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SharePoint for Non-Developers


November 21
Office 365: Information Rights Management

Information Rights Management is being rolled out to Office 365 right now.  I read about it here, and decided to go into my tenant and try it out.  This is very exciting!  What is Information Rights Management?  The quick explanation is that it lets you have tighter control over what happens to your files (mostly just MS Office files) once they have been emailed out or downloaded to people’s computers.  You can define things like whether they are allowed to print it, or even set the content to expire after a certain date.  This is not a new thing, but it’s always been something out of reach and very expensive, and now I see that it exists right there in my (Office 365 Enterprise E3) tenant!!!!

I tried it out today, and wanted to share with you the steps I went through to turn it on.  You need to be an Office 365 admin to be able to do this.

  1. In Office 365, at the top right, click the Gear or the Admin button and go to Office 365 Admin.
  2. Expand Service Settings on the left, and click Rights Management.
  3. Click Manage.
  4. On the left it will say Rights Management is not activated.  Click the Activate button.  Do you want to activate Rights Management, click Activate.
  5. Back at your Office 365 admin center, expand the Admin section on the left, and choose SharePoint.
  6. In your SharePoint admin center, click Settings on the left.
  7. Scroll down to the Information Rights Management section, and choose Use the IRM service specified in your configuration.  Click Refresh IRM Settings.  Scroll down and click OK.  This won’t work if you haven’t done all the previous steps.  I know, because this is the part that I tried first.  Winking smile
  8. Now go to the library in SharePoint that you would like to protect with Information Rights Management.  (note that this is something completely different than an information management policy).  Go to the Library Settings page.
  9. Click Information Rights Management.
  10. Check the box to restrict permissions on this library on download.  Give it a name and description.
  11. Click the Show Options link in gray.  THIS IS AWESOME.  This stuff only applies to the file when people open it in the client software, and has nothing to do with what can be done with the file if they’re looking at it in the browser. 
  12. You can read all about these additional settings here:  Apply Information Rights Management to a list or library.  Notice that under the Configure document access rights, I left a bunch of boxes unchecked.  This only applies to people who only have SharePoint permissions to read or view these files.  I don’t want them to be able to print it, and I don’t even want them to be able to type in it at all.  Click OK.
  13. I logged in as a user who only has read permissions to this library.  Notice that when I click the File menu, the options such as Save, Save As, and Print are grayed out:
    Also, when I try to type in the file, simply nothing happens.  This is so cool, people as for this type of thing ALL the time!  Oh, and by the way, when using IRM, apparently there is no more option to edit the file in the browser using Office Web Apps.

Here are some reference links:

Using Azure Rights Management:

Office 365 trust center:

November 14
Panel: InfoPath is a Dead End

In October, at SPTechCon, Andrew Connell got several of us together to have a panel discussion on the topic of forms, for the Microsoft Cloud Show podcast.  The title is Episode 49 - SPTechCon Panel Recap - InfoPath Is a Dead End: What Form Should Your Forms Take?

We discussed the fact that InfoPath is eventually going away in the year 2023, and what we should do with our business forms.

The hosts were:

» Andrew Connell (@andrewconnell)

» Chris Johnson (@loungeflyz)

The panelists were:

» Lori Gowin (@lorigowin)

» Mark Rackley (@mrackley)

» Me

» Jennifer Roth (@jennifermason)

Click to listen to the recording:


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November 10
SharePoint & Office 365: Cross-site Content Concepts

I recently had a call with a customer who had a pretty common requirement. Their content editors work on files on a team site, and they want to have a way to have that content exist on the team site and on their main intranet site as well. Currently the content editors are making the changes in two different places, and they want to streamline this process for efficiency's sake. They do not want to have to give everyone in the company access to the files where they are being worked on in the team site, and they are hesitant about allowing these content editors to actually edit the intranet site itself.

How can this be accomplished in SharePoint 2013 and Office 365? There are several different options available, with varying degrees of setup complexity, which I will describe in this article, with associated resource links for each.

SharePoint Content Deployment feature

This is a feature that you can activate. You would have a content site collection which is where users author files, and then the target site collection where you want the content deployed to. Out of the box, this is pretty limited in that it will deploy an entire site collection or all the sites under a certain site collection. This is a job that you would schedule to run at certain times. Content Deployment also entails quite a bit of configuration on the server side by your server administrator. Depending on your method of authentication and whether you have HTTPS, this can be fairly complicated. As far as the end users are concerned, they are editing and working on content in one location, and it automatically gets pushed to the other location at the interval you've determined. This is a great blog post that I came across that describes the process including an approval portion in the middle. This feature is not available in Office 365. Most of the content on Microsoft's site and on blogs is written for SharePoint 2010, because in 2013, cross-site publishing is a new feature for achieving this same type of result.

Cross-site publishing

The concept of cross-site publishing allows you to have an authoring site collection and a target site collection just like content deployment. Unlike content deployment, a great functionality is that it utilizes your managed metadata structure. The people who are authoring content are adding items to a simple list and categorizing them. In the target site collection, navigation is automatically generated based on your managed metadata structure, and the items that the authors wrote will end up displaying on the page of whichever category that they assigned that item. One negative that jumps out at me is that although this feature makes heavy use of the Content Search web part which is awesome, this web part has limited out-of-box display choices. You would almost definitely need to elicit the help of a branding person in order to get that content to display in a pretty way. You can deem a list or library where you author content as a catalog, and then define what field you are going to use to categorize each item in that list or library. This feature makes it nice and simple for the content authors, because they just to a list of there their announcements or articles are, whatever the content is, enter their data, and as long as they categorize it correctly, it will display in the right place in the target site collection. They don't ever have to edit actual pages in a page library. Benjamin Niaulin wrote a great post which simplifies this whole process and walks you through setting up some simple cross-site publishing for company announcements.

