Creating Leave Approval Calendars – Part Two

In the previous tutorial we covered the mechanics of creating the approval workflow on your calendar. Now we’re going build the user interface to where it’s more accessible for your users.

Create a Calendar view showing Approvals only

We want the calendar on SharePoint to only show approved leave, so we need to create a view that only shows approved leave.

You can edit the Calendar view if you wish and just add the filter piece to it; I prefer to create a new view based on the Calendar view, and then called it Approved, and set that as the default view.

Then scroll down to the filter area and set the Approval Status field is equal to Approved

SharePoint: Approval Calendar View

Set the default view for Approval Tasks to be Active Tasks

You do not need to see old requests when you go to the Approval Tasks screen. You only want to see current items so you can approve or reject them.
Click on the Active Tasks link next to All Tasks, then once your active tasks load, go to the LIST tab and choose Modify View. Click the Set as Default checkbox and save.

Create pages that do not allow general users to see the back end of the SharePoint lists.

In general, within SharePoint you can click on a web part header to go to the back end of the SharePoint list. Because leave requests can be sensitive in nature, you don’t want the general population to be able to do that and gain access to submitted requests.

To combat this ability, create separate pages for each of the users, and then add the web part views to them, with Chrome Type = None. That way users can see the content of the page, but unless they are familiar enough with SharePoint, and have the necessary access, they won’t be able to see the back end.

You can get to the pages screen by going to the Site Contents and looking for SitePages. Else, you can click on the PAGE tab, and then View All Pages.

Calendar Page

You may want to add instructions to the calendar page on how to use it. In my blog post about how to break SharePoint I warn you about editing the actual calendar page. Therefore, create a new page, call it Calendar, and then add the calendar web part to it. Under Edit Web Part, choose the Approved view, and then under Appearance, set Chrome Type = None.

My Leave Requests

Create a new page, call it My Leave Requests, and then add the Task list web part to it. Under Edit Web Part, choose the My Leave Requests view, and under Appearance, set Chrome Type = None.

Side Note…

You could also create a page with both the Calendar and the My Leave Requests web parts on the same page.

Leave Approval – Pending Requests

This page will be hidden in the navigation from everyone except the Approvers Group using the Target Audience setting in Navigation.

It contains the Tasks web part, with the Active Tasks view. I recommend you do not turn off the Chrome Type on this one so that if they needed to, the Approvers could click on Tasks and get to the back end if they needed, to possibly reverse a request response, etc.

Update the Workflow

To complete the process, we need to make a final change to the workflow itself to add a link to the Leave Approval – Pending Requests Page.

The email that is sent to the approver generates a link to the calendar item that was added. On the calendar item, there is an option to approve or reject the request. If the approver only uses that function, it does not close out the task on the task list. Therefore, we want to train the approver to go to the Leave Approval – Pending Requests page that contains the Active Tasks view.

Return to Workflow settings, and click on the name of the workflow (Leave Requests)

On the second screen, under the Request field, add the link to the Leave Approval – Pending Requests page such as shown below.

A request for leave is waiting for approval. To view details of request click on the link at the bottom of the page.

However, to actually <a href=”https://starfleet.sharepoint.com/sites/***/****/SitePages/Leave%20Approval%20-Pending%20requests.aspx”>approve request please use this link</a>.

Update Site Navigation

If you went through the steps of creating all the pages above, and thus hiding the built-in functionality of allowing users to get to the back end, then before you deploy the solution to your group, you will want to remove your apps from the navigation, and add your new pages to the navigation in their place.

Rather than going directly to Navigation and removing the links to the apps there, I suggest you go to the list settings for both the Calendar and Task apps, clicking on the Name & Navigation link and removing them from the Quick Launch. There can be an unintended consequence of having to manually add links in the future if you just remove them from Navigation.

Once you have set the apps to not show on Quick Launch, go to the Navigation menu by going to the Gear, then Site Settings, then Navigation.

In the Local Navigation, add the pages to the navigation. Use the Browse feature or just copy and paste the URLs from another browser window.

For the Leave Approval – Pending Requests page, use the Audience: field to restrict the link to that page. Click on the address book icon, search for your Approvers group, then add them to the audience. You also want to add the site collection administrators group, and if need be, your own site owners group.

SharePoint: Navigation Target Audience

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Creating Leave Approval Calendars – Part One

In this post we will be creating an approval workflow for a leave calendar. Some departments and companies have a leave request submission process, often accomplished via paper forms that are submitted, reviewed, and then signed by the authorized person. Sometimes the approval comes back to the requestor, sometimes it doesn’t. There’s a better way… SharePoint to the rescue!

This tutorial involves quite a few steps, but they are all completed using the SharePoint browser window, which should make it accessible to all site owners. This tutorial assumes you know your way around SharePoint and does not include screen shots for every step.

Step One: Make sure you have a group on your site with Approver as one of their statuses.

If not, you can grant approver status to an existing group, or create a new group and give the new group Approver status.

Step Two: Create a new calendar.

You can also use an existing one if you’re not using it for anything else, but you generally want to create a new calendar for this purpose. Go to the gear, then Add an App. Give it a one-word name, then later in the settings, change the name to something more friendly.

