Community Site Setup Customizations

Customizing Subject View

In SharePoint Designer, in lists and libraries, click Discussion List.

SharePoint Designer: Discussion List

Under views, click on Subject.

SharePoint Designer: Subject View

In the code view, change ReadOnly=”TRUE” to ReadOnly=”FALSE”

SharePoint Designer: Behind the Scenes Code - highlighting ReadOnly=TRUE

Creating a Worfklow to set Category ID

​In the discussion list, go to the LIST tab, then choose List Settings

I named the column CatID

Make it a Number field

Uncheck “add to all content types” – we want the item to be hidden from all input screens.

You are free to Leave “add to default view” checked. – I don’t think this really matters because the default view is Subject anyway, and it doesn’t really show anything with the CATID in there.

Do NOT require that this column contains information – it will be completed by a workflow. We don’t want users seeing this item.

CatID: Number type

Within SharePoint Designer, open the site, and click Workflows on the left menu.

Click on List Workflow, then choose discussion list

Workflows: List Workflow - Discussion List

Give the workflow a name – keep it short, since it will be the name of a column later.
Write a detailed description so that you will know what the workflow is meant to do.

In this following screen, make sure you select all the Start Options because you want this change to always be made, whether it’s a new discussion item, or a changed discussion item.

Workflows: Workflow Screen

Click on Stage 1 and rename it to SetCatID (again, keep this short)

Workflows: Set Stage Name

From the Action Dropdown, pick Set Field in Current Item

Workflows: Action - Set Field in Current Item

Click on Field and choose CatID from the drop down menu

Workflows: Set Field in Current Item

Click on Value, then the 3 ellipses to open the lookup window

Click on Add or Change Lookup

From the Data Source Drop Down, choose Categories

From the field from source field: choose ID (you want the value from the ID column in the Categories table).

Workflows: Set Field in Current Item

Under “Find the List Item” choose Category name as the field, then click on the fx button and select Category

Workflows: Set Field in Current Item

You will get a message saying that you may not get unique values, click YES.
What it’s saying is that if we have two category names that are identical, it would only show the number for the first one.

In the string builder, you will see only this. Click OK.

Workflows: String Builder

Right-click the Transition to stage section and choose go to a stage
Click on go to stage and choose End of Workflow

Workflows: End Workflow

Check to make sure there aren’t any errors by clicking the Check for Errors button. Then hit Publish.

Test your new workflow by creating a new discussion item, or changing the category on an existing item.

You may need to add the CatID field to the Management view in the discussion list so you can see it populate.

You may also want to add the Set CatID field to the management view for testing purposes.

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Building a central communication hub

To help improve communications for our division, we created a central communication hub for announcements, discussions, and a community calendar.

The Announcements list is a one-way communication tool. It connects to Outlook only through RSS; and you can only post to the Announcements list by logging in to SharePoint.

The Discussion List is a two-way communication tool and it connects to Outlook very well. You can create posts to the discussion list directly from Outlook and also send replies directly as well. The only thing to watch with connecting to Outlook is that you’ll need to train your users to not delete posts from Outlook. They can only delete their own posts but you want to make sure they don’t do that. When you first get people connected to Outlook, they should use the “Mark all as Read” setting.

The Calendar has helped build our community. We encourage all our users to post events on the calendar, and it too connects very well to Outlook and allows your users to view their own calendar side by side. Because of the number of events that can get loaded on there, I recommend that people set up a daily or weekly summary alert on the calendar so that they can be made aware of new events being added, so they can choose whether or not to copy those events to their own calendars.

 

5 tips for writing compelling Discussion List posts

Discussion lists allow us to connect with one another and react to the content being posted. While the announcement is nice for one-way communication, the features that go along with the Discussion List, such as the ability to connect them to, and post directly from Outlook, make this a standout in terms of collaboration and communication. The list is designed to post news and other bits of information to share with your colleagues. I don’t know about you though but sometimes reading through an announcement or discussion list is like trying to solve anagrams or crossword puzzles, and I thought it might be helpful to write up a couple of tips to help make our collaboration even better.

