Category Archives: OnePlaceMail

A remote SharePoint Navigation tree control designed to scale to large Enterprise environments

The SharePoint Navigation tree (for remotely browsing/navigating SharePoint) is a central component in the OnePlaceMail product. It is used in all major operations such as Save to SharePoint, Open from/Insert from SharePoint, Preview SharePoint content, Managing favorite SharePoint locations. Being able to quickly find the right location in SharePoint, directly from desktop applications, is one of the key reasons OnePlaceMail has been adopted so openly into organizations. Core to this capability is the OnePlaceMail Navigation tree.

Dynamic browsing

The primary purpose of the tree is to allow you to browse your SharePoint environments.

cameron-dwyer-sharepoint-remote-navigation-tree-sharepoint-connections

Here’s the features we baked into the tree at a low level to ensure we could build a scalable tree for enterprises.

  • Support multiple SharePoint servers in the same tree (accessing them all at the same time)
  • Support any mix of SharePoint servers at the same time (2007, 2010, 2013, SharePoint Online, Office 365, on-premises or hosted)
  • Zero configuration – just give the tree a URL to SharePoint. The tree will figure out what type of server it is and the best way to communicate with it. Those irritating things like security are also hidden away (if possible you just don’t see any security prompts). Worst case the tree will ask you to login if it needs credentials.
  • What a user see’s in the tree is driven 100% dynamically by SharePoint security.
  • All communication with SharePoint is done asynchronously (in the background). This means the tree is silky smooth and responsive, even if the SharePoint server isn’t.
  • Optimized client/server communication – minimum data payload and real-time loading at each level of the tree as nodes are expanded
  • Large SharePoint environments sooner or later come up against SharePoint throttling and threshold limits. We designed with these in mind (think libraries with thousands of folders or document sets)
  • Support for browsing over sites/libraries/folders where user only has read only access to allow saving of content into a lower level folder where user has contribute access

Advanced node filtering

As the SharePoint environment grows it is quite typical for a certain level of the tree structure to grow in line with some business process being modelled. Here are some examples:

If you create a site per project (or client) you end up with a lot of sites at a particular level in your SharePoint environment. Similarly you may end up with lots of libraries in a site, or the one we come across most frequently, a large number of document sets within a library.

For the user trying to find a location at this level, it creates a situation where they are forced to scroll through a long list to find the site/library/folder/document set they are looking for. What we have implemented in our navigation tree, is a type-ahead filter on any node in the tree. This will start filtering all nodes below by the characters as you continue typing. In the example below a document library is used to store legal matters. One document set is created for each legal matter, and this particular library has over 10,000 legal matters (document sets). As you can see in the screenshot, just by typing “77”, the legal matter document sets have been filtered from 10,000 to 10 (not bad for 2 keystrokes). We’ve also made the filter type configurable so it can perform a “starts with” filter or a “contains” filter. This filtering is available at all levels, on all node types in the tree so use it to filter a long list of sites or libraries as well and folders.

cameron-dwyer-sharepoint-remote-navigation-tree-filter-sharepoint-folders

 

Recent locations

If you’ve been somewhere in SharePoint recently, then there is a good chance you’ll want to go back. The navigation tree will automatically remember recent locations so you can quickly get back to them. These recents aren’t just static locations, you can expand them and filter them just like any other node in the tree.

cameron-dwyer-sharepoint-remote-navigation-tree-recent-sharepoint-folders

Favorites

The organisation can only structure SharePoint in one single hierarchy (essentially in a tree). This one global structure of SharePoint rarely fits with how individuals see SharePoint. What we’ve done here is to allow a “My OnePlaceMail” area in the tree where a user can bookmark their own favorite locations from anywhere across any of their SharePoint environments. We’ve also given them the ability to create folders to organize and arrange these favorite SharePoint locations. What this delivers to users is the ability to setup a mini tree of SharePoint that reflects how they see SharePoint. This gives efficient access to just those areas of SharePoint that are relevant and removes the clutter of other areas of SharePoint. Similar to recents, these aren’t just static locations, you can expand them and filter them just like any other node in the tree.

