How to pass querystring data into an Infopath 2010 SharePoint List form

I’m going to assume you already have a list form published to SharePoint. I just created a simple form to collect feedback on a conference presentation. As you can see, I included a “Referrer” field that will track the referral source of users filling out my form.

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To set up the rest of the scenario, follow these steps:

1. Create a new web part page.

2. Add 2 web parts to the page. From the “Forms” category, add the InfoPath Form Web Part, and from the “Filters” category, add the Query String (URL) Filter web part. clip_image002clip_image003

3. Configure the InfoPath Form Web Part to point to the list or library where your form is published. clip_image004

4. Configure the Query String (URL) Filter web part to specify the parameter name it should look for in the URL. In this case, we want it to find “Referrer”. clip_image005

5. Next, set up the part-to-part connection by opening the Web Part edit menu and selecting Connections > Send Filter Values To > InfoPath Form Web Part. clip_image006

6. This brings up a dialog where you can choose the field in the form where the data should be sent. Choose the field you want, and then click Finish. In this case, we want to map the data to the “Referrer” field. clip_image007

Everything should be set up correctly now. Save your changes to this page, and then navigate to the page. You should see the blank form.

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Testing the Connection

To test that everything is working correctly, add “?Referrer=email” to the end of the URL, and you should see the Referrer field being populated with the value “email”.

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That’s it! You now have a page that passes data from the query string into an InfoPath form, set up in less than 5 minutes, and without any code.

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Migrating Smoothly to SharePoint 2010

I attended a National Computing Centre seminar last week presented by Michael Dean (NCC) and Ian Woodgate (PointBeyond).

Michael introduced the event with a run through of the NCC’s whitepaper, ‘SharePoint: Do We Have a Problem?’ (http://www.ncc.co.uk/article/?articleid=17038). Michael continued to highlight the need to ensure you have management buy-in. This can be pivotal to a successful migration and implementation as much as any of the technological hurdles you may hit. Also, for anybody who is new to SharePoint, the key message was be prepared to customise it to meet your organisation’s needs.

The ncc has published a small collection of SharePoint 2010 webinars that are worth a view: http://www.ncc.co.uk/events/webinars

Ian Woodgate took to the floor to discuss migration approaches. He began with an overview of the SharePoint 2010 product family before covering the steps required to migrate to SharePoint 2010. The migration experience will be different for each user and will greatly depend on the existing setup in place at an organisation. It’s going to take time and should be treated very much as a project in its own right. Think about what resources you need, identify the risks and issues, roles and responsibilities, what are the requirements, design the solution, create the plan thoroughly, build the solution and rework it, test it, then go live.

1. Should I migrate to SharePoint 2010?

What’s new in SharePoint 2010?

The ability to apply taxonomic classification schemes through Managed Metadata. You can create a hierarchy of tags and can tag my content, my documents, my pages, my list items to make things easier to find. It’s good, but one limitation I have discovered is that you cannot navigate your content using your taxonomic classification schemes that you create, which you might get with other EDRMS applications. It’s good to a point and certainly much better than SharePoint 2007.

Improved Search. The Search in SharePoint 2010 is much better. Fast Search is available as an even better search tool that can be utilised by high volumes of documents as an add-on to SharePoint. By a lot, I mean in the region of 100 million plus documents. If you don’t have such a high volume of documents I would recommend going with the out of the box SharePoint search tools unless you have a real pressing reason to use Fast Search.

SharePoint 2010 is good as a platform for developing business applications. There’s a lot of functionality, particularly in the Enterprise versions. These will allow you to quickly put together form and workflow driven applications.

Integration with external data is much improved if you want to pull data in from other systems. There’s some tools available to help you do that and custom code.

The user interface is better and is also standards complaint. SharePoint 2007 got a lot of knocks for not being standards and accessibility complaint. Accessibility is quite an important consideration for the public sector. It introduces the standard ribbon that if you are user of Office 2010 will be familiar with.

