Site Level Customizations and Settings using SharePoint Designer 2010

In the last article, I described the screens and interfaces that users would interact with in SharePoint Designer 2010 (SPD). This article will dig into working with specifically the settings and customizations you can make at the SharePoint site level using SPD. So let’s dive in!

As far as site creation is concerned, SPD can be used to create subsites using any of the available site templates. However, SharePoint Designer cannot be used to create a top level site or a site collection itself. You would need to perform these actions using any of the following options:

  • Central Administration
  • PowerShell
  • Programmatically using the object model
  • Stsadm.exe (this utility was heavily used in administering SharePoint 2007. However, PowerShell is recommended for SharePoint 2010 administration)

SharePoint Designer can open any existing SharePoint 2010 sites (SharePoint 2007 is not supported). The image below shows the Summary Page of a site. Each area on the summary page is marked with a number. Right below the image, each of the areas is discussed in detail.

Site Information

1.  The summary page is broken up into multiple sections. These sections show you a variety of information about the site. The sections themselves are not customizable. More cannot be added and the existing ones cannot be deleted. You can minimize these sectional panels by clicking on them, but that’s about it.

2.  Title and Description of site are completely configurable. Just click on the existing wording and start typing to change it. Once done, don’t forget to press the Save button at the top left to commit your changes.

3.  The Web Address link takes you directly to the site’s home page in the browser.

4.  SharePoint Version – The build number of the SharePoint deployment

Server Version – Just shows you that SharePoint is running on Internet Information Services

5.  Total Storage Used – This number is deceiving. Upon first look, it seems like this is site focused. It’s not. This number shows you the current storage used by the site collection.

% Available Storage Used – Quota templates can be created through Central Administration and assigned to a site collection. If the quota is set, this value would show the % of quota already used up.

Customization

6.  Edit site home page – The first thing a site admin would usually do is to edit the home page and modify its content. That’s why this link is available here in the customization section. Clicking this link will open up the home page (Home.aspx) of the site in safe editing mode. The safe editing mode makes sure that none of the edits in the page will cause it to become customized (or unghosted). This also means that the Master Page, which provides the chrome of the site, cannot be customized in this mode. There is another mode (Advanced) available if needed. You can get to Advanced mode by going to the Home.aspx page through the Site Pages library section in SPD.

7.  Change site theme – Changing a site’s theme is not supported within SPD. When you click on this link, it takes you to the page in the browser where you can apply any one of the available themes to the site.

Settings


8. Display Quick Launch – Shows/hides the Quick Launch of the site

Enable Tree View – Shows/hides the Tree View of the site

Notes:

  1. It’s a good idea to use one and not both. Otherwise, you will end up with links to the same resources in two different places thus confusing your users.
  2. Both show links which are security trimmed.
  3. Quick Launch is configurable so you can hide or show links to site components as needed to not clutter up the navigation too much.
  4. Tree View shows all of the site components that the end user has permission to see.

 

Recommendation:
Use Quick Launch for a nicely grouped organization of your site components.

 

9.  Enable Site RSS Feeds – Enables/disables the RSS feed for the site. This is a good way for end users to keep abreast of changes happening to their site by subscribing to the site’s RSS feed.

Subsites

10.  The list of subsites directly under this site appears here. This view is also security trimmed so that if a user does not have access to a site, he won’t see that site in this list.

Permissions

11.  This view shows the SharePoint groups who currently have permissions on the site. It also shows what permission level each group has. Using this section, you can also configure user permissions for the site. Security configuration options within SPD are a deep topic and will be covered in another article.

Hopefully, this post gave you a good perspective on the type of site level setting and customization options available within SharePoint Designer 2010. Future articles will attempt to detail other areas of this application.

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User Interfaces of SharePoint Designer 2010

In my first post regarding SharePoint Designer 2010 (SPD 2010), I took a shot at introducing SPD at a very high level. Going on forward, I will be creating individual posts which will dig deeper into each of the areas of SPD. This post will focus on the user interfaces of SPD (that would be the stuff you see when you open up SPD and what does it all mean).