cameron-dwyer-sharepoint-remote-navigation-tree-favorite-locations

Create New Folders and Document Sets

What good is a tree that doesn’t grow! Based on SharePoint settings and security you can simply create folders and/or document sets directly within the tree using the context menu on the tree node. This isn’t limited to a simple input for folder name. The screenshots below show the creation of a custom Legal Matter document set and completion of properties for the new document set (all dynamically read from SharePoint – zero configuration).

cameron-dwyer-sharepoint-remote-navigation-tree-create-folder

cameron-dwyer-sharepoint-remote-navigation-tree-create-document-set

Search for locations rather than browsing

Sometimes the browse metaphor for navigating SharePoint just isn’t very efficient, rather than browse we have given the option to also use a search metaphor for finding locations in SharePoint, this works well in certain scenarios:

  • Large SharePoint environments
  • Areas of SharePoint where you are not familiar with the hierarchy structure
  • When you know the exact location in SharePoint and search is faster than navigating to it
  • Finding locations to save to
  • Finding a site collection (as site collections have different top level URLs you often cannot browse them, you have to know the top level URLs to begin with). If you create a new site collection per client/customer/project and therefore have a large number of site collection, being able to find the site collection quickly via search in the tree is brilliant
  • Finding locations across site collections

A key concept here is in the navigation tree we are searching for locations within SharePoint not content. To explain that a little bit, consider your conventional search via the SharePoint UI. This is designed for finding content e.g. documents, files. The navigation tree displays SharePoint hierarchy (or locations such as Sites, Libraries & Folders) not content. So unlike a normal SharePoint search for content, in the tree we are actually trying to find the location or container in which to store content or in SharePoint terms:

  • Site Collections
  • Sites
  • Lists
  • Libraries
  • Folders (within a list or library)
  • Document Sets (within a library)

cameron-dwyer-sharepoint-remote-navigation-tree-search-for-location

cameron-dwyer-sharepoint-remote-navigation-tree-search-location-results

Search scoping

The scope for the search is dynamic based on the selected location in the tree when the search is performed. For example, if you select the “Intranet” site collection in the tree, then only the “Intranet” site collection is searched. Likewise if you select a specific document library, then only that library is searched. This scoped searching works to restrict scope to a site collection, site, library, or folder/document set.

The converse of performing a search restricted to a scope is to perform a “farm wide search”. This performs a search across all site collections in the farm and as it returns locations it can be used to find site collections themselves.

Switch from search result to browse

The search feature for finding location works really well but what makes it simple awesome (just my opinion) is that we’ve allowed you to take a search result and then switch back to the browse navigation metaphor to explore that location further. This is really, really powerful. For example you may have a SharePoint environment where you create a new site per project and there are tons of these project sites scattered across multiple site collections. You can now do a simple search in the tree to find the site then drill down within the site to find a document library (which is actually where you would want to save or open files from).

cameron-dwyer-sharepoint-remote-navigation-tree-browse-within-search-result

 

cameron-dwyer-sharepoint-remote-navigation-browse-from-search-result

The capabilities of the Navigation Tree make it scalable to fit any SharePoint environment from the very small to the very large and deliver a slick, modern, responsive interface to SharePoint. The tree control continues to evolve with each release of OnePlaceMail and we certainly have big plans to take it forward even further.

Download an evaluation of OnePlaceMail Enterprise and give the tree a go for yourself (it’s a client only 3 minute install)

 

This article was written based on OnePlaceMail Release 6.6 – read other highlights of this release

Leaving Las Vegas – SharePoint Conference 2014 (SPC14) Photos

As the SharePoint community disperses from Las Vegas after another awesome conference it’s time to digest the new information and figure out what that really means for you.

