Discussion Board workaround for Custom Views

Community Sites have some great features including the categories and the ability to sort and filter on that information. I had recorded a tutorial on how to create custom views a while back, but it only let you choose the Category name from the filter dropdown.

Given our propensity for changing department names, creating custom views using the category field wasn’t really the most useful. The Category ID would have been so much more helpful. However, Microsoft in its infinite wisdom [note the sarcasm] decided not to provide the Category ID as an additional column within the Category Lookup column, and because it’s a sealed column (which means you cannot modify it), there was no way of attaching the Category ID to the Category column within the Discussion List.

So here is my puzzle: How do I get the Category ID into the Discussion List without making the modifications to fields I cannot change?

Because the Category column in the discussion list is a required field, and because it’s tied behind the scenes to a number of things, I couldn’t just replace it with a new lookup column to which I could tie the Category ID.

I knew the answer had to involve SharePoint Designer and Workflows one way or another.

After a little trial and error, I found a solution that worked.

In the discussion list, add a column called CatID or CategoryID – something obvious. Make sure you uncheck Add to Content Types. Whether it’s a text field or a number field may or may not matter.

From within SharePoint Designer, create a list workflow that looks at the Category in the Discussion List, compares it to the Category Name in the Categories list, and returns the ID field from the Categories list and updates the CatID or CategoryID field.

Set that workflow to run on all types: manual, any time a new item is added, and any time an item is changed.

So why go through all that trouble?

The reason we need this workaround is so that you can create custom views and instead of using the Category Name to filter by, you can use the Category ID, so that when department names are changed your custom views will still work. Without that Category ID, you would have needed to adjust your custom views anytime the Category Names are updated. I consider that to not be a great user experience, and so decided you would appreciate it being fixed.


Moving Web Parts within a page

In Internet Explorer, it is possible to move web parts around on a page, so if you have a 3-column text layout page, and you want to move the content from one column to another, you can easily click and drag the web parts.

This can be especially helpful when you have a lot of text content on a page. Organizing that content in Content Editor Web Parts can really save some time down the road.

Unfortunately, some people have a tendency to type all of their content into the large “zone” areas of a page, rather than using the Content Editor web part. I am guilty of this myself as well.

Dealing with the Content Editor web part can be a little cumbersome, and it seems that there is an extra step to using them, and that is why people sometimes choose not to use it as much as they should. It’s hard sometimes to think in the future and the possibility that you might want to rearrange the content on a page.

By not using the Content Editor Web Part you will have to copy and paste text from one spot on the page to another, and sometimes formatting gets lost – especially on links. I have found myself needing to recreate links more often than I care to know, and each time I do, I come to the realization that I probably should have used a Content Editor Web Part from the outset.

So to recap: to add content to a SharePoint page, use the Content Editor Web Part.

How to do that:
From the INSERT tab, choose Web Part
From the Media and Content folder, choose Content Editor.

To change the header, click on the little triangle, choose Edit Web Part, then under Appearance, change the heading from Content Editor to your preferred header. If you do not wish the header to show, select None from the dropdown under Chrome Type. The header will continue to show in edit more, so you will see it until you hit Save on the page.

To change the content, the Content Editor Web Part needs to be in edit mode. You can then click on the content within the web part itself and make the changes you need to make.

NOTE: Only site owners with full control access have the ability to edit Content Editor webparts. 

Moving OneNote files within SharePoint and OneDrive

Sometimes you will have the need to move a OneNote file from one SharePoint location to another, or you may have a OneNote file that you want to move from your OneDrive to a spot on SharePoint.

Accomplishing this task is a three-step process, and requires access to a desktop version of OneNote.

Step 1: Open the Notebook in question

Then choose “Open in OneNote”

Step 2: Export the OneNote file

From the File tab, choose Export, then Notebook, and choose OneNote Package. Click Export. Save the file to your local computer or in a OneDrive folder on your machine. You will delete this file once you have completed the process.

Step 3: Open the *.onepkg file you just created

When it opens, it will ask you where you want to save it. You will want to open your browser to the SharePoint site where the file will be saved, and select the document library in which the OneNote notebook will now live. Copy the web address of the SharePoint site and paste it into the Path field. Using the Browse button will help you best pinpoint where you need to be on your SharePoint site.


Removing OneNote Notebooks from your view

At one point I had a bunch of notebooks on my OneNote Online Screen, with seemingly no way to remove all these old, non-existent notebooks from this view. Many of them no longer existed and were left over from various tests or MySites that have since been deleted.

The fix for this is very easy, but since it eluded me for so long, I thought I’d write it up. Hover your mouse over the notebook you want to remove from your view, and wait until the X shows up in the right-hand corner. Then click that to remove.

This does not delete a notebook – it merely removes it from your online view.

Note, this feature did not work in Firefox on the Mac, which was one reason this simple fix eluded me so long.

Save Time Using Office Clipboard

If you’re constantly having to cut and paste different sections of text, which I do quite often, using the regular clipboard features can be frustrating.

office-clipboard1To combat this outside of Microsoft Office, I often have several Notepad windows open with these different bits of text that I am copying and pasting.