Here are some tips on making sure that your posts get read:

  1. Create a great descriptive title. “Idea” is not a good title. “Help” is not a good title. The title of the post shows up in nice, large letters, so use them to your advantage. You have 75 characters to get our attention. Use them well!
  2. Forget the salutation. The first 75 characters of your post appear in the preview, so make them count! Between 75 characters in the title and 75 characters in the preview, you have 150 characters to get us to click on your discussion item. I know that we’ve trained ourselves that we need to open emails and letters with Dear Team, but in a discussion list it’s somewhat redundant as only our colleagues are reading it. You don’t start ever web page with “Dear Reader” so no need to do it here either.
  3. Use separate discussion items to split your content. While we would love to read your prose, let’s be honest: we’re all very busy. Please help us by keeping discussion items short and to the point. If you have a lot to tell us, either break up the content with very easy to see headers, or you might be able to split your content into multiple discussion items so we can pick and choose which is most relevant. I fall into this trap all the time. I can get long winded trying to provide some context behind what we’re doing. In the end though, sorry to say, the longer the post, the less likely it gets read.
  4. Keep your message short by using links to expanded content. This may be redundant, but it’s a slight twist on the above note. If your content needs to be long, such as when you need to provide instructions or describe a detailed process, consider creating a web page or word document with all the details and linking to that source, so that we can get to the message quickly, and then if we need more information, we can go to the link.
  5. Create meaningful hyperlinks. SharePoint has the ability to insert hyperlinks through the INSERT tab. You can add meaningful text that’s linked to additional content. Type your meaningful text first, and then highlight your sentence and use the INSERT Link feature to hyperlink it to your content. Because links are not too easy to see on SharePoint, feel free to highlight and link the entire sentence. You also don’t necessarily need to use the words “click here” or “visit this site” to show people you’ve linked something. Just linking the sentence gets the point across that there’s something more to click on.

I hope these five tips will get you started with writing compelling content for your discussion lists and will make your collaboration more meaningful.

Pasting hyperlinks with descriptions into SharePoint

I would consider this an advanced tip, since it involves the use of Microsoft Access but when you have a lot of links to enter and modify on SharePoint, it might be worth looking at. The hyperlink field in SharePoint is actually made up two parts: the description, and the URL. Using the Quick Edit menu when pasting the links replaces both the URL and the description. If you want the description to be different, you can click on the hyperlink icon, which then shows a little dialog box, where you can make the change.

SharePoint: Hyperlink Field

While this method works really well for the occasional link, I was working on a list that contained 104 links that I needed to update in this fashion. I imagined there had to be a better way, and thankfully there are a lot of people smarter than me out on the world wide web. I found this great article which explained the process for importing those links into SharePoint.

While the solution gets there in a very roundabout way, it saved me a ton of time.

Step One: Create an Excel file

First you need to create the list of descriptions and links in a Microsoft Excel file. You probably start here anyway if you are dealing with a lot of links.

In another field, use the CONCATENATE formula to add a #, a comma, and a space between the description and the link, so the link looks as follows:

DSA Home#, https://virginiatech.sharepoint.com/sites/dsa/home/

Excel screen shot showing one row with two columns: Column 1: DSA Home, Column 2: Hyperlink to dsa home site. Below that is a formula showing =CONCATENATE(column1, "#; ", column2)

Open your SharePoint list in Microsoft Access

Once you have your spreadsheet is up, go to SharePoint list in question and from the LIST tab, choose OPEN WITH ACCESS.

SharePoint: Open with Access

Access will ask you to save the file. If you want to save it permanently, you may want to save it back to SharePoint. Else, saving it to your hard drive works for a temporary need.

If you’re working in the new version of the list view, you may have to switch to classic SharePoint view.

Use the shift and arrow keys on your keyboard to select the fields you want to change, and then paste the content from your Microsoft Excel file into Access.Hyperlink Field Access Sample

If you need more help, view the video on the article page for more details.

Finding your spot in the SharePoint HTML source code

SharePoint has a view quirks that may require you to go to into the HTML source code of a page.

