How to remove the Office.com references from your Project Server & SharePoint 2010 farm

If you look closely in your SharePoint farm, you will see references to Office.com in some of the ribbons and dialogs….

Office.com link on the Create Site dialogBrowse Office.com on the ribbon

When you click on the link or button, instead of opening up a window into thousands of SharePoint apps from Microsoft and Community, unfortunately it doesn’t seem to show anything Sad smile

The shop is empty :(

Someone asked recently if it was possible to turn these off as they can be confusing for users. Well the answer is yes, you can turn the links off easily, if you know where to look. To do so, navigate to Central Administration and choose Manage Farm Features.

Central Admin - Manage Farm Features

Locate the ‘Office.com Entry Points from SharePoint’  feature and click on ‘Deactivate’.

Office.com Entry Point from SharePoint

You will be presented with a warning message, continue to click on the ‘Deactivate this feature

image

And voila, the references are gone.

Entry point removedEntry point removed

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Changing the default security timeout for PWA and SP2010

clockA common request for previous versions of Project Server was the ability to extend the security timeout of pages within the tool. Why this was requested was users typically started an action, got called away, or popped out for a coffee, then came back to the page they were editing, pressed save only to be told that the page had timed out and all their edits had been lost.  Now this was not across the whole of tool, but only certain pages like editing views, SharePoint team sites etc.

Whilst there are numerous posts outlining how to set this in 2007, with the move to the 2010 platform, the setting has moved to deep within Central Administration. To find it, navigate to Central Administration and choose Manage Web Applications.

Central Admin - Manage Web Application

Select the web application that hosts your PWA instance and highlight it. Then click on the General Settings button on the toolbar.

Web Application - General Settings

A dialog will be displayed outlining the settings for that web application, scroll down about half way until you see ‘Web Page Security Validation. You will see the default time is set at 30 minutes.

General Settings - Web Page Security Validation

Simply update that setting and your web application will now respect that time out setting. A word of warning however, the setting will affect all sites hosted in that web application, so if you portal and PWA instance are on the same web app, they are both going to have the increased timeout.

Sync Project Tasks to Outlook, without Exchange

OutlookOne of the great new features in Project Professional 2010 was the ability to synchronise a Project schedule with a SharePoint task list. Through this capability and a SharePoint 2010 environment, simple team level project statusing can be achieved with ease.

In every demonstration I have seen, and in fact given, I have always assumed that the person updating the tasks would log into SharePoint and update the task through the web interface. But recently it occurred to me there was another way, through using SharePoint’s ‘Connect to Outlook’ capability, users could update their tasks directly from Outlook, leverage Outlook’ built in synchronisation with SharePoint and then finally use the Project Sync to SharePoint capability. The set up is really easy, and below are the steps to follow so you can try it yourself.

I am going to assume that you are already familiar with setting up Sync to SharePoint, if not, check out this screencast or these blog posts. Once you have established a synchronised task list, navigate to the List tab, and click on the ‘Connect to Outlook’ button in the Connect & Export group.

SharePoint Project Task List - Connect to Outlook

If Outlook is closed, a prompt will be displayed asking if you want to allow this website to open a program on your computer, click on ‘Allow’.

Internet Explorer - Do you want to open Outlook?

If Outlook is open, or after selecting Allow above, Outlook will ask if you want to connect this
SharePoint Task List to Outlook, click on ‘Yes’.

Connect to this SharePoint List?

Outlook will then download all the tasks within the Task List.

Outlook Synchronised List

All tasks within the Project Task list are now synchronised with Outlook, including those that may be assigned to other users. With a simple bit of Outlook configuration the contents of the list can be further filtered to only show your tasks.

In the Outlook Quick Steps, right click on the Server Tasks icon and choose ‘View Settings’.Outlook - View Settings

Choose Filters > Advanced and add a new filter in the ‘Define more criteria’, as Assigned To contains <Your name>. It’s important to use contains, in case the synchronised task is assigned to more than one resource.

Outlook - Add Task Filter

Once the filter is set up, each Outlook task list synchronised will then only show your tasks, ready for you to update the status and provide feedback to the Project Manager.

Updating the task status couldn’t be easier, simply open the synchronised task in Outlook, update the % Complete and then choose Save & Close.

