Monday, 27 October 2008

Document Information Panel: A simple explanation

People seem to get so needlessly confused by this topic. I blame most of it on the lack of any reliable definitions.

Many articles discuss the use of InfoPath for this purpose - indeed even the option in the SharePoint UI for creating a custom template launches InfoPath! But unless your customisations extend to things that cannot be achieved OOTB it's actually so much simpler than that.

There are two fundamental pieces of information which can help explain all this and save you from a world of pain.

  1. Your customisations to the Document Information panel found in the big-3 Office apps are made in SharePoint - not the target application.
  2. The Document Information panel presented in documents created from a SharePoint library are nothing more than the fields defined in your content types (or an InfoPath form if you opted for this route).

If you're lucky enough to have InfoPath and feel like introducing more complexity then you can create a custom form to manage field validation and other advanced functionality.

For the rest of us, try the following:

  1. Add a custom column or two to one of your Document content types.
  2. Add the content type to a Document Library.
  3. Click the New tab to open a new document (Word by default) and view the Document Information Panel. (Office Button -> Prepare -> Properties. You can also set this to open automatically in your content type settings under Document Information Panel settings .)

You should see all your custom columns. Columns marked with a red asterisk (*) represent mandatory fields. Yes, it's that easy.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Document Libraries: which template?

This seems to be a topic that stumps even the most highly paid SharePoint experts but needn't. After all, the MOSS UI offers everything most enterprises would need, it's just a case of knowing where to look and exercising some not-so-common-sense.

Despite being called MOSS 2007, the base document content types actually use the old Office file formats. Confused? Yep, this is where most people get tripped up. The easiest way to replace these is to create a new document in each of Word, PowerPoint and Excel and upload them for each relevant content type under Advanced Settings -> Document Template.

This will provide you with a good base for any future content types that inherit from these.

DON'T save them as templates, as one might expect. Just as plain .docx, .pptx and .xlsx files. This is another common mistake.

These files will automatically get copied to the content type and every existing and new library to which it has been applied. If you're really curious you can verify this by looking in the hidden Forms folder within any library using the content type.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Create a MOSS 2007 Publishing Site Template

Despite the lack of a setting in the Site settings interface it can be done. It's been documented quasi-officially here and elsewhere but it's actually far simpler than most people make out. Instead of going to all the trouble of disabling and re-enabling the publishing feature, just navigate to the site you want to create the template from and append the following to the end of the URL: /_layouts/savetmpl.aspx Apart from saving time, the benefit of this is that your template will already have publishing features enabled.