The Social Networking functionality is greatly improved in SharePoint 2010. There is a feeling that Microsoft kind of felt that they were getting left behind there. You now have the ability to tag your content, organise your colleagues, find your friends and say what you’re up it. It’s quite nice improved functionality.

It’s easier to customise and develop new features from. The tooling is better than it was in 2007. Little things like being able to package your customisations and deploy them are much better whereas you used to rely on a third party tool or do it yourself. The integration with Visual Studio 2010 is much improved.

And lastly, the scalability of the solution and the ease of management. Overall, it is a large and complex product. SharePoint 2010 is massive really and its set of capabilities is huge. It is easier to manage and they have thought about the way we deploy various components and in terms of scalability, it will scale out to hundreds of millions of documents.

The way that SharePoint 2010 is deployed is more flexible. In 2007 you had a SSP (Shared Services Provider) which was a monolithic set of services whereas in 2010 you can choose which services you’d like to run with and where you’d like to run them. Essentially, it’s more granular, more controllable.

One thing it does lack though is enhanced reporting and governance features. These are still supplied mainly by and large through third party products, such as Control Point. If you want or need enhanced governance feature you are looking at third party products.

To prevent SharePoint from becoming unmanageable you need to ensure you have set out a robust governance plan that everyone buys into. There is some very good guidance about creating a governance plan on the Microsoft website: http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=401. In terms of a tool for managing the permissions you have across a farm, the product I would use is Control Point by Axelar. This will allow you to do things like show me all the permissions a user has across all sites or find all the users who have got create site rights across a farm for example. It will take you a while to get up to speed with Control Point, but it is a powerful tool.

If you are using Microsoft Office 2010, one of the key advantages to using SharePoint 2010 is the ability to only save changes to a document, rather than saving the entire document. This improves performance significantly, especially if you have global or remote users with low bandwidth connection speeds.

Finally, SharePoint 2010 comes with Office Web Applications. This provides users with a web enabled version of Word and Excel. So, if somebody is remote working and they need to open a document and do some work on it from a remote machine that doesn’t have office installed, they can do that using Office Web Applications.

If you want to use the collaboration features in SharePoint in any big way, it’s well worth upgrading to SharePoint 2007 or 2010. It’s a big step up in terms of how Microsoft Office integrates with SharePoint.

2. The different flavours of SharePoint 2010

There are four flavours of SharePoint available.

· SharePoint 2010 Foundation. This is a free version of SharePoint that is available for download from the Microsoft website. It gives you basic team site collaboration. You can upload documents and create lists, but that’s about it. SharePoint Foundation is aimed at smaller organisations or departments looking for a low cost entry level pilot solution. http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=5970.

· SharePoint Server 2010 is the next version up. This is the flagship product and comes in two varieties. There is a Standard Edition and an Enterprise Edition. The Standard Edition gives you the core document management capabilities and the Enterprise version slightly improves on that with addition search, business intelligence and most of the business toolset features. I.e. Excel Services, Access Services, Visio Services.

· SharePoint Online. This is a ‘cloud’ hosted service provided by Microsoft. Centralised services are available at a monthly subscription fee per user. The challenge with this service would come if you wanted to customise it in any shape or form. You are limited to what you can do through a sandboxed solution whilst integration with other line of business applications would become very difficult.

3. Hardware and Software System Requirements

A lot of users when they migrate also implement new hardware. See: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc262485.aspx for a detailed analysis of hardware and software systems requirements analysis.

4. Licencing of SharePoint 2010

Licencing is something of a minefield with SharePoint. It is recommended that you approach your Microsoft software vendor or reseller to clarify the position. As a general rule of thumb, this is how licencing is understood.

The way it is priced for Standard and the Enterprise Editions is that you have a server licence. Let’s say for example that you have three servers. That’s three licences and then there’s a standard client access licence and an enterprise client access licence. These are known as CALs. So, if you have 100 people and 3 servers, you need 100 standard CALs and 3 server licences.

