SharePoint and Office 365: The New Beautiful Cookbook Series

Most of us are “meat and potatoes” people when it comes to the technology we use. We like what we know and we know what we like. (Yes, there are vegan “seitan and potatoes” people, vegetarian “sprouts and potatoes” people, pescatarian “cod and potatoes” people, etc. I’m not trying to leave anyone out.)

Every once in a while, though, someone hands us a new ingredient – something we’ve never seen before, something we’ve never cooked with.

Image from the Netflix show Chef’s Table S3E6 – Virgilio Martinez

That new ingredient becomes a part of our pantry, and we want to try to cook with it. We’ve probably heard how delicious it is or how it can make an ordinary dish taste amazing.

Sometimes, we get a whole new palette of ingredients. (Many of us love to watch cooking shows for just this reason: we see novel dishes and decide if we’d like to try them at home.)

Image from the Netflix show Chef’s Table S3E6 – Virgilio Martinez

We need to take a ton of time to figure out what the new ingredients are, how we can work with them, and what we can cook. If we don’t cook with the ingredients pretty often, then we lose the knowledge of how to use them, what ripeness is best.

Writing off something because it tastes bad in one context means we may miss a great use of the ingredient later – a ripe plum tastes so much better than an unripe one. Once someone has eaten an unripe plum, they may decide they hate plums.

But if we can overcome these hurdles and learn about the new ingredients, we can make some incredible dishes.

Image from the Netflix show Chef’s Table S3E6 – Virgilio Martinez

This is what I think we are going through with SharePoint and Office 365 right now. Microsoft is offering us an entirely new set of ingredients with which to make our stew.

Let me give you an example…

In my “meat and potatoes” way of looking at the world, which has been pretty consistent for the last ten years or so, even though SharePoint and my approaches have evolved, I might use this set of ingredients:

  • A Single Page Application (SPA) written with AngularJS or KnockoutJS – or even just plain old JavaScript
  • A dollop of values passed on the query string to a…
  • Standard list form, with a little JavaScript mixed in to pre-populate some columns in the form
  • A SharePoint Designer workflow to add notifications on top (Substitute Alerts if your local market doesn’t carry SharePoint Designer)

But there are new ingredients now. Instead we could whip something up with these:

  • A SharePoint Framework Web Part (still maybe written with AngularJS or KnockoutJS)
  • Creating list items using REST based on the values in our SPFx Web Part
  • Microsoft Flow to add in the notifications and any process
  • Stir in a pinch of PowerApps – until they are ready

That’s quite a shift. We’re being asked to think about cooking in a very different way. We’ve been through stages of evolution before – new cooking techniques like sous vide (Sandbox Solutions), gelification (Add-In Model, nee App Model), etc. – but this time it’s really different. We’re not even sure if we’re supposed to like everything we taste. Is it just the next wave of kale frenzy or is it an ingredient that will last?

At this point, Microsoft is asking us to dream big, and reach for the previously unimaginable. I think we need to try to do it.

Image from the Netflix show Chef’s Table S3E6 – Virgilio Martinez

Some of us will be able to cook up truly amazing solutions on the “modern” platform. Don’t be afraid to give it a taste.

Image from the Netflix show Chef’s Table S3E6 – Virgilio Martinez

In case you didn’t figure it out, this post was inspired by the Netflix show Chef’s Table S3E6, which profiles the Peruvian chef Virgilio Martinez. It’s an outstanding series, and this particular episode was stellar.

Also see any volume in the Beautiful Cookbook series.

Advertisements

Let’s Capture Missing or Insufficient SharePoint REST Endpoints

Today I got an alert that the SharePoint UserVoice suggestion from Corey Roth (@coreyroth) entitled Add managed metadata term store operations to REST API got the coveted “Thinking About It” tag from the Product Group. I like to tweet out changes like this to let people know the Product Group is listening and acting on our feedback – beyond saying “That’s good feedback!” It’s not all wine and roses, though:

Thank you for your feedback! Just letting you know that we absolutely have this in our backlog, but unfortunately this currently is not included in our short term engineering tasks. We absolutely understand the request and seeing vote counts around this, will help to further prioritize this work for next sprints.

