Don’t take my solutions at face value!

Last week, I stumbled upon this comment on Twitter:

“I have used and love easy tabs, but I do need pretty on my current engagement”

What? Not pretty, my Easy Tabs? Let me set the record straight.

First, let’s make sure we are on the same page. The current version of the Easy Tabs is v5, compatible with both SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010. You can build your own here:
http://sp2010.pathtosharepoint.com/SharePoint-User-Toolkit/Pages/Easy-Tabs-v5.aspx

By default, the form offers two styles: one taken from SP 2007, and the other taken from SP 2010. Note that both options work on both SharePoint versions (for example, you can pick the SP 2007 style for your SP 2010 site).

You don’t like the colors? Well, talk to Microsoft! I did not invent the styles, I am reusing the default ones you get when you create a team site. The significant advantage here is that you don’t have any external dependency, just add the Web Part to a page and it ‘ll work.

If you want other colors, feel free to pick your own. Click on the “Modify colors” option, and you’ll be presented with a color picker, allowing you to choose your own background and font colors.

Not satisfied yet? Well, you can take it one step further. Look at the Easy Tabs code, and you’ll see that it is made of two independent parts: the stylesheet (style tag) and the tab builder (script tag). Modify the stylesheet as you please to get the final look. As an example, I have built this demo that has it all (rounded corners, hover effects, gradient):
http://sp2010.pathtosharepoint.com/Portfolio/Pages/Styled-Easy-Tabs.aspx

The purpose of the SharePoint User Toolkit is to open the door to advanced designs. Don’t see these tools as final products, but rather as a startpoint to build your own solutions. The beauty of such “User Managed Solutions” is that you have full control on them, and can tweak them to fit your specific needs. I took the Easy Tabs as example, but I could have chosen the image rotator, or other solutions from the toolkit.

If you are interested, I’ll start offering in a couple weeks a new series of online workshops, where I’ll show how to make the most of these tools. Feel free to contact me now if you have specific needs.

If you are a Web designer, or a SharePoint pro, looking for solutions for your customers, I have many other tools in my drawers. Come talk to me about your requirements, and let’s start a collaboration! We can also discuss this on LinkedIn, in the SharePoint User Managed Solutions group. And if you are in San Diego, or the Bay Area, I’ll be there in a couple weeks and we can meet in person.

About Scripts, Web Parts and Urban Myths

Today, I came across conversations, initiated by Marc Anderson (@sympmarc on Twitter), about the Content Editor Web Part.

Reported by Marc on his blog:

One of the things I heard at SPTechCon several times was that in SharePoint 2010, it is no longer possible to put script into Content Editor Web Parts (CEWPs). Instead, I was told, you have to use the new HTML Form Web Part.

And on twitter:

sympmarc Just verified that you *can* put script in a #CEWP in #SP2010, contrary to what several people said at #SPTechCon . Urban myths can kill…

EUSP RT @sympmarc: Just verified that you *can* put script in a #CEWP in #SP2010 <- Problems with <form> tags in CEWP 2010.

sympmarc @eusp: Problems with <form> tags in CEWP 2010. -> Different issue. Some HTML tags may not work, but it looks like script does.

sympmarc @eusp Remember that basically the whole page is a form already. That may be the issue rather than SP2010.

 

Let me try and clarify how this works.

The Content Editor Web Part

It was August 2008, I had just started my blog, and I was already writing about the CEWP. At that time, I did not even mention the ability to link to external content. I only talked about this several months later, when I started promoting an architecture where scripts are stored in a central library.

In SharePoint 2007, the most advertised way to add scripts to a SharePoint page is via the “Source Editor” option of the CEWP. So no wonder people are lost when they start using SP 2010: no “Source Editor” button anymore!

