefly touch on what this feature is and how you can make the most out of it.

    A Brief Definition of Social Bookmarking

    Social bookmarking has not been a standard ECM feature – partially because the concept has, since its inception, seemed fairly distant to businesses. In much the same way that Twitter and Facebook have moved from purely person-to-person mediums, however, social bookmarking on the whole has produced immensely positive effects in the business-to-person market.

    But what is social bookmarking? Those not already familiar with sites like Delicious and Digg may find some brief elaboration useful. The simplest definition is that social bookmarking is any compilation of useful links provided by users of a site, service, or group. To some degree social bookmarking is natural in your business; when one employee says to another, "I know a great article to read about that" and provides them with a link, that's a social bookmark.

    Social bookmarking can, but doesn't necessarily, come with a number of additional features, including descriptions of links, the name of the person who submitted the link, and group rating features.

    Social Bookmarking in SharePoint

    This is all great, and hopefully you'll see already why an ECM can benefit from bookmark sharing resources, but how does it apply to SharePoint? Beyond having social bookmarking features that are more than a little impressive, Microsoft has stated clearly that they're continuing to work on and develop these features – both in SharePoint 2010 and in the upcoming versions of SharePoint.

    Right now users have access to numerous bookmarking features, including:

    • The centralized SharePoint database of bookmarks.
    • A tagging system that allows for improved organization of links.
    • An accessible design for the interface.
    • The ability to tag specific users to call their attention to a resource.
    • And much more.
    While this is a business resource as opposed to a social one, remember that without people actively using bookmarks it's impossible to get the resources you really need. Encourage your employees to use these available tools, customize your interface by using web parts and work with SharePoint consulting groups, and you'll be surprised at how much more effective your employees can be. As a self-serve system, social bookmarks are an invaluable way to make data resources more available without increasing your labor hour investment.
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