Collaboration consultant and SharePoint Architect.

Inbox Zero.


Inbox Zero.

As more communications strive for the holy grail of real time, we are put under more and more pressure to provide instant gratification. People expect real time responses to real time messages. But how do we fit this into our already busy lives. One way to help the constant flow of messages and data is to implement a Inbox Zero approach. This does not mean that you respond to every email you receive instantly, it is more about how you manage the messages and create a process for response times and ensuring the right messages are deal with. Read more


SharePoint 2010 – A simple Metro style Dashboard.

SharePoint for all it’s power and flexibility could never claim to be a thing of great beauty. Many SharePoint users spend (in my humble opinion) too much time on the look and feel of SharePoint over getting the architecture right in the first place. But that bug bear aside, here is a simple way to spruce up a SharePoint dashboard with some simple HTML and CSS goodness.

One particular dashboard I was tasked with building was a HR portal. It mainly consisted of a group or related lists that stored personnel details. As tomorrow is the launch of Windows 8, I decided the topical approach would be to create a pseudo Metro style (or what ever Microsoft are calling it today) design.

This can be achieved simply by using a bit of CSS magic.

This affect is created by creating a div and using the onmousover/onmouseout javascript functions to change the colour or the tile. Due to the nature of the dashboard I also added a link to open the list either in popup mode or a new tab.

The finished result:

The Code

Obviously the CSS should go into your style sheet, but I have used in-line CSS for demonstration purposes here.


How to: Min/Max webparts in SharePoint 2010

It is very easy for a portal or home page in SharePoint to get very busy. You may need to provide information to your users in an easy accessible way, but what if the information is used occasionally, but still required to be visible. An example of this I came across recently was holiday entitlement. It is something that users need access to, but are only interested in it when booking holidays.

This little bit of JavaScript provides the Minimize/Maximize functionality to any webpart on a page without having to go in to the Webpart settings.

When adding JavaScript to a SharePoint page we can do this in one of two ways. Either go to SharePoint Designer and add the JavaScript to the page itself, or add a Content Editor Webpart (sometimes known as CEWP).

Which ever way you prefer this is the JavaScript you need to add:

You will need to add two images (best to add them to site assets) one called maximize_small.png and one called minimize_small.png. You can either create your own or use these two images (right-click and save as).

And this is the result.

Thanks to this post that gave me the launch pad.

You can find an alternative here complied as a WPS.

Or a version using JQuery here.


SharePoint – Change button names at run time.

This is a common request I get from my clients. Submit and Cancel are not always appropriate for buttons on forms. This little snippet of JavaScript can be placed in any page (in SharePoint Designer) to change the text shown on the button

This script changes the Cancel button to read Close instead. Simple, yet affective.


SharePoint 2010 – Hide fields from users

SharePoint has a very powerful security model. Enabling fine grained security right down to the item/document level. But it does not go far enough. I have come across the need to have column level permissions many times. A typical scenario might be the approval of an item or document. The SharePoint way to do that is to create and approval task and assign permissions to the approver. I don’t like this method as there is an extra level of abstraction from the item being approved which can cause confusion for the approver and approvee. I prefer to have an approve field or button with the document itself. This maintains the connection between the approver and what is being approved. But, this creates a problem when you want to prevent the creator of the item or document from having access to the approve field or button.

Based on this scenario there are two plausible methods to create this kind of functionality, unfortunately there is a compromise to both methods, but at least we can choose which is most appropriate based on our own unique requirements.

The first way, and recommended from a security point of view is to use ddwrt:IfHasRights with Conditional Formatting. In essence, you wrap any control or field in the conditional Formatting and specify where the user has a certain permission. This unfortunately does not apply to groups, but actual permission categories. This takes a little more planning than if you could specify a permissions Group, as that is how we generally setup our security model in SharePoint.

Example: Conditional Formatting in SharePoint Designer

We have a simple list called Document Approval:

As you can see all fields are available to be edited. But we want the Approval field to be inaccessible to the creator of the item. In the New Item view we can just hide the field entirely. We may choose to chow the read only value in the Edit or Read Only views, but that will depend on your own requirements.

We open the list in SharePoint designer and create a New Item Form

Now open the new form and select the table row that you want to hide and click on Conditional Formatting:

Select Show Content and then select Advanced. Under Advanced condition select IfHasRights() and then use the reference guide below to decide what permissions level has the rights to see the field.

