• Monday Morning Exception Handling

    Posted Dec 7th, 2015 By in Miscellaneous With | No Comments

    I keep inviting people to virtual meetings about how to resolve a common problem they are having. This is the screen shot I send them when they experience the problem again…

    ID10T-Meeting

  • Top 5 SharePoint Light Bulb Moments

    Posted Dec 7th, 2015 By in Citizen39, SharePoint With | No Comments Top 5 SharePoint Light Bulb Moments

    I’ve been teaching SharePoint for a number of years now. I enjoy seeing someone in the class have an epiphany about a concept they’ve just learned, especially when they immediately tell you that what they just learned will solve an issue, or save them buckets of time and effort. It’s moments like those that will keep me mentoring and coaching for years to come.

    One of the goals of the classes I deliver is to provide every participant with something that will provide them immediate value – meaning that when they get back to work they can immediately apply what has been learned to solve a real problem.

    There is generally a set of topics that I know now will get the cogs in peoples minds moving. So, I am constantly adjusting class content to target those same topics. I introduce as many topics I can within the time constraints of the specific class schedule, however I spend much more relative time on a few topics that I know will engage participants.

    Top 5 List

    Here is a list of the top 5 topics that cause the most light bulb moments with participants in my classes.

    1. Version Control

    Most, if not all, class participants have heard about version control on lists and libraries, but for some reason or another, they avoid using it. The most common reason I hear is that they simply don’t understand how to use version control features in SharePoint.

    Explaining version control is easy, but when the time comes to implement and apply the features many people quickly abandon the practice. This is why I take an iterative approach to this topic. Class participants are led through a series of interactive exercises where each of the version control settings are enabled for a document library. Students then examine the effects of each setting and how each setting effects the others. Students end up with all the settings enabled to produce a very controlled document library. It’s during these exercises that most students express something like, “Holy crap, that was actually easier than I expected!”, along with a colorful expletive of course.

    2. Outlook Integration

    It’s surprising how many people don’t know about the built-in integration that Microsoft Office products have with SharePoint. More specifically, Outlook.

    Outlook is a wonderful tool for SharePoint productivity. Linking lists and libraries into Outlook is a great way to stay on top of what is happening in SharePoint. Demonstrating the integration with a SharePoint event list (a Calendar) and Outlook calendaring features get students very excited. Everyone in the class suggests that this is a feature they will immediately be taking advantage of.

    3. Workflow

    Who doesn’t need some kind of business process automation in their lives? The classes I deliver are generally for the new SharePoint user, however it’s the overview of workflows in SharePoint that generates a great deal of buzz in the classroom. A quick demonstration of an approval workflow is usually all I have time for for in a class, but what’s remarkable is that there is always a lot of feedback form comments that recommend future advanced classes for workflow.

    4. Lookup Columns

    Students seemed to get excited about the use of lookup columns. It think it may be that people are resigned to repetitively type out the same information over and over, only because they are not are of lookup columns. Exercises that have students create simple lists and then use those lists as lookup columns in other lists really get students engaged. They realize that they don’t have to keep typing out the same information over and over again.

    5. Permissions

    The topic of security and permissions in SharePoint can be dry, and much like the version control topic, I step people through some simple exercises that lead to gradually more complex permission scenarios.

    With this particular topic I take a methodical approach to the subject and break it down into core concepts of; how permissions are first created and bound to the permissions of the parent (what created the site, list, item, etc…), users, groups, and permission levels. Then, throughout the course some aspect of permissions is worked into the exercises the students are tasked with. This approach seems to have a positive impact on how students grasp the concepts of SharePoint permissions.

    Honorable Mentions

    Demystifying the SharePoint Black Box

    This is really about giving non technical people a plain language explanation of what SharePoint is, at a high-level.

    The first topic of all my class is an overview of the SharePoint black box. This includes a brief review of why SharePoint exists, what it is used for, and where it all started from (yes, a history lesson). I then explain that SharePoint is simply a bunch of software installed on one or more servers, and how that software is this web application that serves up web sites with web pages.

    I purposely over simplify the architectural aspects of SharePoint so that students are less intimidated by this “black box”. This introductory topic is invaluable in increasing students comfort levels when moving on to the next topics.

    Usage Scenarios

    Also included the presentation of a number of usage scenarios. I purposely show students how SharePoint is used to solve common problems that people experience today. Presenting real-world scenarios helps students relate what they are about learn to scenarios and problems they are trying to solve back at work – a key student engagement driver.

    Managed Metadata

    Presenting Managed Metadata concepts to an introductory SharePoint class usually leads to a lot of blank stares and head scratching. I don’t go into any detailed technical jargon about SharePoint managed metadata, but what I do mention is the value proposition that managed metadata brings to the table. It’s generally the subject of centralized information management that interests participants, and managed metadata is usually part of context of any conversations we have about this.

    What about you. What was your light bulb moment with a SharePoint feature?

  • Modifying the Lookup Values in a HTML Client Screen Details Picker

    Posted Jun 25th, 2015 By in .Net Development, LightSwitch, SharePoint With | No Comments Modifying the Lookup Values in a HTML Client Screen Details Picker

    NOTE: Because of issues I was having with project lookup (see my update notes below), I abandoned this custom implementation, and instead, changed the project lookup to a Rows Layout screen content item. Have a look at my update notes at the end of the article for more information.

