Category Archives: Office365

PowerApps and SharePoint–Top X Wish List

Someone told me that it’s a good idea to always have a ‘top X’ things you’d fix, add, or change in a product. I first posted my PowerApps and SharePoint wish list about a year ago.
Top X Things Needed to Make PowerApps Awesome for SharePoint 

Since last time

  • Embedded forms have been introduced.
  • SharePoint Online now supports customizing SharePoint list forms by using PowerApps. It’s a pretty awesome improvement. Still a ‘step one’, but a pretty huge step.
  • The other two things I mentioned are still on the list and reframed a bit below.

The New List

  1. Full fidelity for complex field types – The more I use PowerApps, the more I want to be able to use the SharePoint column types that we’re using in many of our lists. Namely Option columns and Lookup columns. At the moment there are stumbling blocks in PowerApps when using these fields and things like GroupBy. PowerApps just doesn’t recognize the data in the way we need it to… yet.
    True, there are work-arounds for some use-cases, but the fewer of these we need to deal with going forward, the better. Because this actually hampers some development I’ve moved it to the top of my list.
  2. PowerApps Web Part – In order for users to have a good experience when in SharePoint and using PowerApps, it’s got to be smooth. Right now it’s still very ‘jerky’ when in SharePoint and opening an app… “hold on while we load up this other thing…”.
    As I stated in the original post, this is critical for SharePoint ‘view’ replacements.
    Yes, we have iframes as a work around. That’s ‘OK’ but just now how smoothly integrated it should be in my opinion.
  3. When creating an app from the SharePoint interface give us layout options rather than defaulting to the phone layout. Definitely realize this was a ‘first step’ and are grateful for it, but time to take the next step. This will also be a big deal once a PowerApps web part (see #1) is ready.
    Workaround: Yes, you can do this when starting from scratch in PowerApps, but you lose out on the gains of using the wizard.
  4. From SharePoint: Create an app from a SharePoint view.
  5. From PowerApps: Create an app from a SharePoint view. Seems like these would be the same thing, but because it’s actually the integration of two products there’s work that needs to be done on both sides for this to work. When choosing a data source it currently gets you down to the list level – ‘just’ need to extend one more level down to selecting a view. (I say ‘just’ but fully realize there’s a LOT of work behind the scenes to make this happen – keep it up engineers!!).

Other items

More things in no particular order:

  1. Keep improving PowerApps forms for SharePoint. Wizards, better UX, or whatever it takes to make this both easier for power users (non-dev). Great start – really, I don’t want to sound ungrateful – it’s awesome. Just keep improving on it. 
    1. Improve forms UX for (non-dev) power users.
    2. Make forms available for anonymous and external users. This works for SharePoint, but not the PowerApps forms quite yet (I assume this is at least in part because PowerApps itself is not available to non-tenant users).
  2. I don’t have a good name for this one, but essentially a ‘code view’ and search.
    Ex. When creating an app from SharePoint it creates a nice 3 screen app with a search baked in. If you delete the Search box, a number of other controls break because they have references to the Search control. It would be nice to have visibility within the PowerApps Studio to where formulas reference a control so makers can update references.
  3. PowerApps forms available in the SharePoint mobile app
  4. Responsive (Canvas) PowerApps. Sounds like the model-driven apps will be responsive. When will we get the same responsive options in SharePoint forms and canvas apps?

The list will continue to evolve…

PowerApps + SharePoint Drop Down Thoughts

This probably falls somewhere under app design, governance, and tips and tricks in the cross-over space between SharePoint and PowerApps.

When creating a list in SharePoint and needing a field with options in it, we need to decide between the relatively static ‘choice’ field with the options baked in to the control, and creating a Lookup control that pulls its options from another list. They both have their place. Choice fields tend to be a bit simpler while Lookups come with a little more overhead, but are good from a data perspective with consistency.

