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Learning Tree Opens 34 NEW AnyWare Learning Centers across North America

We have some exciting news to share! Learning Tree has officially opened 34 New AnyWare Learning Centers across North America. You can eliminate travel costs and commuting time and take our IT and management courses locally at a designated center near you via AnyWare, our web-based attendance platform that allows you to experience the same hands-on, instructor-led classroom training live, online.

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How to Keep Reference Data Tidy and Well Organised

Frequently when building solutions using SharePoint you need to make use of reference data. This will be presented as look up type columns in the main list for your solution.

Internal Data

Internal data that is data stored within SharePoint can be stored within existing and new lists.

List organisation

The user doesn’t need to see these lists therefore it makes sense to keep their user interface as uncluttered as possible. Leaving the list out of the navigation is one thing that can be done then it keeps the quick launch as small and useful as possible. Hiding the list will keep it out of the view all site content keeping this uncluttered as well. To hide a list open it in SharePoint designer and set the Hidden attribute

It is also a good idea to arrange a specific location for such look up type lists. Placing them in a high level site of the site collection allow them to be easily used from all child sites.

I described this here with SharePoint 2007 but it still applies equally to SharePoint 2010.

Simply define your look up column as a site column in the root site and to a list in the root site and you will be able to use it in any child site. The list can be maintained in one place.

External Data

Frequently however look up data already exists in external systems that can be accessed by web services or directly from a database.

SharePoint 2010’s business connectivity services can be used to hook up such data into the SharePoint environment. Depending on your particular needs this can be achieved with SharePoint Designer or for more advanced scenarios by using Visual Studio

Aspects of Business Connectivity Services are covered in many of our SharePoint 2010 Courses including

David Severn


Getting Started with SharePoint: It’s Not Just a Product

At our Introductory SharePoint courses for SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010 I often meet attendees who are completely new to SharePoint. I like to ask the class what they know already, what they have heard and what is of most concern to them. Many will be expected to carry out some newly learnt tasks as soon as they return to work. For the people who are completely new the response to what have they heard already is frequently similar to this:  “It will make us better at collaborating at work, it will automate current manual processes.” For the next question, “What is of most concern?”, answers range from, “It’s a huge learning curve,” to “It’s a complex product,” to “I have so little time to learn all the things my manager wants me to do.”

SharePoint is here to help

Firstly it will help you collaborate and implement business processes. The key thing here is that it will help you but you need to set these things up. This leads neatly into the response to the second question (“It’s a massive product”). It is massive and complex but SharePoint isn’t simply a product that you install and start using. SharePoint is an impressive framework upon which is built many components. Some of which can be used pretty much out of the box such as basic team site with lists and libraries to get you started through to Business Intelligence services which can display incredibly meaningful dashboards.

Study is required

To get the best out of SharePoint you have to invest your time in some study. There are lots of books and resources on the internet as well as training courses. If you are thinking about using SharePoint for your company then allow for some serious study time as part of you overall implementation plan. Gord has blogged about why SharePoint sucks and in my view those who think it sucks are looking at it in the wrong way. If you expect it to be a simple product then it will suck if you accept it’s a starting point that can help you achieve great things with little or no traditional development then it shines.

It must be used

One thing I stress during training and initial consultancy engagements with new SharePoint users is the need to actually start using it. Even if you start simply you will get a feel for the SharePoint way of doing things. There are several patterns to working within the browser on a SharePoint site , within the site and within list and libraries.

Simple Steps

One way is to start by using a calendar and synchronising it with Outlook. Assuming you have access to site that has calendar, start using the calendar.

Another way is to create a simple to-do list. You can use the built-in tasks list, or if that seems too complex, consider creating a sipl custom list named To Do.

Use it as is to record things that you have to remember. Add a date time type column named Required By and a choice column named category with choices such as Work, Home, and Family, etc.

These columns allow you to enter values that can be used in a variety of ways. This is also known as metadata. Start adding some items to the list and you are already using SharePoint. As you use it ideas for enhancements will occur such as creating a view of Work only items and items that are complete which will prompt you into creating a new column of type yes/no called Complete.


Over time the simple to-do list may become a key part of your personal time management strategy and along the way you will have gained lots of useful techniques for making better use of SharePoint which can be applied to many kinds of solutions. However before you start creating lots of custom lists ensure that you review what you get out of the box as there maybe functionality that already does what you need. This can be quite time consuming even with a good book to guide you so if you are going to use SharePoint a lot then a good training course may pay for itself. Especially if an instructor with real world experience is available for example see here to guide you towards things that are relevant to your particular needs.

What did we do?

If you create such a list as that mentioned above take a step back and consider what you have done and what SharePoint has provided for you.

You brought the idea and need together with knowledge of how to create a useful and practical list that can be enhanced over time. SharePoint provided the tools to allow you to achieve this. You see it’s not just a simple product that you use out of the box it is so much better than that.

This is the kind of subject matter that is covered with in the first day and a half of our introductory training courses. With another two and half days material it should be obvious that this is just the beginning. We’ll see how to move on from here in future posts.

David Severn

Debugging with Your Hands Tied

The scenario was as follows:

As part of a SharePoint project a custom event handler was needed that looked across two libraries to assign some metadata automatically. This required a farm level solution created in Visual Studio. (Such development is covered by our course, Programming SharePoint® 2010 Applications with .NET.) I don’t have administrative access to the Server where the code will be deployed, but I do have design rights on the Libraries. After testing locally the packages were sent to the administrator who was in a different time zone. He installed the code and enabled the feature on the appropriate site.

Sadly, on the first attempt at uploading a document the fields weren’t set correctly. Since I can’t use Visual Studio on their server or look at ULS logs to determine if any errors occurred and the admin had gone home, I needed another approach. There may be others but the following approach worked–and continues to work–for me and my client:

I changed the code to look for the presence of a column named ‘Debug’.

If found I wrote diagnostic (trace style) data to the column.

Once the code was deployed I created a new column on the library and uploaded a new document. From the information written to the Debug field I could quickly see that the problem and remedy take appropriate action.

Once fixed, simply delete the Debug column knowing that the facility is there should I need it again. There is a slight overhead here in that the column is looked for whenever the code runs, but this is a small price to pay for the flexibility I gained.

Try it out and let me know your comments or suggestions. I’d love to hear from you.

David Severn

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