For a video tour of SPD 2010 interfaces, watch the videos here.

A Site Administrator or a Designer of a SharePoint Site are the primary folks who will want to look into using SPD to create solutions on top of their SharePoint sites. Let’s assume You are that person. You are looking at your SharePoint site and thinking “there has got to be more I can do with this thing than what the browser allows me to do”. You are absolutely correct! You have the rights to create some powerful solutions, but the internet browser as an application has limitations on what it can do. For example, if you wanted to create a data connection from your site to a source of data that you have access to, the browser is not the tool to do this with. Visual Studio can obviously be used to accomplish this, but then it requires programming experience. Don’t know how to code? No worries! This is a job that’s well suited for SPD. Similarly, if you are looking to create robust business processes (or workflows) on top of your sites, SPD is the answer for that as well. So let’s see exactly where these things and more are located within the SPD interface.

Backstage

The first thing to do is to download SPD 2010. Open up SPD and you will see the Backstage environment first.

Backstage is now a standard interface that is built into all Office 2010 applications. Think of it like the old File menu in Office 2003. In fact, the tab that shows the Backstage options is called File as well. When you first start SPD, you will need to use the Backstage to either open an existing SharePoint 2010 site or create a new one. Keep in mind a couple of things here:

  • Only SharePoint sites can be managed and customized in SharePoint Designer 2010.
  • SharePoint Designer 2010 is not backwards compatible and cannot be used to open sites in SharePoint 2007 or earlier products.

The Backstage continues to be helpful after you open up a site in SPD (click on the File menu to access it). A site as a container needs to be populated with information and processes before it can have any value to the end user. Backstage can be used as a quick way to add Pages, Lists and Workflows to your site.

Once you have a site opened in SPD, you see the three major interface components: Navigation Pane, Ribbon and Summary Page. Let’s dig into each of these separately.

Navigation Pane

The left navigation pane in SPD provides access to all of the components of a SharePoint site. The links in this pane are all security trimmed. If you don’t have access to something, you won’t even see it there (for example, the Master Pages link would be hidden if Enable Customizing Master Pages and Layout Pages option is unchecked in the SharePoint Designer Settings within Site Collection Administration).

Following are all of the options in the navigation pane and a brief explanation for each:

<Site Name> (SPeL in the screenshot above)

Shows the summary page with information about the site at a high level. Site permissions, site navigation settings and any subsites underneath this site are all displayed here.

Lists and Libraries

Shows all of the lists and libraries that currently exist on the site. This is a security trimmed view and will not show items that a user does not have permissions to.

 

Workflows

Three types of workflows can be created in SPD: List, Reusable and Site. In addition, the built in workflows (Approval, Collect Feedback and Collect Signatures) can be copied and modified. All of the workflows that currently exist on the site are listed in this view.

Site Pages

This shows the Wiki page library called Site Pages that gets created automatically for every new site. The home page of the site is stored here. All pages contained in this library are wiki pages. Each wiki page can be organically linked to other pages within the same library.

Site Assets

This library gets created automatically for every site. It can be used to store images that are shown on wiki pages of the site. In addition, site assets such as javascript, xml, css and solution files (wsp) are all stored here for the site.

Content Types

The content types for this site and from the parent site are all visible here.

Site Columns

All site based columns for this site and the parent site are visible in this view.

External Content Types

External content types represent connections to data in back-end Line of Business (LOB) systems. These connections are created using the Business Connectivity Services (BCS) which is installed as a service application among other services in the farm. This view shows all of the connections not just on this site but the whole site collection.

Data Sources

SharePoint sites can create connections directly to a variety of external data sources such as databases, web services (both SOAP and REST services) and xml files. The data sources section in the navigation pane shows all of the existing connections.

Master Pages

The master pages section shows the master pages that are available to be used for the site. Default.master, minimal.master and v4.master are available by default in a team site. If others are created, they would appear here as well.

Site Groups

SharePoint groups are used as a container for Active Directory users and groups. All the SharePoint groups, whether they have permissions on the site or not, available in the entire site collection appear here.