With the introduction of PowerApps and creating new design surfaces for your list data the Lookup option extends that consistency a bit further and may make you choose Lookups even more. When it comes to CRUD forms, both the Choice field and Lookup fields work great (way to go PowerApps and SharePoint teams!). Building other interfaces, however, may encourage SharePoint users to lean more on Lookups.

The Scenario

A default app created by the ‘Create an app’ option from SharePoint gives you a 3-page app that starts with a gallery view filtered by a Search control. I’d like to change the filtering of the page to be a drop down of a Status field. Two options we can use to accomplish this are to create a drop down with static options (like a the SharePoint Choice field) or to create a drop down connected to the same SharePoint list as the Lookup field.

image image

Option #1 – Static options

The initial reason I considered this was because I didn’t actually want to give (PowerApps) users *all* of the options that are available in a (SharePoint list) choice field. Using a static options control allowed me to just display the options I wanted them to see. This is easily implemented using the method covered in my last post – Simple Drop Down Options – and using values that exactly match your list field values.

One possible upside to this approach is that you could use different text or drop down options that might make sense to users but *don’t* match your list values and then use formulas to match your drop down control values to your list values. For example in the above image I have a number attached to each option in my dropdown which some folks might prefer to leave off: “Paid” instead of “5 – Paid”.

The downside of this approach is I now have one more place where I’m required to maintain the list of values. If I update the Choice field in my SharePoint list I might also need to update the drop down control in PowerApps.

Option #2 – Lookup field options

This seems like how the drop down control was intended to be used. Rather than having to manually add values you can simply connect the control to an existing SharePoint list and have the exact same values as the SharePoint list column.

1. Add an additional data source to your PowerApp
image

2. Add the Drop Down control and set the Items value. By default it’s already set to a sample data set.
3. Change the Items property to the new data source and field to display and boom. Done.
image

4. Switch to the Advanced properties for the drop down control and set a default value for it.

5. Finally, change the gallery control to use the new drop down as a filter instead of the Search box (key change is highlighted).

From: SortByColumns(Filter(‘Sponsors 2018 April’, StartsWith(Company, TextSearchBox1_1.Text)), “Company”, If(SortDescending1, Descending, Ascending))

To: SortByColumns(Filter(‘Sponsors 2018 April’, (Dropdown1.Selected.Value = Status.Value)), “Company”, If(SortDescending1, Descending, Ascending))

NOTE: When using this approach It is important to understand how Delegation works with PowerApps and SharePoint in order to ensure complete and correct data is being surfaced in PowerApps. See references below for more information.

The most notable upside to this approach is that both the PowerApps drop down control and the SharePoint list column are pulling their options from the same data source and changes to that one list will update both the SharePoint list options AND the PowerApp.

Finally, as was mentioned in Option 1 – if you don’t want to make all the options available in the drop down control you can still accomplish this here by filtering the list like this:
Items = Filter(StatusOpts, StartsWith(Title,”2″) || StartsWith(Title,”3″) || StartsWith(Title,”4″) || StartsWith(Title,”5″))

Conclusion

The added benefits of using a separate list in SharePoint as a lookup source (Option #2 above) for SharePoint list data *and* PowerApps controls seems the better option for longer-term management.

References

Spring and More, Conferences Galore!

As SharePoint and Office 365 continue to evolve, the SharePoint community seems to be as strong as ever. There are a bunch of conferences coming up over the next few months. Here are a few notable ones:

March 2-3 – North American Collaboration Summit – Branson, MO
Better hurry up if you want to make this one. There are a ton of great speakers in town for this one as it’s just before the MVP Summit in Redmond. So catch these folks while you can. It is a great value for your time and a nice little escape from Winter for a few days.
FYI – It *is* drivable from the Twin Cities – we’ve done it a few times. Smile
Discount Code: COLLABSUMMIT50

