Category Archives: Office 365 Grid

Group Work Site, Feature and Lists: 2010 to 2013

The short answer/story is that they are deprecated – no longer available… The reason given was that they were not widely used. The Group Work  site is not available when selecting sites in 2013 and the site feature is no longer available to be enabled.

The template ID does still show up in the 15 hive – to accommodate migrations from 2010. However, the article listed below also states that these templates and features will NOT be available in a future ‘major’ release.

The official notice can be found here from Microsoft: 

So, where does that leave us if we DO want to use these features?

Group calendar and Resource Reservation
For the Group Calendar and Resource Reservation features added to the traditional calendar, the better long term replacement is using Outlook/Exchange. Ideally, the people being scheduled would be in Exchange as users anyhow so they could get the benefit of alerts, personalization, etc. It is unfortunate that this does go away however for some small businesses that with the feature could do without additional licensing. However much more capability comes with having ‘real’ accounts.

‘What’s New’ Web Part
First of all – Laura does a wonderful job of giving a detailed look at this web part here: 

The properties of this web part have made the filtering much easier for users. However the same capabilities do exist with normal date, item number and column filtering. What this web part does that others don’t is include content from multiple lists – which is really nice. Now, you can still use separate web parts to accomplish this, but its not as nicely wrapped up as this web part does. 

Circulation List
Much of this functionality can be replicated by using workflows on a document library list. But it was nice to have it pre-baked and wrapped up nicely to use without the additional work.

Phone Call Memo
Much of this one can be replicated fairly easily using a custom list, views and SharePoint Designer workflows. But, as many have commented much of this also goes away with all the social tools and other capabilities we have available to us these days with automated phone systems, etc.

Whereabouts List
Again, much of this functionality is available via Exchange/Outlook or other communication tools. A SharePoint list/calendar can certainly be used for this when all the parties are not in the system and accomplish much of the same thing, without the nice interface that this list and web part provided.

One thing I have not yet tried is exporting web parts from a 2010 farm and importing them into a 2013 farm to see if that works. HOWEVER, I would recommend finding better – supported – solutions to doing this so that you’ve got a solution that will be supported going forward rather than just finding a way to extend a capability that we know is going away. (just in case you were wondering or thinking about that option…)

At the end of the day, this feature set was a nice group of pre-baked mini solutions that were handy in certain circumstances – most of the scenarios were for small business users that didn’t have some of the tools available through Exchange, etc. Now, with the availability of Office 365 for organizations of all sizes, these capabilities (and much more) are available through those licenses – though getting the specific solutions takes a little more stitching together to get. 

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.

Office Professional Plus – via Office 365

Well, either I missed something earlier or they changed the offering.  Either way, this is pretty cool.  I was under the impression that you had to be a Plan E (Enterprise) customer of Office 365 to be able to purchase a subscription to the Office client applications.  That is NOT the case.  You can also purchase a subscription as a Plan P user. 

There is a few dollars per user per month difference, but the key difference is that Plan E users need to purchase an annual subscription while the Plan B (Small Business) users can do a monthly subscription.  Pretty cool. 

  • Plan E will pay $12/user/month – annual subscription
  • Plan P will pay $15/user/month – monthly subscription

These services also enable access to the Office Web Apps as well, so they can access the web versions of the applications without needing to load the client app, or if they are on another machine view and edit documents without the client apps at all. 

For more information, check out this page:

More good news for small business owners if you ask me. 

SharePoint Conference 2011 (SPC11) Notes

A few weeks ago Microsoft held the official SharePoint Conference in Anaheim, CA.  If you are involved with the SharePoint community, you’ve likely seen and heard a lot about it already.  This conference wasn’t filled with sessions on features as much as the last conference, but had a lot of practical info on how organizations have been using and been successful with SharePoint in their organizations. 

The two items I was most excited about during the keynote were:

  1. There will be a SharePoint Conference 2012
    This one will likely coincide with content about SharePoint vNext.  Odds are good that we’ll be going back to the 2009 type of content that is more features, features, features about the new platform. 
    Set your calendar: November 12-15, 2012 in Las Vegas, NV
  2. BDC is coming to Office 365 and SharePoint Online – soon. 
    By soon they mean by the end of the year.  Those of us that have Office 365 accounts have already been notified that there will be system updates happening between Oct 20th and the end of November. 
    This is one of the really exciting things about Office 365, that we can (hopefully) expect more frequent updates to features…
    Now we need to see what the details of this are and how we can extend our SharePoint Online capabilities. 

So, a lot to look forward to. 

If you’re interested in following more SharePoint people on Twitter, Raymond put together a list of all SPC11 speakers, their web sites and Twitter handles if they were available.  

If I can find the time, I’ll do some follow-up on the three sessions I enjoyed:

  • SPC289  Visio Services – Creating No-code Visio Services Dashboards using Office 365 by Christopher Hopkins and Krishna Mamidipaka
  • SPC290 The City of SharePoint: What SharePoint Planners Can Learn From City Planning by Craig Roth (Gartner)
  • SPC393 Step-by-Step: Building Search-Driven Applications that Matter by Scot Hillier

SharePoint Saturday Twin Cities–October 29th, 2011

The next SharePoint Saturday event in the Twin Cities will be taking place in just over a week on Saturday, October 29th at Normandale College in Bloomington, MN.  If you haven’t already registered – do it now.  We’ve already got over 400 people registered to attend a day of fun with the SharePoint Community in Minnesota and surrounding areas.  Come and learn about SharePoint and Office 365 in sessions for for users, developers, administrators and people new to SharePoint and SharePoint Online. 

We’ve got 25 speakers giving 27 sessions in 7 tracks through out the day.  This includes two new tracks that we’re excited about.  We have a SharePoint 101 track featuring several national speakers as well as a Hands-on Lab track being managed by Mindsharp.  Be sure to come and visit all of the sponsors that make the event possible. 

I’ll be kicking off the SharePoint 101 track with a “What is this thing called ‘SharePoint’” session that’s been described as a SharePoint session you could send your mom to.  Smile   (and one attendee did)

Check out the schedule and tell us which track you’re likely to attend most of the day. 

Also, check out GuideBook as an app for your iPhone or Android device or on other devices as we’ll soon have our event information available there as a tool to use during the event. 

Register Now!

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.