SharePoint Easy Start – An easy way for anyone to start or continue their SharePoint Journey

Check out the SharePoint Easy Start page!
After years of teaching, consulting, writing and speaking on SharePoint, I realize that each of us is still learning and discovering the power of all you can do with SharePoint. You might be a beginner or have been using SharePoint for a number of years. You might be using SharePoint 2007 or maybe you were one of the first to jump on SharePoint 2010. In any case, we are all still continuing on our SharePoint journey and it is important for us all to understand how the different pieces on the SharePoint platform fit together.
Since each of us has a different need and a starting point, I created the SharePoint Easy Start page to make it easy for everyone to dive right in. Just pick the version of SharePoint you are using (either 2007 or 2010) and we will guide you on your SharePoint journey. If you have any feedback about the page, we would love to hear it. Thanks!

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Train your users on SharePoint 2007 functionality

Now that SharePoint 2010 is out in the market, most of the companies (including ours) are very much focused on providing training on that product. However, what about the companies that are using SharePoint 2007 and are not planning on migrating to the next version anytime soon? Look around and what you are sure to find is that there is not much ‘quality’ training available on that product anymore. Being in the training industry for a long time now, I know this for a fact that expert trainers usually move on quickly to the latest and greatest because that’s where most of the training opportunities and interests are.
So what do we do if our company plans to remain on SharePoint 2007 for the foreseeable future?
We might be able to help with your training needs! We have a robust library of 100 SharePoint 2007 related videos. They are fully narrated and are anywhere from 6 minutes to 45 minutes in length each. These videos are for all levels of SharePoint users (end users, power users, site administrators, site collection administrators, IT professionals and developers). Many companies have used our videos to provide their employees with on-demand training as they need it.
What about when we upgrade to SharePoint 2010?
No worries. When you are ready to upgrade to SharePoint 2010, there is a significant discount offered on the pricing of our SharePoint 2010 video packages to our existing customers.
How do I get more information about your offerings?
Fill out the form on our site to get started. Provide us with some information about your need in the ‘Description’ field of the form. We can then discuss via phone or email the various options we have to offer and will tailor them to your needs.

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Get access to pre-built demos using SharePoint Designer 2010 and InfoPath 2010

Don’t you just hate it when you see a powerful demonstration of some functionality at a conference or in a class, and then you try to replicate what the presenter did back in your own environment and it doesn’t work? That’s pretty frustrating to most people. My solution to that has been to point people to a recorded demo of the presentation at our SharePoint-Videos site since then you can pause the video as you follow along in your own environment which works out great! In addition to that, I have something more to share with you now. Read on for the information on how you can access it right away.

One of the roadblocks that many people have when trying to develop or play with new functionality is that they don’t have an environment where they can safely experiment. To build such an environment takes a fairly long time, requires special hardware and software licenses and could be cumbersome overall. Most developers have an environment (a sandbox) already built, but what about the rest of us who still create powerful SharePoint solutions using either just the browser or various no-code applications like SharePoint Designer and InfoPath? Well, now there is a solution and it’s called CloudShare!

Virtual Machine ‘in the Cloud’
CloudShare provides a means of having a virtual environment ‘in the cloud’. You can access this environment just like you were accessing your physical desktop. Since everything is running remotely, you don’t have to worry about any requirements accept an internet browser to connect with.

What I am providing
I have a pre-built virtual machine that I would like to share with you. It has all the bells and whistles already running within it:

  • SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise
  • SQL Server 2008 R2
  • Microsoft Office 2010 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio, InfoPath, Project, Access and more)
  • SharePoint Designer 2010
  • SharePoint Workspace 2010
  • Visual Studio 2010
  • and more…

In this virtual machine, I have built four of the demos that I do which have been fairly popular. They are as follows:

  • Customizing SharePoint List Forms using SharePoint Designer and InfoPath
  • Automating Business Processes using Visio and SharePoint Designer for Workflows and InfoPath for Forms
  • Using XSLT List View and Data View web parts to get access to your SharePoint List data and external Database data
  • Building Business Connectivity Services components using SharePoint Designer

How does this work?
You can start by going directly to my pre-built virtual machine environment page. You will only be asked for your name and email address to register. Then you will be provided access to my virtual machine directly through the browser. It will look like the image below:


You will have complete access to all the pre-built demos which are implemented in subsites of this site collection and also links to related videos for each demo on SharePoint-Videos. There is no cost to access this environment for 14 days.

So what’s the catch?
Yes, you would be giving your email address to the CloudShare folks, but there is no other catch. To me, if you use this environment and get benefit out of it, I will be satisfied that I was able to help. If you like this environment and find it as valuable as I certainly do in my day to day work, you can subscribe to the CloudShare service and keep access to this environment.

The subscription cost to the CloudShare service is $49 per month if you decide to keep it after 14 days trial. If you do try the service, let me know about your experience and any feedback.

Help spread the word if you can by sending a link to this blog entry onwards to other folks who can benefit from this environment.