The takeaways for each person are probably different as we all use SharePoint in different ways, although there was one very prominent message being pushed…

Microsoft’s forecast: Very cloudy with a chance of on-prem meatballs

Microsoft was pushing the cloud first model very heavily, Office 365 will be getting all the new bells and whistles with on-prem maybe getting some of the new features down the track. Features that integrate the different services (e.g. Yammer/SharePoint/Exchange/OneDrive) would probably only be available in Office 365 where Microsoft can guarantee the compatible versions across the services and control passing user identity between the services and may never make there way to on-prem.

Attendee’s forecast: We are not ready/can’t move/don’t want to move to the cloud yet

This was the sentiment I was hearing on the booth. The reasons for not wanting to jump to the cloud (at the moment) were varied but most had understandable reasons. Microsoft has the potential to alienate a lot of the community and customers (possibly losing them to competitive products) if they take the big stick approach and try to force people into Office 365.

On a more positive note for on-prem customers, it was announced that there will be a new release of SharePoint (on-prem) in 2015.

The Venetian was an awesome location for the conference. Maybe it’s just me or maybe Vegas has slightly refined itself since the last conference but I thought the area of the strip near the Venetian had a better buzz about it and was just a nicer end of town. The Venetian itself was excellent with plenty of great options for eating and drinking. Anyone know a place that does a gourmet burger better than Vegas?

SPC14 was the conference that saw us announce the growth and re-positioning of our brand. OnePlaceMail has become one product of the larger OnePlaceEnterprise suite. Along with OnePlaceMail, the OnePlaceEnterprise suite contains the new products OnePlaceDocs and OnePlaceLive. This growth and shift was well received at the conference and I’m really looking forward to this new phase as OnePlaceEnterprise enters the market.

Thanks to all those who came up to see us at the conference and traded SharePoint stories. I hope you all enjoyed the conference and were able to walk away more knowledgeable at the end of the day.

Where and why to find me at the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas (SPC14)

image

Cameron-Dwyer-Microsoft-SharePoint-Conference-2014-Las-Vegas-OnePlaceMail


image

SPC is THE largest SharePoint Conference on earth, nowhere else will you find so many subject matter experts and people willing to talk SharePoint.

I encourage you to be brave and speak to the myriad of Exhibitors and Microsoft people at conference. The Exhibition Hall is a lot quieter outside of the peak lunch/break periods so if you’re in a session that’s not delivering what you hoped, head out and get an expert to yourself.

Why talk to me?
There’s only so many conversations you can squeeze in, my areas of interest include:

  • Overcoming user adoption issues with SharePoint deployments
  • Techniques for making SharePoint quicker and easier to work with from your desktop
  • Extending solutions you build on SharePoint to make them accessible from existing desktop applications without writing code!
  • Anything SharePoint and Mail related
  • SharePoint Site Mailboxes

Where to find me?
I’ll be presenting OnePlaceMail alongside 2 new products (OnePlaceEnterprise and OnePlaceLive) being launched at the conference. I’ll be spending most of the conference at the OnePlaceMail booth #2131 so please come up and say ‘Hi’.

Have a great conference and I hope to see you there.

OnePlaceMail 6.5 – The integration between Outlook and SharePoint that Microsoft should have built

OnePlaceMail 6.5 went into public release last week and represents the biggest user experience overhaul we have ever done to the product. This is no light statement, given that OnePlaceMail is already known in the market for it’s seamless, intuitive, and slick user interface.

We heard your pains in deploying SharePoint in your organization; Getting users to save content from their desktops into SharePoint and work on files in SharePoint was the main reason SharePoint deployments were failing or not succeeding as well as hoped.

Our major goal for the release was to drive better user adoption of SharePoint by delivering SharePoint content into Outlook in such a tightly integrated way that users could work with SharePoint content as quickly and easily as they could within their inbox or any other Outlook folder. We also wanted SharePoint content to just “feel” like Outlook content so that user’s stopped thinking about SharePoint as a system that was “out there in the browser” and rather think of it just as content that is “here and available on my desktop”.

So how have we delivered on such an ambitious goal?