This is a great post letting you know when to use content deployment versus cross-site publishing:


The Content Organizer

As we go through each of these options, they exponentially easier to use and set up. The content organizer is a great way to automatically route documents based on conditions and rules that you set up. This is another way to allow people to author content and not necessarily directly edit the location where the content will end up where it is consumed by the content readers. Unfortunately, content organizer rules cannot apply to pages in a page library, though. They cannot be used for list items, either. The content has to be a file in a library. Another negative is that there isn't really a good way to see what's been happening, from a reporting standpoint. There's no way to look at a library and be able to tell which files have been sent to that other location, especially if they're just sending a copy. If you had a large number of files, you'd end up having to somehow compare the set of files in the source location to the files that are in the destination location.

There are a three main ways these content organizer rules can be used:

  1. Users can have a single drop-off location where they upload or save documents, and then from there, documents automatically get sorted and placed in the correct library and folder according to metadata and the rules you've defined.
  2. Users can use a custom send to location which will appear on the Files tab in the ribbon when a document is selected. This Send To drop-down box will give them options as to where they would like to send the file, such as an archive or an intranet site where the content could be read by a broader audience. When these Send To locations are defined on the server, the administrator chooses one of three actions for that file. The options are to Copy, Move, or Move and leave a link.
  3. Information management policies can be created, which will automatically move files to the destination location based on a certain date field. For example, when the date of the last file modification plus one year arrives, the file could automatically be moved to an archive location.

Here are some reference links on the content organizer:


Custom "Send To" Location

The custom send to location is similar to #2 in the content organizer rules above, but even easier. Also, it does not require access to Central Administration or even Site Settings to get it configured. This is functionality that you can set up that allows one library one specific location to send a copy of files to. This only exists for files in a library, and not list items. When the user selects to send a file to this location, they are prompted to choose whether they want the original file author to be prompted to send future updates to the copy of the file, each time it is checked in. They also have the option to allow it to create an alert on that document so that they will know when it changes and potentially needs to have an update sent out to the copy. An example use case of this would be an HR department that has a library on their private team site where they collaborate on documents. They also have an intranet site that everyone in the company can read content. When a file is ready to go public, they would use this Send To location.

After the copy has been sent, the original file location will have a button in the Files tab of the ribbon called Manage Copies, so that they can see a list of where current copies of that file are, and send out updates if needed. The destination location even has a column called Copy Source, where you can view the URL of the location where the file came from.


Publishing Pages Approval

With the simple goal being that the content authors shouldn't have to author or update identical content in multiple places, there's good old publishing page approval and out-of-box workflows that could be used. When you create a publishing site, one of the templates is Publishing Site with Workflow (hint for sub-site: choose Use unique permissions in order for it to work correctly). Using this type of site for publishing allows you to have a strict process in place around the editing and publishing of content on the intranet pages.

Again, with this original requirement at the top, how could this functionality be used to accomplish what they want? Content editors would be able to directly edit pages on the intranet site, but when they do this, each page would have to go through an approval workflow before the changes could be approved to go "public". But what about the fact that they need to be able to get to this content from their team site as well? The Content Search web part is very powerful. One of the things it allows us to do, is display content from one place in your farm… in another place in the farm. The content from the library on the intranet site could be displayed in a web part on the team site. They're editing it in one place, the intranet site, but they can get to it from a couple of places. If they did the opposite, if they only edited the files on the private collaboration site and tried to display them on the intranet site, they would have to give everyone in the company access to that library's content on their private site. This was not an option.


As you can see, there are many different options, with varying pros and cons. There are several factors to consider when deciding which route to go. Some factors are: What is the content we're dealing with? Items? Pages? Library files? Can content editors be allowed to work on the intranet pages directly? What is the quantity of content we're dealing with? Does there need to be visibility into which content has been published, by whom and when? To get started, I definitely recommend testing out each of these options, and experiencing them from the content author perspective and the end user (content reader) perspective, in order to make an informed decision.

September 26
Microsoft’s Next Big Conference

Back in July, Microsoft announced that there will be one big unified technology event for enterprises, and it is going to be held in May in Chicago.  This conference is supposed to replace several different conferences that you may have been to before:

  • SharePoint Conference / Office 365
  • MS TechEd
  • Exchange Conference (MEC)
  • Lync Conference
  • Project Conference
  • Microsoft Management Summit (MMS)

Earlier this week, I had an amazing opportunity.  Microsoft invited me and several other community influencers to Chicago to talk about ideas for this new conference.  They included influencers and MVPs who have been to one or more of the aforementioned conferences, as well as about ten Microsoft folks.  We all arrived on Sunday, and had meetings Monday and Tuesday.

First, we took a bus to the event WP_20140922_012 (640x361)location, McCormick Place.  We got a tour of the venue, and then we went to a meeting room and went straight to work.  Here is a photo of my SharePoint friend, Naomi Moneypenny, and I looking at an event being set up in one of the expo halls.

What did we do in our meetings?  Basically, Microsoft asked us a *bunch* of questions.  They want to make this conference the best it can be, so they took a lot of notes on the ideas and brainstorming that went on.  They asked us questions like:

  • What has been something about a previous conference that you liked and would like to see return at this new conference?
  • What new ideas do you have about things you may have never seen at a conference and would like to see?
  • What makes a conference “cool”?
  • What kind of session builder / content is important to you?
  • For someone who has never been to a Microsoft conference, what would be some driving factors that would bring them in?
  • SOCIAL – we had a lot of discussions / ideas about how to involve people socially, bringing in ideas of things that went well in the past, and trying to get people engaged who wouldn’t normally be.

