Nintex Learning site and exams

Today I wanted to let everyone know about a great resource that I recently came across and have benefitted tremendously from. In my current day-to-day work I do quite a bit of work converting InfoPath and older forms to Nintex Forms and Nintex Workflows, and I recently learned about a great website that the company has to offer training to users who want to take their knowledge to the next level and be recognized for it.

The site is https://learning.nintex.com

If you go there, you will need to create an account to sign up, but once you do, they offer you a set of training materials (videos, ect.) that you can view to get the basics down for learning Nintex Forms and Nintex Workflows.
Also if you are like me and have to maintain an installation of these products, they also offer an admin course on the things to learn to install and setup this product in you SharePoint farm as well!
Each course you take will build on the knowledge of the last so you can increase your understanding of the product better, but the best thing of all is when you complete the course videos, you then become eligible to take a test over the content you just studied.
If you are lucky enough to pass the test, you are officially recognized with a certificate of passing the course (see my examples below)

Nintex Workflow Pro Certificate

Nintex Workflow Admin Certificate

Update 12/04/2017: Recently Nintex has updated their training site to reflect a newer look and feel, so if you haven’t check it out in a while, I encourage you to take a look at it again!

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Correcting or Improving a view filter in SharePoint

Side Note: I verified this setting in SharePoint 2016, 2013, and SharePoint Online

If you have a view of a webpart or other view in general that you are using filters on, there comes a time when you might find out that you can improve or modify a filter on a view by changing the columns that are filtered by.

In my case I had the following filters on a view:

What wasn’t clear to me at the time was how to remove the filter clause at the top of the list without having to rearrange everything I had already set up.

I’ve been working with SharePoint for a while now so I thought originally all you had to do was remove it somehow, but that wasn’t right in front of me.

I quickly figured out that if you just set the column to “None” and then also clear out the value at the top and click okay it actually removed all of my other filter choices. (No Bueno)

Luckily I had memorized my filter choices at this point since I was changing the view on 8 other views with the same filter choices.

My question is why isn’t this process easier to figure out?

I would think by putting an ‘X’ to the right of the filter option, this would be able to let the user know that they could remove this filter choice if needed or desired see below:

So I did what lots of Microsoft folks I spoke to last week at Ignite told me to do. Go and create an option in uservoice about it and upvote it:

https://sharepoint.uservoice.com/forums/329214-sites-and-collaboration/suggestions/31757365-make-modfying-view-filters-easier

So if you like this, please click on the link and help upvote this to get it to the product team.

Thanks!

-BJ

SharePoint Saturday 2017 Atlanta

On June 17th I had the pleasure of attending another great SharePoint Saturday event put on by one of the best users groups in the area and it did not disappoint!

The morning Keynote was given By Stephen L. Rose from the OneDrive for Business team at Microsoft.

It was really great to see from him all the new features and functionality that are coming ahead in just the next couple of months! Its something I think that will make users of OneDrive want it even more!

SPSATL2017-2

I also attended several other session about workflow and forms with Laura Rogers which was a great session describing all the ins and outs of how Flow is developing into quite a nice tool that still has a ways to go in certain areas, but is quickly being developed into an actual SharePoint Designer replacement.

There was also a great Power Apps session given by Laura later in the day where she went through some great scenarios and examples of how the current version of Power Apps compares with InfoPath as well. It can do some great things right now, but as with Flow, it still needs to be fleshed out I think more in order to be an actual replacement for the older tools everyone is used to.

Much of the content I saw from this day definitely centered around more of the push to Office 365, but what excites me even more is being able to mold these features and capabilities to the on premises and hybrid worlds of SharePoint.

Thanks once again to the Atlanta SharePoint group and all of the volunteers who work at this event! It was another great day of training that I learned more than my brain could hold. 🙂

SPSATL2017-3

Creating sample data for SharePoint with SPDG

If you work like I do trying to setup test environments in SharePoint often, the experience is great when you finally get all the bells and whistles activated for the features you need to test, but then what?