If you want the enterprise version you would need 3 server licences, 100 standard CALs and a 100 Enterprise CALs. Therefore, if you want an enterprise solution you need to buy both the standard and the enterprise CALs.

You will need to consider what level of functionality you would like users to have. If you want your users to have forms services, business intelligence features, InfoPath browser enabled forms, they will need the enterprise CAL.

5. Metadata in SharePoint 2010

Metadata can now be defined and applied at a folder level or a library level. Folders went out of fashion in SharePoint 2007 but now they are ok again within reason. In SharePoint 2007 there was a URL limit of 255 characters. In SharePoint 2010 the URL becomes truncated so you should be able to achieve around 500 characters in a URL path.

6. Records Management in SharePoint 2010

In the most extreme cases you could set up a federated records policy in SharePoint 2010 where you can have one records centre at the front where people submit their documents to and then you could route some rules within that so you could route documents to different records centres behind. Each of these could be a different farm or site collection, whatever you like. It would be a tad extreme to use a different farm, but you could.

7. Search

Search is a lot better in 2010. Even the out of the box SharePoint search is better. I don’t know if some of the FAST Search technology has trickled through into the Standard SharePoint Search, but, when you look at the way it is architected it has been completely reworked since 2007. If you wish to use Fast Search, one of its cool new features is the ability to include a visual best bet in search results, which could be something like a banner advert.
But, the best new improvement to SharePoint Search’s productivity is the refinement panel. With the refinement panel, when you‘ve done your search and return your results, on the left hand side you see a list of metadata. You can then click on this to refine items and kind of slice and dice your search results by metadata.

Also, things like the people search are much improved. In terms of relevance, a lot of work has been done in this area. The search also learns in 2010, thus promoting more popular documents higher up the search rankings.

8. Business Intelligence

Microsoft Performance Point Server 2007 integrated with other Office products, including SharePoint 2007. In 2010, Performance Point has been much improved and is now known as Performance Point Services. Microsoft acquired the Business Intelligence company ProClarity in 2006 and this has enabled them to add feature rich analytics reports into this service. Some of this functionality has found its way into SharePoint 2010.

Building Key Performance Indicators, Status Clouds and Charts is quite easy to put together. The hard part is assembling the data and getting put into the system.

9. InfoPath in SharePoint 2010

InfoPath is a tool that lets you develop forms. What you can do is publish the forms up into SharePoint and render them through the web browser. Then users can fill out the forms without having the need to have InfoPath installed on their machines.

10. Excel Services in SharePoint 2010

Excel Services allows users to take parts of a spreadsheet and render them through the web page. This was available in SharePoint 2007 but it is much improved in 2010. People don’t always use it as much as they should. A good example of this would be an insurance company who have a huge complex excel spreadsheet that contains logic for calculating premiums. You wouldn’t want to give out the spreadsheet to anyone as it would simply walk out of the office on a memory stick.

You can expose just the input and output sections through a web page in SharePoint. Input the data that you want it. Excel Services would spin up on the server behind the scenes, do the calculations and then return the results back.

You can also return graphs and charts from Excel Services, so, it is another tool that you can use to assemble dashboards. One thing to bear in mind though is that Excel Services doesn’t support everything within Excel.

11. Workflows

It is possible to develop workflows in Visual Studio and then export them into your SharePoint workspace. There is also SharePoint Designer which allows people to create custom workflows. I would say though that anyone wanting to build workflows in SharePoint Designer – it is pretty basic. If you want to do anything other than a pretty simple workflow, then you will end up tearing your hair out as SharePoint Designer really doesn’t cut the mustard in this department.

If you are serious about creating custom workflows, you can either custom code using Visual Studio or alternatively take a look at some of the third party products available on the market. There are two good ones. Nintex and K2. Nintex is fairly low cost and integrates well with SharePoint whereas K2 is much of an enterprise workflow engine.

