Category Archives: General

Just stuff that doesn’t really have to do with anything in particular – blog updates, friend updates, etc…

Hiding the Title Field – A little stumble…

Plenty of folks talk about variations on a theme here. I’ve hidden the Title field before, no big deal. The order I happen to use this time was a little confusing though.

I have a list where I know I’m using content types. So right after I’ve created the list, before I do anything else I turn on Advanced Settings –> Allow management of content types and then add my content types to the list. Within those content types, I have the Title field hidden. Within the ‘inherited from’ content types, the Title field is hidden. I figure I’m covered. Now when I open the list in datasheet mode and add a new row of information I get an error. First it was that a required field was not in the view so I needed to add a handful of columns back in. Then, I attempted again to add an item and the Title field gets the red box. What the heck? It’s supposed to be hidden. I tried changing lots of different settings all over the place but nothing worked. Frustrating.

Maybe you’ve seen this, maybe you haven’t – but it stumped me for a while before figuring out the simple solution thanks to Marc Anderson’s post. All I needed to do at this point was turn off the List Settings –> Advanced Settings –> Allow management of content types, then make the Title field not required, then turn Advanced mode back on. Even though I’d done the same thing to all the content types (including Item), I still needed to explicitly change the setting on the field itself. Makes sense once you figure it out, but quite frustrating when you’re in the mix trying to make it work.

My Organization Chart – User Experience

SharePoint Server 2010 has a web part on the My Site page called ‘My Organizational Chart’.  This web part (and the related Silverlight control on the Organization tab) use the ‘manager’ field in the Profile database to show the company org chart from the perspective of the My Site that you are visiting.  For example – if you are looking at ‘Bob’s My Site, the org chart shows Bob’s manager, Bob’s co-workers (folks that report to the same manager), and people that report to Bob.  It may also show further up the ‘tree’ (manager’s managers, etc.…) – which is where this tidbit comes in. 

What I haven’t been able to find thus far is any reference to the functionality that we recently noticed: If two different users are viewing the same person’s My Site, they may not see the exact same content in the My Organization Chart web part. No differences in the people or relationships, but in the scope of the results. One user may see the org chart go all the way to the CEO/President, while another user may see only the My Site owner’s manager. 

Again, this is likely documented somewhere, but I haven’t found it yet.  What I think the web part is doing is showing the current user us enough content to be able to draw a line / see the relationship between themselves and the My Site owner.  

So, if you are in IT and are looking at someone else in IT, the Org Chart will only show as far as the common IT manager.  If you (someone in IT) is looking at someone that works in Marketing, the Org Chart may go all the way up to the CEO because both the CIO/IT Director and the Marketing Director report to the CEO and that is the ‘lowest common denominator’ as it were. 

Of course, there also seem to be exceptions – and I likely haven’t seen them all.  One, however, is if you search for and are looking at a person who IS a manager in your reporting structure.  In that case you will also see their manager in the Org Chart web part. 

Note: You can still click on other people in the Org Chart web part or jump to the Organization tab and navigate up, down and across the org chart data to your heart’s content.  

I think this is another example where Microsoft did something that’s pretty cool and forward thinking – it just works. However it may cause some frustration with users (kind of like ‘social distance’ in Search).  I’ve been looking at these pages for years and had never noticed this until a particularly attentive QA person brought it up because they by default expect the results to be the same for every person. In most cases, that’s not an unreal expectation.


SharePoint Saturday – Twin Cities – Fall 2012

Yep, it’s that time of year again.  We’re ramping up for the Fall 2012 SharePoint Saturday Twin Cities event.  We’ll be meeting on November 3rd this year, still at the Normandale campus down in Bloomington.  

We’re not planning on covering a lot for 2013 in our sessions just yet – too many folks are still interested in and using 2010 and the final 2013 version hasn’t been released yet. So, we’ll be focused on 2010 for one more round at least and then see where things are in the Spring.  You’ll likely hear a LOT of news about 2013 the following week with the big Microsoft SharePoint Conference in Vegas happening and most of it centered on the 2013 platform. 

Speakers and sessions have all been posted – take a look when you have a chance.  We’ve got great folks coming from all over and bringing a ton of great sessions, content and experience. 