I.E. IfHasRights(16) will hide this field from all users except the users who have ApproveItems permission.

SPSecurityTrimmedControl ddwrt:IfHasRights

ViewListItems 1
AddListItems 2
EditListItems 4
DeleteListItems 8
ApproveItems 16
OpenItems 32
ViewVersions 64
DeleteVersions 128
CancelCheckout 256
PersonalViews 512
ManageLists 2048
ViewFormPages 4096
Open 65536
ViewPages 131072
AddAndCustomizePages 262144
ApplyThemeAndBorder 524288
ApplyStyleSheets 1048576
ViewUsageData 2097152
CreateSSCSite 4194314
ManageSubwebs 8388608
CreateGroups 16777216
ManagePermissions 33554432
BrowseDirectories 67108864
BrowseUserInfo 134217728
AddDelPrivateWebParts 268435456
UpdatePersonalWebParts 536870912
ManageWeb 1073741824
UseRemoteAPIs 137438953472
ManageAlerts 274877906944
CreateAlerts 549755813888
EditMyUserInfo 1099511627776
EnumeratePermissions 4611686018427387904
FullMask 9223372036854775807

The code will look something like this

Now when a non-approver views the form it should look like this:

This provides one possible solution to hiding fields/controls from certain groups of users. I will cover other methods in future articles.


10 Tips on the Value of Collaboration

A nice short sharp list of how collaboration can help you, and where the benefits are. Although the full name of the article is 10 Tips on the Value of Collaboration in Startups, I think this list applies to everyone.

1. Consensus is the enemy of collaboration. Collaboration leaves everyone with a feeling of “win-win,” while consensus is “win-lose” or even “lose-lose.” Collaboration opens more possibilities, while consensus narrows them to a compromise.

Read more…


How to choose a collaboration tool.

Lifehacker is a constant source of how to make your life more productive with tips and hints on saving time and being more organised. I won’t labour this point too much, but one of the trends in collaboration today is the tools that come out almost on a daily basis. So this article on LifeHacker can be quite useful on how to asses a new tool.

Definitely worth a read.

The first ten minutes with a new app or idea is the most important. This is when you’re getting your bearings and learning what, if anything, this new tool will add to your current workflow. Ask yourself a few questions right off the bat:


Cloudy with a chance of storage.

When it comes to the adoption of new products and services there is always a tipping point, sometimes it is not obvious what or when that is, but with online storage we have certainly hit the point of no return. There are now more than 30 different providers of online storage, all offering similar services but all with their own twist on beating off the competition.

So what is this new thing about? How do we chose the right one for us? And should we even be trusting these companies with our data?


If you are new to online storage, there are only a few things you need to know. The simple way to describe online storage (or cloud storage) is to imagine it is a hard drive, but connected to the internet. We are all used to using internet site for services, be it Amazon for shopping, Gmail for email, iTunes or Spotify for music etc. Well online storage is the equivalent for storing your personal files. Any file can be stored online, be that photos, music, documents, anything that can be stored on your computer can be stored in the cloud.

Times are a changing and we need to adopt a more holistic approach to storage. Sharing, security, access, portability are all things we should be looking at when it comes to file storage.

How we define files is something we should take a moment to look at. As a consultant my files are essential to me to carry out my day to day work. But almost more important are my personal files. My music (not the stuff i buy, but the stuff I make) is irreplaceable, I  record podcasts, create websites with images I slave over, articles I write and all the cool photos and videos I take.  All this makes up my digital life. To me, just as important as some of my physical possessions.

So here is point 1 in our exploration. Online storage service should be able to :

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  • Backup your files


at a minimum. Obviously each service will add functions to set them apart from the competition, but this is the baseline that we should expect.

Having a backup of your important data is essential to every computer user. Never underestimate the fact that your computer will go wrong at some point. hard drives fail, computers get stolen, floods, fires are insured against, but our data is unique and important to us and cannot be replaced if lost. I have lost a few files in my times, some more inconvenient than others, but I have learnt the hard way. But you don’t have to.

If for no other reason, install a cloud storage solution and backup your data. Do it today, don’t put it off, as the day before you plan to do it, murphy’s law states that is the day that disaster will find you.

So we have that straight? Lecture over, lets move on to more fun stuff. History!