Outlook Style View of SharePoint Locations

When a SharePoint location (Library, List, Folder, Document Set or Site) is selected on the left navigation of Outlook, the SharePoint content is presented in an ‘Outlook Style Interface’. This provides for a familiar Outlook experience for the end user when interacting with SharePoint.

This interface provides access to both SharePoint public and private views for the selected location. This includes all SharePoint view capabilities such as:

  • Columns – including Managed Metadata, Enterprise keywords, External Data columns, Lookup Columns and all the standard column types
  • Grouping
  • Sorting

sharepoint-views-outlook-style-real-time-cameron-dwyer-oneplacemail

 

Find SharePoint Content Quickly – Filtering, Sorting, Searching

When viewing SharePoint content you can instantly filter (per character filtering as you type), advanced filtering operations, instant sort on columns.

sharepoint-views-outlook-fast-filtering-sorting-of-items-cameron-dwyer-oneplacemail

Searching SharePoint content quick and easy, search within a library or across whole site collections directly within Outlook with hit highlighting and embedded preview.

search-sharepoint-from-outlook-preview-cameron-dwyer-oneplacemail 

Preview of SharePoint Content Embedded within Outlook

Providing SharePoint content in an “Outlook Style” that allows user to locate content quickly is awesome, but how do I know I’ve found the right file? PREVIEW. Yes, it’s worth shouting about.OnePlaceMail delivers Email and Document Previews within the ‘Outlook Style Interface’. Where available, OnePlaceMail utilises the Office Web Application Server preview capabilities provided by SharePoint 2010, SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 environments to deliver highly efficient previews. Where Office Web Apps are not available OnePlaceMail will perform local preview of files.

preview-sharepoint-content-embedded-outlook-web-apps-cameron-dwyer-oneplacemail

 

preview-sharepoint-email-embedded-outlook-web-apps-cameron-dwyer-oneplacemail

 

SharePoint Content Ribbon Actions

Access to the selected document Items Properties is available using the ‘View Properties’ action on the ribbon or by performing a ‘right-click’ on an item. The View Item Properties page allows you to further edit the item and initiate workflows.

sharepoint-item-actions-view-properties-cameron-dwyer-oneplacemail

The ‘Email as Link’ provides the ability to insert links direct to the document(s) or to the Item Properties. If the ‘Document ID’ feature has been enabled on SharePoint 2010 or SharePoint 2013, the links will be generated using the Document ID. This will minimise broken links in the event of a SharePoint restructure or items being moved as part of a records management solution.

sharepoint-item-actions-email-as-link-cameron-dwyer-oneplacemail

There are circumstances where sending content from SharePoint as an attachment is required. OnePlaceMail allows you to use the ‘Email as Attachment’ for one or more selected items.

sharepoint-item-actions-email-as-attachment-cameron-dwyer-oneplacemail

What about SharePoint/Outlook 2010 and 2007?

It takes time to upgrade to the latest and greatest so not only have we managed to deliver this awesome integration in Outlook 2013, but it is also available to Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2007. We’ve also made it compatible with Office 365, SharePoint 2013, 2010, and 2007 (hosted, on-premise, or hybrid)

 

My experience of using it over the last few weeks

The impact this release has on SharePoint usability is simply massive. At this start of this release, and even a long way into the development cycle, I was looking at each of the individual features in relative isolation. I underestimated the impact that the combination of all the features would bring to the user once they were delivered in a single package.

I now find it just as easy (and sometimes easier and faster) to work with files in SharePoint than I do with files on my local drive – seriously. I’m finding it’s faster to click through a few files and have Office Web Apps provide the preview embedded in Outlook than it is to fire up Word on my desktop.

Finding content in SharePoint is now simple and fast, I just start the search from the most specific container I think the file might be in (e.g. a site, sub site or library) enter a few keywords and I get hit highlighted results back immediately from the SharePoint search index. I can then do client side type ahead search within the search results as well as sorting and filtering on file type and size. With live preview happening on search results finding content is easy.

