Author: Sarah Haase

Librarian living in a SharePoint world

Having trouble lining up your SharePoint 2013 app parts on your wiki pages?

If you’ve built any new wiki pages in SharePoint 2013, you may have experienced some issues getting your web parts to line up nicely–particularly if you’ve modified the text layout of your wiki page to have multiple side-by-side columns. The columns make it easy to line up multiple app parts side by side, but the wiki pages’ tendency to add in extra paragraph spacing above some of your app parts can make it hard to line up all your app parts on the same vertical axis point. Here’s an example of a page that is suffering from some extra paragraph spacing:


As you can see in the shaded yellow box, I’m getting an extra paragraph of space above my app part in the left-most column of my page. These extra spaces seem to occur on wiki pages specifically, and usually in the left-most column of my page.

I could solve this problem by creating a Web Part Page instead of a Wiki Page (since web part pages don’t throw in these extra spaces), but I still wanted to figure out how to troubleshoot this type of issue on a wiki page.

Here are the steps I followed to create the wiki page shown above:

  1. Go to Gear > Add a page
  2. Type in a name for your page. (I named mine Queue.) At this point a new wiki page is created and saved in the Site Pages library of your site.
  3. Set the text layout for the page. Go to your Format Text ribbon, click on Text Layout and select Three columns with header
  4. Now you’re ready to insert your web parts. Place your cursor in your header zone, click on the Insert ribbon and select Web Part.
  5. We’re going to insert an image here, so click on the Media and Content web part category and then select Image Viewer and click on Add.
  6. I’ll add in my image by clicking on the open the tool pane hyperlink in my new Image Viewer web part. Here’s our finished image:
  7. Now we’re ready to add some app parts to the page to render our list data. I’m going to add 3 app parts to the page–one in each of my page’s 3 columns. Here are the steps I followed to add each app part:
    1. Click into a column.
    2. Click on the Insert ribbon and select App Part.
    3. Choose the list or library you want to use and select Add.

Once I finish adding my 3 identical app parts to my page, this is what I see:


I tried simply placing my cursor in the extra space and hitting delete, but that deletes my app part entirely. The best way to remove this extraneous spacing is to edit the source of the page and remove the offending HTML paragraph tags. Here are the steps to perform this cleanup:

  1. Place your cursor in the extra paragraph space you want to get rid of.
  2. Click on the Format Text ribbon and select Edit Source.
  3. Notice the spare paragraph tag located at the top of your HTML Source. (Shown highlighted in yellow below).
  4. Highlight all the text on line 1 of your HTML Source and press your Delete key to remove it.
  5. Press OK to save your changes.

The trouble with filtering on workflow status columns…

Have you ever tried to filter a SharePoint list or document library view using a workflow status column? It’s harder than you’d think…

Workflow status columns report the current status of a workflow. A unique workflow status column is created in your list (or document library) automatically when you create a new out-of-the-box or SharePoint Designer custom workflow. Conveniently, SharePoint uses the name of your workflow as the name of your workflow status column. An example workflow status column is shown below (in yellow). This Email-notification column reports on the status of the Email-notification workflow.


Being a savvy SharePoint user, you’d think you could use the workflow status verbiage as a filter for your list or document library view. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. You cannot filter your list or library records using the displayed verbiage in your workflow status column(s).

Let’s take a look at an example:

I have a Team assignments list (shown below). It’s a very simple list that allows people to sign up for product areas they want to support. When a new item is created, a custom SharePoint Designer workflow runs and sends some automated notification emails. I can keep tabs on my workflows using the Email-notification workflow status column. As you can see, I currently have items in several different workflow statuses–2 of my list items are in Completed status while another 2 are in In Progress status.


Now let’s say I wanted to create a new list view that only shows me list items that are in Completed status. I go to the List tab, click on Create View and set up my view filter to display only the items where Email-notification is equal to Completed. Sounds perfect, right?wf-filtering-02

Unfortunately, this view shows zero results–despite the fact that I know I have items whose workflow is in Completed status. Why does this happen? Because Microsoft actually uses numerical status codes to demarcate workflow states. While SharePoint displays “friendly” descriptors for their workflow states (e.g. In Progress or Completed), you need the numerical status codes to be able to filter against the workflow state. The difficult part is finding the correct numeral for the workflow state you want to filter against.

