Measure Twice, Cut Once – Even With SharePoint

I exchanged a bunch of emails last week with someone named Chris who had found my blog and was just starting out with WSS.  His goal was to do a proof of concept of sorts, based on some work he had read about which was done by Provoke (a Microsoft Gold Certified partner based in New Zealand).  It’s well summarized in the article over at the Microsoft SharePoint Team Blog entitled How We Did It – Tag Driven Information Architecture using MOSS 2007 for the New Zealand Ministry of Transport.  Chris wanted to use this proof of concept to justify the expense of SharePoint (MOSS) for his company.  (Microsoft take note: another hot lead, Denver area.)

Chris is clearly very smart and an accomplished .NET developer.  And there’s the rub.  As a developer, the first thing it seemed he wanted to do was write code.  Since it was just a set of emails, I’m not fully clued in on what the process was to get to the point where they were, of course.  And, in no way am I picking on Chris – he knows what he is doing.  But the exchange reminded me that my view on using Sharepoint as a platform for the enterprise is more of a measure twice, cut once one.  By this I mean several things:

  • The big picture is more important than the smaller technical details.  A great high-level architecture and plan will beat a smaller coding win in the long run.  Be sure you understand how you want to use the SharePoint platform in a holistic way before you get too caught up in the details of the implementation.  (As a developer, I sometimes have to remind myself of this, too!)
  • In many cases, you just don’t need to write managed code to meet your requirements.  As anyone who follows this blog knows, I’m a big fan of what I call the "Middle Tier", by which I mean developing with SharePoint Designer.  Packaged managed code gives you portability and deployment capabilities that are critical for some situations, but don’t discount the middle tier for fast prototype development and real solutions.
  • Look at the inherent capabilities of SharePoint thoroughly before you decide to go beyond them.  I always say that SharePoint gives you 80% of everything it offers, but it’s the important 80%.  Don’t just decide that you have to suck it up and live with what’s there, but realize that what *is* there can take you very far.  Often that whiz-bang approach you think will be the right answer up front won’t be what you end up wanting in the long run.  Think about doing your first phase implementation using more of the out of the box capabilities, and then continually reassess.  This is not a technology where you should ever be done – it’s an evolutionary process.

For those of you in Massachusetts, Happy Patriot’s Day!

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Microsoft SharePoint “14” is now Microsoft SharePoint 2010

The official press release came out today and Tom Rizzo followed up on the Microsoft SharePoint Team Blog.  The name itself doesn’t probably mean too much (except that the MOSS acronym will no longer work – MSP2kX anyone?).  The other important piece of information in the release is the general release timeline:

  • Exchange 2010 will be the first product in this lineup, entering beta for customers to download today. Exchange 2010 will become available in the second half of 2009.
  • Office 2010 — including Office Web applications, SharePoint Server 2010, Visio 2010 and Project 2010 — will enter a technical preview in the third quarter of 2009 and will release to manufacturing in the first half of 2010.

Wait For It…The 2007 Office System Service Pack 2 coming to WSUS in April

<UPDATE date=”2009-04-15”> Seems I was a day early, as Microsoft announced today that the public release date for SP2 will be April 28.  From Gregg Keizer at Computerworld’s article Microsoft sets Office 2007 SP2 release for April 28:

Microsoft Corp. has set April 28 as the release date for Office 2007 Service Pack 2 (SP2), the first update to the company’s popular application suite since December 2007.

Office 2007 SP2 adds support for Open Document Format (ODF) version 1.1 to Word, Excel and PowerPoint; boosts the performance of the Outlook 2007 e-mail client; debuts the ability to uninstall service packs using a separately utility and the Windows command line; and integrates the "Save As PDF/XPS" command into the suite’s applications.

</UPDATE>

Sure, this is from the WSUS (Windows Server Update Services) blog, but if SP2 will be available from WSUS, it won’t be far behind on plain old Microsoft Update (nee Windows Update).

Service Pack 2 for the 2007 Office System will be made available to Windows Server Update Services in April, classified as a service pack.  Service Pack 2 includes some significant work, including: built-in ability to save as ODF & PDF formats, improvements to Outlook’s performance and calendar reliability, significant bug fixes for charts in core Office applications, the ability for client service packs to be removed using an uninstall tool, and a host of customer-requested improvements to the Office Server products.  It is also a rollup of all fixes that have previously been released for Office 2007 products.  Additional information will be posted to the Office Sustaining Engineering blog later this month.

Thank you.

