Case study: course compliance report (Part II)


Guest author: Larry Pfaff, Convergys.

I left off explaining how I went from raw data to manipulating views to achieve a table layout with usable results.
Continuing forward I will describe how to achieve this output through the use of Calculated Columns (CC) in a custom list. It’s fairly easy to build a table in a CC with some simple HTML. I built my first test table with some test data and found it worked well. I began interchanging my test data with my list data until I hit a wall. The simple HTML table worked perfectly with test data, but when all my formulas replaced my test data it failed. Initially, I thought my formulas contained errors, but upon further research I found it to be the result of a character length limitation in the CC.

Size Limitation

There isn’t much discussion on the web about the character length limitation of a CC. I actually stumbled upon it without realizing. To troubleshoot this limitation I began to break down my formula into useable chunks. By adding the useable chunks to the CC I could confirm parts of the formula were correct. Once I confirmed all the parts were correct I added them back together, but they failed again! I was receiving the error “The formula contains a syntax error or is not supported.”
I confirmed the formulas were correct piece by piece, but once I put them all together it was no good.

This was very frustrating so I reached out to our SP Admin to inquire why this is happening. He stated something about the formula was too long and I couldn’t use it. Well, I am not one that takes no for an answer. So I began trying to figure out ways to reduce the size of my formula string. This is when I had two ideas for reduction.

  1. Remove the inline styles and replace with CSS classes
  2. Go back to breaking the formula into usable chunks, leave them as separate CC’s and use a final CC to pull all the parts together.

This result was very successful. In fact later research I found a single post “Calculated Column Limits (1024 Characters)”.

Now that we have a work around for the size limitation we can discuss the fields and calculations.

My list data was updating twice daily through the use of a macro in an Access database paired with the use of scheduled tasks. Below is the list of fields used in my reporting requirements. The gray highlighted rows in the table below is my raw data automatically updated. Each CC will be described and what calculations were used, when necessary.

Field Name Field Type Function
Sr. Executive Single line of text Raw data
Name – Executive Single line of text Raw data
Completed Number Raw data
Not Completed Number Raw data
Exempt Number Raw data
Grand Total Calculated Total of the 3 above
Report Calculated not required
% Not Comp Calculated  
% Complete Calculated  
% Exempt Calculated  
Progress Totla Calculated Display progress bar
Table Calculated Display table with data
Chart Calculated Chart Image

Calculated Columns

Grand Total
Data type returned as Number with Auto decimals places. Simple field returning the summed value of three columns for a specific row.

 =SUM([Completed],[Not Completed],[Exempt]) 

Report – Progress by Executive Data type returned as Single line of text

This is not a required field, but it was useful in providing a navigation method to the source data (numbers/details). Here I used an IF statement to build a hyperlink back to the original excel file stored in a local document library. The excel files were names according to the Sr Executive, making the hyperlink easier to build dynamically.

“Ayers” the first name in the formula had the most line items. The report was so large my Access macro would fail trying to upload data into SharePoint. So I split the report into 3 separate files, this formula takes that into account and links to one of three excel files for Ayers.

 ="<DIV><a href="http://cvgsharepoint/sites/learning/DataSecurityPrivacy/Data%20Privacy%20and%20Security%20Status%20-%2520"&IF([EXEC%20Select]="Ayers,Andrea%20J",IF(OR(Name="Frank%20J%20Corso",Name="Victoria%20Perez%20Mueco"),[EXEC%20Select]&"-New",IF(OR(Name="Steve%20M%20Heffron",Name="Sukant%20Srivastava"),[EXEC%20Select]&"-New",[EXEC%20Select]&"-New")),[EXEC%20Select])&".xls' title='Report Details for "&[EXEC Select]&"' target='_blank'>Report Status Details -
  "&[EXEC Select]&".xls</a></DIV>"

figure 2.1

The next three formulas are just calculating a percentage for that value

% Complete
Data type returned as Number with 2 decimals places.

 =ROUND(([Completed]/[Grand Total]),2) 

% Not Comp Data type returned as Number with 2 decimals places.

 =ROUND(([Not Completed]/[Grand Total]),2) 

% Exempt Data type returned as Number with 2 decimals places.

 =ROUND(([Exempt]/[Grand Total]),2) 

Progress Total
Another Idea came from a progress bars and adding color.
Currently this CC totals [% Complete] and [% Exempt] as total progress. Because some new employees and upper management were exempt from taking the course Exempt could not count against the total. .

This formula worked perfectly in IE, but I found it to fail in Firefox (FF). I tried multiple changes, but still no success. Christophe brought to my attention I was missing the non breaking space discussed in this post Progress bar + color coding. Now it made sense why it wasn’t working correctly in FF. I made the simple change and confirmed no visual difference between both IE and FF. This is the resulting formula:

 ="<DIV style='position:relative;'> <div style='background-color:#ccccff;'>
<div style='background-color:#0000ff; width:"&(([% Complete]+[% Exempt])*100)&"%;'>&nbsp;</div> <div style='position:absolute;top:0px;color:white;font-weight:bold;padding:0 0 0 2px;'>"&TEXT(([% Complete]+[% Exempt]),"0%")&"</div> </div></DIV>"

figure 2.2

Table This formula is a simple table with some added styles and nested CCs. Styles and nested CCs were used to help with the character length limitation by minimizing total string length. A few trial and errors later and a successful table output. This formula was tested in both IE and FF with success. This is the resulting formula:

 ="<div><b>Sr. Exec.: </b> "&[Report]&"<table class='myboxed'><tr><th colspan='2'><b>Exec.:</b> "&[Name]&"</th><th class='twidth'>Completed</th><th class='twidth'>Not Completed</th><th class='twidth'>Exempt</th><th class='twidth'>Total</th></tr> <tr style='text-align:right'><td rowspan='2'>"&[Chart]&"</td><td  class='label'>Number</td><td class='comp'>"&[Completed]&"</td><td class='nc'>"&[Not Completed]&"</td><td class='e'>"&[Exempt]&"</td><td>"&[Grand Total]&"</td></tr> <tr style='text-align:right'><td class='label'>Percentage</td><td class='comp'>"&[% Complete]*100&"%</td><td class='nc'>"&[% Not Comp]*100&"%</td><td class='e'>"&[% Exempt]*100&"%</td><td></td></tr> <tr><td colspan='6' style='text-align:left;'>"&[Progress Total]&"</td></tr></table></div>"

figure 2.3

Note: the styles used for the above classes will be provided later.

Data type returned as Single line of text. There are several types of chart providers. At the time I was developing this I only knew of google charts. This CC was created for 2 purposes. 1. to return the data as a chart and 2. to save on character length and to be shared in the Table field.

 ="<DIV><img src='"&[% Complete]&","&[% Exempt]&","&[% Not Comp]&"&chl=Comp|Ex|NC&chco=0000FF'/></DIV>"

figure 2.4

Although we are not quite finished we are well on our way. In Part I we discussed the process that lead me to the table layout and styles described. In Part 2 we discussed some obstacles and work rounds to get the required results. In our final installment, Part 3, I will describe the CSS and scripts that provided the final presentation.

Update [06/07/2010]: screenshots updated.

3 thoughts on “Case study: course compliance report (Part II)

  1. Pingback: Case study: course compliance report (Part III) « Path to SharePoint

  2. Hi Larry (and Christophe),
    This is fantastic…
    Question – has anyone ever tried to create a connection string to an existing db say Oracle or SQL to pass data from the CEWP? I would love to use this project in something I am doing at work but the owners would like to bring in other outside information. I have tried but I am a novice.


Comments are closed.