After doing some searching online, I found that the numeral 5 denotes a Completed workflow. When I update my view to filter and display only the items where Email-notification is equal to 5, my list returns the Completed workflow items I was looking for. Here’s a picture of my working filter:


The trick, of course, is figuring out what numerals are used for the other possible workflow states. Here’s a quick list of the workflow states I typically filter against:

  • In Progress = 2
  • Approved = 16
  • Error Occurred = 3
  • Not Started = 0

For a more exhaustive list of workflow status codes, visit

Keynote video: Understanding metadata

This is the 2nd in a series of blog posts dedicated to sharing favorite speeches from previous conferences/events. This week I’m sharing Ruven Gotz’s session Understanding Metadata – Working with stakeholders to build the taxonomy. Ruven delivered this session at the 2011 SHARE conference in Sydney, Australia. It explains what metadata is, why it’s important and how you can explain it to your stakeholders. Consider it your metadata 101 course that covers everything from hamsters to soup cans.

The formal session abstract and speaker bio are included at the bottom of this post. Enjoy!

[vimeo w=500&h=280]


Session abstract:

When it comes to defining the site columns and content types for a project, the first step is to help your stakeholders understand the ‘what and the why’ of metadata so that they can picture how they are going to organise the documents.

Once this is accomplished, you can start to inventory the types of documents that are going to live in SharePoint and then explain the function of content types and site columns.

This presentation will explore some methods that have proven to be successful for explaining these concepts and then organising the taxonomy.

See how to use tools that help users to inventory their documents and capture the metadata (and how to identify the right metadata). You will see how to conduct workshops that help you and your clients to organise this information and then document the taxonomy in a form that can be shared, reviewed and easily modified.

At the final stages, you will see how the required document libraries begin to emerge as part of this process.

Ruven’s speaker bio:

With over 20 years of IT industry experience, Ruven has spent the past seven years delivering award-winning SharePoint solutions for a wide range of clients. As a Business Analyst and Information Architect, Ruven is able to apply his education and experience in Psychology, Computer Science, Economics, Software Development and Training to solve complex problems. He has become a leader in the use of visual tools to help his clients and team members achieve shared understanding of problems and goals and shared commitment towards implementing a successful solution.

Keynote video: Earning the right to seek executive SharePoint support

I’m starting a new blog post series to share some of my favorite keynote speeches from past conferences/events. First on the list is Michael Sampson’s session Success with SharePoint: Earning the right to seek executive support, which was presented at the 2012 SHARE conference held in Atlanta. Michael did a fantastic job on this presentation–he explains why pleas for executive SharePoint support fail and provides guidance on how to change your approach. Some of my favorite one-liners from the session are:

  • “Success is 90% people, 10% technology.”
  • You have to build credibility with your executives. Stop being the excited teenager.
  • You have to earn the right to talk to your executives about SharePoint.

The formal session abstract and speaker bio are included at the bottom of this post. Enjoy!

[vimeo w=500&h=280]

Here’s the abstract for this session:

Many IT departments have installed SharePoint and are now wondering how to make the technology deliver business value. A quick answer is often to seek executive support, but before rushing to do so, there are a number of critical disciplines that need to be put in place to earn the right for making this approach.

The keynote will present the roadmap to success with SharePoint, and the role of executive support in transforming SharePoint into a place where great business gets done.