Subsites

Shows the subsites directly below this site. This list of sites is security trimmed. If the logged in user does not have access to a particular subsite, he will not see that subsite in this list.

All Files

This view shows the URL structure of the web site. The subsites, lists, libraries, hidden folders and more all appear within this folder tree view.

 

Ribbon

The ribbon that appears on top of the SharePoint Designer 2010 environment provides the fluent user interface which has now been rolled out to all of Office 2010 applications. The ribbon provides a quick and easy way to perform actions on objects that are currently in context. For example, if you are looking at the Workflows section in the navigation pane, you will see the options for creating new workflows and working with existing workflows in the ribbon.

In addition to the default options in the ribbon, additional functionality “lights up” as specific objects on the page are put into context. In the screenshot below, the focus is on the picture which is inside of a table structure. So as a result, the ribbon shows two additional tabs – one for Picture Tools and the other for Table Tools.

The ribbon also respects SharePoint security and it will disable the options which the logged in user does not have permission to use.

 

Summary Page

The summary page shows the metadata and settings of the object (ex: Workflow, List, Library, Page etc) that’s selected in the navigation pane. You already saw an example of this earlier in the post (summary page for the site). The summary page consists of several sections of information about the object. These sections cannot be removed or customized. The screenshot below shows the summary page of a SharePoint group. You can get there by going to Site Groups in the navigation pane and then clicking on one of the SharePoint groups.

In the screenshot above, you can see the various sections showing settings for the SharePoint group Designers. For example, you can see that there are three members in this group and that only the group members can see the membership of this group and not everyone. By providing these types of settings in the summary page, we are given the opportunity to quickly and easily make changes as needed without having to go to the browser and deal with the server postbacks after each click.

This post showed the interfaces of SharePoint Designer 2010 that users will be interacting with. In future posts, I’ll be exploring each area of this product deeper to give you a better understanding of how you can utilize its capabilities to create robust solutions in your environment.

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Power up with SharePoint – Free Live Web Conference

On Dec 8th, I’ll be presenting a session at the Power Up with SharePoint online conference. It’s a free conference. You can check it out and register here.

My session will be on Reporting on Lists, Libraries, and SQL data using Data Views in SharePoint Designer 2007. After the session, I’ll be available for a Q & A session. Also, my co-contributor on the visualsp.com site, Wendy Henry will be presenting the keynote for this conference. In addition, SharePoint gurus Michael Noel and Colin Spence are performing sessions as well.

So come on by if you have time and join us.

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Download SharePoint Server 2010 Beta

There are two versions of SharePoint Server 2010 beta available to the public:

SharePoint Server 2010 (Enterprise Client Access License features)

For organizations looking to expand their business collaboration platform to enable advanced scenarios. Use the Enterprise capabilities of SharePoint to fully interoperate with external line-of-business applications, web services, and Microsoft Office client applications; make better decisions with rich data visualization, dashboards, and advanced analytics; and build robust forms and workflow-based solutions.

SharePoint Server 2010 for Internet Sites, Enterprise

For organizations looking to create customer-facing public internet sites and private extranets using the full enterprise capabilities of SharePoint. This provides full SharePoint Enterprise functionality and no other technical limits.

Download either of them from here:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/ee388573.aspx

 

Keep in mind that you need a 64 bit environment to install SharePoint 2010 on. Check out my earlier post for the link to hardware requirements or choices for running it in a virtual environment.

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Free Webinar on SharePoint Designer 2010 Workflows

We’re back again with another free webinar. A few weeks ago at the Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2009, I presented a session on SharePoint Designer 2010 Workflows which have been vastly improved in this release of SharePoint. In addition to talking about SPD Workflows, I will show the integration points with Visio and InfoPath. I’ll be presenting this session in a webinar format to be held this Thursday, Dec 3rd.

For this webinar, fundamental SharePoint (2007 or 2010) knowledge is assumed. Webinar will be held on Dec 3rd at 12:00pm Eastern time. You can get more information and register for this webinar here:

https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/333716056

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