During a manual testing session I was trying out opening content from SharePoint (e.g. email messages) and continuing working on them (forwarding, replying etc). I’d run through about 20 minutes of test script when I realized I was in a folder under my inbox and not a OnePlaceMail SharePoint folder. To me, this was a moment of clarity, we had gone a long way to achieving our goal. For the user experience to be so integrated and seamless that you forget whether you are working with content in SharePoint or content in your local mail folders is a fantastic result.  As a user I’m not overly fussed about where the content is stored (that’s an IT/Governance decision), as long as it’s easy and intuitive to get to and work with, the back-end storage is somewhat irrelevant.

 

Downloads

Release 6.5 is available to download immediately from the OnePlaceMail website.

 

Other Resources

Official OnePlaceMail Release 6.5 news article

Official OnePlaceMail Release 6.5 highlights document (PDF)

OnePlaceMail at the HP Autonomy Information Governance Forum 2013 (IGF2013)

The theme of IGF2013 in Melbourne Australia was “Addressing the cost, compliance and complexity of big data”.

The main news out of HP Autonomy was unveiling their new electronic document and records management solution HP Records Manager 8.0. This represents the merge of HP TRIM, Autonomy Records Manager and Meridio Records Manager into a single product.

OnePlaceMail has had a long relationship as a companion product for those using the HP Trim for SharePoint module. OnePlaceMail effectively adds drag/drop capture of email and attachments and also provides access to electronic document and records directly from Outlook and other Office desktop applications.

My favourite tweet during the conference came from @goodgord

@goodgord: OnePlaceMail seems to provide the integration between SharePoint and Outlook that Microsoft probably should have built. #hpigf

Here are some photos from James Fox presenting “Microsoft Outlook integration with SharePoint and HP TRIM – encourage end user adoption”.

Joel Oleson’s Analysis & Review of OnePlaceMail

joel-oleson-review-opinions-oneplacemail-outlook-sharepoint-email-integrationIt’s always exciting to read reviews about your own product and hear feedback from users. So today I sat down with my morning coffee to read through Joel Oleson’s analysis and review of OnePlaceMail Release 6.4. I have to admit I was a little bit nervous having someone as well known to the SharePoint community as Joel Oleson analysing OnePlaceMail and publishing his thoughts and comments to the world. Would he like it? Would he get the business messages behind what OnePlaceMail is trying to achieve? My fears were soon quashed as I could see Joel had picked up on our vision of bringing SharePoint to the user in the applications they work with every day, making SharePoint feel like it is part of these applications and not some extra “system” that they have to go to a browser to access. Here’s some extracts from the review that brought a smile to my face:

OnePlaceMail team has focused on getting real ROI out of SharePoint by focusing on adoption challenges, compliance, and records management capabilities right where the users "live."

The real focus of OnePlaceMail 6.4 is to deliver broader adoption of solutions on the SharePoint platform. SharePoint is deployed in over 88% of Fortune 500 companies according to recent AIIM research, and unfortunately, broader adoption beyond basic file sharing and collaboration hold it back.

It can definitely be considered part of any adoption strategy to help those business users who are looking for a step that brings SharePoint to a familiar tool like Outlook, Office and File Explorer. Want users to save their content into SharePoint? Need to encourage better classification of content? Want to provide fast access to SharePoint content from Outlook? Now there’s a tool that makes it that much easier.

OnePlaceMail lives up to its name of trying to unite collaboration. It brings the richness of document management into Outlook and helps encourage users to do the right thing.

Enterprises that are having adoption issues and trying to address compliance and records management issues will find that SharePoint drag-and-drop does lose out on a lot of the metadata that enterprise content management strategies will be attempting to enforce. OnePlaceMail provides an interface that will capture this content as it comes in from various places including file shares, network drives, office applications, and from email. With SkyDrive Pro and the SharePoint Site Mailbox many will look again at moving public folders and file shares into SharePoint, and OnePlaceMail can be part of that enterprise strategy to eliminate the inefficient sources for document storage.

I was very impressed with the OnePlaceMail Express Edition and everything it includes for FREE. What a great way to encourage business folks to try it out for themselves to see if it lives up to its name!