It doesn’t mean that the feature has been removed though. As with many others, the option – renamed “Edit HTML source” - is now located in the ribbon, and becomes visible when you click on the content section of the CEWP (in edit mode), or select the “Edit Web Part” option:

In addition, SharePoint tries to help: it will screen the code you enter, and you’ll receive this notification:
“the HTML source you entered might have been modified”

The cool part is that SharePoint will never tell you whether anything was modified, you’re on your own to figure it out. Feel free to take a look at some examples I collected when I posted the question on SharePoint Overflow two months ago.

Another issue with the CEWP is that you cannot include form elements. This is not new to 2010, it has always been the case even with previous versions. As Marc explains in the above tweet, the reason is that the whole page is already a form. So here comes…

The HTML Form Web Part

Yes, you can use the HTML Form Web Part to include scripts in a page. Yes, it will also accept form tags, it’s its primary purpose. Yes, it has this “Source Editor” button everybody is looking for. And no, it is not a new Web Part, it was already present in SP 2007. It is actually one of the building blocks of my SharePoint User Toolkit, in both SP 2007 and SP 2010.

So why is everybody promoting the CEWP, if the HTML Form Web Part offers more?

For one, it seems that few people actually know about the capabilities of this Web Part (it is better known for its role in Web Part connections). But another reason is that it doesn’t have the “Content Link” option that I recommend as a good practice.

Other Web Parts

Can’t use the CEWP or the Form Web Part on your site? There are still other Web Parts available (not to mention the option to add scripts outside Web Parts). Although they are not as convenient as the CEWP and the HTML Form Web Part, they can help in specific cases.

For example, back in SP 2003, forms (new, display, edit) were not as easy to edit as today. I used to rely on a Page Viewer Web Part, which allowed me to modify scripts without editing the form page itself. Come talk to me if you need more details!

Donate, it’s free!

I just added the SocialVibe widget to my blog. The cause I chose to support is Education, and  the funds will go to charities such as DonorsChoose.org and “One Laptop per Child”.

When I initially tried out the widget a couple weeks ago, it seemed a little bit complicated, so I removed it. But as I just spent a couple days in Cambodia, I realized that a small gesture can go a long way, and I put it back.

Donating won’t cost you any money, but it will require more than a click. To earn your donation, you’ll be asked to complete an activity proposed by a sponsor, like answering a poll.

If you are a blogger using WordPress.com, the SocialVibe widget is available in the widgets list.

Quick tip: the view selector in SharePoint 2010

In SharePoint 2007, default list views offer a selector in the top right corner, allowing you to switch between views of a same list:

The view selector is also present in SharePoint 2010, but not as easy to spot as in the previous version. It is actually available in two locations:

- In browse mode: click on the down arrow next to the list/library name

- in the ribbon, under List Tools (or Library Tools)

Hope this helps!

“SharePoint User Managed Solutions” group – Quick update

A smooth start for the LinkedIn group I launched on Monday: SharePoint User Managed Solutions (SUMS). We are now 60 people in the room, and have started 3 discussions:
- lightweight charting solution
- how to manage SharePoint recurring meetings from Outlook
- best practices / solutions for wiki navigation

I’d like to see more solution providers join the group, So I have added a bait :-) :
The ultimate jQuery call

For more information about the purpose of the SharePoint User Managed Solutions group, see my previous post.

If I could nominate a SharePoint MVP…oh wait, I can!

I am relatively new to the Microsoft world, and the MVP program has always been a mystery to me. Fortunately, Eric Ligman had the good idea to explain it all in a blog post published this week:
How to become a Microsoft MVP, find a Microsoft MVP, nominate a Microsoft MVP, and more

As I just lamented yesterday about the emphasis on IT professionals and .Net developers, this got me thinking. Yes, people who work on “User Managed Solutions” should also be represented in this prestigious circle.

I can think of a couple community members I’d like to see rewarded for their actions in the SharePoint End User community. But as a deep, technical knowledge is required for the MVP program, there is really one person who stands out. So I followed the instructions in this page and did my homework:

Nominee’s name: Marc D Anderson

Country where the nominee lives: U.S.A.