March 26-30 – SharePoint Fest – Washington DC
A quality SharePoint, Office 365, Azure, and Microsoft Teams event offered several times a year between DC, Seattle (August), and Chicago (December). These folks do a great job. They’ve been doing this ‘series’ for a few years and they just seem to get better. They’ve recently switched to a longer 5-day format that includes 2 days of workshops and 3 days of sessions. Be sure to check them out. I’ll be doing a workshop and 3 sessions at the DC event.
Discount Code: PrestonDC100

April 7 – SharePoint Saturday Omaha – Omaha, NE

April 14th – SharePoint Saturday Twin Cities – Minneapolis, MN
Back for our Spring event with registration just opening up today.
FREE

May 5 – SharePoint Saturday Chicago Suburbs – Chicago, IL

May 21-23 – SharePoint Conference North America – Las Vegas, NV
Note: This is NOT a Microsoft-run event like previous ‘SPC’ events, but it IS Microsoft sponsored, backed, and endorsed. There will be a LOT of product group folks attending and speaking in addition to plenty of community-recognized experts, MVPs, etc.
Discount Code: https://t.co/K9n43i1UOr

And of course there continue to be SharePoint Saturday (SPS) events throughout the US and the world. Please remember, not all SPS events are listed on the SPSEvents site – Including OURS – for a variety of reasons. So keep up to date with your local and regional groups so you don’t miss out on a great event!

So much information, so little time. Hope to cross paths with you at some of these!

SharePoint [Me] Filter in PowerApps

SharePoint has a couple of built-in filters for column values: [Today] and [Me]. These allow users to filter views by dynamic data. For example you can create a view called AssignedToMe and set a filter like so:

image

Using this approach site admins don’t need to create views specific to each user, but can use the [Me] filter on a single view that applies to each individual user. As a user visits the view, they see only the records that are specific to them.

How does one do this in PowerApps when filtering data? Good question. This came up during our Minnesota SharePoint User Group (MNSPUG) meeting today and good old Brian Caauwe knew the answer: rather than using [Me] we use the User function in PowerApps.

On a gallery or data table object, our Items property might have a formula something like this:

Items = Filter(‘IT Request’, AssignedTo.DisplayName=User().FullName)

Note: When bringing fields over from SharePoint, PowerApps translates the CreatedBy and ModifiedBy fields to something a little different. That might be a little confusing when getting started.

  • CreatedBy –> Author
  • ModifiedBy –> Editor

Good questions from the attendees today and good catch by Brian with the User() answer. Smile 

References

PowerApps: Rules for Conditional Formatting

Well done PowerApps team!! Just days before Ignite they rolled out Rules for Conditional Formatting in PowerApps. You could technically get the same functionality with building out formulas, but the new (experimental) rules bypass this and are MUCH more end-user friendly.

image 

Check out the blog post.

AND take a look at the supporting documentation that’s already released:
Create a rule in PowerApps

image

For those of us coming from a SharePoint background this is creeping closer to functionality that was available back in the days of SharePoint Designer. As soon as a true web part is available to embed a PowerApp in a SharePoint page (hopefully the new “modern” pages) users will be able to replace SharePoint views with robust apps that include conditional formatting and other goodies not currently available in SharePoint alone. 

Exciting stuff and more to come!!

Source Parameter Still Alive in Modern Pages

SharePoint’s “modern” capabilities are changing the face of SharePoint – for the better. But it is taking us further away from some of the tricks and approaches that work with “classic” SharePoint. Thankfully one of the long-standing legacy features of SharePoint still seems to work – the Source parameter. 

When used as part of a URL in SharePoint the Source=[URL] parameter takes users to the specified page after a form is saved or cancelled. This allows us to manage some of the navigation flow for users.

So how does this work with “modern” lists and pages. On a list, you have the ‘New’ item button on the top bar.
image

When you click it the new item panel opens up. The top links on the panel include a ‘Copy link’ link.
image

image

‘Copy link’ for the New Item gives us the URL of the New Item form that can be used to link from other locations – such as an email footer, the left nav in a SharePoint site, etc. This link includes the Source parameter and by default will go to the default list view page for the list. Usually, that’s not where we’d like to see users end up.