Read the full review at SharePoint Joel’s SharePoint Land website

Thanks for the kind words Joel and for highlighting the business value and proposition that OnePlaceMail provides for those organisations having already deployed or looking to deploy SharePoint.

 

sharepointjoel-oneplacemail-outlook-email-drag-drop

OnePlaceMail 6.4 – Future-proofing, Site Mailboxes (world first), faster SharePoint access, client side view rendering and all the other goodies

Release 6.4 of OnePlaceMail is now publically available for download (both Enterprise Edition and the free Express Edition). I’m very happy to have this release now available to everyone as a lot of effort and changes led by customer feedback has gone into this release. It also represents a longer than normal release cycle for the OnePlaceMail product with almost 6 months going into this release.

This release has already been warmly accepted and rather than me filling you in on what’s new, here’s some of the news stories already out there:

Official OnePlaceMail 6.4 Release Article

Future proof your SharePoint solution with OnePlaceMail R6.4 (ready for download)

OnePlaceMail R6.4 sees a significant focus placed on the speed of access to content stored within SharePoint from desktop applications. The existing Insert from SharePoint, Open from SharePoint and Save to SharePoint windows have seen significant enhancements with support for SharePoint views and column rendering.

Release 6.4 is the first in the world to provided full support for both extending and co-existing with SharePoint 2013 Site Mailboxes. Therefore, allowing you to future-proof solutions you build today.

Many other fantastic enhancements for the capture, classification and access to SharePoint content from desktop applications have also been delivered with a smaller memory footprint and greater overall performance.

 

Wall Street Journal

New SharePoint Solution Addresses Site Mailboxes Limitations

IT departments worldwide still grapple with SharePoint user adoption and question how best to achieve true collaboration and content management. In particular, one of the biggest sticking points seems to be email, which is still a primary business communication tool and one which people use to share, store and search for documents. Microsoft recently attempted to address this challenge with the addition of Site Mailboxes but it falls short. But OnePlaceMail 6.4 dually enhances SharePoint 2013′s best attributes and fills the gaps.

Image and Data Manager (IDM)

Many views of SharePoint with OnePlaceMail 6.4

Scinaptic Communications promises speedier access to content from desktop applications with the latest update to OnePlaceMail, the company’s solution for improving connections between SharePoint and Outlook, Microsoft Office and Windows Explorer.

To support this in Release 6.4, OnePlaceMail’s existing “Insert from SharePoint”, “Open from SharePoint” and “Save to SharePoint” windows have been enhanced with support for SharePoint Views and Column rendering.

Release 6.4 also adds some significant enhancements to the “Insert from SharePoint” Window that multiply the range of ways that content can be viewed and accessed.

TMCNET

OnePlaceMail Helps SharePoint Remove Limitations
As useful a tool as e-mail is, it still has its limits. There are just some things that simply aren’t programmed into it, so there’s nothing that can be done, right? Well, Scinaptic Communications has improved its OnePlaceMail product, helping users bring Microsoft SharePoint to their email and Office environments.
This is a nice step up from the current capabilities of Outlook, Office, and Explorer, helping better link them together and remove many of their limitations. Those who constantly find themselves having to use all of the above will greatly benefit from OnePlaceMail 6.4. This will also help improve adoption of all of them, for those who use one will now be able to benefit further from the others. It’s a situation that should go well for all involved, from the IT Department and on.

CFO World

Local developers target end user adoption issues with world first software

OnePlaceMail 6.4 is the first and only product worldwide that both complements and extends the new SharePoint 2013 Site Mailboxes functionality to overcome critical limitations, such as the inability to capture email attributes when saving emails or their attachments; minimal Microsoft Office (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) integration; inability to tag content with custom metadata; and no intuitive File Explorer integration.

Free Webinar – Improve SharePoint End-User Adoption with OnePlaceMail

If you haven’t had the opportunity to see how OnePlaceMail has been making SharePoint users grin from ear-to-ear then I have great news. In addition to the awesome resources available on the OnePlaceMail website, the OnePlaceMail Team are now running free webinars to help you get the most out of your investment in SharePoint and most importantly get your users on side by making SharePoint a joy to use from the desktop.