Within Microsoft Office, however, there is a smarter way to handle it – use the Office Clipboard Manager.

You can find the Office Clipboard Manager under the Home Tab for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access; under the Message Tab in Outlook; and under the
Edit Tab in Publisher and SharePoint Designer. At the time of this writing, the feature appears to not be available within OneNote.

Using Ctrl+C will copy items to the clipboard. New items always show up at the top of the clipboard task pane. Each entry includes an icon representing the source of the office program, a thumbnail of an image, or the beginning of the text that you copied.

To paste an item other than the latest copied item, within the Clipboard Task pane, use your mouse to click on the item you want to paste and it will paste it at the cursor position.

You can control how the Office Clipboard is displayed by clicking the Options button at the bottom of the Clipboard task pane.

Office Clipboard

Show Office Clipboard Automatically: Automatically displays the Office Clipboard when copying items.

Show Office Clipboard When CTRL+C Pressed Twice: Automatically displays the Office Clipboard when you press CTRL+C twice.

Collect Without Showing Office Clipboard: Automatically copies items to the Office Clipboard without displaying the Clipboard task pane.

Show Office Clipboard Icon on Taskbar: Displays the Office Clipboard icon Button image in the status area of the system taskbar when the Office Clipboard is active. This option is turned on by default.

Show Status Near Taskbar When Copying: Displays the collected item message when copying items to the Office Clipboard. This option is turned on by default.

Content Types – there’s more…

Content Types can be much more than just a way of grouping Site Columns together, they also offer basic settings for those groupings. You can save Content Types out as templates that can be used throughout your Site Collection. One example of that is a “new app” called “Team List” that is now available for all sites within our division’s site collection.

This “new app” isn’t really a new app at all – it’s a template created from the “Dept Contact List” Content Type. It allows all departments to use the same list with the same configurations, so that they can be used as a macro level later on. What’s also nice is that if we change the Content Type at the division level, the changes will automatically populate down to the site lists you have created, while not affecting your customizations.

Many different settings can be configured at the Content Type level. You can hide fields from the input screens.

Content Types Hierarchy

All Content Types are connected to some kind of “Master” or “Parent” Content Type – there are no “blank” or “wildcard” Content Types. At the very top level you have an “item” Content Type for lists, and a “document” Content Type for document libraries. The “New” and “Upload” buttons were put on lists and libraries for a purpose, and they follow certain rules. It is because they come from the “Parent Content Types” that SharePoint’s functionality is mostly predictable.

When you create a content type, you have to choose which Parent Content Type you want to create it under. This will make your content type inherit the Site Columns associated with the Parent Content Type as well.

Content Types - Parent

Because lists and libraries act differently, Content Types that you create under “Document” won’t be available for lists, and vice versa – you would have to create one for each if you wanted similar column settings.

Advantages of Content Types

Content Types are necessary to organize reusable content and configurations within SharePoint, such as making sure that all Invoice libraries have the same settings for metadata and document templates. They also help you centralize all the configurations in one place, which makes management a lot easier. They are a lot more powerful than can be covered in these two posts, and with deeper exploration, you will find out how handy and useful they can be.

Disadvantages of Content Types

I would consider use of Content Types a more Intermediate or Advanced skill and it’s not for the faint of heart. They can be difficult to understand at first, and because they are so powerful they can also wreak some havoc in the wrong hands. They have a huge impact on our SharePoint architecture and need careful consideration before implementing.

Content Types – Introduction

Content Types are ubiquitous within SharePoint. Content Types are more or less column groupings with certain default settings depending on the type of list or library you create. By default, you’re using Content Types because everything within SharePoint is driven by Content Types.

For example, a Contact Content Type contains fields such as Last Name, First Name, Company, Job Title, Address, Phone, Email Address, Web Page and a number of additional fields.

A Document Library Content Type includes fields such as the document name, a friendly title, the creator, last modified, and includes the link to the document itself.

Content Types creating at top-level sites, like site columns, will be available to that site’s subsites as well. A Content Type can only exist within a Site Collection or at the Tenant level.

Be default, most users won’t even know about Content Types, and this is by design. Out of the box, Lists and Libraries come with the “Allow the Management of Content Types” feature switched to the OFF position.

To turn on this ability, navigate to the list in question, choose the LIST tab, then List Settings, and Advanced Settings. Set the “Allow Management of Content Types” to YES and you will be able to modify or hide fields.

Be judicious with this feature and test it first before you put a lot of data into your lists. Document Libraries for example lose a few features when you turn on the ability to manage content types, however you need this feature turned on when you are working with templates, so it’s something where you need to make a conscious decision as to when you will use the content types on document libraries and when you don’t.

Applying Content Types can save you quite a bit of time, because all the column configurations have already been applied. Also, it’s nice to know that any changes you make to your Content Types within your site lists, they will only affect the current list or library, meaning that the default settings on the Content Types will remain intact for when you want to apply them to another list at a later time.