If I’m building an intake solution, I might have a ‘My Requests’ page where I’d like users to end up. To make that happen it’s as easy as copying the link from the New Item page, getting the link to the My Requests page, and then swapping out the Source parameter value.

The default New Item link (with site-specific stuff stripped out):
https://[mydomain].sharepoint.com/sites/[sitename]/_layouts/15/listform.aspx?PageType=8&ListId=[listGUID]&RootFolder=&Source=[THIS IS WHAT YOU CHANGE]&ContentTypeId=[contentTypeId]

Target destination URL:
https://[mydomain].sharepoint.com/sites/[sitename]/SitePages/My%20IT%20Requests.aspx

The link you’ll use:
https://[mydomain].sharepoint.com/sites/[sitename]/_layouts/15/listform.aspx?PageType=8&ListId=[listGUID]&RootFolder=&Source=https://[mydomain].sharepoint.com/sites/[sitename]/SitePages/My%20IT%20Requests.aspx&ContentTypeId=[contentTypeId]

Using this approach you have a link you can use where users will be able to submit a new request, then end up on the My IT Requests page rather than the default list view page.

References

JS Link – Add Ellipsis to a Column

Ran across a random request the other day to see the ellipsis menu added to a column other than the Title column. Turns out it’s a pretty simple change similar to how we change the column header text in a SharePoint view.

listItemMenu = “TRUE”

See the full code HERE.

Note: To remove the ellipsis from the Title column in the view, change the column from “Title (linked to item with edit menu)” to “Title” field in the view Columns.

References

Note and Disclaimer: JS Link currently works in SharePoint 2013, 2016, and SharePoint Online. JS Link does NOT work with the ‘Modern Experience’ interface – only Classic Mode. See ‘Choose Your Path Forward’ for more information.

JS Link – No More HTML in Calculated Field Change

Didn’t see that coming.

More than a few times I’ve had folks bring up solutions using calculated fields to do some of the same things we do with Client-side rendering (CSR) and JS Link in SharePoint. That was fine at the time. Just another way to get to the solution using creative out of the box capabilities – until now.

Microsoft implemented a change yesterday (June 13, 2017) that HTML or script elements in calculated fields would be turned off. Apparently this was an ‘undocumented use’ of the feature. The system is now escaping special characters and replacing the column with a blank in the list view.

Now What?

The short answers – in no particular order:

  1. Client-side rendering via JS Link property of web parts. This only works for Classic mode. If you are using Classic mode, this is likely the ‘best’ short term answer to broken interfaces until a longer-term solution is implemented
  2. Third party products
  3. SPFx Extensions or customization
  4. PowerApps

CSR and JS Link: There are multiple ways to implement JS Link, some via the browser (how I use JS Link) and via deployed coded solutions (Dev only). As mentioned in other responses JS Link does NOT work in the modern experience. It will only work in the Classic mode (as long as it is around). There have been NO dates announced for getting rid of Classic mode at this time. If you choose this direction it’s worth noting that if you’re comfortable writing script in the calculated field you’ll likely be comfortable writing the code needed to get CSR to work. I’ve got plenty of examples in the link included here.

Third party products. I’ve seen folks mention something called Skybow but I’ve never seen or used it. Only mentioning because it was mentioned by someone in the community I trust.

SPFx Extensions and customizations: This is the ‘approved’ development path for deployed solutions. If you are a developer and/or are creating solutions that are used across a broader scope this is likely the path you should go down.

PowerApps: This is likely the long-term replacement for solutions you used HTML or other scripting in your calculated field for (hand slap from English teacher). Embedded integration with SharePoint isn’t there yet (well, it kind of is…), but has been announced. You can start building the views/solutions you need, but they won’t be ‘really’ embedded in SharePoint yet – web parts and/or other tools are coming soon (they’ve been announced).

Note: Much of the attention to PowerApps has been in the area of forms, but views will be a part of the capabilities as well. They’ve already made improvements with introduction of controls like the Data Table control. Check out my posts on PowerApps for SharePoint users, specifically things like ‘List View’ Layouts.