Now you have a great looking environment with no data! A SharePoint farm with no data in it is like a chocolate chip cookie without the chocolate chips in it. You might as well throw it away and go get something else to eat.

Never fear though as I have recently discovered a great tool that can auto generate much of the content needed to flesh out a SharePoint farm and it happen to be an open source project on GitHub created by the same fine folks that created SPDocKit!

It’s called SPDG (short for SharePoint Data Generator) and it’s another awesome tool to add to your arsenal if you don’t already use it.

Just head over to Github at the following link and check it out here!

Below is an example screenshot to give you an idea of what it looks like:

What is even better about this tool is that you can use it to generate as much content or as little as you need to flesh out your test box. It works with SharePoint Online, and even older versions of SharePoint like 2010!

This tool is so great and I can see so many uses for it, I may just have to do a demo video of this sometime down the road, so stay tuned! I’d love to see more folks talking about this because it definitely saves a lot of time and effort to fill up an empty farm when you need to give a demo!

Many thanks again to the guys over at SysKit for developing something awesome like this!

I hope you enjoy it as well!

No time for documentation? Get SPDocKit!

For many people who work in development and IT there tends to be one universal truth that I have seen time and time again. People setup and spend lots of time and money creating great software systems for businesses and other organizations, but when it comes time to document where things are and how things are configured, documentation falls in line sometimes with the same considerations as system security (hello Equifax?).

I don’t normally write product reviews or give endorsements, but for this one, I have taken an exception. If you need to figure out what all is in your SharePoint farm right now and don’t know, or even if you “THINK” you know about everything in your SharePoint farm and don’t have it on paper, please check out SPDocKit from the great folks at Syskit.

Here’s a great summary if you have never heard of them!

SPDocKit – Ultimate SharePoint Admin Tool

 

Not only will this product document the configuration settings of your farm, it can regularly take snapshots of your environment to help you know how things change over time. And you can even easily publish reports of your farm config at any time! Just take a snapshot (which is like a backup type of job), and then you can report on all kinds of things!

If you want to put your own company logo or labeling on the reports that get output, you have that option as well!

One other thing to know is you can try this out for 30 days and see if you like it, but I can already tell you that once you set this product up and run it once and actually see all of the information that is gathered about your farm in a small amount of time, that you will literally be telling the folks at Syskit “Shut up and take my money!”.

I hope you get to check it out! It’s also very affordable for what the product does!

Here’s a great overview of their latest version:

Hands-on SPDocKit 7 – SharePoint performance, Permissions audit and SharePoint Online

 

Displaying pdf reports in SharePoint

I had an interesting request by someone the other day. I was helping them set up a new site template for SharePoint 2013 and they wanted to display a couple of reports on their site that they had in pdf format in a way to showcase the numbers of the report to others in the company that would visit this site.

There are multiple ways actually to do this very method, but the one I ended up going with is referenced in the following article:

https://sharepoint.stackexchange.com/questions/151161/how-to-embed-word-and-pdf-documents-in-pages

After doing this one the page it gave a pretty good layout on the page. My only concern going forward is having to update this manually and having to possibly retrain someone to keep this showing the most up to date info on the page.

There are other things I would like to research as part of this like putting in zoom or other capabilities in the code to modify the view of the pdf for the users.

I hope this gives you more ideas for displaying info on sites and pages and should work regardless of what version of SharePoint you are working with.

If you have interesting ways to display reports or other objects on pages, feel free to add to this in the comments below.

Thanks!  -BJ

Update 9/18/17:

Beau Cameron just posted a fantastic article about how to do this in O365. Here’s the link:

http://www.aerieconsulting.com/blog/how-to-embed-a-pdf-in-a-modern-sharepoint-page?utm_source=collab365&utm_medium=collab365today&utm_campaign=daily_digest

Enjoy!