We are also continuing with our 101 Track – so if you have folks that are new to SharePoint, the event has content for them as well.  We’ve got 4 sessions specifically in the track – starting with my ‘What is this thing called SharePoint’ session – but there are other sessions throughout the day not in the 101 Track that folks new to the platform can certainly benefit from as well. 

Keep an eye out for registration to open next Monday – Sept 10. We will be limiting registration to 600 people again this time as it seems to be getting us to about the level we can manage at the current location.  The Spring event had over 460 attendees…  Smile  We’re one of the largest SPS events in the country. 

There are lots of great sponsors again as well, we hope to fill up our space with 30 vendors – they’ll be added to the site as soon as they are validated. 

Finally, when putting the event in your calendar, don’t forget to set aside Friday night as we’ll be having our SharePint (the night BEFORE the SPS event).  More info to come on that…

If you have any questions about the event, let me know!!  I look forward to seeing you there. 

Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Creating and Implementing Real-World Projects

The new book is out!  Brought to you by the wonderful folks at Microsoft Press.

Creating and Implementing Real-World Projects with SharePoint 2010  is intended to be a practical guide for evaluating business needs and creating SharePoint solutions using the out of box capabilities. The audience for our book is anyone who wants to build solutions: from someone newly familiar with the core SharePoint concepts (lists, libraries and sites) through .NET developers who want to be more familiar with the platform so they know when code is needed and when it is not. 

Where I believe it is a bit different from other step-by-step how-to books is that we start from the business requirements and walk through steps in the decision making and design phases all the way through creating a fully functioning site. So, rather than just the click-by-click solution building, we are also introducing enough of the analyst methodology to show others why decisions were made. 

Now, we’re obviously not going to be able to capture every single decision made, but hope to walk through enough of the process to help someone who wants to build business solutions on the various SharePoint 2010 platforms how to get started and be successful with their own solutions.

For my chapters (8,9,10), I wanted to demonstrate solutions that could be created on any of the available versions of SharePoint, including the Office 365 Small Business plan and SharePoint Foundation.  So, they are a bit on the simplistic side but I think demonstrate a number of core concepts that can be re-used for other solutions as well.  These solutions can also be augmented with additional functionality, more-so with higher level versions (SharePoint Server, Enterprise and Office 365 E plans).

Note: This book was originally conceived of as a digital only book that could continue to evolve as best practices and platform capabilities changed and feedback was received. But, alas we went ahead with a traditional publication. I do plan to continue commenting on and adding to my chapters by way of blog posts, etc. If it is received well, I’d also hope to see a ‘vNext’ version (post 2010) that revisits scenarios with new functionality and takes off where this one left off.  Smile  So, let us know what you like, and what you’d like to see done differently.

The Authors:

The concept for this book and chief cat-wrangler of the authors was  Jennifer Mason. 

Big thanks also go out to the folks at O’Reilly and Microsoft Press for publishing for us.

Check it out on Amazon – available as paperback or Kindle versions:
Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Creating and Implementing Real-World Projects

Ebook versions are also available through the O’Reilly site.

If you have a chance and can provide feedback – please do.  Blog about it, reply to this post, or write a review on Amazon and then let us know!

Thank you!

Office 365 as a SPD Learning Platform

SPD = SharePoint Designer, currently in the 2010 version.

In my previous post about using Office 365 as a learning platform for SharePoint, I briefly mentioned SharePoint Designer.  But, we could have spent a lot more time talking about it than that – hence this follow-up post. 

In the previous post, I mention using Office 365 because its very inexpensive and easy to spin up for any user, giving you the ability to learn and try things you might not be able to in your production environment.  Well, is even more true with SharePoint Designer. 

Creating new sub site, new lists, tweaking list columns and playing with views are all things you can do in your SharePoint environment and they are *mostly* non-impacting on your production environment – if you play with them the right way and don’t affect your users.  SharePoint Designer has a little higher risk level, can be a little more invasive/impacting on uses, and some environments have it disabled – so you’re not even able to use SPD in your current sites. 

Enter Office 365 and SharePoint Online.  Now you not only have a great way to use and ramp up on out of the box browser-based capabilities, but you have a fully-functioning site that SharePoint Designer can plug into – without risking your production environment and content.  You can now build and demo functionality that you can show your colleagues, bosses and IT/SharePoint team to demonstrate the value that can be had with SPD created solutions. 

