Live demo: SharePoint, XML files, and Flash charts


XML driven components are a favorite among designers of dynamic Web sites. They allow to dissociate content from rendering, and greatly facilitate the site maintenance. The most popular are Flash charts, although other technologies are available, like Silverlight.

You can use such components in SharePoint: upload the flash component (e.g. PieFlash.swf) and the data (e.g. PieData.xml) to a document library, then insert the html/JavaScript code in the source editor of a Content Editor Web Part.

In addition, and it is actually the point of this post, SharePoint offers a convenient way to update xml files: the Data Form Web Part. Note that setting up a Data Form Web Part requires SharePoint Designer.

To see it in action, go to my live demo. Note that I am not making credentials publicly available, please contact me by e-mail if you want to play with the form.

Maybe you didn’t know that XML files could be edited directly from within SharePoint pages? If so, the demo page also includes a tutorial on how to set up the Data Form Web Part using SharePoint Designer.

XML files vs. SharePoint lists

Instead of an XML file, another standard approach is to store the data in a SharePoint list. You can then pull the list content in XML format to render the chart.

The advantage of XML files is that they are easier to set up. It just takes a couple minutes to upload the file to SharePoint and link it to a Data Form Web Part. With a SharePoint list, you would have to write the code that grabs the list XML and transforms it into a format that the component can read.

On the other hand, the list approach will be better if you want to benefit from specific SharePoint features (e.g. alerts, version history and permissions at the item level).

My live demo is sponsored by FusionCharts (version 3). Note that the previous version, FusionCharts v2, is available for free (22 chart types).

SharePoint’s Swiss Army Knife – Now for free!


The rumor has been around for a couple weeks. And today Microsoft confirms it with an update on the SharePoint Designer page: you can now get SharePoint Designer for free!

For end users, SharePoint Designer (SPD) opens the door to more advanced customizations, starting with the access to SharePoint’s swiss army knife: the Data View Web Part (or Data Form Web Part).

However, before you rush to use your free copy, be warned that SharePoint Designer is a powerful tool, that can help you not only customize but also ruin your site. You’ll certainly see several posts on the topic in the weeks to come, starting with Mark Rackley’s timely post.

Enjoy, and stay safe!

Update: read the announcement and more details on the SharePoint Designer team blog.

A drop-down menu, the SharePoint way


Six months ago, I showed on a simple example how to reuse the default SharePoint drop-down menu. As Larry reminded me, it’s time for me to keep the promises I made and share more advanced solutions.

The solution I am going to detail adds two features:
– two levels instead of one
– the menu items are pulled from a SharePoint list

Visit my SharePoint site for a live demo.

There are various ways to pull content from a SharePoint list. I have chosen to use SharePoint Designer and the Data View Web Part for this example, as it is very convenient when working with grouped items.

Continue reading

A countdown for tasks lists

A common request for tasks lists is to display the number of days left until the due date. Generally speaking, there’s a need among business users to include today’s date in formulas.

In a previous post I have analyzed a method – the “Today” trick – and shown its limits. In this post I am going to describe a different method, using the Data View Web Part and JavaScript. Continue reading

Your First Data View Web Part

Note: using the Data View Web Part in SharePoint 2007 requires SharePoint Designer (SPD), the Microsoft Web editor successor of FrontPage.


The Data View Web Part (DVWP) allows you to modify the look and feel of displayed data. The data is usually pulled from a SharePoint document library or list, or from an XML source (XML file, RSS, Web Service, etc.).

Of all the SharePoint tools made available to end users, the DVWP is certainly the most powerful. Continue reading