Lessons: – Having the technology available is a common place to start, but you can’t stay there forever – Success with SharePoint involves following a roadmap to success, including vision, governance, engagement, and user adoption – Executives have a role to play in the roadmap to success, but you have to earn the right to seek their support

And here is Michael’s speaker bio:

Michael Sampson is a collaboration strategist. His passion is helping organizations to make collaboration work, when their employees have to work together effectively and efficiency while separated by distance and time. Michael advises end-user organizations in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, and Europe.  He holds an MCom with first class honors in telecommunications-based IT, from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.  Michael is the author of four books on collaboration strategy—Collaboration Roadmap, User Adoption Strategies, SharePoint Roadmap for Collaboration, and Seamless Teamwork.  His blog can be found at and you can follow him on Twitter: @collabguy

Insert yourself here: How to find your (SharePoint) niche

Every day my high school English teacher danced into the classroom (yes, she actually danced) and with all the theatrics of Shakespeare declared “I can’t believe they pay me to teach the classics!” I thought she was plum crazy. Even as a high school senior I knew you worked to live. You did not live for the opportunity to work.

After 15+ years in the job market, I’ve softened my world view. If I won the lottery next week, I truly believe you’d still find me out here talking about SharePoint. Yes, I’d probably be talking about it part-time and on my terms. But things that interest me today–things that drive my passion, my curiosity and provide that feeling of accomplishment–will still be relevant and necessary, even if the monetary driver behind them ceases to exist.

How can I be so sure? Because SharePoint provides a perfect intersect for me. It is the point at which my abilities, my interest and my agenda (or mission) converge. It serves as the hub or epicenter of my time, energy and focus. If you’re fortunate enough to find yourself working at such an intersection, you’ll find that you’re happier, more fulfilled and more productive.

How do I know that SharePoint is a perfect intersect for me? Because I’m good at it, I love doing it and my organization needs it. It’s that simple.


A few years ago I went through a team-building seminar. There was a bevy of small-group activities, feel-good moments, etc. One element that stuck with me, though, was the Venn diagram the facilitator drew on the board. She challenged all of us to hone in on a part of our jobs that we loved, that was critically important to the well-being of the company and that we were naturally skilled at. The message was clear: if you can find such an intersect, you should devote ALL your time, attention and energy to it. This is your perfect sweet spot. It is the area that provides you the most fulfillment and the company the most benefit.

Here’s why SharePoint bubbled up as my intersect point:

  1. I am good at calculating SharePoint’s value or Return On Investment (ROI). I have a proven methodology for quantitatively and qualitatively capturing this data and telling the “value story.”
  2. I love learning how to build solutions that reduce or eliminate the “soul-crushing, spirit destroying” work that people hate.
  3. Companies/organizations need these solutions. It improves their speed-to-market, reduces their overhead and helps them engage their employees at a higher level.

The bottom line

We need a litmus test for jobs. It doesn’t need to be complex, but it needs to measure 3 critical elements: skill set, enthusiasm for the work and the driving business need it fulfills. The work should add direct value and positively impact the organization’s bottom line or strategic focus. But it should also hit a high note on your own personal “happy meter.” Think about it–how many jobs are essential to the business but fail to ignite someone’s passion? And how many people have things they’re passionate about doing, but fail to find an organization that views that work as essential?

If you’re not in a job that’s nested within this intersect point, it’s time to do some soul searching. Can you make a business case for building your perfect role? Or is it time to move on?

This week’s SharePoint learnings: Usability, surfing and stupidity

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” (Albert Einstein)

I’ve run across several interesting webinars, articles, etc. the past few weeks. There’s no underlying theme or “take over the world” vision here–just random SharePoint deep thoughts. Enjoy!

2010 vs. 2013 Usability Showdown

Depositphotos_6409100_mHigh Monkey Consulting recently released the findings of their heuristic usability tests for SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013. They asked a small group of testers (all of which had no prior SharePoint experience) to perform a series of end-user, power user and site administration functions on SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013. The goal was to see which SharePoint version offered the easiest-to-use OOTB (Out Of The Box) end-user experience.

While this was a small (and unscientific) study, it provided some interesting results. I recommend checking out High Monkey’s blog to learn about the results.

Surf’s Up: Your Governance Visualized

WaveAnt Clay published a new SharePoint governance article on this week. If you haven’t read my blog post “The celery effect” and other lessons learned from The SharePoint Governance Manifesto and checked out Ant Clay’s work on disruptive thinking about SharePoint problems, I highly recommend taking a look. This latest article (aptly titled Surf’s Up: Your Governance Visualized) offers a visual methodology for outlining your wicked SharePoint governance problems. Very interesting.

