Friday, September 30, 2005

Search Index Rules Syntax

SharePoint does a pretty good job of handling long, complex or unique URLs within the interface; many lists use relative pathing, Area and Site URLs preserve spaces for easy readability, and so on. One instance where this is definitely NOT the case is the application of rules for inclusion and exclusion of content sources.

When creating a rule that references a URL path, such as http://servername/Area, you must replace any spaces and special characters (ampersands, apostrophes, commas, etc.) with the proper URL encoding (%20, %26, %2C, etc.). Otherwise, the MSSearch process will ignore the rule and continue evaluating results against valid rules.

Also, remember that the order of the rules is important. If you are trying to exclude the above URL, the Portal_Content index will have a default inclusion rule of http://servername/; any new rules you create will be processed after this rule is satisfied. Since the default rule includes all content, any antecedent rules will be ignored. To address this issue, simply move your exclusions to precede the blanket inclusion and the search service will properly exclude the specified content source.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Extreme SharePoint Design: 'Go Back To [Area/Site]' Link

The ability to call pages in the /_layouts/1033/ directory is very convenient; all the administration pages can be stored in one location and referenced from any area or site within the portal. SharePoint uses the SPControl.GetContextWeb(Context) and SPControl.GetContextSite(Context) functions to determine what context the user is in when a page is called, then presents the appropriate content. Pretty slick.

There's just one problem: when accessing these pages, users often get lost with no way to return to where they came from. Nothing is more frustrating than finding yourself seven steps into a wizard with no way to bail out but to smack the 'Back' button repeatedly. The solution is a 'Go Back To [Area/Site]' link at the top of each administration page which gives the user one-click access to the place they started from.

Insert the following code into AlternateHeader.aspx or directly into your administration pages just after the PageHeader section (if you're using heavily customized Site Definitions as I often do, most of your admin pages will have header code in them to overwrite AlternateHeader and PortalHeader; just paste the following code into the appropriate section and format it as needed):

Response.Write ("<a href='" + SPControl.GetContextWeb(Context).Url + "'>Go Back to " + SPControl.GetContextWeb(Context).Title + "</a>");
{Response.Write ("Portal Administration Page");

The 'try' block creates a link back to the root of the referring area/site using the title field as the link text. The 'catch' block writes out a general statement that you can replace with anything you like, just in case the link fails to render properly.

NOTE: In 'Extreme SharePoint Design: Creating Custom User Menus', I used the same function to replicate the behavior of the 'Home' button on WSS sites. Use SPControl.GetContextWeb(Context) anytime you want to refer to the root URL of an area or site; use SPControl.GetContextSite(Context) to reference the site collection the current site belongs to.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that you'll need to insert the following code at the top of alternateheader.aspx in order for SharePoint to parse inline code blocks on the page (otherwise you will receive the dreaded 'External component has thrown an exception' error):

<%@ Page language="C#" %>
<%@ Register Tagprefix="SharePoint" Namespace="Microsoft.SharePoint.WebControls" Assembly="Microsoft.SharePoint, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=71e9bce111e9429c" %>

Updated SharePoint Resources List

Heather has updated her SharePoint Resources List with a bunch of new content. This should be your first stop for tips, tricks, and general How-To's.

If you're looking for a list of tools and utilities, including commercial and non-commercial software, web parts, add-ons, and the like, I maintain a brief list here and Joris Poelmans has a monster list here.

BTW, whatever happened to the Sharepoint Template Project???

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

New Blog Template

Shane was kind enough to let me know that the blog template I was using didn't render properly in Firefox, so I switched it up to something new. Not very compelling, I know, but I don't have time at the moment to whip up a better one (the stock Blogger templates just don't give you much to choose from).

Drop a comment and let me know if this one works any better...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Extreme SharePoint Design - Creating Custom User Menus

Finally, after much delay, the lastest installment in the Extreme SharePoint Design series is finished. In this installment we will explore the creation of custom menus using the default Actions and Views menus in SharePoint Portal Server 2003.

Originally intended to be a much shorter article, I kept finding additional things I felt needed to be included to present a complete picture, so the final version is rather lengthy. Hence the linked PDF as opposed to one big blog post. Download the article here (right-click, choose 'Save Target As'):

Extreme SharePoint Design - Creating Custom User Menus (PDF, 464k)


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

New SharePoint Features

I'll take Heather's cue and refrain from judging the new SharePoint features until I've had a chance to get my hands on them, but here are a few thoughts based on Fitz's post from PDC:

  • RSS. Everything about sites, lists, libraries, etc., can be syndicated via RSS automatically.
    Blogs and Wikis. Templates and features in the box.

Excellent. This will save a great deal of frustration with email-based alerts.

  • Content Types. These aren’t just like SPS 2001’s document profiles. They define sets of metadata, but they also contain view information. And associated workflows. And events bound to them (synchronous or asynchronous). And you can have more than one in the same list/library.

Hmm...not sure. Will this help with the problem of retrieving views via web services?

  • Workflow. Windows Workflow Foundation is embedded in WSS. It’s used everywhere.

I want to jump up and shout for joy...BUT...if they don't include a visual designer embedded into the UI ala Nintex SmartLibrary then they will have completely missed the boat. LOB managers, content editors, and designers cannot AND WILL NOT be forced to rely upon developers to create workflows.

