Experience the power of workflow, Web parts, and more
Let's continue our journey into Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 to gain an understanding of its new features and capabilities. In "SharePoint Server 2007 Unleashed," InstantDoc ID 94652, I covered seven "experiences" that I designed to introduce you to SharePoint Server 2007 functionality. Now let's look at eight more experiences (including one that repeats a lesson from last time), which will help you become familiar with SharePoint Server 2007 sites, lists, and libraries, as well as SharePoint workflow, forms, and business intelligence.
SharePoint content management lets you control when, by whom, and how content gets published to an intranet or Internet site. We'll use SharePoint's default News site to look at some of the fundamentals of content management in SharePoint. Because this experience is browser based, you don't need any Microsoft Office 2007 applications for it.
Go to the News tab in the top link bar, then click News, Sample News Article. We'll begin by modifying this existing sample article, then we'll create a new article. Click the Site Actions button on the upper right side and choose Edit Page.
You'll see the page change into Edit mode, which Figure 1 shows, which displays the Page Editing toolbar. You can use the toolbar controls to change the content of this article. You'll see labels for content components, such as Page Image, Article Date, Byline, Content, Image Caption, and Rollup Image, which appear as a result of the specific page layout that was chosen. Notice that when you edit a content component, you use a rich, Microsoft Office Word–like WYSIWYG editor that you can configure to include features you want. Besides editing, you can format text, embed pictures, and create tables. You'll learn more about page layouts in a moment, but for now, change the title, date, byline, and content. The layout itself will look much better when the article is not in Edit mode, and you can choose Preview In New Window from the Tools menu to see that.
When you're finished, click the Publish button to make the edited page visible to users. Pages can be submitted as drafts by clicking Check In To Share Draft, in which case the page becomes a minor, or "dot" version (e.g., version 0.1 or 1.3). Draft versions aren't visible to all site users. When a page is approved and published, it becomes a major version (e.g., 1.0 or 2.0). You can configure who is allowed to view drafts and workflows to determine who can approve a submitted draft. You'll learn more about workflows in a later experience.
Now let's create a new page. Click Site Actions, Create Page. Give the page a title (I chose "More Good News") and a URL (I used moregoodnews). Then select a page layout. The page layout you select determines the content components of the page. The page we edited earlier was the Article page with image on left layout. Click Create and the page will be created and put immediately into Edit mode. Create some content for your article and click Publish to publish it. Page layouts can be completely customized by using Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007 or Microsoft Visual Studio 2005.
Content Queries and roll Ups
SharePoint Server lets you query content from one site or across multiple sites and "roll it up" for display in one place. Go to the News home page. Click Site Actions and choose Edit Page. You use the same command that we used to modify the article to modify Web part pages such as at each site's home page. In Edit mode, you can see the three Web parts that make up the News site. In Figure 2, the Web parts appear in the main section of the window, each in their own box below an Add a Web Part heading.
Click the edit button on the Recent News Web part, and choose Modify Web Part. As Figure 2 shows, a panel will open on the right of the screen to show the Web part's properties. In our example, this Web part is, in fact, a Content Query Tool Part, one of the Web parts installed by SharePoint Server 2007. The Recent News Web part queries all news articles and, importantly, sorts them in descending order of date modified and limits display to only one item. In this way, the "headline" on the page will always show the most recently published News page.
The News Roll Up Web part is also a Content Query Tool Part. You can configure this Web part to sort news articles by such variables as date created or date modified, and to display news articles in ascending or descending order. You can also configure how many articles to display.
Although you can use an external feed reader to subscribe to a SharePoint library or list, Windows SharePoint Services includes an RSS Viewer Web part, which you can insert in any Web part page.
On the News home page, click Site Actions, Edit Page. Click the edit button on the RSS Viewer Web part and choose Modify Web Part. In the RSS Viewer Web part properties panel, expand the RSS Properties section and enter an RSS feed URL. I used http://blogs.msdn.com/ sharepoint/rss.xml, which is the Microsoft SharePoint team's blog. Click OK, then click Publish. You should see an RSS aggregation on your SharePoint page.
Deja Vu: Creating a Departmental Subsite
I covered this experience in my previous article, but before we continue, let's create a site for the people who will write the check for your SharePoint Server license: your Finance department.
Go to SharePoint Server's Home tab; choose Site Actions, Create Site; and configure the site with Finance as the title, finance as the URL, a Team Site template, and unique permissions. Either add a real user account or create one for testing. I use Penny Xavier, budget manager, as an example.
Report Libraries: Excel Services and Dashboards
Use Microsoft Office Excel 2007 to create a simple worksheet that contains some numbers. We'll use this to create a performance indicator that will appear on our SharePoint page, so make sure that one cell has a value that you can compare against another cell's "goal" value. For example, create a spreadsheet with a grand total value in cell C7 and a goal value in cell C8.
At the Finance site that you created in Experience 11, click View All Site Content, Create. Select a Report Library and call it Reports. Click the Upload button and upload the spreadsheet you created. You'll be prompted to fill in document properties such as a filename, friendly title, description, and whether you wish to maintain version history for the report.
Like other SharePoint Server features we've looked at, SharePoint Server's Excel Services packs power. Calculations are actually performed on the server and heavy-duty crunching can even be offloaded to Windows compute clusters. However, for this experience, our budget manager, Penny, just needs to see the data to know whether the business is on track.
In the Reports library, click New and choose Dashboard Page. Enter a filename (I used finance.aspx), title (I used Finance Dashboard) and a two-column vertical layout, and select Create a KPI list for me automatically. The Finance Dashboard will be created.