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Access Data from a variety of sources using SharePoint Designer 2010

One of the main things that many of us ‘SharePoint people’ are responsible for is to display and manipulate data on SharePoint pages, right? All sorts of data – not just data from within SharePoint such as List and Library data, but data from databases, through web services, xml files and all other sorts of places.

So how are you currently providing access to data to your end users? or I guess the better question to ask is ‘Are you the one doing this?’. Usually the answer is: ‘Our developers are taking care of it. It is not something that I do’. This answer will not work for very long. These types of tasks are soon to become a responsibility for many of us.

The Age of the Citizen Developer

I have been developing applications for many years now. However, I have not touched Visual Studio for quite a few years. How is that possible you ask… well, the term developer is not the same as it used to be when I used to actively program using Visual Studio back in 2005. This term is evolving to mean you build applications for consumption by other users either with programming or with other composition tools. There is a term that Gartner has come up with to describe the no-code developers like myself called ‘Citizen Developer’. Gartner claims that at least 25 percent of new business applications will be built by citizen developers by 2014. I believe it!

As far as developing on SharePoint is concerned, my tools of choice usually are SharePoint Designer and InfoPath. Both of these extremely powerful tools let you make robust solutions on top of SharePoint without writing a line of code! The focus of this short article is on working with SharePoint data and external data in SharePoint using SharePoint Designer 2010 (SPD) so let me get right to it. In a separate article, I’ll talk about InfoPath’s inherent functionality to let you create and modify powerful electronic forms in SharePoint.

XSLT Web Parts in SharePoint 2010

There are two main web parts that let you display and manipulate data in SharePoint:

  • XSLT List View Web Part (XLV)
  • XSLT Data Form Web Part (DVWP)


The XLV lets you display data from lists and libraries while DVWP lets you show data from literally anywhere. The shortcoming (in my opinion) of DVWP is that there is no easy way to customize this web part in the browser and it can only be manipulated effectively using SPD 2010. While the XLV can be customized using the browser, the real power for this web part is also realized when manipulated using SPD.

These web parts work by consuming data in XML format and then letting us manipulate it by using XSLT. Sounds complicated? I assure you that it’s not. Everything is very visual in nature. All you are doing is customizing and configuring the web parts to make them behave the way you need them. It’s truly as simple as that once you get used to doing it. The results are extremely robust data driven solutions that you can present on any SharePoint page. The average developer accustomed to programming in a traditional development environment and unaware of these methods will think that you spent hours or days creating these solutions when in reality, it will only take you a few minutes once you are proficient at it.

Alright, enough talking. Let’s get to showing you some of these things to make you a believer too. There are two videos that I would recommend you check out right now to prove to yourself the power of XSLT web parts:

Create Custom List Form pages using SharePoint Designer 2010

Report on data from your Database using XSLT Data View web part

If these videos have intrigued your curiosity, I would suggest continuing your XSLT web part exploration using the following resources.

Additional SharePoint Designer XSLT Web Part Resources

There are a variety of scenarios that can be accomplished with XSLT web parts using SharePoint Designer 2010. The following links will provide you with the resources you need to continue your journey.

· Articles and Videos about Data Views at –

· Book – Beginning SharePoint Designer 2010 (Chapter 8)

· Video Tutorials – SharePoint Designer – XSLT web part videos

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SharePoint Designer 2010 Workflows DVD

We just released the new SharePoint Designer 2010 Workflows DVD. The complete information on this DVD package is available here:

There are four ways to implement workflows in your SharePoint sites:

1) Use the browser and built in workflow templates – A great way to start making simple workflows. Doesn’t require any other tools other than the browser.

2) Use SharePoint Designer 2010 – SharePoint Designer 2010 is free and lets you create powerful and robust workflows using a variety of built in activities (such as sending an email, creating list items, copying documents and a whole lot more). The resulting workflows are easy to understand and ownership can be transferred to business users as it seems fit.

3) Use Visual Studio – This is by far the most powerful and flexible way of creating workflows. However, it requires knowledge of the Visual Studio environment and programming. In addition, once you deploy the workflows, chances are you will need to manage them as well.

4) Buy workflow building tools from 3rd party vendors – There are some really good companies out there who will sell you their workflow building package bundles. Some of them are quite affordable and provide great functionality. Check out the recording of a webinar we conducted a while back in which I talked through the limitations of workflows in SharePoint and demonstrated the functionality of a 3rd party vendor (AgilePoint) –

If you decide on option 2 above – to build powerful workflows without programming using SharePoint Designer 2010, the SharePoint Designer 2010 Workflows DVD is what you need to learn all that’s possible.

Among other content, I wrote two chapters in our SharePoint Designer 2010 book (which was released in November 2010) dedicated to workflows. This DVD is a great companion to that book since it contains the videos of all of the workflow scenarios discussed in the book and more. Some of the scenarios covered in the DVD are as follows:

  • Creating List and Library Workflows
  • Creating Powerful Reusable Workflows
  • Creating Site Workflows
  • Creating Workflows using Visio
  • Managing Workflow forms using InfoPath
  • Packaging up Reusable Workflows
  • Migrating Workflows to other Site Collections
  • and more..


Best wishes to you on your SharePoint journey!

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