Your SharePoint User Is Not Stupid

Depositphotos_2399547_mIn her recent blog post Your SharePoint User Is Not Stupid, Tamara Bredemus reminds us to meet our end-users where they live. And since most of our end-users are not riding on (nor have ever visited) the SharePoint bandwagon, it’s time for us to hop off the bus. Remember: your SharePoint end-users were not hired for their SharePoint expertise. So give ’em a break!

Richard Harbridge presents: Why use SharePoint workflow?

I love SharePoint workflows. I believe they’re an essential building block in the routing and tracking of your business data. But understanding where (and how) to use workflows is a challenge–particularly when you’re new to SharePoint.

Richard Harbridge (SharePoint thought leader and speaker) recently published a conceptual guide to SharePoint workflows. Here’s an excerpt of his post:

SharePoint Workflow: What Should We Use It For? What Are Other People Using It For?
We all know that we should always aim to automate and improve our business processes more. Many organizations reap enormous benefits from improving the way they work alone or with other people through enabling technologies like SharePoint. The big question is how do we start? Or perhaps which processes or workflows should we automate and improve first? This article dives into this issue and offers advice and recommendations based on successful experiences with many customers.

The post goes on to 1) describe the initial scenarios and conversations many SharePoint users have about workflows, 2) define the types of workflows that can be  used and 3) explain the rules under which the workflows should be used to automate business processes. If you are new to SharePoint (or are a SharePoint advocate that wants to understand how workflows can benefit your organization), check out Richard’s post. You won’t be disappointed.

How SharePoint Chose Me!

I’m thrilled to welcome (and introduce) a new SharePoint business blogger–Edith Young. Congrats on the new blog, Edith!

Edith Young

I recently read a great blog post by a fellow SharePoint enthusiast titled “How Did SharePoint Choose You?”. Here’s a link to that post:

Because I found it so intriguing, I thought hey, that is a good topic to blog about! So here is what I have to say…

SharePoint does have a way of pulling you in… it’s like a gravitational force that can’t be reckoned with or even stopped. I myself started working with SharePoint in 2007. My initial experience was using it as a document repository, moving files from a shared network drive into a document library. I then moved into how to use metadata effectively… creating columns with the information about what kinds of documents were being housed in the library… then there were views, what if a Project Manager only wanted to see project management documents or a Business Analyst only wanted BA docs…

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SharePoint Saturday Twin Cities opens with a new registration record!

unitedMinnesota–the land of cold winters, SPAM and sellout SharePoint Saturday events. What a comparison!

We’re fortunate, though, to have a phenomenal SharePoint community here in the Twin Cities. With an active Minnesota SharePoint User Group that is approaching its 100th meeting and SharePoint Saturday events that sell out twice each year, we clearly have an involved (and supportive) SharePoint community.

The community THRILLED us this week, though, with their thunderous response to our registration call for the May 2013 SharePoint Saturday Twin Cities event. We’ve had 570 people register for the event in only 9 days. Sound impressive? It should. It breaks every registration record we’ve ever seen. While we may not be the largest SharePoint Saturday worldwide, we pride ourselves on being one of the best. So if you’re anywhere near Minnesota in May, please stop by. We’d love to show you how we do SharePoint Saturday Minnesota style!

For more information on this event, visit our SharePoint Saturday Twin Cities web site and registration page.

Using information policies to set up automated “content review” emails for your SharePoint document libraries

Close-up of white dandelionFile repositories are like weeds–they grow fast, are difficult to control and can choke the life out of everything around them. It’s easy to wish the weeds of your SharePoint environment didn’t exist, but let’s be realistic: People love creating documents, and SharePoint stores documents. This means that file repositories are a part of your SharePoint future (whether you like it or not).

