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Quick Tip: Don’t forget Outlook’s ability to display a web page for a folder

While working with a client recently we were discussing the issues with the Exchange web parts that are shipped as a part of SPS.  (This spawned the development on the new Exchange web parts, see my previous post.)

However, we came to the conclusion that it might be too small to include some email items in SharePoint.  So I mentioned the idea of doing things the reverse way.  Use Outlook to host your SharePoint site.  It’s a feature that’s been around in Outlook for a while.  All you have to do is…

  1. Create a folder in Outlook.
  2. Right click, select properties.
  3. Click the home page tab.
  4. Enter the address of your SharePoint site in the address text box.
  5. Select the show home page by default for this folder checkbox
  6. Click the OK button.

Now when you navigate to this folder in Outlook you’ll see your SharePoint site.  Not a bad deal when you’re looking to have a single dashboard to the organization and you live in email — as many of us do.

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Beta Opportunities

I’ve got a series of web part packs and utilities of various sorts that I have on my radar to release in the next few months.  As I’m getting geared up for that, I’d like to see if anyone would be interested in doing some beta testing.  Here’s what’s on the plate short term…

  • SharePoint URL Management – If you let your users enter URLs on your SharePoint sites then you know that they can and do link EVERYWHERE.  The point of the URL management utility is to first, identify where users are linking to — in every URL field in every list in every site in a site collection.  The links are organized by server by URL and finally by where they are used from.  The second feature of the application is to do wholesale replacements of URLs and parts of URLs.  So you can change the server that a URL points to, the path of the page, or even everything about the URL including any querystring parameters provided.
  • Exchange Web Parts – SharePoint Portal Server offers some basic Exchange Outlook Web Access web parts. From my perspective they have two fundamental flaws.  First, they can’t be used in Windows SharePoint Services.  Second, they require that the user personalize the web part properties.  This web part pack won’t need the users to personalize the properties to be able to use it.  Thus it doesn’t require personalization at all.  The web parts figure out who the user is based on their login name.
  • Site Properties Pack – Site properties in SharePoint are very powerful.  They are a quick way to provide some “state“ information about the site which can be used to connect to other applications.  The site properties pack will contain a web part to visually display and modify site properties, a content editor web part which will take content and display it while doing property substitutions, and a list display web part that allows for display of a list with property substitutions in the URLs.  Together they are a toolkit to get you started with working with site properties for integration.

There are more applications to come but these are the ones that I’m to the point of writing documentation for.

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Four steps for reducing project risk

Risks in a project are inevitable. However, carefully collecting, evaluating, prioritizing, and controlling risks can increase the chances of success for your next project.

Whether it’s small or large, complex or simple, every project has risk. It’s our job as managers to do our best to not only minimize the risk in our projects but to minimize it as soon as we can. In this article, you’ll learn a simple four-step approach for doing just that.

Inventory

The first step to managing the risk of a project is to inventory the situation. That is, identify all of the risks that you think are possible in the project. The inventory should include all internal factors for the project such as resource changes, assumption failures, and sponsor availability. It should also include all external factors such as a change in company direction or a change of technology direction. Most of all, however, it should include the things that are new in the project. If the project is working with a new technology, is using a new development methodology, or even if there are new, relatively unknown team members, these need to be listed as potential risks to the project.

http://techrepublic.com.com/article/four-steps-for-reducing-project-risk

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Of Chickens and Eggs

While working with a client yesterday we were discussing the idea of having email (or parts of your email) as a window in SharePoint.  They were discussing how the limited space made things difficult while simultaneously discussing how it was important to have a one stop experience for the portal.  Then the comment came up that one member of the group always started their day with email.

A light bulb went off.  You can set an HTML (web) page as the default view for a folder in outlook.  Simply right click the folder, select properties, select the Home Page tab, enter your URL, Click the ‘Show home page by default for this folder’ checkbox and click OK.  Now whenever you click on the folder the web page appears.

Now they can decide whether they want Outlook housing SharePoint or SharePoint housing email via Outlook Web Access.  While on that note.  Send me an email if you’ld like to beta some utilities that are like the ‘My Inbox’, ‘My Calendar’, and ‘My Tasks’ web parts in SPS.  I have written a set which don’t require the user name to be set in properties so they can be deployed on a shared view.  I’d like to get some testing done on them.

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Ramblings: Things I hate about debugging

So one of the things that I truly despise about debugging is working for a few hours trying to make something work only to find out later that it isn’t that thing that’s broken at all… Case in point.  I was getting a Access denied type message while trying to write something to the registry.  I thought it was code access security — because that’s normally what it is.  It turned out to be that I forgot to ask for write access when I opened up the key… ARG!

Now I’m off chasing some enumerator problem from a base class…

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Sniping SPSBackup Threads

I’ve not yet had a chance to test … I was wondering if the SQL Sniping script — designed to kill blocking threads — could be used to kill off the leftovers from a bad SPSBackup session so that the next backup could run successfully.  The SQL sniping script can be found at http://www.integer.org … I’ll have to try it the next time SPSBackup decides to not close down correctly.
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How to create a technology replacement strategy

When you are considering the cost of your organization’s technology, you must consider its life cycle and make allowances not only for the purchase price of the technology but also its support costs.

Life cycle

Every mechanical device has a life cycle. In the early days of the device, there is a period of “shaking out” when a relatively large number of problems will be discovered. This’s why many mechanical devices go through a burn-in period at the manufacturer in an attempt to work out the problems. This is generally followed by a long period of relatively low problems. Finally, a gradual climb in support costs ensues.

Think of it like buying a car. If you have ever bought a new car, or have known someone who has, often the new car has a few kinks. After the first month or so, the car settles down and generally has few problems. Once the car has become a few years old, it begins to develop problems. The problems may be gradual at first but eventually, if you keep the car long enough, you begin to feel that it is nothing but problems.

The technology that you use in your organization is the same way. Every piece of technical infrastructure you have will work well at first, or at least well after the burn-in period, and then slowly start to deteriorate.

This is one of the reasons that older computers need to be replaced — even if they’re still operating fast enough for their users. Eventually, they’ll break down and will need to be repaired or replaced.

http://www.techrepublic.com/article/how-to-create-a-technology-replacement-strategy/

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SharePoint Advisor Live! Day 1

I’m out at SharePoint Advisor Live!.  It’s good to get to talk to the other speakers to learn about how they’re using SharePoint in their worlds and talking to the attendees to learn about their challenges.  A few of the highlights from the day…

  • Echo for SharePoint (www.winapptechnologies.com) – A winform based application to migrate lists and web part pages from one site to another.  Currently only works on the local server (meaning they’re using the SP API).  No command line yet — so it won’t fit into automated deployments.  It does, however, manage to get past some of the issues that the two migration utilities that I’m working on are still having.
  • ParallelSpace (www.parallelspace.com) – Content migration utilities and security assessment utilities for SharePoint.
  • Microsoft/Domino connection (www.msdomino.net) – Allows for Domino/Notes to be shown in SharePoint.  Not clear on how it all works yet, the demo wasn’t fully functional yesterday when I went by but it’s definitely interesting.

There were some interesting conversations about off-line clients and rich clients for SharePoint.  Mostly the idea that Access might be a front end to SharePoint.  Specifically the thought of adding relationships to SharePoint list data was discussed.