The next webinar is scheduled for Wed 5 June (4-5pm EDT) and topics covered include:

- Bringing SharePoint to the desktop
- Seamless capture of content
- Streamline content classification
- SharePoint 2013 Site Mailboxes

Don’t miss out, register now for the free webinar.

For those struggling with user adoption of SharePoint, this is what happy users look like…

happy-sharepoint-users-adoption-acheived-500

Implementing a simple SharePoint issue tracking system with cc: style notification emails when items are updated

The scenario

This article describes how to setup a SharePoint list so that each item in the list has a column to allow selection of multiple people to be notified initially when the item is created and also every time the item is subsequently updated or edited.

The scenario proposed to me recently went along these lines:

Do you know if there’s a way to add multiple people’s name/email to an item in a Sharepoint List? So maybe we’re tracking issues, and when the issue record is created, we want to tie 5-6 others to the record so they can be involved/aware in the updating of that record and/or the communications related to it…like a cc: list.

Allow me to embellish the requirements and scenario a little so we know the problem at hand…

We have a implemented a simple Helpdesk issue tracking system in SharePoint.

  • The issues themselves are tracked as a single item in a SharePoint list
  • A new list item is created for each issue
  • Issues are primarily generated from an email received by one of the Helpdesk staff
  • Often we want to keep multiple users informed of a particular issue when it is created and as it progresses
  • We want a no code solution

Note: before we jump into the solution, the crux of the article is about achieving the cc: style notifications. I’m not advocating this as a recommended design for a Helpdesk system.

 

The solution

My first thoughts on this one was to simply add a multi-value Person/Group column to the list called “Notification List”, then create a view and set the filter on the view to where “Notification List” is equal to [Me]. Here’s one of many articles on how to use the [Me] filter. This works great and when you go to the view you just see the items where you are in the “Notification List”. I then thought it would be a simple task to create a SharePoint Alert on this list so that whenever someone creates or modifies an item in this list an alert notification email would get sent out. This all works fabulously if there is only ONE person in the “Notification List” column. As soon as you get multiple users in the “Notification List” column, the alerts just do not get triggered. The view filter works fine and shows the correct items when single or multiple names are entered, but it seems alerts play by a different set of rules.

Time for a different approach, enter workflows. Can we achieve a simple (no code) workflow to send the emails out? Sure we can. Here’s how it is done.

First create a custom list called “Issues”

01-create-issues-list

Now add a people & groups column called “Notification List”. Ensure is accepts multiple values and I’m going to just allow people (not groups) to be selected.

02-create-notification-list-people-groups-column

 

While I’m creating columns I’ll create a few more just to make the scenario a little more realistic. I’ve added Description of Problem, Status, and Assigned To columns. Now when I create a new item in SharePoint my new form looks like this:

03-issue-item-form

 

So now to the meat of our problem, how do we get SharePoint to send an email to everyone on the notification list when the item is initially saved, and then every time the item is edited?

We are going to have to create a workflow using SharePoint Designer. So let’s fire up SharePoint Designer and connect to the site that contains our list. Then select “Lists and Libraries” from the left navigation.

04-open-list-in-sharepoint-designer

Open the Issues list and select List Workflow from the ribbon

05-list-workflow-button

Now provide a name and description for the workflow

06-basic-workflow-details

Now add the “Send an Email” action from the Action ribbon button

07-add-action-send-an-email

Now click the Email these users link to define the email message.

  • Click on the address book picker on the To:
  • Select Workflow Lookup for a User…
  • Set Data source to “Current Item”
  • Set Field from source to “Notification List”
  • Set Return field as “Email Addresses, Semicolon delimited”

08-configure-email-to-use-notification-list-and-format

Now you can specify a subject (using the function builder to include the Title of the issue) and the email body, again you can use columns from the issue item and include a hyperlink directly to the item.