  • Recycle Bin. We did it. It’s scoped to a site and captures deleted documents, items, etc. It has a user restore and an administrative restore.

Now that deserves a jump and a shout (assuming, of course, that it applies to SPS as well).

  • Per-item security. Even on list items.

I can die happy now. Is it really true? Oh, please, let it be so!

  • FrontPage has evolved into a feature set that makes it truly a SharePoint site designer. (Ghosting’s still around, but it won’t be a problem anymore. I’ll explain why in an upcoming post.

Interesting. This could make the job of customization a bit easier, which would make my life a much better place.

  • Forms services in Office “12” servers. That’s right — design a form in the InfoPath rich client, publish it as a SharePoint site, and it can be either viewed/filled out in the full smart client or in a browser as HTML.

One word: S-W-E-E-T!

  • Search. Better APIs. Better results. Alternate search suggestions (misspelled words,etc.). A highly customizable default Web-based UI.

I'm definitely excited about this. Search is a bit of a blessing and a curse, so any improvement will be welcome.

  • Office “12” servers will also contain a Business Data Catalog, a facility that registers LOB application data and Web services. Once that’s happened, BDC-aware Web Parts can pull data from them, we can index them, and a lot more. There’s a session on this tomorrow.

Not sure about this one. Sounds interesting, though.

  • Office “12” servers will also be able to take a spreadsheet published to a SharePoint site and reneer it as an HTML application.

Like it but not sure how useful that will be...

  • Mobile views of SharePoint lists. That’s right, a way to render a list on a mobile device.

Very nice.

  • Lists now have a Business Data type that will use the aforemntioned Business Data Catalog

Unsure on this one. Need more info.

  • Access will be able to treat SharePoint site data as fulll-blown data sources.

Yeah, baby!

All in all, it sounds promising. So, looking back, how'd they do with regards to my various predictions, rants and ravings? Not bad, I'd say.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Extreme SharePoint Design: Modifying The 'Grouped By' Headers

When applying grouping to a list view, the default style sheet prepends the field label and a colon to the group header. While this may be helpful in determing what category the data is grouped by it is certainly not the most visually appealing method. Fortunately, the style can be modified in the stdview.xml file located in the XML folder of your custom site definition (you are using a custom defintion, aren't you?). Locate the following code on or about line 278:

<GroupByHeader> <HTML><![CDATA[ <TBODY id="titl]]></HTML> <GetVar Name="GroupByLevelString"/> <HTML><![CDATA["><TR]]></HTML> <Switch> <Expr><GetVar Name="GroupByIndent"/></Expr> <Case Value="0"> <HTML> <![CDATA[ class="ms-gb" ]]> </HTML> </Case> <Default> <HTML> <![CDATA[ class="ms-gb2" ]]> </HTML> </Default> </Switch> <HTML><![CDATA[><TD colspan="100" nowrap><img src="/_layouts/images/blank.gif" alt="" height=1 width=]]></HTML> <GetVar Name="GroupByIndent"/> <HTML><![CDATA[><a href="javascript:" onclick="javascript:ExpCollGroup(']]></HTML> <GetVar Name="GroupByLevelString"/> <HTML><![CDATA[','img_]]></HTML> <GetVar Name="GroupByLevelString"/> <HTML><![CDATA[');return false;"><img id="img_]]></HTML> <GetVar Name="GroupByLevelString"/> <HTML><![CDATA[" src="/_layouts/images/minus.gif" alt="]]></HTML> <HTML>Expand/Collapse</HTML> <HTML><![CDATA[" border="0"></a> ]]></HTML> <GetVar Name="GroupByField" HTMLEncode="TRUE" /> <HTML><![CDATA[ : ]]></HTML> <GetVar Name="GroupByValue"/> <HTML><![CDATA[</TD></TR></TBODY>]]></HTML> </GroupByHeader>

Remove the field label and colon by deleting or commenting out the following code from this section:

<GetVar Name="GroupByField" HTMLEncode="TRUE" /> <HTML><![CDATA[ : ]]></HTML>

You may also wish to change the drab gray style by modifying ms-gb and ms-gb2 or assigning a class in a custom style sheet.

Once you're finished editing the file, save it and reset IIS. Note that this is a global change that will affect all lists in the definition. For localized changes, create a Data View Web Part and modify the XSL accordingly.

Compiling Locally Without SharePoint Installed

A vexing issue for SharePoint developers is the need to have WSS installed on your development machine due to DLL dependencies. Anyone who has tried to compile a web part in a stand-alone environment has run across the following errors:

The dependency 'Microsoft.SharePoint.Security' could not be found.
The dependency 'Microsoft.SharePoint.Dsp' could not be found.
The dependency 'Microsoft.SharePoint.Library' could not be found.

To circumvent this issue, extract the underlying DLL's from the GAC and copy them to your local machine. You'll need to perform the copy from the command prompt as Windows Explorer does not expose the full directory structure for the GAC. Each DLL resides in a directory with a path similar to the following:

c:/windows/assembly/gac/[Strong Name]/[Version Number]__[Public Key]/[Strong Name].dll

Once you have the DLL's you can include them as a reference in your project and compile without errors.