Top things to check out with SharePoint Designer using your new Office 365 account (in my humble opinion):

  • Conditional Formatting – If this value is lower than X, then display this field with red text, show this funky icon, etc…
  • Data Views – Format list views in ways you can’t with the browser-based configuration capabilities. 
  • Condition/Action Driven Workflow – Create basic and more complicated workflows that aren’t available in the pre-created workflows.
  • Adding and Editing forms – Very quickly add or edit NewItem and EditItem forms.  For example remove fields or reformat the form to make it more intuitive for users. 
  • ‘Designery’ stuff.  Smile – Yea, not my bag, but can’t talk about SPD without mentioning it’s capabilities of managing and tweaking the site design. 

There is more, but that’s these are the top items that come to mind for me and deliver a lot of value in the business cases I’ve seen. 

Plus – SharePoint Designer 2010 is free. So check it out.

Office 365 as a SharePoint Learning Platform

Want to learn about SharePoint core list and library functionality in your own playground?

I’m doing two SharePoint 101/Intro to SharePoint talks this week. One for a local company’s internal user group and another longer one for the Minnesota SharePoint User Group.  One was 2007-centric while the other was 2010-centric.  As I go through the content, it never ceases to amaze me how a basic understanding of the core concepts of lists is invaluable to working with SharePoint – regardless of the version and how many of the wiz-bang features you are implementing in SharePoint.

So, that brings me back to a topic I’ve been meaning to raise for a while now in regards to Office 365. Unless you’re in the IT department at your company or have connections, you may not have easy access to a ‘sandbox’ where you can try out different SharePoint capabilities without potentially effecting production data.  Yes, there was definitely ways you can do and try some things, but at the end of the day, you want to play around and production generally isn’t the best place to do that.

Enter Office 365.  With the current version of SharePoint Online offered, the comparison to on-premises functionality is pretty good, especially when talking about the core features I’m talking about.  Yes, there are differences, but if your intent is to get a baseline understanding of Lists, Libraries, Views, Columns, SharePoint Designer (SPD) capabilities, out of the box and SPD workflows, and more – SharePoint Online is a great place to do it.

I don’t want to get into the detailed feature comparisons in this article, but P1 is analogous to SharePoint Foundation while the E3 plan is closer to the SharePoint Server/Enterprise features.

It’s REALLY easy to spin up an account and have a SharePoint site ready to play with.  You don’t have to have your own domain name (.com address, etc.) or really anything else to get started.

Office 365 is FREE for a 30 day trial, so you don’t really have any excuses.  If you want to keep your site around, you can pay as little as $6/month (for a single user) or $10 $8/month (also a single user, in the E1 plan, which you can downgrade to when your E3 trial ends).  Thinking about that as training costs – it’s nothing.  Now, you have your own private (and supported) environment where you can try things out without needing to bug IT for a site, list or whatever AND when you put something cool together you can easily show it to your boss or co-workers.

Now, you’ve got an Exchange email account and a Lync account you can play with as well (topics for another day…).  The Exchange account doesn’t need to be configured on any client devices if you don’t want – it can be fully accessed via the O365 web interface which could be useful if you’re experimenting with SharePoint workflows and don’t want to clutter up a real mailbox.

If you do want to add a real domain name to the account, it’s pretty easy as well – the O365 documentation is pretty helpful.  Only note I’ll make here is to not use a domain name that you are currently using as a Windows Live account as there may be some conflicts there – another topic for later.

So go get the trial of either the Small Business (P1) or Mid/Enterprise (E3) plan and get started now.  It’ll make you a better SharePoint user.  Don’t forget to read my previous post about picking your domain name before signing up…  Smile


*Just a day after I wrote this Microsoft went and added/changed some things – namely they LOWERED the price of the Enterprise licenses which makes it even harder to decide between the two.  Find out more HERE

Office 365 – ‘Domain’ Names

Just a few little tidbits to keep in mind when creating an Office 365 account, for trial or other reasons. When signing up for your account, you are asked to define a ‘New domain name’  (at the bottom of the image)


I find this a little confusing because most of us identify a ‘domain name’ as your sites main URL – like “”.  What the registration is asking for isn’t the same thing.  Being part of Microsoft’s ‘cloud’ offering, Office365’s domain name is “”.  They are asking for a subdomain name to use and be unique on their environment.  The ‘real’ domain that you’ll likely be adding to the site later can also be used to log on, but so will the ‘domain’ name you are specifying at registration time. You may change your ‘real’ domain names, but your ‘ domain name’ will never change.