In the Excel Web Access \[1\] Web part, select Click here to open the tool pane. The page will enter Edit mode. When the Web part's properties panel appears on the right, find the text box labeled Workbook and click the browse button. Locate the Excel worksheet you just uploaded, then click OK on the Web part's properties panel. Because we have only one worksheet to upload, click the close button on the Excel Web Access \[2\] Web part. Click Exit Edit Mode under Site Actions, and SharePoint will refresh the page, showing your Excel worksheet embedded in the page, rendered by the Excel Web Access Web part and Excel Services. This view is available even to users who don't have Excel installed.
Key Performance Indicators
Although Budget Manager Penny might like seeing numbers, decision-makers often want a quick visual cue as to what is, and is not, on target. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can help. In the Finance Dashboard, click the New button under Key Performance Indicators and choose Indicator from data in Excel workbook. On the Finance KPI Definitions: New Item page, enter a friendly name for the indicator (e.g., Business Performance). Click the Excel-like icon next to the Workbook URL field and browse for your report. After you've selected it, you'll be able to select the cell containing the indicator value (the "actual" value) and the cells containing the goal value ("desired" value) and the value at which a warning should be triggered. Click OK to create the indicator, and the KPI you just configured will appear on the Finance Dashboard.
Create an Expense report and Workflow
SharePoint Server facilitates moving your business processes and forms online. Let's set up an online expense report submission and approval application, using InfoPath 2007, another application in the Office System.
On the Finance home page, click Site Actions, Create. Select a Form Library and name it Expense Reports—all other defaults are fine. Now we need to open InfoPath 2007. In the Getting Started dialog box, select Customize a Sample and choose Sample – Expense Report. Change the header to match your company name, then click File, Publish. The Publish command lets you save the form to SharePoint, but first prompts you to save a copy locally.
The Publishing Wizard then appears. Choose the option to publish the form to a SharePoint Server and click Next. Enter the URL of the Finance site (e.g., http://wss01/finance). You don't have to enter the full URL for the Expense Report library—in fact, it doesn't seem to help to do so, as you'll be prompted for the library soon, anyway.
Click Next and ensure that you select the options to enable the form to be filled out using a browser from a document library. Click Next again. Choose Update the form template in an existing document library, and select Expense Reports. Click Next two times, skipping the Column Name page, which we don't need. A summary page appears. Click Publish. After the form is published, click Close on the final page of the Publishing Wizard.
Now we'll create a workflow.
Workflows are ways to support business processes using SharePoint. We'll specify that after an expense report has been submitted, Penny or your user must approve it before a check is cut. Back in your browser, in the Expense Reports library, click the Settings button and choose Form Library Settings, Workflow Settings.
On the Add a Workflow: Expense Reports page, give the workflow a name (e.g., Expense Report Approval) and select the Start this workflow when a new item is created option and the Start this workflow when an item is changed option. All other defaults are fine. Click Next.
On the Customize Workflow: Expense Report Approval page, enter Penny or your user's name as an approver. Click Check Names to confirm that you entered a recognized name—the name will become underlined. Alternatively, you can click Approvers to find your approvers. Approvers can be individual users and/or groups. At the bottom of this page, select Update approval status when the workflow is complete.
Now comes the moment of truth. Test it! In the Expense Report library, click New. On a computer with InfoPath installed, the form will open in InfoPath, ready for the user to complete with the full functionality provided by the standalone InfoPath client. On a computer without InfoPath, the form will open in the browser.
Fill in the form and click Submit at the top or bottom of the form. If you have any trouble with that in your test environment (which I did), just click the Close button at the top of the form and then save the report when prompted.
Now, let's see if the workflow triggered correctly. Click the Tasks link in the Quick Launch navigation. You should see the task for your user to approve the just-submitted expense report.
We don't want our users to have to look for their tasks. Although users could subscribe to Alerts or RSS feeds from a task list, or integrate a SharePoint task list directly into Microsoft Office Outlook 2007, a better solution is to use My Site. My Site, which Figure 3 shows, is a user's personal portal. You can customize, and manage it, and push content to it.
Open a separate instance of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) and browse to the Finance site. You'll likely be authenticated as yourself. Click the Welcome link with your name at the top of the page and you'll see a dropdown menu that lets you sign on as a different user. Log on as your test finance user (e.g., Penny Xavier). You'll see the Welcome link change to indicate your new credentials.
Click the My Site link next to the Welcome link at the top right of the window. The first time a user clicks My Site, SharePoint generates a personal site for the user. The personal site has many capabilities, and the one we'll look at right now is task roll up. After the user's My Site has been created, you should see Finance listed in the SharePoint Sites section. This list of sites is dependent on the user belonging to the site, so if you don't see the Finance site on the list, perhaps you forgot to give the user permission to it. You can also click the Sites dropdown menu and add the site manually.
When you click the Finance button, you'll see the titles of tasks, as Figure 4 shows. Users can browse tasks by department, team, or project, depending on how you've configured the site structure.
The Journey Continues
After your users experience SharePoint, they might realize its potential for significant ROI. In the future, I'll provide guidance about how to plan for, deploy, administer, optimize, secure, and troubleshoot what is arguably the most important new product from Microsoft in six years. Join me at the Windows IT Pro SharePoint Web site, http://www.MySharePointPro.com, to discuss SharePoint and to share in the collective knowledge of a great SharePoint community.