I got a couple of tweets back right away pointing out some other current holes in the REST APIs.

If you think there are other endpoints the REST APIs need or endpoints that don’t work well, please add them to the comments here. I’ll work them up into a list for the Product Group and let’s see what we can get moving! We’ll play by the rules and add the list to UserVoice, but I think all the individual suggestions get lost and it’s harder to see the bigger picture. For each item on the list, I’ve tried to capture related UserVoice suggestions.

The list so far:

Beware the Office 365 Group -Based Site Regional Settings!!!

This is a quick post, yet it’s still an important one. We’re using more and more Office 365 Group -based SharePoint sites these days. Even when you know you aren’t going to use some of the goodies you end up with, this type of site is making more and more sense.

<addendum data-datetime=”Sun May 14 2017 10:56:53 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)”>
Several people have asked me in other forums the basic question: “So what?” If all dates and times are stored in UTC, does it really matter what the site’s Regional Settings are? Frankly, that’s got me a little bit stumped.

It certainly feels wrong that the site’s settings don’t match its primary locus, but since team members can span the globe, what’s the impact?

I know I struggle as a developer to show everyone things in the right date/time based on their settings, and it feels like the platform doesn’t give us great tools for this. What other issues does it raise? Please add your thoughts and issues in the comments. I’m interested in things other than the usual “The people in Redmond don’t realize that we’re not all in their timezone” stuff – which is basically all I’ve pointed out here.
</addendum>

BUT, there’s a simple problem that can have longer-term ramifications. The default time zone for every new Group-based site we create is PDT, also known as UTC-08:00. You have to go into Site Settings to change it manually for every site you create this way. Since a lot of my clients are in EDT, this is tedious.

I’m guessing no one in Redmond even notices this, because PDT is their time zone. I spot it every time I create a new Group-based site during a migration because Sharegate warns me the time zones of the source and destination sites are different when I start to copy content across. (Yay, Sharegate!)

If you happen to be a non-US person, then ALL of the regional settings are likely to be wrong for you. I’ve checked, and there is no way to change the default here – unless it’s a VERY recent change.

Here are some Office 365 UserVoice suggestions you can run off to vote for:

 

Dear Microsoft: Confusing Failures in “Modern” SharePoint Libraries

Moving documents around in the “modern” Document Libraries in SharePoint Online (Office 365) has certainly gotten easier. Instead of opening libraries in File Explorer, downloading the files, and then uploading them into the new location, we have nice options like Move to, Copy To, and Rename right in the toolbar. That’s a big upside.

Sadly, there are downsides. While the new capabilities are awesome, I’m finding that the UI is often confusing – both to me and my clients.

When you use one of these new file manipulation capabilities, you get a little feedback message ion the right side of the toolbar telling you how it went. Unfortunately, the message location isn’t all that obvious, and it usually feels as though the operation succeeded even when it didn’t.

Here’s and example of a Move to operation that failed for me. Note that the message says “1 item wasn’t moved”.

There’s no other feedback, and on my wide monitor, the message is way over to the right side. I don’t usually notice it.

In the case above, I did see the message, so I clicked on the message to see what was up. The reason I saw it was that I was looking for something wrong. A client of mine told me that a Move to wasn’t working. Every time she went back to the library, the documents were still in the same place, no matter how many times she moved them.

As you can see from the expanded message below, there was indeed an issue: there was a file with the same name in the destination location. I have two logical options, either to Keep both files or Replace the original.

 

The message really isn’t obvious enough, and I’ve been caught many times because I didn’t see that something I did failed. Even worse, to my client “SharePoint is broken”. I’m hoping the Product Group can come up with a more informative way to provide the feedback that something has gone wrong – which happens surprisingly often!