Keep your VM’s neat and tidy

If you are like me, you tend to create Virtual Machines (VM’s) every so often to test different scenarios. And if you are also like me you are constantly running into and complaining that you have no free storage space on any drives internal or external to create more VM’s to do more testing with. What can I say? Nature abhors a vacuum.

So today I want to make you aware of a couple of things that I like to do for monthly maintenance items when using personal VM’s.

First, I like to go into the VM itself and run storage cleanup on the drive itself to get rid of things like windows updates, temp storage, and cached items from other sources that just take up unnecessary room on the OS drive in my VM.

Usually this starts by right clicking on the OS drive itself and choosing “Disk Cleanup”.

Hardware 
local Disk 
file system NTFS 
used space 
Free space 
Cap acity 
126.195.417.088bytes 
385.388.032.OOObytes 
511.583.449.088bytes 
Chive C 
Shanng 
117G8 
358 Gd 
476 Gd 
Disk Cleanup

The above image came from a Windows 10 box, but your mileage may vary and most windows servers and client machines have a similar setting.

On certain servers however, you may have to go in and activate the “Desktop Experience” feature in order to have this button show.

Here’s a link to TechNet for Windows Server 2012 as an example.

So now you may have freed up some valuable space on your VM, but did you know if you use VMWare there is another setting that can be just as beneficial?

If you use VMWare Workstation there is a setting under the VM menu, located under the manage section called “Clean Up Disks…” and this can be just as beneficial at freeing up more space. Find this option after highlighting a VM in your list of VM’s.

Choosing this option will open another window that will look like this:

Disk Cleanup 
Disk cleanup can redaim disk space thatisallocated to virtual disk files but 
that the guest OS no longer uses. 
Disk space used by this virtual machine: 80.8 GE 
O Reclaimable space: 4.7 GE 
Clean up novv

By selecting the “Clean up now” option this will give back space to your drive that you can now use to create more and more lovely Virtual Machines to test more and more scenarios with.

I’m not sure if Virtual Box or Hyper-V have a similar setting, but hopefully they do. That may be another post down the road…

Hopefully this helps with any spring cleaning you might do, but it’s definitely one thing to revisit if you are actively testing scenarios locally or in a big virtual environment.

Enjoy!

-BJ

Mind the Site Locks when Move-SPSite Fails

Recently I was working on a migration of a couple of big sites moving them to their own content databases and it didn’t exactly turn out as I planned.

So more than anything, I wanted to use this post to describe what happened and mention some tips and other things that may help others out in the future if you ever run into trouble when trying to break out sites into their own databases.

Here are the major events that happened in the migration process:

  1. Created DB under central admin
  2. Used Move-SPSite to move one site from another content database
  3. Content stuck on Move-SPSite, never finished
  4. Restarted all servers
  5. When came back up, new destination database was in recovery
  6. Recovery process used all SQL resources, major slow down of farm (sad time)
  7. Looked into SQL logs to check status of recovery thinking new destination database would come back up
  8. Actually after recovery finished, I still had no access to content created in new content database
  9. Checked and under central admin checked site locks and quotas
  10. Turns out entire site still on old source DB
  11. Hadn’t been copied over, even though SQL showed a populated database
  12. Site lock had been switched on all the way to no access
  13. Users going to site would get a 403 forbidden message when trying to access
  14. Went under site locks and cleared the lock
  15. Once this was done, content access returned to normal
  16. Original content and under Central admin still said content was on source DB
  17. New destination content DB under still showed also that it contained no content

So in the end, the big lesson learned here was that even though I could check SQL and see that the new DB contained information, SharePoint hadn’t moved the site over to the new content database.

I did some research and there are timer jobs that run gradual site deletions, but I don’t think they applied here. Either that or I switched back to the original database before anything else was allowed to happen.

In the future, I may just use Backup-SPSite  along with Restore-SPSite because that command also has the ability to specify a new database to put the site into when the backup is restored.