Not all file repositories are bad, though. Well-organized document libraries that make use of content types, metadata tagging, customized views and information policies do exist. The problem is, these well-managed document libraries don’t get much press. So let’s take a look at a solution you can implement to build a content review/retrieval strategy for your document library. It uses information management policies and workflows to send automated reminder (aka nuisance) emails to document owners once a document review/expiration date is reached.

Business scenario:

The ABC Company uses a SharePoint document library to store all of our help desk support documents. When one of our help desk support representatives resolves a new (previously undocumented) issue, we create and upload a new support document. Since we want support documents to be reviewed regularly to ensure they remain current, we’ve added a required Date for Review field to our document library. Now when support reps upload a document, they’re prompted to specify a date when the document should be reviewed. The tricky part is enforcing the review date. We want SharePoint to automatically email the document’s creator when the review date is reached, advising the author that they should review their support document and either delete it or reset its Date for Review.


We’ll be using an out-of-the-box information management policy and a SharePoint workflow to build out this solution. The information management policy controls the timing of your solution. It watches the clock and fires off a SharePoint workflow when the Date for Review is reached. The SharePoint workflow is responsible for sending the review notification emails to your document creators. You have two options for creating this review notification workflow–you can use an out-of-the-box SharePoint workflow (a built-in SharePoint workflow that provides limited configuration options) or a custom SharePoint Designer workflow that you build to your specifications. There are pros and cons for using either approach:

Out-of-the-box SharePoint workflow advantages:

  • Can be set up/configured within the SharePoint web interface
  • Only requires admin privileges for your document library–not site admin privileges

Out-of-the-box SharePoint workflow disadvantages:

  • Pre-configured workflows are fairly limiting. You take what is offered, with little ability to customize

SharePoint Designer workflow advantages:

  • Enables you to customize who your email is sent to
  • Enables you to dictate the verbiage that goes in your email
  • Enables you to tailor your workflow to run under specific conditions
  • Enables you to take a wide variety of actions, from sending emails and updating document metadata fields to performing calculations and logging workflow history messages

SharePoint Designer workflow disadvantages:

  • Requires knowledge and use of SharePoint Designer, which is not available to all power users or site collection administrators
  • Requires site owner permissions

Choosing which type of SharePoint workflow to use requires 2 key elements–an understanding of each workflow’s options and a thorough list of your own workflow requirements. To see the options that come with SharePoint’s out-of-the-box workflows, go to your document library and select Settings > Document Library Settings > Workflow Settings.

Since our scenario requires an automated review email notification email with custom verbiage, we’re going to proceed with creating a SharePoint Designer custom workflow.

Phase 1: Set up your document library

  1. Go to the document library you want to update with an automated expiration and email review process. (If the document library doesn’t exist yet, create it.)
  2. Create your Date for Review column. If you want to make sure this column is always populated, make sure you set it to be required.

I’m often asked if you can automatically calculate a review date (as opposed to populating one manually). You can, but SharePoint doesn’t make it easy. The fastest way to calculate a review date is to create a new Calculated column that automatically adds or subtracts days from one of your existing date fields. Unfortunately, information management policies can’t “see” calculated columns, and thus can’t use them to kick off your automated email reminder workflow. Your next-best option is to create a Date/Time column and build a custom SharePoint Designer workflow that performs your date calculation and populates your new Date/Time column. Not ideal, but it’ll get the job done.