Update

Migration Note: Do not forget to take this into consideration now as something to look at when migrating from an environment where special characters (HTML and scripting) work into an environment (O365, etc.) where they do not. You’ll need a plan to replace or update your field customizations.

Summary

Unfortunately this seems like a pretty sudden change. I certainly had no idea it was coming. For folks that were using this approach there’s a lot of scrambling going on right now dealing with blank columns that weren’t blank a few days ago. Depending on how complex the scripting was, some fixes might be as easy as stripping the HTML and script out and displaying a simple value. More complex solutions are going to take some effort to redo, either with a new approach, new code, or 3rd party software to get the business functionality back.

For simple HTML replacement, JS Link could be an easy switch. If you’ve never used it before check out the Hello World post and then the KPI post. Those will cover a lot and introduce you to the JS Link concept if you need to dig deeper for more complex solutions.

Good luck!

References

PowerApps – No Items to Show

In a previous JS Link / CSR post we covered how to handle what is displayed in a web part when there are no items to show. SharePoint’s default message is an ambiguous:
“There are no items to show in this view of the [listname] list”

Not an awesome user experience. Something a little more contextually relevant might be more helpful to users – either in a simple list view, or in a more complicated solution.

A PowerApps Gallery control isn’t any better – merely showing a blank record. The Data Table control, on the other hand, has a handy ‘NoDataText’ property that can be configured to display a message when the control is empty. 

So, what do we do when using Gallery controls – until a ‘NoDataText’ property is added and/or the Data Table control allows for more configuration options? As is the answer with many things in PowerApps: We use a formula.

Using an appropriate text field control within a Gallery control, we can replace the Text property with a formula like the following:

If(CountRows([_List Name_])=0,”[_Put your message here_]”, ThisItem.Title)

For a SharePoint list named: DefaultList you get the following:

If(CountRows(DefaultList)=0,”Nothing to see here”, ThisItem.Title)

The ‘CountRows’ function as you might guess returns the number of rows in the list.

The ‘If’ function tells the control to set the displayed value of the control to “Nothing to see here” if the condition (there are 0 rows) evaluates to ‘true’. If not, the value of the control is ThisItem.Title – the normal field value we would expect in the control. The text is only displayed when there are no items in the list. 

That’s it. Smile 

References

JS Link – Creating Custom Links

I’ve spoken about this topic so many times I keep forgetting that I haven’t put together a decent post on the subject even though I’ve had sample code posted for quite some time (see References below). Smile with tongue out In my opinion, after conditional formatting this is a sweet spot for JS Link use cases and functionally WAY more useful.

Disclaimer: For those of you using SharePoint 2013, this is still relevant content. If you are using SharePoint 2016 or O365 and have PowerApps available and/or are only using ‘modern’ pages and views there are other potential solutions for you.

Business-wise, what makes custom links useful is the ability for users to build solutions – ‘stitching’ together SharePoint functionality into productive business solutions – beyond what the out of box lists and libraries provide.

What makes custom links with JS Link in SharePoint so useful is the crossing of a few core bits of functionality in SharePoint – that we’ll cover in more detail in this article:

  • Most everything in SharePoint is available via a URL – so we can ‘decode’ the links SharePoint uses to build our own links to the data we want our users to get to
  • ‘Source’ data passed through the querystring allows us to control where the user is taken after a form is used (assuming the link destination was a form – it doesn’t have to be)
  • Creating a HTML link tag is super easy

User Experience Tweaking

You can use CSR to build ‘web-user-friendly’ vs. ‘SharePoint-user-friendly’ user interfaces. If all your users are familiar with SharePoint this isn’t a compelling reason. However, for environments where non-office workers (warehouse, production, etc.) are using SharePoint sites and solutions, making the interface intuitive – making it more ‘web-friendly’ – is a compelling reason to look at enhancements like this. For example:

Non-SharePoint users don’t know what the ellipses (…) are. They don’t know they need to click on the ‘…’ to get a menu for more details, etc.
image

By adding a column with web links to forms, it makes the interface easier to navigate – the useful links are displayed prominently instead of inside of a menu that needs to be opened first. If you had custom forms this same approach could be used to get the user to those forms instead of the default forms. SharePoint only enables linking to the default forms in the interface.
image

This also gives the solution owner more control over the interface by only displaying the controls they want made available to users.

