SharePoint’s “Working on it…” In Any Language

It’s the message SharePoint gives us that we’ve learned to love or hate or be indifferent to. But it’s a message that we cannot escape if we use SharePoint even a little bit. Yes, I’m talking about “Working on it…”

Working on it EN-US

When I was in Stockholm this week speaking at the SharePoint and Exchange Forum (SEF), I noticed that the Swedish version of “Working on it…” was “Snart klart…”. According to my pal Christian Ståhl (@CStahl) at Humandata in Stockholm (the fine folks who put on SEF),

About ’Snart klart…’ this is strange translation, it’s more like ‘something will be finished soon‘ (maybe not always clear what) more than SharePoint actually doing something. Snart klart.. is more ok as an short answer to the kids that asks if the dinner will be served soon. Working on it.. is much better in a Swedish ear :)

That gave me a grin – I’m going to say “snart klart” when The Dude gets impatient with me about dinner from now on – and got me to thinking about what the message was in other languages. As with many idioms, the wording may be different and it may translate oddly as well. If you are using SharePoint with a language that I haven’t listed here yet, send me a screenshot of the message and a translation. I’ll post it here for everyone’s enjoyment and education.

Dutch

Working on it DUGoogle translate: “Processing…”

Submitted by Elio Struyf (@eliostruyf)

French

Working on it FR-frGoogle translate: “We soon finished…”

Submitted by Patrick Guimonet (@patricg)

German

Working on it DEGoogle translate: “Is in working… This should not take long.”

Submitted by Stefan Bauer (@StfBauer)

Swedish

Snart klart…

Google translate: “Almost there…”

Turkish

Working on it TUGoogle translate: “They are working on…”

Submitted by Gokan Ozcifci (@GokanOzcifci).

Caching SharePoint Data Locally with SPServices and HTML5’s Web Storage

The SharePoint SOAP Web Services are fast. In fact, I think they are as fast as the newer REST Web Services in many cases. The old, crufty SOAP Web Services even provide batching, something that the REST services don’t yet do. (Andrew Connell (@andrewconnell) has been beating the drum about this with Microsoft for months now, and we all hope they get this OData capability into SharePoint’s REST services sooner rather than later.)

Even though the SOAP services are fast, sometimes they just aren’t fast enough. In some of those cases, it may make sense to store some of your data in the browser’s Web storage so that it’s there on the client during a session or across sessions. Web storage is an HTML5 capability that is available in virtually all browsers these days, even Internet Explorer 8.

The best candidates for this type of storage (IMO) are list contents that are used as references and that don’t have a high number of changes. As an example, you might decide to store a list of countries in Web storage rather than loading them from the Countries list every time a page loads. Even though the read from the list is fast, it has to take *some* time. There’s the retrieval time, and then there is also any processing time on the client side. For instance, if you have dozens of fields per country and you need to load them into a complex JavaScript structure, that takes time, too. If those data chores are making your page loads seem laggy, then consider using local storage.

There are three main ways you can store data locally to improve performance. I’m not going to go into all of their intricacies, but I will give you some rules of thumb. There are a lot of nuances to this, so before you dive in, do some studying about how it all works.

Cookies

For small pieces of data, you should consider using cookies. Contrary to just about every article out there in the press, cookies are not bad. They can store up to 4k of data each for you, which you can read back when the user returns to the page. There’s a excellent little jQuery plugin I use to facilitate this called, aptly, jquery-cookie. You can download it (for free!) from GitHub here. Cookies persist across sessions.

Session Storage

Session storage is the flavor of Web storage that allows you to store data just for the duration of the session. Think of a session as a browser lifespan. Once you close the browser, the session storage is gone. Both session storage and local storage sizes are limited by the browser you are using. If you want to know if Web storage is available in your browser of choice, take a look at “Can I use“. The amount of storage each browser gives you is a moving target, but it’s per domain.

Local Storage

Local storage takes Web storage one step further. The data stored in local storage persists across browser sessions. In fact, it usually won’t go away until you explicitly delete it. (Consider this fact when you are gobbling up local storage in your development process.)

So What?