If you follow the What’s this link, you’ll get a little more information:


So – WHAT we’re talking about should now be fairly clear.  The trivia that I’d like to call out is the following:

  1. At present, domain names can only be used for a single account/site one time. If you create a trial account and then close it, you can’t create another account with the same domain name.
  2. Domain names cannot be moved between the ‘major’ plan levels. For example, you can upgrade from E1 to E3, but you can’t take a domain from P1 to E1.
  3. Domain names cannot be edited or changed. They stick forever.
  4. Even if you add a real domain name to your account, the 365 domain name is still used in a few places. I can’t remember the other one I ran into, but the first place – that I still see from time to time, bugs me and is public facing – is when you send a Lync meeting link.  It looks something like:[YourUnchangeableDomainName]/

So, if you’re really creating a test trial, don’t use a name that you might want to use for real. In fact, use something almost completely irrelevant if you want. It would look better in that Lync URL than something that might seem dated or just wrong.

When you create your actual 365 account put at least a little thought into the domain name, even though it will mostly be behind the scenes. Think about how your marketing department might react to an old brand term showing up in that Lync URL when sending meeting invites and links to your customers.

Microsoft SharePoint MVP 2012

January 1, 2012 – Got word early that I was re-upped for 2012.

(yea yea, I’m slow.  But hey, I’ve been busy…)

A big Thank You goes out to Microsoft and the SharePoint community for another year being recognized as a Microsoft SharePoint MVP.  I am honored and humbled to be recognize in such a rich community filled with great speakers, authors, forum participants, consultants, vendors, users, and customers.

I don’t want to say that the honor is bitter-sweet, but while I am very excited, it does make one stop and think about all the people that make up our community: both those that are recognized and those that should be.  The SharePoint community wouldn’t be what it is without everyone that participates and contributes on a regular basis. It’s risky to name a few because there are so many, but a few I want to mention are:  Raymond Mitchell (@iwkid), Sarah Haase (@sarahhaase) and Mark Rackley (@mrackley). 

So, what do we have to look forward to this year?

  • Lots of ongoing user groups, both locally and online
  • More SharePoint Saturday and mini-conference events
    • We are planning 2 this year in Minnesota (Twin Cities) starting with the first on April 14th. Last fall we had over 400 people in attendance!
  • SharePoint Conference 2012 !!
    • Likely with the first tidbits about vNext!
  • Lots of other conferences and summits
  • More SharePoint books on all kinds of topics
    • We’ve got one coming in March… another post coming on that

Another fun year ahead in the SharePoint world – I hope to visit with lots of you throughout the year.  Now, keep an eye on the SharePoint Saturday Twin Cities site.  Registration will be opening soon!

SharePoint Saturday – Columbus, OH

(FINALLY posted…)

SharePoint Saturday Columbus (OH) was held a few weeks back on August 20th.  The organizers did a wonderful job organizing the event and pulling everything together at a nice venue and pulled together about  130 or so attendees. 

I presented my Lists: Used, Abused and Underappreciated session in the first time slot of the day, had decent attendance (25 or so) and fantastic participation throughout the session.

If you weren’t able to stick around until the last timeslot of the day, Jennifer Mason did a session on simple dashboards which was an excellent follow-up to the content introduced in my session.  Check her slides out – HERE.  

My apologies for the delay in getting the slides out there – I had a slight detour on my way home and was off the grid for 5 days or so – only now getting back up to speed.  My slides can be found on SlideShare – HERE

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Office 365 – SharePoint Online ‘Sharer’ Beware

The short story:

Beware of using the ‘Share Site’ or ‘Share this site’ links in Office 365 – SharePoint Online without knowing exactly what it is doing: you are potentially granting users access to more content than you intend to. 

The longer explanation:

In my opinion, security is one of the most confusing things in SharePoint for users to manage.  This is both because the flexibility of its design leads to a confusing implementation and because most users aren’t properly trained on how SharePoint security works (yes, this should be handled through a governance policy). 