Step Three: In the versioning settings, set Require content approval for submitted items? to Yes

SharePoint: Versioning Settings

By adding the versioning, SharePoint automatically creates a view for Approve/Reject items. It also creates a view called My submissions.

By default, the “My submissions” view does not actually have the filter set up to only show Created by is equal to [Me]. You’ll need to add that if you want that feature to work.

Step Four: Create your approval workflow.

You can find Workflow settings in the Calendar Tab, or from the List Settings page.
Click Add a Workflow to get to the Workflow screen. The image below shows a Change a Workflow screen, but the screen is the same. Fill in the details as shown below, with the exception of the CC field – please put your own name there, and not mine. You will also edit the request field later, but for now, this is good.

Approval Task List

When you create an approval workflow, it generates a task list and a workflow history list if it doesn’t already exist. When you first create an approval workflow, you probably only have the option to choose Tasks (new), and that’s ok. Do that, and then go to the list settings and rename it later. While you are in there, you may also want to display this list on the quick launch for now.

Final Touches

While you’re done with the creation of the workflow piece, and it will work now, you’re not done yet. There are a number of things that need to be done for the final touches of this process, which are covered in the next post.

Use Calendar alerts to make sure you don’t miss out on new events

I know that I have posted this before, but it bears repeating. Our division calendar is full of events and important dates, and I love that I can connect it directly into my Outlook and have a side-by-side comparison with my own calendar. I often do that at the beginning of the week, just to make sure I’m not missing anything.

As convenient as all of that is, there is one piece missing. How do I know when new events have been added? Or, for that matter, when events have been removed?

Luckily SharePoint has the alerts feature built into most out of the box applications, and thus you can be alerted about almost any changes made to items on your SharePoint site.

You may need to set up two alerts: one for new items, and one for deleted items. A weekly summary should suffice to make sure you’re kept up to date on new events.

To set up alerts

Activate the calendar page so that only the calendar is showing on your page. Above the site logo are several tabs.

  • Click on the CALENDAR tab
  • Choose Alert Me
  • Set an Alert on this list

From the New Alert screen, I recommend that you add the site name in front of the title so that it appears in the subject line of your email.

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

Send calendar updates to your inbox

If you’re using a central SharePoint calendar for your business, it is often the go-to for your people. You can post meetings, leadership open office hours, events, functions, etc. You can also use them to administrative deadlines.

As with Discussions and Announcements, you can choose to receive an email when new calendar items are added.

In order to set up an alert, activate the Calendar to where you have a page that only shows the calendar. Above the site logo are several tabs.

  • Click on the CALENDAR tab
  • Choose Alert Me
  • Set an Alert on this list

From the New Alert screen, I recommend that you add the site name in front of the title so that it appears in the subject line of your email.

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.

SharePoint Calendars: for site owners

Create a new calendar

Open your SharePoint site or the sub-site on which you would like to create the calendar and click on “Site Contents” in the quick launch menu usually on the left hand side.

  • Choose “add an App”
  • Click on “Calendar” and name it (preferably something short and one word) – use settings to change the name later. Once you have clicked OK, you’ll be taken back to the apps screen. The new app will be labeled new.
  • Click on the ellipses (…) and “settings” above the new app to edit the calendar.
  • From settings, you can manage your calendar and events with a few options.

Adding your calendar to a page on your site

Once you’ve created your calendar you can add it to any page within the same sub-site by navigating to the page on which you want to place the calendar, clicking on “Edit”. Then under the “Insert” tab, choose “web part”, and select your calendar. The default view of your calendar will appear.

Changing Event Colors

All of the events on a calendar will be the same color. There is no way to make one event one color and another event a different color, without using a calendar overlay. Calendar overlays allow different types of events to be different colors.

SharePoint Calendar Basics

I don’t know about you but I love a good calendar. SharePoint’s calendar is a pretty straight forward, no frills, kind of calendar, but I like it that way. You can add some additional features to make it more useful, such as changing the categories of the meeting types, and then creating views to filter your calendar with that information, but a basic out of the box SharePoint calendar is all that most of us need.

Many departments have multiple uses for calendars and as such, want multiple calendars on their sites. Some calendar ideas include

  • Event calendar for events you’re hosting for students or staff
  • Leave calendar to show who is out of the office
  • Conference room calendar so people can book your conference room
  • On-call calendar to show who is scheduled to work that day
  • Resource calendar for reserving such things as cars, carts, tents, etc. Although for this a resource management tool might be a better option.

In short though, there are all kinds of reasons a calendar might come in handy.

Luckily, you can create as many calendars as you want on SharePoint. Or actually… you can have your SPOCK do it, since it does require full access to a site.

Working with Events

To add a new event to an existing calendar, click on the corresponding date on the calendar, and then click on the “+ add” that appears in the bottom right hand corner of the day. You can also add events by clicking on “Events” and “New Events” under the calendar tab.

When the new event form pops up, fill in whatever data your SPOCK set up in Calendar settings. By default, only Title, Start Time, and End Time are required, but your SPOCK may have added more required fields. Notice that you can set up All Day Events and Recurring events from this screen too.

*Tip- When editing a recurring event, click on the event title for any of the dates and then choose “Edit Series” from the ribbon. “Edit Item” will only make changes to that specific date.

To edit an event, click on the event title and then choose “Edit Event” from the ribbon at the top. You can also delete the event from that menu.