The trick with using these storage mechanisms is managing the data you’ve put in local storage as a cache. That data can go past its expiration date, either because some changes were made to the underlying data source or the cache itself has become corrupted. The latter is more difficult to deal with, so here I’ll focus on the former.

JavaScript – like most other programming languages – lends itself to building wrapper functions that add additional layers of abstraction on top of underlying functionality. Too many levels of abstraction can make things confusing, but with careful thought and smart code writing, you can build abstractions that serve you well.

In a recent client project, I found that as list data volumes were increasing, the pages in my SPServices- and KnockoutJS-driven application were loading more and more slowly. I’m building on top of SharePoint 2007 in this case, so even if I wanted to use REST, I couldn’t, nor do I believe that it would automatically make anything faster. If we had better servers running things, that might make a huge difference, but we have no control over that in the environment.

What I wanted was a reusable wrapper around SPGetListItemsJson (which itself is a wrapper around the SOAP List Web Service’s GetListItemChangesSinceToken and SPService’s SPXmlToJson) that would let me check local storage for a cached data source (list data), read either the entire data source or just the deltas from the SharePoint list, load the data into my application, and then update the cache appropriately.

The getDataSource function below is what I’ve come up with so far. There’s some setup to use it, so let me explain the parameters it takes:

  • ns – This is the namespace into which you want to load the data. In my applications these days, following the lead from the patterns Andrew and Scot Hillier (@scothillier) have published, I usually have a namespace defined that looks something like ProjectName.SubProjectName.DataSources. The “namespace” is simply a complex JavaScript object that contains most of my data and functions.
  • dataSourceName – The name that I want to give the specific data source within ns. In my example above with the Countries list I would use “Countries”.
  • params – This is the big magilla of the parameters. It contains all of the values that will make my call to SPGetListItemsJson work.
  • cacheItemName – This is the name of the item I want to store in Web storage. In the Countries example, I would use “ProjectName.SubProjectName.DataSources.Countries”.
  • storageType – Either “localStorage” or “sessionStorage”. If I expect the data to change regularly, I’d probably use sessionStorage (this gives me a clean data load for each session). If the data is highly static, I’d likely use localStorage.

And here’s the code:

/* Example:
getDataSource(ProjectName.SubProjectName.DataSources, "Countries", params: {
  webURL: "/",
  listName: "Countries",
  CAMLViewFields: "<ViewFields>" +
      "<FieldRef Name='ID'/>" +
      "<FieldRef Name='Title'/>" +
      "<FieldRef Name='Population'/>" +
      "<FieldRef Name='CapitalCity'/>" +
      "<FieldRef Name='Continent'/>" +
    "</ViewFields>",
  CAMLQuery: "<Query>" +
      "<OrderBy><FieldRef Name='ID'/></OrderBy>" +
    "</Query>",
  CAMLRowLimit: 0,
  changeToken: oldToken,
  mapping: {
      ows_ID:{"mappedName":"ID","objectType":"Counter"},
      ows_Title:{"mappedName":"Title","objectType":"Text"},
      ows_Population:{"mappedName":"Population","objectType":"Integer"},
      ows_CapitalCity:{"mappedName":"CapitalCity","objectType":"Text"},
      ows_Continent:{"mappedName":"Continent","objectType":"Lookup"},
    }
  }, "ProjectName.SubProjectName.DataSources.Countries"
)
*/

function getDataSource(ns, dataSourceName, params, cacheItemName, storageType) {

 var dataReady = $.Deferred();

 // Get the data from the cache if it's there
 ns[dataSourceName] = JSON.parse(window[storageType].getItem(cacheItemName)) || new DataSource();
 var oldToken = ns[dataSourceName].changeToken;
 params.changeToken = oldToken;

 // Read whatever we need from the dataSource
 var p = $().SPServices.SPGetListItemsJson(params);

 // Process the response
 p.done(function() {
 var updates = this.data;
 var deletedIds = this.deletedIds;
 var changeToken = this.changeToken;