12. Sandboxed Soltuions

This gives you the ability to write custom code that you can deploy just to a site collection. If you have got a hosted version of SharePoint, the only versions of custom code that you are allowed to deploy are sandboxed. The other nice thing about sandboxed solutions is that you can always deploy them without causing any downtime on your servers.

13. Migration Planning and Approach

Migration can encompass anything from a six hour project to a six month project. How long it is going to take is difficult to gauge and depends so much on what type of content and customisations are in place.

But how do we get to where we want to go from where we are now. It sounds superficially quite simple, but when you think about it, you need to be prepared.

The following considerations may need to be taken into account:

· What’s my current platform?
Is it SharePoint 2003, 2007, a network file share, Lotus Notes, immediacy?

· How much stuff do I actually have?
Migrating 100 megabytes of content is a different proposition to migrating 5 terabytes worth of content.

· Do I have any customisations?
Customisations will determine how hard or easy it will be to migrate.

· Am I going to be adding any new non-SharePoint content?
At the time of migration, do I want to pull in content from other sources, such as file shares or exchange public folders. Exchange public folders are not going to be around forever. Microsoft keep telling us to stop using them, and then they have to keep putting them into new versions of exchange. They will go eventually.

· How many users do I have?

· Am I going to just take my existing environment and upgrade it? Or, am I going to build a new environment and build my content?

· Do I want to simply lift and drop content into the new environment, or am I going to take this opportunity to reorganise and restructure things.

· Am I going to roll it out in one go, taking a big bang approach, or am I going to roll it out in a phased approach.

· What downtime is acceptable? Are we a 24/7 operation? Maybe I can’t take the server down for more than three hours at a time on a Sunday and how are you going to manage that.

· How frequently are we updating content. If we are going to take backups and start moving things around, how are we going to keep to site going? How are we going to keep a track of changes? Are we going to implement a change freeze? Do you have any regulatory constraints as to what you need to provide?

14. Migration Considerations

Before committing to migration, it’s always a good time to reflect and do a spring clean. So many companies will find documents and images that are no longer used or offer little business value. A lot of organisations take advantage of the opportunity to put in a proper governance plan and bring things under control.

15. Content Databases within SharePoint 2010

All content within SharePoint gets stored in a database. By default it is pretty easy to ensure all content gets placed into one content database, but the pitfall is that that database grows to become huge. Some SharePoint instances have had databases growing to a terabyte in size. A database of this size is going to give you headaches. For example, if you try and back it up it will most probably fail, or at least take forever.

A migration project provides a great opportunity to sit back and review your approach with the aim of splitting out your databases onto multiple databases. Even if your databases are small at the moment, this approach will give you better scope for scaling up in the future.

As a rule of thumb no content database should be bigger than 200 gigabytes. A Site Collection has to have its own content database. You can have multiple site collections sharing one content database, but a single site collection can only have one content database. If you are expecting a large volume of content, you will need to split out your site collections into smaller site collections. This can be a challenge as it can make navigation difficult.

Post SharePoint 2010 the recommended maximum content database size if 4 terabytes. However, you must consider who wants to manage a 4 terabyte database? This will give you problems. The key message though is to use your common sense and try to keep content databases down to a reasonable size.

16. Taxonomy Planning in SharePoint 2010

SharePoint 2010 provides the opportunity to implement metadata taxonomy classifications. You can apply taxonomic hierarchies to your data, but you need to think about where that data is going to come from. If you don’t assign your metadata against content when you migrate or upload it into SharePoint, you never will.

A well thought out set of metadata will greatly improve your search results tenfold. Think about where your metadata is going to come from and how you are going to assign it.

There are some tools that claim to automatically crawl documents and pick out tags and metadata. These can work quite well, but can be quite expensive.

The SharePoint Search will interrogate the content of Office documents, but the refinements feature in SharePoint Search is driven by metadata.

17. Preparing to upgrade to SharePoint 2010

If you are using SharePoint 2007, Service Pack 2 includes a ‘Pre-Upgrade Checker’ facility. This can be run to identify potential problems that you are likely to have when you upgrade to SharePoint 2010.