Outlook Task - Update Status %age complete

The task update will be synchronised back to SharePoint the next time Outlook performs a Send & Receive and then picked automatically when the Project Manager initiates a Project schedule sync from Project Professional.

Final updated syncronised task

Restoring a deleted Project Workspace from SQL Backups

imageThere was a post in the Project forums a few weeks ago from a user asking how to undelete a project workspace that had been deleted accidently. Project Server provides functionality that allows enterprise objects including projects, calendars & resource pools to be backed up and subsequently restored, but this capability does not cover project workspaces. As workspaces are stored within a SharePoint site collection, it is necessary to use SharePoint backup and restore techniques to get the workspace back.

Before we get started, it is essential that you have implemented some form of backup strategy for your Project Server instance. There are a number of excellent documents on Technet to assist including articles on performing Project Server Farm backups via SharePoint or the underlying databases. For the purposes of this post, I am going to assume you have access to a SQL backup of the content database where the project workspace sites reside, which from my experience is the most common method of backing up a Project Server / SharePoint data (but also the least flexible when it comes to restoring configuration and solutions).

1. Mount the database in SQL Server
The first step is to restore the database from the backup onto SQL Server. SQL Server Database Restore

Once this has completed, you should see the backup database attached as per below.

Database restored in SQL Server

As the backup was from the same server, the security on the database should be intact and not need any modification Smile

2. Export the site
Once the database has been mounted within SQL, it is necessary to export the data out of the database into a format that can then be imported back into SharePoint. Thankfully, 2010 introduced a fantastic new feature which allows you to navigate a content database to find the exact site or list you wish to export. Via Central Administration, choose the option ‘Recover data from an unattached content database’.Recover data from an unattached content db

You will be prompted for the database server and name to view and given a list of options including browsing, backing up a site collection or exporting a site or list. In our case, we are interested in exporting a site.

Enter database information

Next up, navigate through the content database, to find the correct site collection and site we want to restore, in this case the site Acquisition Target Analysis. In addition, we need to supply a file name for the site export and advise SharePoint that we want to export the security and all versions in addition.

Central Admin : Site or List Export

Once you click on Start Export, the screen will change to show a job status screen where the status of the export can be viewed.

Export Status

Once the export has been completed, two files will be created the .cmp file that contains the site export and a .export.log file that provides a log of the export process.

3. Import the Site
The final stage in the process is to import the site back into SharePoint, using the Import-SPWeb PowerShell command. Unfortunately Import-SPWeb expects the site that the import is going to be performed on to exist,  which isn’t going to be the case for our previously deleted site, so we need to create a new empty site based on the template.  There are two ways to do this, either via the New-SPWeb PowerShell command or to create a new site via Site Actions > New Site > Microsoft Project Site option.

Create new Project Site

Once the blank site has been created, the site content can finally be imported by running the Import-SPWeb PowerShell command restoring the site back to it’s pre deleted glory with the following parameters:

Import-SPWeb SiteName –Path

You can of course find out more about Import-SPWeb PowerShell command by typing the following into the SharePoint 2010 Management Shell:

Get-help Import-SPWeb –full

Powershell - Import-SPWeb

The last step is to check the site import has worked successfully by reviewing the import.log file and navigating to the site itself and having a look around.

Now of course the most simplest way to restore an accidently deleted site is to stop them getting deleted in the first place, so if this is a problem at your organisation, make sure you spend some time educating your users, or perhaps looking in to implementing a third party site level recycle bin such as the one at http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/RecycleBin.

Speaking at Tech Ed Australia 2010

teched badgeI am really excited to announce I will be speaking at Tech Ed Australia, presenting an interactive session entitled ‘Leveraging SharePoint 2010 for Project Management’ in the AvePoint Interactive Theatre. The session outline may sound familiar, but I have made some changes and pimped out a few of the demo’s..

Today it is more important than ever to ensure every project your organizations undertakes is delivered effectively. To accomplish this, it is essential that there is clear communication and effective tools to facilitate your project management process. Come and see how SharePoint 2010 can improve the management of your next project, including the new Project 2010 client integration, Visio Services and Team Site improvements.

As if the content wasn’t enough, I also have a one year Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate + MSDN subscription to give away during the session, courtesy of MSDN, valued at over $20,000 AUD. So please come along and support your favourite project management tools, SharePoint 2010, Project Server 2010 and Project 2010.