 // Handle updates/new items
 if (oldToken !== "" && updates.length > 0) {
 for (var i = 0; i < updates.length; i++) {
 var thisIndex = ns[dataSourceName].data.binaryIndexOf(updates[i], "ID");
 // If the item is in the cache, replace it with the new data
 if (thisIndex > -1) {
 ns[dataSourceName].data[thisIndex] = updates[i];
 // Otherwise, add the new item to the cache
 } else {
 ns[dataSourceName].data.splice(-thisIndex, 0, updates[i]);
 }
 }
 } else if (oldToken === "") {
 ns[dataSourceName] = this;
 }
 // Handle deletes
 for (var i = 0; i < deletedIds.length; i++) {
 var thisIndex = ns[dataSourceName].data.binaryIndexOf({
 ID: deletedIds[i]
 }, "ID");
 ns[dataSourceName].data.splice(thisIndex, 1);
 }
 // Save the updated data back to the cache
 if (oldToken === "" || updates.length > 0 || deletedIds.length > 0) {
 // Save the new changeToken
 ns[dataSourceName].changeToken = changeToken;
 window[storageType].setItem(cacheItemName, JSON.stringify(ns[dataSourceName]));
 }
 dataReady.resolve();
 });
 return dataReady.promise();
}

Some of the nice things about this function:

  • It’s generic. I can call it for any list-based data source in SharePoint. (I started out building it for one data source and then generalized it.)
  • I call call it during a page life cycle to refresh the application data anytime I want or on a schedule, perhaps with setInterval.
  • I can set a lot of parameters to cover a lot of different use cases.
  • Each time I call it, it updates the cache (if it needs to) so that the next time I call it I get a “fresh” copy of the data.
  • It only loads the data that it needs to, by using the GetListItemChangesSinceToken capabilities.

And some downsides:

  • Since I know what data I’m working with in my application and that it will fit into the Web storage easily, I’m not worrying about failed saves.
  • If the cache does become corrupt (not something I expect, but there’s always Murphy), I’m not handling it at all.

KnockoutJS – Creating a Comma-Delimited List of Values

KnockoutJS LogoI’ve been building a lot of great stuff with KnockoutJS lately. It seems that it can enable many – if not all – of the development requirements I have these days, whether I’m building a single-page application (SPA) or just adding a snippet of content to an existing page. I can even build KnockoutJS-enabled “Web Parts” by dropping  a Content Editor Web Part [CEWP] into a page. It doesn’t matter what version of SharePoint it is.

The KnockoutJS documentation is generally very good, but sometimes I find the examples lacking a bit. It’s always tempting to make examples show off too much, which often leads to showing off too little. (I have this same problem with my SPServices documentation and examples.)

A common use case is wanting to display a set of values in a comma-delimited list. Let’s take this example. Say I have an observable array of Ticker objects, like so:

self.Tickers = ko.observableArray([
  {lookupId: 1, lookupValue:"SPLS"},
  {lookupId: 2, lookupValue:"APPL"},
  {lookupId: 3, lookupValue:"GOOG"}
]);

Because I’m pulling data from SharePoint, I want to hang onto the lookupId value along with the text value, which is what I want to display. Because of this a simple Tickers.join(“, “) doesn’t cut it.

I’d like to display the list of tickers like this:

SPLS, APPL, GOOG

Pretty simple, right? But after a little Binglage, I couldn’t find a concise example, thus this post.

If you check the KnockoutJS documentation for foreach, you’ll see that there is a variable available called $index. The $index variable gives you the zero-based index of the current array item.

So if I use foreach on Tickers:

<div data-bind="template: { name: 'Ticker', foreach: Tickers }"></div>

I can use the $index to determine if I should emit a comma. We don’t want to see a comma after the last value, so it requires this small bit of finesse.

<script type="text/html" id="Ticker"><span data-bind="visible: $index() > 0">, </span><span data-bind="text: lookupValue"></span></script>

It’s a little bit bass-ackward, but if the $index value is greater than zero – which it is for all values except the first one, where the index is zero – then we *prepend* a comma to the value.

Yes, I’m using a separate template to emit the tickers. That’s mainly because in my case I’m doing a little bit more than what I’m showing here. However, by creating a separate template, I have a reusable piece of markup. that I can use in many places.

I hope someone out there finds this useful!