NOTE: If you’re not familiar with HTML code, you should probably not be in the source code of SharePoint. Ask someone who is familiar to do this for you.

At work I have a tutorials page where I categorized all the tutorials by topic and color-coded them by difficulty. The little monkey faces show you if something is green iconeasy, yellow iconmoderate, orange iconchallenging, or… red iconwell, do not try this at home – or at least not without supervision.

When adding tutorial links to the tutorials page, I often find it easier to be in the source code because I already have all the settings back there. All I need to do is find a spot, and enter the HTML code below:

<img alt="green icon" src="/sites/dsa/sp/greek/SiteAssets/monkey-green-15.png" style="margin: 0px 5px;"/><a href="/sites/dsa/sp/greek/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=XXX">Tutorial Title</a><br/>

where XXX is the post ID from my blog.

The settings I am referring to include the location of the image, the img alt tag, and the margins of 0px and 5px.

By going into the source code and copying and pasting, it saves me the steps of looking for the image by using the INSERT Picture menu, and then setting the image alt tag and the margin settings.

Finding the location of the HTML content you want to change

This tutorial is to share a tip on how to “find a spot” to paste the content. If you just open the page, hit edit, and then go to Edit Source to get to the source code for SharePoint, you’ll see all the code from the beginning of the page. Finding the spot to paste your content can be tricky to find this way.

A little trick is to place your page in edit mode, and then select a word or two near the spot where you want to paste your content before selecting the Edit Source button. Doing so will take you directly to your content, so you can add your HTML code in that vicinity.

SharePoint: HTML Source Code

I have used this trick more times than I can count. Though visually, it’s very helpful to do so, you don’t necessarily have to highlight a word. Just placing your cursor on the page will send you to that spot in the code also. I just find it easier to take that extra step to highlighting something so I can be sure of my place where I need to be before I change the code on the back end.

Announcement List: Connect via RSS Feed

A number of SharePoint features connect to Microsoft Outlook using the “Connect to Outlook” button. The Announcement app is not one of them. However, Microsoft has given us the capability to use RSS feeds to connect announcements to Outlook.

In SharePoint

Go to the Announcements page on your favorite SharePoint site and from the LIST tab, choose RSS Feed.

SharePoint: RSS Feed

Copy the link in the browser’s address bar

SharePoint: RSS Link

Open Outlook

From the File Menu in Microsoft Outlook, click Account Settings, followed by account settings again.

outlook-accountsettings

Click on the Feeds tab, and from the feeds tab, click New

SharePoint: RSS Feeds, click new

Paste the address in the location field on the RSS Feed in Outlook

SharePoint: RSS Feeds, blank location box

Click Add

SharePoint: RSS Feeds, filled location box

From here, you can use Change Folder to have the feeds deliver to a specific folder in your inbox, or you can leave them separate in an RSS Feed folder.

SharePoint: RSS Feed Confirmation Screen

To change the folder where the feed delivers, click on the Change Folder button.

In the New RSS Feed Delivery Location box, navigate to your inbox, and click the little plus sign to expand your inbox.
Choose the folder where you want your feeds to deliver, then click OK.

SharePoint: RSS Feed - Change Folder

Announcements List: Setting Alerts

We use our Announcements as one-way communication for short-term and date specific announcements. You can use yours for only important announcements so that they are brought to your users’ attention.

We suggest to users that they set up alerts so that they are notified new announcements are added. They can do this either on an immediate basis, on a daily basis, or even on a weekly basis.

Setting an Alert

In order to set up an alert, click on the Announcements link in the left menu, or on the Announcements title.

This will take to a page that only shows announcements. Above the site logo there are several tabs.

  • Click on the LIST tab
  • Choose Alert Me
  • Set an Alert

From the New Alert screen, I like to add the site name in front of the title.

Change Type: If you choose immediate notifications, I recommend you choose New items are added rather than All Changes.

When to Send Alerts: Choose your preferred option. For daily or weekly notifications, I recommend you set your time and day outside of normal working hours so you get a full day or week worth of changes at once.