In the bad old days, computer storage used to be very expensive. If you know what a floppy disk is, then you know what a pain it used to be. A maximum capacity of 1.44 MB. That seems quite insane now. An average mp3 is over 3mb. The increase in capacity and the decrease in cost is one of the fundamental tipping points for the majority of technologic advances we have seen over the last decade. New larger capacity storage devices were introduced, like the Zip Drive, which was more similar to a cassette tape than a disk, but these were still expensive and untested in the market so never really caught on with consumers. Now along comes the CD-ROM. The CD-ROM was developed in a joint partnership between Philips and Sony in 1985. Designed to store any type of files, but mainly designed to store music. They were generally branded in minutes, but that also translated to file sizes. i.e. 74minutes = 650mb. A true revolution compared to the 1.44mb of the floppy disk. Not only did CR-ROMs allow companies to sell more data/music, but it also created a new DIY scene thanks to CD-ROM writers. You could copy 650 mb of data onto one CD-ROM. That was massive and changed many things in the world of storage.

Since then, things moved on pretty rapidly. Hard drives came down in cost. Increased in speed and were generally more reliable. But bear in mind that (most) hard drives are mechanical. A magnetic disc spinning round at around 7,200 rpm with a moving head that physically seeks out the data that has been requested. These wear out, can get damaged or are just faulty.

A number of technologies were devised to combat the risk of lost or corrupted data. A common approach in industry is something called RAID (redundant array of independent disks). RAID basically take multiple disks and creates one logical unit. There are various levels of RIAD depending on what is more important, performance or redundancy. See for the Wikipedia article for more detail on RAID.

This article is currently a work in progress…I promise to have more for you soon which will cover:

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  • Price
  • Storage space
  • Privacy
  • Longevity
  • File/Document Reader



  • Share your files
  • Access your files from the internet
  • Add and view files from your smartphone



Hello Trello.

The metaphor of a pinboard or whiteboard is not a new one. There are many online systems that try to mimic the use of a whiteboard. Personally, my favourite is still the physical whiteboard for ease of use, but you cannot collaborate with people who are in different locations.

This is where Trello comes in. Trello is an online service for collaborating on projects. The process is simple. You create a “Board” to store you project. You then create lists. For instance you might have To Do, In Process and Completed. These would be typical statuses in most task management software. You then add “Cards” to each list. A “Card” is an item, be that a small task or a larger effort. The “Cards” then hold information about the task. Due Date, who is responsible, attached images, files or hyper links, status updates and comments.




Trello is an online collaboration tool that uses the concepts of Boards, Lists and Cards for organising projects, tasks and roles.


Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing is the concept of running software and services on the internet. This can be any form of computing including email (gmail, hotmail etc), file storage (SkyDrive, Dropbox, Gogle Drive etc), data storage and manipulation (Amazon web services) and applications (Google Docs, Office Live, etc). Orginally applied to the telecoms networks, the cloud diagram represents a group of networked systems (computers, servers, printers, etc) that represents a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Read More:
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Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing (from wikipedia)


The Blind Team

There is a very famous saying when it comes to teams. “There is no I in TEAM” and added to this is the rather more cynical “but there is a ME”. Teamwork is hard, there is no denying it. When any group of people have to work together towards a common goal, there will be challenges. But we can make this process more effective by understanding what a “good team” means.

Are you a team player?

This is one of the most disingenuous questions you could be asked. This is not asking if you get along with other people, or are you able to work in a structured environment sharing information and ensuring there is a clear channel of communication. It actually means, are you able to do what you are told? Can you “play ball” with the people in charge? Will you rock the boat?

Working in a team is not about subordination. It is about creating a positive environment where people can feel they can add value to the outcome, provide input to the solution and be creative with their opinions and ideas. The word Team has been so abused over the years that it can conjure negative thoughts and a restrictive environment for some.

This is an excerpt from a larger article that is in progress which will shed some light on how a modern team can bring benefits to not only the people in the team, but also your entire organisation/project.



Skydrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage offering.

SkyDrive (also called Microsoft SkyDrive or Windows Live SkyDrive) is a free-of-charge file hosting service that allows users to upload files to a cloud storage and then access them from a Web browser. It is part of Windows Live range of online services and allows users to keep the files private, share them with contacts, or make the files public. Publicly-shared files do not require a Windows Live ID to access.
The service offers 25 GB of free personal storage,[1] with individual files limited to 100 MB.[2] The service is built using HTML5 technologies, and files can be uploaded via drag and drop.
From wikipedia