09-define-email-content

Return to the workflow information page and set the triggers to automatically start this workflow when an item is created or changed.

11-set-workflow-triggers

All that’s left is it Save and Publish the workflow

10-save-and-publish-workflow

 

The result

We can now create a new item in SharePoint specifying some users on the Notification List.

12-complete-new-item-in-sharepoint

When we save the item, people on the Notification List will automatically receive an email as shown below.

13-email-notification

 

Now for the gold plating

Remember when we set the scenario that most issues are raised by an email being sent to a Helpdesk staff member (yes they can’t just create them in this list themselves!). What we really want is that email message (and any attachments it has) stored on the issue item as an attachment. This would be a bit tedious for someone to save the email as a file and then manually attach to the new SharePoint item. Enter OnePlaceMail (the Express edition is a free add-on to Outlook). Simply install OnePlaceMail on the Helpdesk users machine that has Outlook. You can now ‘bookmark’ the Issue list and it is available (yes the whole SharePoint list with full functionality) directly in Outlook just like it is an Outlook folder.

14-sharepoint-issue-list-in-outlook

 

What is really awesome about this solution is when an email comes in that you need to create a new issue item for, you simply drag and drop the email to the Issues folder in Outlook and OnePlaceMail performs it’s magic and let’s you complete all the columns without leaving Outlook – no need to even open SharePoint in a browser!

15-drag-drop-with-oneplacemail

The item is now created in SharePoint, the email message is stored as an .msg file attachment, all column values are set and notification emails have been sent out. You can even just click on the Issues folder in Outlook (that we dragged dropped the email to) to see it in SharePoint.

16-view-sharepoint-in-outlook-with-oneplacemail

 

Further Reading (in response to comments on this post)

In response to Eugene’s comment here’s how to achieve inserting a URL link to the SharePoint item in the body of the email message that gets sent out by the workflow.

Please be aware that there is a fundamental different between SharePoint lists and SharePoint document libraries in the format (or syntax) of the URL required.

I’ll first go through creating a link to an item in a document library and then to an item in a list.

Insert URL Link to an Item in a SharePoint Document Library

Use the ‘insert hyperlink’ button to create the link in the body of the email

17-sharepoint-designer-workflow-email-action-insert-hyperlink

Provide the user friendly text to display such as ‘Open Item’

18-sharepoint-designer-workflow-provide-user-friendly-link-text

To build the address use the Fx button as we need to use some properties from the item currently the workflow is running on.

Set Data source to Current Item

Set Field from source to Encoded Absolute URL (this gives us the most portable URL that includes the server name and protocol with any special characters encoded which gives the URL the best chance of surviving being sent through email servers and arriving at the other end intact)

19-sharepoint-workflow-lookup-encoded-absolute-url-current-item

The hyperlink should now have an address of [%Current Item:Encoded Absolute URL%]

20-sharepoint-workflow-lookup-url-current-item-address

Click OK and your hyperlink to the item in SharePoint is done

21-sharepoint-workflow-link-to-item-in-email-body

 

Insert URL Link to an Item in a SharePoint List

You would expect the above technique would also work for list items but unfortunately it does not. It leaves you with a pretty useless URL in this format: http://server/site/Lists/listname/1_.000

The URL format that you need to link to a list item is:

http://server/site/lists/listname/DispForm.aspx?ID=xxxx (where xxx is the ID of your list item)

The simplest way to achieve this format is to supply the fixed portion of the URL and pull the ID portion dynamically. Your Hyperlink address would be something like this:

http://server/site/lists/listname/DispForm.aspx?ID=[%ListItem:ID%]

Photos from the Australian SharePoint Conference

cameron-dwyer-oneplacemail-team-sharepoint-conference-auspc-2013

Thanks to everyone who came and visited us at the OnePlaceMail booth. It’s great to hear from our existing customers and how our recent updates have been making your lives easier! A big thank you to all those brave people that came and introduced themselves, I hope we were able to answer your questions and ensure you left the conference with some valuable knowledge and a pathway forward.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 72 other followers

%d bloggers like this: