SharePoint, be it Office 365 or On-Premise, allows rapid creation of lists. Within few clicks, you have a nice container for documents or structure data. Occasionally, you need to rename those lists at a later time. Good news; changing the name afterward is just as easy!
This process, unlike many other aspects of Microsoft products, has remained largely the same in few past iterations of SharePoint (ie Office 365, SharePoint 2007-2016).
The terms “lists” and “libraries” are often used interchangeably. For simplicity, we will simply refer them as “lists” in this blog post. The differences are subtle. For details, see How to Choose between SharePoint Subsites, Libraries, and Lists.
Note that URLs to lists cannot be modified after-the-fact. If requirements mandate certain URLs, get them right at the creation time. Alternatively, whip up a new list and transfer the data over.
If you have been using Office 365 or SharePoint as a data management tool or business application platform, you most likely have come across checkbox columns (aka multi-choice columns). Creating a list with multi-choice columns is effortless. As is the data entry.
For instance, you have a custom list to keep track of office locations in various companies. In order to expedite data entry, you build a Choice column and select Checkboxes to accept multiple selections. There you have a multi-choice column!
The fun really begins when you start analyzing the data and generating visualizations from the collected data. The challenges lie within how the mulit-choice data is stored. Similar to HTML, all selected choices are stored as a single field with delimiters. In this case, SharePoint uses “;#” delimiters. This requires parsing and data massage.
In this example, you have a SharePoint list called Company Offices. Each company may have 1 or more global offices. You have been asked to crank out a report on the number of offices in each country. The underlying data in SharePoint looks like this:
There is not an easy mean to perform aggregation within SharePoint. Solutions like SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) and SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) are potential candidates and require a lengthy setup. What if the token requirement is “We needed this yesterday for an executive report”? It will take a little longer to spin up the above infrastructure!
If you excel in Excel, you can pull in the list data and combine formulas and pivot tables to achieve the above objectives. Such solution, however, is not particularly reusable.
Python comes into the solution beautifully. Python is a general purpose scripting language and can be set up on virtually all operating systems within minutes. (Basic Python is beyond the scope of this post. Google many of the excellent primer on the interweb). In addition to core Python libraries, we are importing two libraries for to extend functionalities. Pandas is a Python library providing high-performance, easy-to-use data structures and data analysis tools. Seaborn is a Python visualization library providing a high-level interface for drawing attractive statistical graphics.
The source code is published on Github (https://github.com/klopmp/sharepoint-data-analysis). Let’s give this a quick run-through.
Office 365 and SharePoint are awesome for working with structured data. All the data is at your finger tips. You just need a web browser to view and edit to your heart’s content.
There are times you may need to tap into advanced functionalities that Excel offers. For instance, Excel has built-in capabilities to generate graphs and pivot tables. The process to export SharePoint list data into Excel requires merely few mouse clicks.
The export function only outputs columns that are displayed in the view. You may need to adjust the view before exporting begins.
With the view displaying the correct columns, please proceed to the export process.
Once the data is exported, you can fully leverage both the ease Office 365 and SharePoint for data management as well as the advanced Excel analysis functionalities. That is the best of both worlds!
Microsoft OneDrive has always been a great option for sharing within internal teams. However, the external sharing tends to feel a little less intuitive. That has traditionally led to users opting for other file sharing platforms (e.g. Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, WeTransfer) when collaborating with external teams.
However, OneDrive now allows file viewing or editing, both with or without login! Office 365 users can eliminate the duplicative efforts to move files between different platforms. Most importantly, you can predefine the access duration by simply setting expirations. This is particularly helpful when the shared access is meant to be time-boxed for security purposes.
By default, links do not expire. Optionally, you can
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Distribution Groups, (aka email aliases or distribution lists) conserve keystrokes and improve accuracy. Say you work at ACME Company and regularly communicate with Jane at Northwind Trading Company. Instead of typing “email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com” in every single email correspondence, you would simply enter “firstname.lastname@example.org” as the message recipient.
Another benefit is flexibility. People move about in an organization more frequently than in the past. Distribution group members can be added and removed easily. This maximizes message deliverability and minimizes bounced email messages.
Tempted to get started yet? This is a multiple-step process; however, we will try making it a breeze. The slightly confusing bit is the distinction between Mail Users and Mail Contacts. Mail Users are inside your organization and have an internal email address (e.g. email@example.com). Mail Contacts, on the other hand, are outside you organization (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org).
You will need Office 365 Administrator access to carry out the following steps.
We are almost done! In order to allow external mail contacts to use this distribution group:
Congratulations! Before opening the beer or bubbly, double check that all recipients do receive the email. Some filters may route this new alias to Spam.
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The first step to deploying SharePoint is to determine an appropriate server topology. This decisions is largely is dictated by the number of SharePoint users. For this blog post, let’s assume that an on-premise server farm is designed for a medium sized company with 500 employees.
Traditionally, SharePoint server farms follow a three-tiered topology, and this approach still works for medium sized companies where the workload on the servers is not extremely high. For SharePoint 2013, these three tiers are as follows:
For a medium sized company, purchasing three servers, one for each tier, should sufficiently fill the roles on each tier.
Microsoft periodically releases patches for SharePoint. How would an administrator decide between the various patches? Microsoft organizes patch types in a hierarchy. “Higher” patch type include all the fixes that are contained in the “lower” ones. Confused yet? Let’s walk this through!
The smallest of SharePoint patches are the Public Updates. A public update fixes critical issues that affect many systems. Microsoft recommends public updates to be installed as soon as feasible.
Microsoft releases Cumulative Update roughly every month. Cumulative update basically bundles the available public updates in a convenient package. Do read the patch notes though. You may have mix and match various cumulative updates to patch up all the SharePoint components in your environment.
“Uber” package is a dying breed. We speculate that Microsoft will release less of this type of patches in the future. These packages are meant to be all-encompassing and will update and/or patch every SharePoint service and component.
This is the most comprehensive type of SharePoint patches. Released annually, it includes all fixes from the preceding year(s). A Service Pack is the baseline for future patches, so if don’t have the latest service pack, you don’t get new patches. Therefore, you should install service packs as soon as feasible.
Always verify and validate patching in a sandbox or test environment. Incompatibilities of patches are not always easily reversible. Going against this recommendation is like playing Russian Roulette. Tons of beauty sleep will be at risk!
Hopefully this will help you decide which patch you need to install and how soon to do so. Also, refer to our SharePoint patch deployment primer for some best practices on patching SharePoint. Give us a call to learn more about updating SharePoint! Cheers!
Microsoft SharePoint allows you to create subsites, libraries, and lists. How would you determine which type best suits your needs? Each of these options has unique strengths and tradeoffs. Let us look at the specific use cases for subsites, library and lists.
The key differentiator of a SharePoint subsite is its ability to contain lists and libraries. Thus, think of it as a top-level container (Web Applications and Site Collections are even higher up but beyond the scope of this post). One prime usage of subsites is departmental sites. Each department can have (but do not have to) its navigation menu, permissions, lists, and libraries. This information delineation, while allowing easy collaboration, promotes information organization.
A SharePoint Document Library, one the most commonly-used libraries, is a container for documents (or electronic forms). Subfolders, site columns, and content types help organize these documents in very powerful ways. Many people think of a document library as a network drive. This is merely half the truth! Document Libraries come with versioning, templating, permissions, and online sharing capabilities right out of the box.
A SharePoint List is a set of data organized sequentially. Since you can sort, filter, slice and dice the data within few mouse clicks, it is rather similar to an Excel spreadsheet. What do you gain from a SharePoint List then?
Typically one person at a time (although Office Online allows some real-time collaboration) will have write access to an Excel file. That creates a workflow bottleneck, doesn’t it? What if you are accessing the information from a mobile device without Microsoft Office? A SharePoint List is accessible via web browsers or a mobile apps. Finally, most of the lists can be linked or exported to the other Microsoft Office products (Access, Excel, Project, Outlook) with one or two clicks!
Equipped with this newfound knowledge, you can now optimize your SharePoint system to maximize usability and happiness. Just email us if you want to learn more about optimizing SharePoint usability! Cheers!