That first evening, we all went out to dinner and then went to the John Hancock Observatory, AKA 360 Chicago.  We got to do the Tilt, and then had a nice little reception and dessert.  Here are a couple of pictures from that:

WP_20140922_028 (361x640)WP_20140922_032 (640x361)


The next day, Tuesday, we had more roundtable discussions, and we did some photo and video shoots as well.  My crappy little camera phone doesn’t really do it justice, but Rick Claus took a ton of pictures with a really nice camera.  Who were the other participants and influencers?  Let’s see, I’m just going to list them by twitter name here, you know, since we’re all so social…

@NickLagalante @Begley_D @joeysnow @RicksterCDN @Golnaz89 @MichaelBender @Pluralsight_Ed @fabianwilliams @nmoneypenny @meetdux @ToddKlindt @_JoeKelly_ @expta @Ladewig @Hoorge  @JasonSherry @tompacyk @larryla @Hfitz11 @MarkDeFalco @olafhubel

Sorry if I’m missing anyone.  I just grabbed these out of my twitter stream/mentions from those days.  In counting the people in the above photo, I’m clearly missing some names.  Winking smile

Anyway, so what next?  Microsoft is going to continue to keep us engaged, and updated.  They encouraged us to tweet and blog about this roundtable.  Also, you can use the comments area here on my blog if you have any input around any of the topics / questions that I mentioned above.  I’ll be sure to send your feedback right to Microsoft! (my blog comments are moderated, of course)

There were so many amazing ideas and super smart people, that I could go on and on, but in general THANKS MICROSOFT for wanting our feedback, and I’m excited to see what comes out of all of this.

10/22 update: Microsoft announced the name of the new conference last week! Microsoft Ignite! Registration is open!


11/24 Update!  Call for topics!  This is a survey.  Microsoft is asking ALL OF US what content we want at this conference.  Please make your voice heard here.

See you there!!

September 11
SharePoint Conditional Formatting

In SharePoint 2013 and Office 365, there is no more design view in SharePoint Designer, and of course InfoPath is slowly being depreciated between now and 2023.  Without these tools, how do we go about creating business solutions easily like we have been doing for years?  I’m not a programmer, and I know that most of my audience here… you’re not programmers either.  Well, there’s this thing called JSLink that was introduced in SharePoint 2013.  It is another tool we can use to create fairly simple conditional formatting and lots of other formatting on our forms and views… except it entails JavaScript.  Some of it is so simple that even *I* can do it.  I found a ton of blog posts  where developers (a lot even friends of mine) have been blogging about cool capabilities and tricks for a couple of years now.  The thing is, the people who read these blogs are also developers, so that’s who they’re tailored to.  Most of them don’t bother stating the basics like “what is a JS file and where do I put it?”, because their readers already know this stuff.

In this post, I will show you, the non-developers how to use JS Link, and some extreme basics about how it works.  Once you are armed with this knowledge and you want to research it further, you will better be able to translate what the developers are writing and maybe be able to use it. 

Here we go, and remember that I am not a programmer and I don’t know anything technical, I’m just figuring it out as I go.  This blog post was my inspiration. 

Okay, I’m going to use a super simple example here, because mostly what I’m demonstrating is not the script language and how to program, but how to get JSLink actually working in your environment.  Again, this is really cool to me, because it allows us to do conditional formatting in views and forms without the need for SharePoint Designer or InfoPath!  The example is a SharePoint list of patients in a hospital.  There is a column called “Progress Level”, and their level is either “Good” or “Bad”.  Very simple.  I want to show the good ones with green text and the bad ones in red.  Actually, in order to demonstrate an image in conditional formatting versus a text color, the good ones will show in green text, and the bad ones will show a red icon, like this:


So here are the steps to do this:

  1. Create a custom list with a choice column in it called Progress.  Make the two choice options Good and Bad.  When you create this column, make sure you call it Progress, and you’re not just renaming some other column and calling it that.  This is important to making it work correctly.
  2. Insert this new list on your homepage or some page on your SharePoint site, as a web part, and make sure the Progress column is showing.
  3. Download this file to your computer.  It’s just a text file, but you’ll need to save it as a .JS file.  See, I removed the .TXT and changed the Save as type to All Files.

  4. Download these image files to your computer:  RedGreen  Go to the root of your site collection, and to the default Library called Site Assets.  Upload these images to it.  The JavaScript file will reference that as the location of the indicator.
  5. If you have access to the root level of your site collection, go there and go to Site Settings.  In the Web Designer Galleries section, click Master Pages.  Then click the Display Templates folder. 
  6. In this library, go to the Files tab of the ribbon, click the Upload Document button, pick your JS file you downloaded in step 3, and choose Javascript Display Template as the content type when prompted to fill in metadata.  
  7. Here is what you are prompted with, and what to fill in, and click SAVE.
  8. Here are what some of the settings mean:
    Target Control Type:
    View – a view in a list of multiple items
    Form – a form that users are filling out, such as dispform/editform/newform.
    Field – just a single field, although I can’t find any references that really explain what this one is for and when it would be used.

    Standalone: Every reference I’ve seen says to set this to Override, but no one says what the purpose of the other option (Standalone) would be.

    Target Scope: This is the URL relative to the site collection.  So here I put a / because I want this JS file to be available to use anywhere in the site collection.  If I only wanted to be able to use this code on a sub-site called “IT”, I would type /IT in this box.

    Target List Template ID:  The list in my example is a custom list (see step 1), and the code for a custom list is 100Here is a list of a bunch of other codes for the other list types.  Scroll down to the section called Type, to see the long list of codes.  I know it says 2010, but I can’t seem to find a list of updated codes for the latest version.  There are only one or two new list types in 2013, and the rest are going to be the same.

    If you’ve got your file uploaded now, you can skip to step 12.
  9. If you don’t see the JavaScript Display Template at step 4, or if you don’t have access to the root of the site collection, here are your different instructions instead of step 4.  Create a document library on your site, and name it whatever you want.  I’m just calling mine “Test Files”.  In the Library Settings, go to Advanced Settings, and change Allow management of content types to YES.
  10. On your library settings page, in the content types section, click Add from existing site content types.  Choose JavaScript Display Template, add it, and click OK.
  11. Go to step 6.
  12. Anyway, now that your JS file has been uploaded, you’ll need the URL to it.  In the Files tab of the ribbon, click the View Properties button for this JS file you just uploaded.  Right click on the name of the file and click Copy Shortcut.
  13. Now that you have the URL to the JS file, remember that web part from step two?  Go to that web part in the browser, and open the web part properties toolpane.  Expand the Miscellaneous section (more on that in my other post).  Paste your URL in the JS Link box.  Notice that when you save the web part, nothing magical happens.  Go back into the web part properties and notice that the URL is now showing as relative, like since my library is “Test”, it changed the URL to /Test/PatientList.js

    You need to put the ~site at the beginning, as shown here.  If your JS file were being stored in a library at the root of your site collection, and you were referencing it from web parts in sub-sites, you would use ~sitecollection instead.

Now, save your page, and your web part looks like that that first screenshot (at least the progress column does).  At step two, I instructed you to put your list on a page as a web part, but if you want to you can just go to any regular view of your list, click the (Settings) gear at the top right and click Edit Page.  From there you can do step 13.

9/29 update:  I see some confusion out there around this last step of using the link to the JS file.  Please refer to a seperate blog post I wrote called SharePoint URL Basics.  This will help you understand how to obtain the link to your site.  In my example screenshot above, "Test" is a library in my site, and PatientList.js is a file in that library.

Wes Preston has a great blog, with a lot of posts about JS Link, and here’s a great “primer” that he wrote about it.  There are also hundreds of other blog posts out there about JS Link.

I’ll get into dissecting the syntax in another post.  In the meantime, feel free to dig in and see how the conditional formatting works, and browse the plethora of posts about it.

September 11
List View Web Part Properties

In SharePoint 2013 and Office 365, there are a couple of pretty useful new web part properties that I would like to point out.  When inserting an “app part” on a page (a list or library web part), there is a Miscellaneous section in the web part property toolpane.

  1. Insert a list or library (app) as a web part on a page in SharePoint.
  2. Open the web part properties toolpane.  (Select the web part and in the ribbon on the Web Part tab, click Web Part Properties)image
  3. Expand the section called Miscellaneous.

Disable view selector menu

This option is checked by default.  When unchecked, will show the names of the views in the web part.  When you click on the name of a view, it will navigate you over to that list or library.  So, even though you’re not staying within the context of whatever web part page you’re on, at least it will get you to another view of the list/library.

Disable ‘Save This View’ Button

This option is checked by default.  When unchecked, it will allow view modifications to be saved as a new view.  When a user is looking at a list or library in SharePoint, as soon as they start clicking column headings for sorting and filtering, the Save This View button appears.  I love this!  A lot of times, I’ll put a web part on a page, and use “edit the current view” a few times, to get it looking the way I want.  Then, if I want to do the same thing again, or on another page, I’d have to do that work again if I didn’t create it as a view in the first place.  This allows me to save my view and choose public or private and give it a name.  Keep in mind that this button will not appear until you click to sort or filter your columns.  Also note that as always, if an end user does not have permission to create public views, of course their only option will be to create a private view.

Display search box

The search box at the top of lists and libraries is awesome!  Now, this gives you the ability to display this small search box right in your web part, so users can quickly search through the files in that list/library and immediately see the results right in the web part without having to navigate away!

JS Link

Awesome functionality that entails JavaScript, so I’ll save that for another post.  Smile

Server Render

Takes away all of these checkboxes that I’ve described in this post, and removes any added functionality that they provide.

This is a web part with the view selector, save this view, and search box all showing:


Important note!  These settings only exist with the default style in your views.  In your view settings (not web part settings), if you have changed the style to anything but Default, none of these web part settings will be available to you.


I’ve recorded a video demonstrating all web part settings.  Click on the image below to jump straight to the part where I start talking about these Miscellaneous settings.


August 15
SPTechCon 2014 in Boston, $200 Off!

It’s time for the SharePoint Technology Conference (SPTechCon) in Boston again!  You can use the code ROGERS when you register, to get $200 off of the cost.  What’s going on this year? 

Here’s my schedule for the week:


11:00am - 12:15pm

Making the Most of the Out-Of-Box Web Parts

There are over 50 out-of-the-box Web parts in the enterprise version of SharePoint! In this class, you will learn just how flexible and useful these Web parts are. Not only will you get a detailed look at the Filter, Excel, Social, Rollup and Media Web parts, but you will also learn about a few new ones in SharePoint 2013 such as the Content Search Web Part. You will then learn how to customize some of these Web parts, see examples, demonstrations, and learn about new features.   All of this is done without writing any code. Push SharePoint as far as you can with out-of-box functionality! This class is a mixture of 2010 and new 2013 Web parts.


8:30am - 9:45am

Creating an Approval Workflow, Part I

Forms and documents are everywhere in your organization, and a lot of them must go through an approval process. SharePoint is such a flexible platform it provides us with multiple methods that can be used to build our processes. In this class, learn about these different out-of-box ways to create a workflow around a form approval process. You will see the various alternatives when creating an approval workflow such as content approval, out-of-box workflows, and the task process designer in a SharePoint Designer workflow. Quickly create and implement intuitive workflows for your critical IT and business systems with no programming involved! The concepts in this class are applicable to both SharePoint 2010 and 2013. This is part one of a two-part class, covering only the simple and purely out-of-box settings and functionalities.

10:00 – 10:45
Enterprise Forms Panel

10:45 – 12:00
Meet up with experts in Exhibit Hall – Information Worker

3:00 pm – 3:15 pm
Book Signing

Jennifer Mason, Amanda Perran and Laura Rogers – Beginning SharePoint 2013: Building Business Solutions


8:30am - 9:45am

Creating an Approval Workflow, Part II

Forms and documents are everywhere in your organization, and a lot of them must go through an approval process. SharePoint is such a flexible platform it provides us with multiple methods that can be used to build our processes. Quickly create and implement intuitive workflows for your critical IT and business systems with no programming involved! In this advanced class, learn about creating a completely custom new hire approval process. In part two of this class, we will build out an HR onboarding workflow in SharePoint Designer, using a complex example that involves a process with both serial and parallel components with multiple workflows.  The concepts in this session are applicable to both SharePoint 2010 and 2013.  This is part 2 of a 2 part presentation.  This second part has only advanced concepts geared towards those who are already familiar with SharePoint Designer workflows, and does not contain any of the out-of-box workflow options taught in part 1.

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August 11
Business Solution: New Hire Onboarding

Every Wednesday at 11 AM Central time, some colleagues from Rackspace and I do a live YouTube / Google Hangout broadcast called SharePoint Power Hour.

Recently, I did a series of videos where I outline a single business process in detail.  I decided that a New Hire Onboarding process is a very common scenario, so that’s what I decided to create.  First of all, here are some associated files for you:


Hour 1 – I go through some slides describing the business process and my pet peeves with out of box workflow and tasks.   In the last 20 minutes I start building the whole solution from scratch.  I create the New Hires list, the new Hire Content type, site columns, and then I create the Promoted Links list.

4:13 Explanation of the solution
5:40 Some slides
8:20 Visio diagram of the workflow
20:01 Show a demo in the SharePoint site
30:45 Laura realized that her workflow was working fine along even though she was trying to troubleshoot it :-)
32:44 Explanation of why to use the Create List Item action instead of task actions
37:09 An overview of the workflow in SPD
37:50 Create a new site, to start building this whole solution from scratch
39:31 Creating all of the lists on the site
40:32 Explanation of creating the New Hire as a content type with site columns
52:45 Look at the New Hire form after finishing the list
53:11 Create the Promoted Links list
56:57 Insert the Promoted Links as a web part
57:29 Wrap it up for today

Hour 2 – I start building the new hire approval workflow in SharePoint Designer 2013, I create several Task content types.  I finish building the Set Variables stage and the Manager Approval stage.

0:00 Introductions
4:00 Begin the overview of what's happened so far with the solution
5:36 Discuss the concepts behind how the workflow will be built
8:26 Fill out the first new hire form
11:17 Modify the default view of the new hires list
18:26 Open SharePoint Designer to start on the workflow
20:20 Demonstrate the visual workflow designer
23:59 Add the manager approval actions to the workflow
24:45 Discuss the Workflow Tasks list and task content types
34:03 Finish creating the Set Variables stage
37:13 Publish the workflow and run it as a test
38:08 Add logging to the workflow
39:50 Create more Task content types
52:32 Create the New Hire lookup site column
55:48 Add the new hire lookup to the Create Item action
58:40 Add a condition in the transition to stage in the workflow

Hour 3 – I finish up the manager approval stage, and move on to the three parallel task.  I explain how I make the workflow wait until all 3 of those tasks are finished before it moves on.

0:00 Intro
4:39 Overview of the workflow
6:52 Open the workflow in SPD, overview of it so far
9:39 Rant about a frustration with 2013 workflows
11:12 Answer a question about promoted links list
12:02 Pick up where we left off at end of manager approval
12:35 Create a workflow on the task list
13:45 Lori asks a question about the workflow start options
15:33 Add the first condition and action to task WF
19:22 Test the workflow so far
19:35 Add the transition after manager approval stage
20:30 Talk about GoTo actions and meaning of stage names
21:35 Fill out a test new hire
25:00 Check workflow status screens on both lists, troubleshoot
26:04 Fix the task workflow and re-publish
27:26 Add logging to task workflow
28:33 Back to new hire workflow, stage 3 parallel tasks
30:13 Create SharePoint groups for roles within workflow
32:01 Back to workflow, put SP Groups in assigned tasks
34:05 Discuss the due date variable
34:52 Add all three of the actions for the parallel tasks
37:43 Explanation of logic waiting for 3 parallel tasks
40:00 Create new site column for new hire list, Parallel Count
42:45 Add site column to New Hire content type
44:11 Back to workflow to utilize that new column
49:02 Rant about Else-If pet peeve in 2013.
50:00 Answer question about looping through mult tasks Post I wrote on that
59:25 wrap up

Hour 4 – At the beach!  In this segment, I finish up the parallel task stage, and add the security task stage.  Then, I create the new hire dashboard and run through the workflow.

0:00 Intro
4:01 Overview of workflow diagram
5:08 Fill out a new hire, run through WF so far
11:43 Pick up where we left off in the 3 parallel tasks in WF
12:19 create transition to diff stages according to approve or reject
14:10 After 3 parallel tasks completed, MATH. Go to next stage.
15:32 Open task list workflow, add new condition.
18:40 Back to new hire list wf, add stage for security task
20:36 Add the Department site column to New Hire content type
21:46 Back to WF, create conditional transitions and all stages
25:50 Add security task stage actions
29:40 Back to task workflow, add another condition
29:55 Organize the task workflow so that the conditions aren't nested
34:22 Add the security task condition to the task WF
38:40 Add a test new hire
40:10 Start creating the new hire dashboard
46:30 Workaround for the inability to do web part connection to tasks
49:05 Create custom action / quick step to get to dashboard
53:12 Go back to the new hire being tested, run through wf
57:15 So far so good. Go to questions.

Hour 5 – Home with the baby.  I finish up the workflows, do a test run-through, and create a couple of views.

0:00 Intro
9:20 Overview of workflow task order
10:00 Workflow in SharePoint Designer
11:49 Go to where we left off, the HR Approval stage
17:22 Open task list workflow, add new condition and action
22:00 Add a bunch of logging to task workflow
22:55 Back to new hire list workflow
25:00 Go to Employee Orientation stage
28:00 Talk about the task wf and then go add another condition to it
29:38 Move on to the completed stage of new hire workflow
30:45 Stephen mentions linking a task list to Outlook
33:15 Set the Task content type required fields
34:25 Do a test run-through of the whole workflow
38:36 Troubleshooting: modify the required and hidden fields
40:50 Add another new hire, test again
46:10 Troubleshooting stuck workflow. Fix it.
49:49 Create "in progress" view of new hires list, add promoted link
53:30 Adding / editing more views of various lists and on dashboard
54:11 One more run-through of a test

Hour 6 – Whew! Fix the due date column, modify some web parts and navigation to generally clean up the whole user interface.  Discuss permissions options.

0:00 Intro
3:22 Overview of solution
5:58 Fill out a new hire, start going through process
10:30 Answer question about how the dashboard was created
11:15 back to walking through the workflow
13:43 Fix due date column to show date and time
20:35 Modify web parts on home page
27:55 Modify navigation
31:03 Modify the new hire dashboard
38:48 Talk about permissions
40:43 Define who can see what
43:13 Modify permissions
44:20 (Rant about the "Edit" permission level in 2013 / O365)
53:08 Activate the App Step feature

I hope you have liked this series, and stay tuned to our upcoming Power Hours:

August 01
Workflow Loop Through Multiple SharePoint Items

Finally!  It can be done with a SharePoint Designer 2013 workflow!  This is something that I’ve been wanting to be able to do for YEARS, and now it’s possible… and I’m just now blogging about it.  No, this can’t be done in any previous versions unless you go buy a 3rd party tool or get a dev to write something custom.

Think about any time you’ve wanted to be able to edit multiple items in a list according to some condition.  Think about lookups.  Say you’ve got a contact list of customers, and you’ve got a document library where each document has a lookup column to a specific customer.  Have you ever wanted to trigger a workflow at the customer level that would automatically go do *something* on all of the items in the other list/library that are related to that customer?

The example I’m going to use here is a very common one that you all ask me about.  I want to just get ONE email letting me know about all of my currently active tasks in a task list, instead of getting all of those individual emails for each separate task.  This is very complicated, so it will help tremendously if you’ve done workflows before.  This post isn’t written geared to someone who has never created a workflow, because I don’t explain what any of these concepts are (like variables, etc.), I just show the steps.

So, here’s what we have. 

  • A list of tasks (just using the task list template)
  • A list of people.  This is a custom list (here I named it Loop through tasks).  I added a person/group field, and called it “Assigned To” (using the existing site column).  I’ve set the Title field so that it’s not required. 

The idea is that the workflow will be created on the Loop Through Tasks list, and for each list item where the tasks is not completed, and the due date has passed, it will send an email to the person that lists all of those tasks.  For reference, here’s the first big chunk, and scroll down to see all of the individual steps.

  1. Create your workflow on your list of people. I named my workflow “Test loop through tasks”, and set it so that it automatically starts when an item is created.  You’ll be using a LOT of variables in here, so let’s just create them ahead of time. (Use the Local Variables button in the ribbon)  Here are their names and types:
    Name Type
    dictionary Dictionary
    responseCode String
    JSONresults Dictionary
    dataset Dictionary
    index Integer
    count Integer
    myID Integer
    calc Number
    Index Plus One Number
    MyStatus String
    StringOfItems String
    myTitle String
    myAssigned String
    DueDate Date/Time
    Add One Number
  2. In Stage 1 of your workflow, add your first action.  Build a dictionary.  Click the blue word this, and your dictionary is going to have 2 items in it:
  3. The Build a dictionary item will then look like this.  Click OK.
  4. The next action to add is Call HTTP Web Service.  Click the first this, and put this in it:
    Mine looks like this:'11728079-25BE-43A9-9178-C58A988BD6FF')/Items
    (How do you get the GUID? In this case, I want to look through my task list, so one way is to go to my task list in SharePoint Designer, and in the List Information section it says List ID.)
    The HTTP method is HTTP GET.
  5. Click the blue word response, and choose your JSONresults variable.  At the end where it says Variable:responseCode2, just change that to the responseCode variable (step 1).
  6. Click the drop-down box on this action to call the web service.  Choose Properties.  In the RequestHeaders box, choose the variable called dictionary.  The screen should look like this (of course with your own website in the address).  Click OK.
  7. Next, add the action Get an Item from a Dictionary.  Click on the item by name or path.  Type this:  d/results
  8. Click dictionary, and choose the variable JSONresults.  Output to the variable called dataset.
  9. Add the action Count items in a dictionary.  Click on dictionary.  Choose the variable called dataset.  Output to the variable called count.  This variable is going to tell me the total number of items in that other list, my task list.
    (After this action, for fun I like to add a Log to history list action, and just log the variable called count.  Logging, just in general gives me more info on my workflow status page later.)
  10. Add the action called Set workflow variable.  Click workflow variable and select the one called index.  Click value and type the number 0
    This variable is going to allow me to loop through all the items in the other list, starting at zero, up to the total number of items in the list, the count.
  11. Add another Set workflow variable.  Set the StringOfItems variable to say:
    Email Text:
    This is the variable that we’re going to use to append information to it.  For each task, later we’re going to append text to this so that eventually this variable can be inserted into an email that will go to the person and list all of their tasks.
  12. Next, it’s time to add the loop.  So in the ribbon, click the Loop button and choose to Loop with Condition.
  13. At the top of the loop, click the first value.  Select the workflow variable called index.  For the operator, select is less than.  For the second value, choose the variable called count.  Click OK.

    Here’s a screenshot for reference, of what the whole loop is going to look like, and now we’ll go through the steps:
  14. Inside the loop, add the action called Get an item from a dictionary.  What I originally wanted to do was to make it only get the items where the assigned to field (in the task list) equals the name of the assigned to field in my list of people here.  I couldn’t for the life of me get this to work with a people field.  So, instead I’m using the Status field to get only tasks that aren’t completed, and getting the due date field so that I can get just the overdue ones. 
    Click item by name or path.  Use the string builder to do this.  Most of this text is typed in there, except for the variable index I used the Add or Change Lookup button.
    See where it says Status… that’s the status column in my task list.  This word may be different in your own solution if you’re not dealing with tasks or statuses.  How did I know to just type the word Status, when the field is called Task Status?  This is important.  Go to your task list settings page, and click the name of the Task Status column.  Look at the URL.  See the part where Field= will tell you the actual name of the column.   
    This part can get a bit more complicated if you have fields that have spaces or other weird characters in them.  If I put a space in my column name when I created it, it will look something like Column%5Fx0020%5Fname
    You then have to decode it to get what you need. 
    Go here and put your column name in the Encoded box and click URLDecode.  Then it will give you this in the Plain box: Column_x0020_name
    That value is what you put in the spot where I put Status.
  15. Still on the Get item from dictionary action, click the dictionary.  Select JSONresults.  Output to, click item and choose your variable called MyStatus.
  16. Add another action to Get item from dictionary.  Instead of the status field, this time we’ll be getting the due date.  Here’s what these last two actions look like:
    I’m using these two fields because that’s my “Where”.  I am only going to want tasks that have a certain status and a certain range of due dates.  The fields used here will potentially be different in your own solution.
  17. Now it’s time for a condition.  Insert the condition If any value equals value.  Again, this is where we use those two fields in steps 14 and 15.  If the variable MyStatus not equals Completed.
  18. With the orange line directly under that last condition, insert another If any value equals value.  And the variable DueDate is less than Today (Current Date).  This will narrow down my list to only get items that are overdue and haven’t been completed.
  19. Inside of this IF section in the workflow, insert an action Get item from dictionary.  This is similar to step 14, except this is getting the ID of each item that hasn’t been completed and is overdue. 
  20. Next add an action to Set Workflow Variable.  Set the variable MyAssigned.  Click value, and click the fx (function) button.  This is where I choose the Workflow Tasks (the list I want to loop through), and I want to get the Assigned To field for the items where the ID is in my list of IDs of the items that aren’t completed and are past due.  The only reason I’m doing the Assigned To part here is because I wanted to do it at step 14 and that portion wouldn’t work with a people field.
  21. Add another action to set workflow variable.  Set the variable called myTitle to the value of the task name. 
  22. Add the action Log to History List.  Log the variable called myID.
  23. Next, add an IF condition: If Any Value equals value.  If the variable myAssigned equals Current Item: Assigned To.  This will narrow down the list to only items in the task list that are assigned to the same person in the Assigned To field in the list we’re running this workflow from. 
  24. Add an action to Set Workflow variable.  Set the variable StringOfItems to this:
    What the heck is all of this?  This is where you create what you want the email to look like.  Be sure to hit the enter key (carriage return) after you insert that first lookup to the StringOfItems.  Basically I want it to show the title of each task as a hyperlink to that task, and I want to show when it’s due.  This is going to loop through all of the person’s tasks that are not completed and overdue, and put them all in one big list in this variable.
  25. Put the cursor at the very bottom of your Loop, still inside it, and insert an action Do Calculation.  Calculate the Variable: index plus 1
    Output this to the variable called Index Plus One.
  26. Add an action to Set Workflow Variable.  Set the index variable to the value of the Index Plus One variable.
    This causes our loop to loop again until it’s finished going through all of the items in the task list.
  27. Done with the loop.  Put the cursor underneath (outside of) the loop, and add an action to Log to History List.  Log the variable StringOfItems.  This way you can see what will get sent in the email, here in your workflow logs. 
  28. Add an action to Send an Email.  Use Workflow lookup to send it to the Assigned To field from this list (called Loop Through Tasks).  In the body of the email, insert the StringOfItems variable.  Make the subject say whatever you want.
  29. In the transition to stage section, GoTo end of workflowPublish the workflow.


Now go add some fake tasks in your task list, and assign them to people, and then go to your list of people (the list you created this workflow on, I called it Loop Through Tasks) and add a person and watch this workflow run.  Remember, don’t try running a workflow as the system account, it won’t work.  After I run the workflow, here’s what I see on the workflow status page:


The count: 7 is the total number of tasks in the list.  All this might take a minute if your list has lots of items in it.  Then it always shows a zero, then it shows me that tasks 1, 6, and 10 are the ones that are not completed and are overdue.  Then, only two of those tasks are actually assigned to my Assigned To person in the item I ran the workflow on.  Those two get appended into the email text, with a link to each item and its title and due date!! 

Okay here’s the next issue.  How do you make this happen every day or every week or however often you want it to send these people their list of open tasks?  Should be easy, right?  Should just be an information management policy that would kick off the workflow.  Nope, 2013 workflows can’t be triggered my an information management policy for some reason.  So the easiest way is just going to make the workflow pause for whatever your duration is.  Like, pause for 2 days or 7 days or whatever, using the Pause for Duration action.

Here’s how:

  1. Add a new stage after your first one, and call it Pause until tomorrow.  Put a single action in it, to pause for duration, such as 1 day. 
  2. In the Transition to stage section, Go To Stage 1.
  3. In Stage 1, change the transition to stage so that the Go To makes it go to the stage called Pause until tomorrow.
  4. Publish again. 

Here’s that last portion of the workflow

That first screenshot in this post, plus the screenshot at step 13, plus this last screenshot, all together that’s the whole workflow.  It just won’t fit on one screen here to do one screenshot.

The next issue is, how do you auto-populate the list of people each time tasks get added to the task list?  Well, you’d think you could just create a workflow that creates a person in the list if they’re not already in it.  Then, each time an item was added, it would trigger the workflow that runs on item creation, and then the loop would start.

Unfortunately, SHAREPOINT 2013 WORKFLOWS CANNOT BE TRIGGERED FROM ANOTHER WORKFLOW.  This means that if a new item gets added to the list via workflow, my looping workflow would not start.  THIS SUCKS, because a lot of my business solutions depend on the concept of a workflow adding or changing something in a list, and that triggers another workflow to run on that item.  SHAREPOINT 2013 WORKFLOWS ALSO CANNOT BE TRIGGERED VIA INFORMATION MANAGEMENT POLICY, WHICH ALSO SUCKS.

So, the solution to this is to manually create the items in the Loop through tasks list.

I did end up having to add an App Step and move all my actions into it, because I tested running this workflow as a non-admin, and it gave errors like access denied.  So, here’s how to add an App Step.  Skip to steps 2 and 3 in this post.

This ability to tap into web services is very powerful, and here are some other blog posts that people have written about it:

July 25
Copy List Item to New – Another Method

Back in 2011, I wrote a post Click to Copy List Item to New.  I’ve had several requests for a re-write of this for 2013.  Actually, this method I’m going to show you can be done in 2010, 2013 and Office 365.

In this concept, I’ll show you how to create a workflow that simply creates a new item and pre-populates the columns with values from the current item.  In this example, I’ll be using a list called “New Hires” (which is using the contact list template).  If someone has entered a new hire into the list, and wants to quickly add another one that’s mostly the same, in this case the first and last name fields would be the only difference.  Here are the steps:

  1. In your new workflow (I’m naming mine Copy New Hire), click the button in the ribbon called Initiation Form Parameters
    The reason we’re doing this part, is so that when they click to copy a new hire, they will be presented with a form to fill out the first and last name of the next new hire.
  2. Click the Add… button, and the first Field Name will be called First Name.  Keep the default information type as a single line of text.  Click Next.
  3. Leave the default value blank, and click Finish.
  4. Repeat step 2, creating a second field called First Name the same way.
  5. On the Association and Initiation Form Parameters screen, click OK.
  6. Add an action to your workflow, called Create List Item.  Click the blue words this list.
  7. For the List drop-down box, I’m choosing my New Hires list, so I’m really just creating a new item in the same list that I’m running the workflow in. 
  8. Any required fields in your list will automatically show here with asterisks next to them.  Also, if you’re using multiple content types in your list, the Content Type ID field will show.  Click to select the Last Name field, and click the Modify button.
  9. Where it says To this value, click the fx (function) button.  For the data source, choose Workflow variables and Parameters.  For the Field from source, choose Parameter: Last Name.  Click OK. (twice)
  10. The idea is that although we’re going to copy this item to be a new one, there are usually going to be one or two fields that are going to be different.  Those are the ones that we create as parameters to pass to the new item.  In this case, it’s just first and last name, so all of the other fields will end up getting set up with the same value as the item we’re copying.  In this case, the last name was the only required field, so it was the only one showing on the Create new List Item screen.  I still have to add a bunch of other fields here.  Click the Add button.  For Set this field, choose First Name.  For To this value, repeat what you did in step 9 for the last name, except this time you’re using the parameter called First Name.  Click OK.
  11. Now that the two parameters have been added (you may have more in your own solution, however many you need), it’s time to add all the rest of the fields.  Click the Add… button.  City is going to be my next one, so for Set this field, I choose City
  12. Click the fx (function) button next to To this value.  The Data source should be Current Item, and for the Field from source, I choose City also.  Click OK. Click OK.
  13. My next field is going to be Company.  Repeat steps 11 and 12, but instead of choosing City in both places (in purple), I choose Company. 
  14. Repeat steps 11 and 12 for all of the other fields in your list that you want to be pre-populated when the new item (copy) gets created.  Notice in this screenshot that the first and last name fields are from parameters, and all the others are just going to be a copy of what is in the current item.
  15. When you’ve finished adding your fields, click OK.  If you are using a SharePoint 2013 workflow, you’ll need to add a Go To action in your Transition to stage, but then the workflow is ready to publish! (I also gave my stage a pretty name other than Stage 1)
  16. In your New Hires list in SharePoint, go to the List tab in the ribbon and click the button New Quick Step.  Alternately, you can open SharePoint Designer, go to Lists and Libraries, and click the name of your list there.  The Custom Actions are the exact same thing as Quick Steps.
  17. Instead of using the generic screen for creating a new custom action, called Create Custom Action, click cancel.  Put your cursor in the section at the bottom called Custom Actions.  Once you do that, you’ll see Custom Actions in the ribbon, with the drop-down box for a new Custom Action.  Here’s where it is when you’re on that list’s settings page in SPD:
  18. Click the Custom Action drop-down box in the ribbon.  Choose List Item menu.  Keep in mind that you can create many different types of custom actions that all do the same thing, these custom buttons will just show up in different places such as the list item menu, the Display Form ribbon, etc.
  19. Name your custom action Copy to New.  Or you can call it whatever you want, really.  Type a description, so that people will know what this button does.  In the section called Select the type of action, choose Initiate workflow.  Choose the workflow you just published, mine is called Copy New Hire.  Click OK. 
    Extra notes: Keep in mind that if you have images that are 16x16 or 32x32, stored in SharePoint, you can fill in the button image URL field as well.  Also, in this workflow’s Start Options, I have it so that it can be manually triggered.  If your workflow is not allowed to be manually triggered, it will not show up in the list of workflows to select from when choosing Initiate workflow as the action for your custom action.
    Click OK
  20. Now, when I go to my New Hires list in the browser, and I click the ellipsis or drop down box on an item in the list, “Copy to New” is now an option in that drop-down.  I click it, fill out the parameters, and then as soon as I click Start, the new item gets created. 

That’s a pretty simple solution, but there are a couple of issues.  The initiation parameters don’t allow us to do required fields, so it will allow people to kick off the workflow without actually filling in the parameters.  If a fields is required, it would then have the words “No Title” in it, instead of any actual first or last names.

Another issue, is that after the workflow runs, it bounces the user back to the homepage of the site.  So although the item does get created, they don’t immediately see it.  One super simple solution to this would be to put a list web part on the homepage called “My New Hires” and make it have a filter of “Created By” is equal to [Me] and for it to be sorted by the Created date descending.  That way, even though they get bounced back to the homepage, they’ll immediately see the item they just created.

Here’s some more info about custom actions / quick steps:

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Laura Rogers @WonderLaura
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