Identify all the customisations that you’ve applied to your existing environment.

Test your upgrade process and address any issues that you may find. Regardless of all the planning in the world, sometimes there comes a point in most migrations where it’s easier to simply bite the bullet and go for it. See what happens, identify what breaks and then address the issues.

18. Upgrade Routes

SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010. This will be relatively straight forward unless you have extensive customisations needed or you want to do a lot of content reorganisation or reclassification.

SharePoint 2003 to SharePoint 2010. You will have to go via SharePoint 2007 or use a third party tool.

Other systems to SharePoint 2010. You will be looking at a third party tool or a manual process.

19. Upgrade approaches from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010

There are two fundamental approaches to migration.

· In-place upgrade
This method is where you would take the SharePoint 2010 CD, run setup and follow the upgrade wizard prompts. This isn’t a recommended approach. It’s just too risky. If an error flashes up during the migration process, then your SharePoint site is likely to become unusable or at best unreliable.

· Database attach
This is a more sensible approach to upgrading. With this approach you would build a new SharePoint 2010 environment alongside your existing 2007 platform then take a backup of all 2007 databases and then reattach them into 2010. SharePoint 2010 will recognise that it is a 2007 database and will automatically attempt to convert it into 2010 and then start delivering the content. With this approach you will benefit from still having a 2007 environment untouched. So, if you encounter a problem during migration, the risk reduces as you are able to back out of the upgrade and return to step one without affecting end users.

· Hybrid approach
This approach involves detaching the content database in the 2007 farm, upgrading that farm to SharePoint 2010 and then reattaching your content databases afterwards. The benefit of this approach is that you will be recycling your existing hardware. If it goes wrong, you still have a backup of your databases to enable a quick return to the 2007 farm if need be.

· Manual Approach
Some people manually migrate collaboration content by simply cutting and pasting it from one environment to the other. This is all very well and good, but you’ve got to remember that you’ll be losing out of things like version history.

There are a number of third party tools available to assist you with migration, but obviously at additional cost.

20. How long will it take to migrate my content?

Migration will depend on the size and complexity of your existing solution. However, as a general rule of thumb, it is thought that it will take about a minute per gigabyte of content to migrate into SharePoint 2010. Naturally this will depend up the speed of the data connection. Always take this into consideration when planning your migration.

21. Reasons not to upgrade

If you have downloaded the famous Microsoft fantastic 40 SharePoint templates, you are going to have some fun when attempting to migrate these into 2010. Microsoft has now stopped providing support for these templates. You will end up having to re-create them manually.

If you take a look at SharePoint 2010 and can’t see any tangible benefit for your company, there is no need to upgrade. Have a look at what you need to do now and what your company is planning to do in the future.

Take a look at your infrastructure. Will it be able to take SharePoint 2010. For example, collaboration sites will not work in Internet Explorer 6.0 or earlier. In some cases, we’ve had users on Office 95 attempting to collaborate. SharePoint doesn’t work on Office 95.

All servers need to be 64 bit to take SharePoint 2010.

Make sure you have the time to plan and perform your migration thoroughly. It is going to take time and resources. Make sure you are happy to go out and buy new hardware to support your new platform and factor into your licencing costs.

22. Development Tools

If you are planning to develop any technical customisations, you might want to look at VB Lightswitch. There is also a C# version. It integrates into Visual Studio and provides a user friendly interface. With this you don’t actually need many development skills to build applications pulling information to and from SharePoint. It is ideal for quick prototyping, but there is a lot of potential to take what you have and put it back into SharePoint. For more details view: http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/en-us/lightswitch

Other observations with SharePoint 2010

· SharePoint 2010 won’t work with Internet Explorer version 6.0 or earlier.

· Is the 256 character limit on URL’s still an issue in SharePoint 2010?

· We must remember that SharePoint lists are not relational databases