References

Detecting the Current User’s Regional Settings with jQuery

I noticed a nice little trick going by in my Twitter feeds today.
2014-08-20_19-09-43I’ve always wanted to know how to do this. Displaying the right formats for dates and times as well as the right offset from UTC is a real challenge from the client side. There’s a fantastic library called Moment.js that I use on just about every project these days, but it only does the full job if you know the user’s locale and timezone.

The post on StackExchange gave a little snippet of script which came from an old MSDN Forums post from 2009. Kudos to Peter Holpar for the original idea.

The script basically screen-scrapes the values from the Language and Region settings page. I don’t mean that disparagingly at all; screen-scraping is how the SPGetCurrentUser function in my SPServices works. If it gets the job done and is reliable, the old art of screen-scraping – or should we call it plumbing the DOM with AJAX? – is just great.

Note that you’ll need to have jQuery loaded to use its AJAX function.

Here’s the script as-is from the StackExchange post. It was originally intended for SharePoint 2010.

var url = ctx.HttpRoot+"/_layouts/regionalsetng.aspx?Type=User";
$.get(url,function(data){
    $(data).find("select[name='ctl00$PlaceHolderMain$ctl00$ctl00$DdlwebLCID']").find(":selected").each(function(){
        var lcid  = $(this).attr("value");
        var cultureInfo  = $(this).text();
    });
});

I just tested it out in SharePoint Online on Office365 and this is the version that works for me. Note that I simplified the jQuery selectors to look just for the important ending text in the name attribute. I’ve also re-scoped the variables so that they are available outside the $.get call. If you want to use this snippet, you’ll probably need to adapt it for your environment. The alert at the end is jut there to show you that it works.

var url = _spPageContextInfo.webAbsoluteUrl+"/_layouts/regionalsetng.aspx?Type=User";
var lcid, cultureInfo, timeZone;

$.get(url,function(data){
  $(data).find("select[name$='LCID'] option:selected").each(function(){
      lcid  = $(this).attr("value");
      cultureInfo  = $(this).text();
  });
  $(data).find("select[name$='TimeZone'] option:selected").each(function(){
    timeZone  = $(this).text();
  });

  alert(lcid + "::" + cultureInfo + "::" + timeZone);
});

Renegade Idea: Expose REST Endpoints in the SharePoint UI

Here’s an idea I had today based on a conversation I had with some of the other SharePoint MVPs: expose the REST endpoints and documentation right in the UI for those who have the appropriate permissions. It could be a little icon at the bottom of any page where there are relevant end points. All content is security trimmed anyway, so no one is going to see an endpoint they can’t use (though if they can fathom the docs they can know what endpoints there are available).

Think about it:

  • You’re on a List Settings page, and you can see the endpoint for that
  • You’re on a workflow status page…
  • You’re in Central Admin on the Create Site Collection page…
  • You’re on a Term Set Administration page…
  • You’re on a List View page…

All of the APIs are more obtuse than they need to be. In many cases, the docs are either very long-winded without explaining basic operations or just content stubs. By adding these direct connections from the matching UI pages, it would:

  • Satisfy the developer needs for easy to understand documentation
  • Educate appropriate [power] users about how to talk to the devs about what they want
  • Potentially get telemetry to Microsoft about what people want in the APIs and their docs

There’s far too much of the “I can’t look it up in the dictionary until I know how to spell it already” going on with the APIs in SharePoint in general – going back to the SOAP Web Services and beyond. The platform needs to be more open, not less. Adding these direct links to the REST endpoints and their docs would be an incredibly powerful step in that direction.

What do you think of this idea? It’s mine alone and even if it’s the best idea I’ve ever had (probably not) there no guarantee that it would make any sense to the Product Group. Leave a comment, though, and add your own thoughts about how to make the SharePoint APIs more usable.

If you think this is a good idea, vote for it on the Expose REST Endpoints in the SharePoint UI item on the Office Development UserVoice site.

20140801-225509-82509986.jpg
This is a piece of art from a gallery in Hoi An, Vietnam showing a pig. As you can see, it’s even possible to make a pig look nice with a little creativity and work.