How-To

If you use the SharePoint menu to navigate to the Edit page and look at the URL you will see something like this:

https://forgegroup.sharepoint.com/TeamSite/CSR/Lists/DemoList/EditForm.aspx?ID=1&Source=https%3A%2F%2Fforgegroup%2Esharepoint%2Ecom%2FTeamsite%2FCSR%2FSitePages%2FDemo%2520-%2520Link%2520to%2520Pages%2520and%2520Forms%2Easpx&ContentTypeId=0x01004578E7B0B3F1BE41A0EE6CF023F4518D

If we break the URL down we get the following:

  • https://forgegroup.sharepoint.com/TeamSite/CSR/Lists/DemoList/EditForm.aspx
    This is the URL for the form page
  • ?ID=1
    This is the parameter passed in that tells the form which item ID in the list to display
  • &Source=https%3A%2F%2Fforgegroup%2Esharepoint%2Ecom%2FTeamsite%2FCSR%2FSitePages%2FDemo%2520-%2520Link%2520to%2520Pages%2520and%2520Forms%2Easpx
    This tells SharePoint where to navigate when the form is submitted or cancelled – essentially where the user ends up next. This can be VERY useful when building your own solution.
  • &ContentTypeId=0x01004578E7B0B3F1BE41A0EE6CF023F4518D
    Finally, this is the content type for the item in the list. We aren’t using this information for our example.

What we’re doing with the CSR code is creating our own link that will be displayed in an overridden column. The complete sample code can be found in the CSR_CustomLinks.js file. We’ll just look at the key lines here:

image

  • The link is going to ‘../Lists/DemoList/EditForm.aspx’ where ‘DemoList’ is the name of my list and ‘EditForm.aspx’ is the default edit form created for the list. If you’ve created a new form (with SharePoint Designer, etc.) and want to use it, this is where you’d put the name of the file. You could even leave the default ‘edit’ form as default but use this link to get to a separate edit form.
  • ‘ID’ is the name of the parameter we’re sending to the form. We’re getting the data from the list as ctx.CurrentItem.ID
  • Then comes our own ‘Source’ value to tell SharePoint where to navigate after the form has been used. This can be helpful if you want to direct users to a specific place other than where they came from.
  • Finally, ‘Edit’ is the text that will displayed as the link. You can use whatever verbiage makes sense to your users here OR replace the text with a graphic or icon.

In the sample code I’m actually building two links – ‘Edit’ and ‘Details’ in the same column override.

Get creative with this. The link doesn’t have to be to a form for the current list. It could be a view for another list with a reference back to the current list. For example you might have a document library where you’re keeping reference documents for a list and use a reference ID field in the document library to connect back to the current list. You could use this CSR approach to build the URL string to a view of the document library and filter it by the reference ID… Then a user could be looking at the current list and click on a simple link to all the related documents for that item.

Notes

  • Using graphics: Choose a location for any graphics you want to use as part of your solution. A good place might be the SiteAssets library. Then use code that looks something like this:
    image
    Replacing the ‘Edit’ text with an HTML image tag linking to your image file.
  • Combine this link with conditional formatting and potentially display different actions or icons depending on the content of your list item.
  • Filtering on a lookup column is another post using a similar custom link approach.
  • PowerApps: Moving forward solutions like described in this post will be accomplished using PowerApps. If you’re already using SharePoint Online, the capabilities are already available by building not only a list view from a SharePoint list, but being able to customize each column and build custom forms that you can link to within your PowerApp.

References