Part 2: Building your SharePoint Designer workflow

  1. Go to your document library. Click on the Library sub-tab, click on the Workflow Settings dropdown and select Create a workflow in SharePoint Designer.SharePoint Designer should open up, enabling you to start building your workflow. If SharePoint Designer doesn’t open automatically, don’t worry. Just open up SharePoint Designer 2010 manually, open your site, click on the List Workflow button and select your document library.
  2. When the following dialog box appears, specify a name and description for your workflow:
  3. Click OK to save your changes.
    Now it’s time to set up your workflow. Fortunately, our workflow needs are fairly simple. As we mentioned in the business scenario above, we just need the workflow to send a review reminder email to the document’s creator.
  4. To get started, click on the Action button’s dropdown arrow and select Send an Email.
    The phrase Email these users will appear in Step 1 of your workflow.
  5. Click on the these users hyperlink to configure your email.
  6. Click on the address book icon next to the To field. When the Select Users dialog box appears, double-click on the item User who created current item and click OK.
  7. Place your cursor in the Subject field and type in the subject line that you’d like to use for your email.If you want to include a blend of text and field data from your document library, click on the ellipses ( …) button. This will open the String Builder dialog box. Now you can type in your text and use the Add or Change Lookup button to add field data to your subject line. We opted to have our subject line use a blend of words and field data. Here are the results:
  8. Now you’re ready to enter the body text for your email. Type in whatever message you’d like to send. If you’d like to display item-level metadata in your email body, use the Add or Change Lookup button to select the field(s) you want to display. Consider adding in a hyperlink to your document as well. This makes it much faster (and easier) for your reviewers to find the document to review. For instructions on how to enter the item’s URL in your email body, take a look at Brian Jackett’s blog post.
  9. When you are finished defining the body of your email, click OK to save your email settings. You’ll automatically return to the main edit page of your workflow. The blinking orange line should appear directly below your Email action item.
  10. Click on the Action button’s dropdown arrow and select Log to History List. This action enables you to log a history message to your workflow history list. While your users won’t see this history log, it will be a useful tool for you and other admins to troubleshoot your workflow.
  11. The Log to History List action will be added to your workflow. Click on the this message hyperlink to add a message. Since I want this message to confirm that an email was sent to the document creator, I type in the message Email to document reviewer sent. Hit the Enter key to save your message.My workflow settings now look like this:
  12.  Now it’s time to save and publish your workflow. Fortunately, all the buttons you’ll need to save and publish are located on the SharePoint Designer Workflow tab, which should be displayed immediately above your workflow settings. First, click on the Save button to save your workflow configuration settings. Then click on the Publish button. This publishes your new workflow and ties it to your document library.
  13. Exit out of SharePoint Designer 2010.

Part 3: Setting up your information management policy

  1. Go to your document library. Click on the Library sub-tab and select Library Settings.
  2. Under the Permissions and Management column, select Information management policy settings.
  3. Now you have to determine the granularity level you want for your information management policy. In SharePoint 2010, you can apply a policy at 3 distinct levels:
    • Content Type level (the policy will apply to all documents in the current document library that are tagged with a specific content type (e.g. Document))
    • Document library level (the policy will apply to all documents in the current document library, regardless of content type)
    • Folder level (the policy will only apply to documents stored in a specific folder in the current document library)

    By default, SharePoint 2010 assumes you want your information management policy at the content type level (as shown below).

    To change your granularity level, click on the Change source link. (Note that changing your policy source has broad implications, including the suppression of all content type information policies. I recommend doing some in-depth research before making this change.)

    Since content type management of information management policies is ideal for our business scenario, we’re going to leave the default Content Type selection.

  4. Since our document library is only using the default Document content type, we will click on the Document link to set up our information management policy.
  5. When the Edit Policy page appears, fill in an Administrative Description and a Policy Statement. Follow the on-screen prompts for details on these fields.
  6. Click on the Enable Retention checkbox.
  7. Click on the Add a retention stage hyperlink to set up the retention schedule for your documents.
  8. In the Time Period dropdown, select your Date for Review field. If you want to use this date as-is, place a 0 in the number of years/months/days to add.
  9. In the Action dropdown, select Start a workflow. Then select the specific workflow to start. In our scenario, we choose to have the Nag emails workflow started.
  10. Click OK to save your changes.
  11. Click OK again to save your new information management policy.

That’s it! Now when users upload documents to our document library, they’ll be prompted to specify a Date for Review. Once that date is reached, the retention schedule we set up will trigger the Nag emails workflow. When the workflow runs, it will send an automated email to the person who originally uploaded the document, telling them the document needs to be reviewed. Here is a picture of the email I received when the review date was reached for a document I uploaded:

Version note: This solution works in both MOSS 2007 and SharePoint 2010.