    I’m probably not the first to implement this, but I couldn’t find anywhere on line that showed me how to solve the original challenge, so here goes…

    The challenge I had was to add some extra information to the values that get displayed in a Details Picker used on a HTML Client Screen. For this particular scenario, a user can navigate to a screen where they can add new time-sheet details, such as the project, the date worked, and the hours of effort.

    ls-html-screen-picker-001

    When I originally selected to search for the project to associate with the time-sheet entry, only the name of the projects would appear. If I happen to be working on a number of projects that happen to have the same name, then I needed to know a little more about the project I am selecting for the entry. So for my scenario, I included the customer name to the list of lookup values for the details picker of the project…

    How was achieved? Simple really. I selected to edit the PostRender code for the details picker used for the screen. 

    ls-html-screen-picker-003

    I went after “data” property of the content item. In this case, the data item is a “project” object. The project has a relationship to a customer, and it’s the customer name that I wanted. I then used the customer named to craft up the text displayed in the popup search dialog.
    ls-html-screen-picker-004

    F5 and “ah la peanut butter sandwiches”…

    ls-html-screen-picker-002Enjoy!

    UPDATE: June 26, 2015 – 1:30 PM…

    Seems that some funny business is happening. Each time I select to search for a project, the list of projects appears however with out the appended customer name.

    Running the project in debug mode, and setting a break point on line 7 of the .js file for the screen (see screen shot above showing the _postRender method), VS will break into the following after stepping over the break point…

    ls-html-screen-picker-005

    This also happens when putting a break point on line 8 as well. And, it only happens the first time doing the project lookup. If I close the lookup, and then search again, it’s fine, and it shows the projects with the customer names.

    Any ideas?

    UPDATE: June 28, 2015 – 10:15 AM…

    I couldn’t resolve the issues above, so I went old school and simply changed the screen element used for the Project lookup to use a Rows Layout group instead.

    ls-html-screen-picker-006

    This works better for me anyway.

    ls-html-screen-picker-007A shout out to Josh for his comments below, which put me on the path to the above resolution.

    Cheers.

  • Productivity So Fast It Will Make Your Head Spin

    Posted Jun 22nd, 2015 By in .Net Development, Azure, Hybrid Cloud, LightSwitch With | No Comments Productivity So Fast It Will Make Your Head Spin

    Just how long does it take to realize opportunities with today’s technologies? Not very long at all. In fact, with today’s tools it can take just a few hours, instead of the months it took in the past.

    Back in February of 2012 I published an article about a LightSwitch application named A Little Productivity. I then published some related articles that talked to a few LightSwitch tips and tricks, using A Little Productivity as the use case for the articles.

    Things have obviously evolved since that original post. So much so that I felt I needed to crank out something more relevant to the tools that are available today. With Visual Studio 2015 on the horizon, I decided to see what I can do, from scratch, to reincarnate that old A Little Productivity app.

    Whoa!

    Turns out that it only took a couple of days to craft up that same application, and then some! Of course, I have the benefit of experience behind me, but not withstanding, I was pleasantly surprised at how relatively quick the solution came together.

    Desktop Client Application – 10 Hours

    I started out with a LightSwitch Desktop client. Why? Because that was what the older application was and I wanted to see just how much value my experience would play into creating something from the same requirements as before.

    2015-alp-screenshot-001

    Just how long did it take to recreate the new and improved A Little Productivity? About 10 hours of total effort!!

    That’s a huge value! 10 years ago it would have taken a team of resources with months of effort to achieve something similar.

    HTML Client Application – 1 Hour

    Okay, so a couple of days to hammer out a fully functional application that any small business can use to run their operation. Cool.

    Well how about all the new fangled HTML5 application stuff we keep hearing about?

    No problem! I less that an hour I had a nice little web-based HTML5 application that a user can use from the web browser on their mobile phone or tablet. All this using the same back-end services that the desktop application is using.

    2015-alp-screenshot-002

    Wow. I can already see the potential here. If I can create a nice looking mobile friendly web application in less than an hour, what can I do with an entire day or two!?!

    Cordova Mobile Application – 1 Hour

    Okay, so now I am going to push the issue a bit and get crazy with this. How long it will it take me to create an app that is actually installed on my mobile phone! Not a mobile friendly web application, bit an actual application that is installed on my phone?

    BAMM! 1 Hour!!!

    Screenshot_2015-06-22-13-45-44 Screenshot_2015-06-22-13-44-39
    Screenshot_2015-06-22-13-45-20 Screenshot_2015-06-22-13-55-50

    Okay, okay, I did have a little help here. This mobile application is a “hybrid” mobile application, using Apache Cordova and the in application browser plugin 😉 The application is still using the html client application (which happens to be deployed to Azure), and assumes the user as a internet connection. Regardless of the implementation, the value proposition is clear, right!?!

    😉 A small hint here… I used Telerik Platform for the creation of the mobile application.

  • Method Not Found Error with VS2015 RC LightSwitch and Azure Web Site

    Posted Jun 19th, 2015 By in .Net Development, Azure, LightSwitch, Office 365 With | No Comments Method Not Found Error with VS2015 RC LightSwitch and Azure Web Site

    Ran into a small issue when publishing a Visual Studio 2015 RC LightSwitch HTML client to Azure.

    Seems that, of course, everything worked fine on my local development box. The HTML client I created worked great, however when the same bits were published to an Azure App Service web site, I kept seeing the following issue…

     

    Seems the .server project defaults the target framework to 4.6, and .NET 4.6 is yet deployed to the App Service web sites.

    No problem, a quick manual edit of the .Server project file fixed the issue….

     

    VS2015RC-LS-Azure-Web-Error-2

     

    Not sure if this will have any downstream effects. I’ll certainly be changing it back once the RTM is out, assuming the Azure App Service web sites are also up to the latest/greatest .NET 4.6 as well.

    Cheers!

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