I hope these tips save you some time and headaches in the future.

Enjoy!

2016 Year In Review

2016 was such a great year for me professionally and personally. I had many things happen this year that were firsts for me. Longest duration on a plane, first Microsoft cert, and many others.

This year I travelled to the following places:

Orange Beach, AL

Tampa, FL

Atlanta, GA

Chicago, IL

Aurora, IL

Decatur, IL

St. Louis, MO

Phoenix, AZ

Previously I have never travelled this much in a year, so this was a big change for me. I was able to see some great places, eat some fantastic food, and enjoy and learn about a lot of new topics like Office 365 and SharePoint 2016.

This year was also the first time I had ever tried to attempt a Microsoft certification. Back in the middle of the year I tried (and failed) to pass the 70-331 exam for SharePoint 2013. I was extremely disappointed that I did not pass this test. I had prepared extensively for it and plus I’ve been working with the product in one way shape or form since it was released in 2012, for almost 5 years with two different companies.

But on a whim around the same time I signed up for the 70-339 test, I saw that Microsoft was offering a free chance to demo the exams for SharePoint 2016. Everything that I had read and studied on the product so far made me think this could go right along with what I was doing for 2013. Well… kind of…

There are some similarities and differences between the products that’s for sure. This test was different, because since it was a beta exam, I wouldn’t know my score right away.

I had a pretty good feeling about it after taking the test, but then had to wait almost two months before I found out that fortunately, I passed. 🙂

During this year I also attended a training class to prepare for the coming of SharePoint 2016 and Office 365. It was held by Critical Path Training and instructed by Matthew McDermot. This was a great course and I highly recommend it to anyone who needs SharePoint training.

I was only able to go to one SQL Saturday or SharePoint Saturday event and that was SQL Saturday Chattanooga. It was a great event, and look forward to the event next year as well.

I will definitely have to head out to more events in order to learn more with the pace that things are changing. Too bad I couldn’t travel each month to an event…hmm….

I look forward to the challenges the new year brings.

 

Here’s to a New Year!

Passing the 70-339 exam and becoming an MCP

Back on October 20th, I received an email that I passed the exam 70-339! I am very excited and thankful that I passed the exam to begin with. This was a beta exam for SharePoint 2016 offered through the born to learn blog at Microsoft that I took advantage of back in late June of this year and tried my darndest to study up on the exam for about a period of three and a half weeks prior to taking the test. I highly recommend going to the Born to Learn site every now and again to keep up with certifications and new releases in general. Plus, they do offers on books and free training resources from time to time that are fantastic. 

Previously back during late July I took the 70-331 exam and did not do as well as I thought I would do on the test. So since I had previously failed this test, I had my doubts about how I was going to be able to perform on this beta exam since many of the topics were new and the product had not been out for long.

 

I used the same study methodology for this test that I did with the 331 test that I failed. I focused much of my studying on the core areas of study (you can review them here). I took much of this and reviewed many of the new PowerShell features and commands that had been added to this new version so I wouldn’t get tripped up in that aspect of the test.

 

One helpful area that I had recommended to me was the previous talks on taking the 70-331 and 70-332 exams from Ignite and other conferences over at MSDN channel 9. Many of these reviews were given by presenters that you can go and review now for free. You can find some from Ignite 2016 here. These were helpful to get an idea on how some of the questions for the exam are presented.

 

The combination of the videos and studying the core areas for the exams helped me score high enough that I passed and am now an official Microsoft Certified Professional!

 

This is a huge milestone for me personally and has always been one of my personal goals I wanted to achieve as a technical professional. It’s also given me the courage and drive to continue forward and look into working towards a second certification exam.

 

If you are hesitant at all about taking these tests, I would say to go for it because it forces you personally to check and make sure you have the proper knowledge and skills to accomplish what you need to going forward. For anyone out there looking at one good luck and I hope you are successful just as I was.

 

Now onto the next test for better or worse. 🙂