Update: Thanks for all of you that came along to the session at TechEd, whilst the presso was pretty short (only 30 minutes allocated) and the kind guys of the .Net Rocks podcast decided to sing using a VERY loud amplifier for the entire session, the feedback was great. The slide deck for those of you that asked, is available here.

Improve document approvals with SharePoint workflows

imageA common problem I see again and again on projects is the drama involved in getting a project document reviewed and approved. Typically signing off a document confirms that the document contents is correct and has been accepted, this can have commercial implications or be a formal stage gate in the project management process. Many organisations use a manual approval process, sending copies of the document around by email, or worse a printed copy that jumps from in-tray to in-tray which is incredibly inefficient and is nearly impossible to track the progress of. Therefore, anything that can be done to streamline the approval process should be considered.

Enter another great feature of SharePoint, workflows. Through the use of workflows, the whole approval process can be automated, storing the document centrally in SharePoint and sending tasks and associated email alerts to the various approvers and tracking the status automatically.

In this post, I am going to demonstrate how easy it is to use this workflow capability, specifically by attaching a document approval workflow to a document library that will kick off whenever a user publishes a major version of a document.

The Prerequisites

Firstly, check that the out of the box Workflow Feature has been turned on for the site collection you will be working in via Site Collection Admin > Site Collection Features.

site collection feature

Secondly, check that the versioning for the document library is set up and set to Major / Minor versioning via the Library Settings > Versioning setting.

versions

Set up the workflow

Choose the document library you want to add the workflow to and select ‘Add a Workflow’ from the  Workflow settings.

Workflow Options

Select which content types for the document library you want the workflow to be applied to, if you are unsure of the content type, choose All.

Workflow Content Type

SharePoint 2010 comes complete with a number of prebuilt workflows that users can choose from. Should these not meet your requirements, new workflows can easily be built using SharePoint Designer or Visual Studio.  Luckily Document approvals are one of the out of the box workflows available, so choose ‘Approval – SharePoint 2010’.

Document Approval - Major Version

Give the workflow a meaningful name in the name field which will be used to identify the workflow once it has been created. Workflows in SharePoint use Task lists to store the tasks assigned to people and also the workflow history, you have the option to choose which lists are used to store these tasks. Finally you need to decide on when the workflow will be started, in this example we are going to kick it off whenever a major version of the document is published, so choose the  ‘Start this workflow to approve publishing a major version of an item’ option.

Next you will need to set up the workflow settings, including:

  • who you want to approve the document;
  • whether you want the approvers to approve it sequentially or in parallel;
  • what information you want included in the task / email sent to them;
  • how long you want the task assigned to them to last (Duration); and
  • how you want the workflow to terminate.

completed workflow settings

Now the workflow has been set up and is ready to use.

Use the workflow

The workflow we added to the library will be kicked off when a user chooses to publish a major version of a document in the workflow enabled library.

image

The first step of the workflow will bring up a settings screen for the user to have a chance to update some the workflow settings like the approvers and text sent in the request.

Start Workflow

On clicking ‘Start’, the workflow will generate the relevant tasks and assign them to the approvers, in this example, Amy Strande first, then Dan Jump. Amy will be assigned a task and receive an email alert linking to the task, like the one below.

Workflow task

Notice that the workflow task include a link to the document to review and details from anyone that has been involved in prior steps of the workflow. Amy can then choose to Approve or Reject the task or a few other options including reassigning to another person if relevant.

    Once the task is approved, the next task will be generated, in this case for Dan Jump, as seen below.

Tasks

Once Dan approves the task, the workflow will be completed and the document will be approved.

Approved Document

Of course the real benefit of the workflow is that you have an status screen trail that will show you the status of the workflow at any time and once it’s completed, a full audit trail of when a document is approved, by whom and when, giving you an electronic sign off record for the document as can be seen below.

Workflow Information 2

In addition, through the introduction of Visio Services in SharePoint 2010, the status of the workflow can also be seen visually which is a welcome addition.

Workflow Information 1

Conclusion

As you can see, the process of adding a workflow to a document library is incredibly simple to configure, and once in place makes the process of approving a document very simple and streamlined. Through the workflow status screen the status of the approval can be seen at a glance, seeing who has approved the document , and more importantly, who hasn’t looked at it yet.

I challenge you to implement document workflows on your next project and not see an improvement in sign off times!