-Cecilia Cole
WSUS Program Manager

If you (like I) just can’t wait for that great new software smell, keep an eye on the Office Sustaining Engineering blog.  Synthesizing some of the expected features lists out there on the ‘Net, Office 2007 SP2 should bring to the table:

For Office Desktop Programs

  • Improved Outlook Calendaring Reliability
  • Improved Outlook Performance (thank goodness!)
  • Enabling Object Model support for Charts in PowerPoint and Word
  • Improved cryptographic functionality by supporting all cryptographic algorithms offered by the operating system
  • Improved functionality in Excel’s charting mechanism
  • Ability to ungroup SmartArt graphics (and as a result, the ability to add animations to them in PowerPoint)
  • Ability for Visio to export UML models to an XML file compliant with the XMI standard
    Tool that enables the uninstall of Office client Service Packs

For Servers

  • Performance and manageability improvements to variations in Enterprise Content Management (ECM) including STSADM commands for repairing links between source and target pages
  • Improvements around processing status approvals from Office Project Web Access into Office Project Professional 2007
  • Improvements to read-only content databases and index rebuild timer jobs in Windows SharePoint Services 3.0

Note the mentions of WSS, ECM, STSADM, etc.  We should expect to see some stability improvements and fixes for MOSS as well.

Discovering Internet Explorer 8 Developer Tools

As I mentioned in my last post, Fun With My Blog Stats, the #1 post in my blog stats over the last three months has been IE8 and the Internet Explorer Developer Toolbar.   If you’ve recently upgraded to IE8 and are wondering where the Internet Explorer Developer Toolbar (IEDT) has run off to, it has been replaced by the Developer Tools in IE8.

The IE team had developed the IEDT because of the sheer volume of requests for something which would mirror some of the toolbar capabilities in other browsers such as FireFox.  With IE8, the capabilities are baked right in and there’s no need for a separate add-on.  The definitive article over at MSDN which explains the new Developer Tools in IE8 is entitled Discovering Internet Explorer Developer Tools.

Below, at a high level, are some of the great features available to you with a click of F12, lifted from the TOC of the above article.  Even if you are a long-time user of the IEDT like I am, you ought to read through the article because there are some fantastic new features, and others work even better than in the classic IEDT.  If you’re a Web developer, you owe it to yourself to upgrade to IE8, if only for these great tools.

New for Windows Internet Explorer 8

Every installation of Internet Explorer 8 comes with the Developer Tools. This tool enables Web site developers to quickly debug Microsoft JScript, investigate a behavior specific to Internet Explorer, or iterate rapidly to prototype a new design or try solutions to a problem on-the-fly. This article introduces you to key features of the Developer Tools.

Fun With My Blog Stats

One of the great things about WordPress, and one of the main reasons I switched my blog over from Live Spaces, is the Dashboard.  The statistics that it shows you are really helpful in understanding what you’re writing about that people actually find useful. (Or at least click on.  There’s no beating comments for real feedback.)

I thought it might be interesting for you subscribers out there (and thanks, guys and gals!) to see which of my posts have gotten the most hits since January when I moved over from Live Spaces.  I am constantly surprised by the changes in the rankings.

Top Posts
  1. IE8 and the Internet Explorer Developer Toolbar 152 views
  2. Why Won’t SharePoint Designer Recognize IE8? 108 views
  3. Displaying the First N Words of a Long Rich Text Column with XSL 104 views
  4. “Failed to load the workflow” Message in SharePoint Designer with Vista 99 views
  5. SharePoint Web Services as Data Sources for DVWPs 93 views
  6. Rolling Up Content in SharePoint Using the Data View Web Part (DVWP) 93 views
  7. Error When Trying to Delete a Master Page: “Server error: This item cannot be deleted because it is still referenced by other pages.” 79 views
  8. Rollup Data View Web Parts Revisited 67 views

The first two posts in the above rankings aren’t very pithy at all, but talk about the fact that the IEDT is built into IE8 and an error that I’ve been getting in SharePoint Designer, respectively.  Number 3 is one that I actually am sort of proud of that gives you a nifty little XSL template I wrote.  5, 6, and 8 are posts about the trusty DVWP, which is at the core of my development interests.  4 and 7 are just little workarounds for a couple of SharePoint and Designer issues I had run into.

There are days when I see a really strange bunch of hits on some old, seemingly useless post.  For a few days last week, my post about How to Fix Recurring Meeting Workspace Error: ‘g_InstanceID’ is undefined got a bunch of hits.  I wondered if maybe there was a new hotfix or something that might have caused this error to be triggered in a lot of places, but I didn’t see any indicator for what might have spiked the interest anywhere.

If nothing else, watching my statistics points me to places where I can do some housekeeping.  A lot of my old posts don’t have tags in WordPress because I got lazy after I moved over from Live Spaces.  I also recently learned the cool WordPress trick for displaying source code painlessly from my buddy Pete Sterpe, so if a post is getting a decent number of hits, I’ll go and implement this so that the code can be more easily copied.

Even better is to watch traffic to see what all of you out there in ‘Netland might want to hear more about.  My DVWP stuff consistently gets a good number of hits, and I hope that it is helping folks out there.  I don’t post for vanity or to become famous; I really do want to provide good tips and tricks, if not downright solutions, for those of you who manage to make your way to my blog.  I love developing with SharePoint and I just want to spread the word!

If there’s something that you’re struggling with or something that you’d like me to blog about more, drop a comment on this post and let me know.