Nominee’s main spoken language: English

One or two Microsoft technologies or products that are the nominee’s area of expertise
SharePoint / SharePoint Designer

Specific examples of online/offline community activities in which the person you are nominating participates
Active participation in multiple SharePoint forums: MSDN SharePoint Design and Customization Forum , SharePointOverflow.com , Stump the Panel
Blog on SharePoint technologies http://sympmarc.com
Active Codeplex project, including regular updates and discussions: http://spservices.codeplex.com/
Speaker at SharePoint events (SharePoint Saturday DC, SharePoint Technology Conference).
Always makes himself available to answer questions via twitter or e-mail.

Marc, maybe I should have contacted you before writing this post, but hey, we have a 12 hour time difference and I didn’t want to wake you up ;-). Thank you for your amazing contribution to the SharePoint community!

SharePoint User Managed Solutions, a new LinkedIn group

I just started a LinkedIn group: SharePoint User Managed Solutions (SUMS). Its purpose is to share best practices, ideas and business opportunities, around the deployment of User Managed Solutions in SharePoint.

What are User Managed Solutions?

What I call User Managed Solutions, in the context of SharePoint, are solutions that can be installed, customized, maintained, upgraded, using only tools that are available to SharePoint users. These tools are mainly the SharePoint user interface and SharePoint Designer, but could also include desktop applications, like the Office suite, or other tools that rely on Web services.

The techniques used to build the solutions include:
- Client side code (JavaScript, jQuery, stylesheets, Web services, etc.)
- Page, list and site templates
- Themes
- Data View Web Parts
- Reusable workflows
- Metadata (Content types, Calculated Columns)
- etc.

A couple notes:
- “User” is not restricted to end user / business user, it means anybody who accesses SharePoint through its user interface.
- the solutions can run either on the client side (e.g. JavaScript) or on the server side (e.g. workflows).

Why a new social network?

In the past few years, several factors have pushed the development of User Managed Solutions:
- SharePoint environments where server side implementations are not possible (BPOS for example), or are prohibited (company policies)
- the evolution of Web design and browsers, making client side options more and more attractive
- Microsoft’ s move to open SharePoint customization to a larger public: SharePoint Designer free since April 2009, Web services and Object model, templates and themes, reusable workflows, etc.
- Increased visibility, thanks to the SharePoint blogging community showcasing more and more advanced solutions, involving in particular Data View Web Parts, scripts and Web services.

Still, these opportunities are not yet used to their full potential. SharePoint remains a world where the emphasis is largely on IT specialists and .NET developers. By creating a dedicated network, I hope to make it easier for those among us, who are interested in User Managed Solutions, to meet their peers.

Who could benefit from this new group?

User Managed Solutions involve different actors, creating a bridge between the business and the technical worlds.

Business users understand the immediate benefits of the solutions, but not necessarily the long term or large scale implications. they need more guidance to deploy the solutions in a sustainable way, and assess their value against other options.

Business analysts and consultants benefit from the versatility of such solutions, allowing them to better answer the business users’ needs.

Solution providers can deliver solutions that are more flexible and better tailored to specific needs. But to make this work, they need closer interaction with analysts and end users.

Why LinkedIn?

There are many ways to build a social network. I already rely on blogs, forums, and twitter. What interested me in LinkedIn was the business dimension.
In particular, there’s one issue I currently see with User Managed Solutions: many potential users are attracted by their versatility,  but are reluctant to pay the full price of a custom development. I hope that by mutualizing the requirements and developments, we can identify more win-win opportunities.
I also hope that by bringing the actors together, we’ll build a more professional approach, where solutions are actually managed and not just copy-pasted (think JavaScript/jQuery). This will increase their credibility and recognition among SharePoint professionals.

To get started, and show what I am expecting from this new group, I have posted a first discussion:
Lightweight, interactive charting solution