Because of this, a number of issues usually arise: users don’t have enough access or users have too much access.  Just this weekend I was chatting with someone that uses SharePoint in their organization and she described a conversation with their SharePoint contact who was giving her access to a site – or so she thought.  Typical, irritating to users and something that needs to be handled better in order to successfully accomplish user adoption.  

The flip side of that problem is giving users too much access – more access than you are intending them to have.  Sometimes this isn’t that big of a deal, but many times it can be a serious issue with competing clients seeing each other’s content, etc. There are many examples of how this could turn out badly.    

Well, in SharePoint Online, as part of Office 365, Microsoft has added a nice and easy way to grant users access to SharePoint by way of the ‘Share this site’ link.   Unfortunately, while this is a very easy way to grant users access, it will in many cases grant too much access unintentionally – not because it doesn’t work properly, but because it isn’t doing what most users will expect it to do.

First, a quick primer on SharePoint security:

  • SharePoint has a number of containers and entities, all of which can have security attached to them:  Site collections, sub sites, lists or libraries, folders (I’m not touching this topic in this article) and items.   
  • Security can be assigned directly to these containers and items by adding a user and defining the permissions they have.  Users can also be granted access through an Active Directory security group or a SharePoint security group. 
  • By default, security in SharePoint is inherited.  When you have security on a site collection and create a sub site, you can tell SharePoint to have the sub site inherit the permissions of the parent site collection.  People and groups will have the same permissions to view, add and update on the sub site content as they did on the site collection. 

There are lots of details to work through if you want to dig in, but those are the basics.  Now to the specific problem scenario. 

I have a SharePoint Online site collection and I want to create an area where I can collaborate with people outside my organization on a project.  To me, this translates into a sub site (or even better a site collection if possible) because I can isolate security at a whole site level, I can have a landing page for users, I can add additional lists later without having to change security, etc. So, I create my sub site. 

By default, my site has a document library which is all I really need for starters.  Now, I want to grant my external users access to the site – here comes the potential issue.  SharePoint Online has the ‘Share this site’ link right on the default page.  You can get to the same functionality by going through the Site Actions menu and selecting ‘Share Site’.  Both are shown below.



Either of these links will open up the following form:


Herein lies the potential for a security issue.  Now, the form does some nice things.  It allows you to add users to groups and then send them an email that will alert the user to the fact that they now have access and provides them a link to the site, list, etc. that you’ve just given them access to.  Where this form causes issues is by only allowing you to add them to the pre-existing ‘Visitors’ or ‘Members’ SharePoint security groups.  By adding users to the ‘Visitors’ or ‘Members’ groups, you are very likely granting them access to more than just the sub site. 

The Members and Visitors groups are default groups added to most SharePoint sites and many site administrators allow the groups to be inherited in sub sites and lists as they are created.  Members are generally able to read most everything and contribute to most lists and content.  Visitors can read, but not contribute.  If I were to add my external users that I want to collaborate with on one specific sub site to either of these groups, they’d have access to much of the rest of my site as well unless I had specifically gone and locked down my other content by breaking inheritance and/or removing the Member and Visitor groups from my other sites and content – which most administrators or users do not do. 

Suggested Approach:

The suggested approach to granting users access to only the sub site (or list) is to do it directly/explicitly rather than using the shortcut.

  • On the sub site, select Site Actions –> Site Settings


  • Select Site permissions


  • In the ribbon, select ‘Stop Inheriting Permissions’


  • Now, there are plenty of variations here, but we’re going to add a new group.  Even if I’m only adding a single person right now, it’s better to have a group in place in case you want to add others later with the same permissions.  The group will be visible throughout the site collection (trivia, but might actually be relevant if you have groups for partners, clients, etc. in the same site collection).  So select Create Group from the ribbon.


  • For simplicity’s sake in this example, give the group a name and select the permission level you’d like for the group.  I’m using ‘Contribute’.  Click Create.
  • From the Permissions page (where you land after creating or adding a group), click the name of your group.
  • You are listed as a member by default, but now you can also add other users who will all take on the permissions of the group.  More importantly, they will only have permissions in the sub site, rather than in other areas of your site collection that you might not want them to have access to.  Click New –> Add Users


SharePoint security and permissions have many options.  Be aware of what you are doing when adding users, groups and managing their permissions in order to maintain the security you need and want.