There is yet another “unfortunately” here, though. In my client’s case, even when there is no error in a Move to operation, the files are boomeranging right back into the original position after a few screen refreshes.

I also tried the Content and Structure page to see if moving the document that way would help, but still no dice. I checked to see if perhaps there was a workflow in play here causing issues, but that’s not the case. The only other thing I see which MIGHT be a problem is that the library has 4988 documents in it, which is pretty close to the 5000 list view threshold. I hate that threshold with a steaming passion (have I mentioned that here and here and  here and here and here and probably tens of dozens of other places?), but I can’t think why it would matter in this case.

So we’re at an impasse. The error messages aren’t so great, and the Move to operations are failing when when there aren’t errors. Maybe SharePoint really is broken.

Anybody? Anybody?

Sharegate to the Rescue – Getting Rid of Weird Taxonomy (Managed Metadata) Columns

Yet another entry for the “Things that make you go ‘Huh?’ in SharePoint” file.

We’ve got a Document Library in SharePoint Online (Office 365) that contains Document Sets. As per usual, each Document Set can contain several different Content Types, as we’ve defined. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, really. We’re using SharePoint capabilities the way they are intended, and it’s all “out of the box”.

One day last week, we started to see odd things when we looked at the documents using the list forms. Fields we didn’t create were showing up in between those we did. For example, we saw Sector_0 above the field Sector, ServiceArea_0 above Service Area, and a new field called Taxonomy Catch All Column. Obviously something was amiss. None of those red boxed fields should be there.

Weird Taxonomy (Managed Metadata) Columns

Turning to them InterWebz, I found a number of posts about this happening in SharePoint 2010 when the content was moved around using the Content and Structure UI. That was a long time ago, plus we were pretty sure we hadn’t used the Content and Structure page for anything. Even if we had, this was weird.

It turns out the fields are part of the [poorly built – please give it some love, Microsoft] Managed Metadata infrastructure. The fields are supposed to be there when you are using Managed Metadata columns, but you should never see them. The solution back in the SharePoint 2010 days was to use Powershell to hide the fields again.

Ok, so we didn’t know why or how this had happened, but Powershell seemed like a good bet to fix it. I headed on over to Gary Lapointe’s (@glapointe) most excellent SharePoint Online Custom Cmdlets, installed them (I don’t so a lot of Powershell – but perhaps I should do more), and adapted the old 2010-era Powershell examples from the forums for SharePoint Online. Here’s the important part:

Basically, connect to SPO, find the list, and then loop through the fields which should be hidden and hide them again.

But that wasn’t getting me there. When I looked at the weird fields, I saw they were already hidden. Here’s the info about the ServiceArea_0 field, which I got by looking at $fieldname in the foreach loop. As you can see, Hidden is already set to True. Yet the field was showing up in the forms nonetheless.

So Powershell wasn’t going to solve it for us. What else could I try?

Well, Sharegate is definitely my Swiss Army Knife for SharePoint. (Yes, CEWPs and DVWPs are also Swiss Army Knives for me – I like great tools.) I use it just about daily for many things, most of which have nothing to do with migration. I looked in the main Sharegate app, wondering if there were some other settings for the fields I could look at. Great functionality from Sharegate, but I couldn’t find anything.

Then I wondered if simply copying the content into a new library might fix things. I set up a new Document Library named – aptly – Temp, and copied over one Document Set. Yay – everything looked fine!

Then I copied all of the other content from Proposals over to Temp, deleted Proposals, and then copied the Temp library to Proposals again, so I’d have the same URL.

Suffice it to say, all is well in Proposal land now. When I look at any of the documents, I see what we’d expect, which is certainly prettier and more useful.

Whew - Back to Normal!

Sharegate: it’s not just a migration tool.

References


This is blog post 1000 for me! I considered making some big deal or some special post out of it, but I decided I should just keep chugging along posting stuff that might help people. It’s just a number and today is just another day. If you want to, go out and celebrate for me.

Image from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Boston_Harbor_Fireworks_-_Composite_(21189670832).jpg