Tip o’ the Week #11: SharePoint alerts

Some of us use RSS, many of us use SharePoint, but all of use email. Did you know that you can combine these three great technologies to keep you up to date on what other people are doing?

Most areas of SharePoint allow you to request to be alerted when things change – in this picture, for example, we can get an alert when someone changes in the document library. The same is true of whole lists or for individual items inside the list.

clip_image002If you choose to be alerted via email, you can then select under what circumstances (eg when something new is added to the library, when an existing document changes etc), and you can choose when to receive the notification – from an immediate “something has changed” mail, to a weekly summary of all changes.

The same alert mechanism can be fired separately on a single document – so if you are keeping an eye on someone changing a doc, then sign up.

I periodically update some sales data on a departmental SharePoint site, for example. Some people find it useful to find out who has bought what product, and when – maybe stuff they’d been working on months ago, it’s nice to see the revenue hit the books.

If you want to know when the report has been refreshed, look at the context menu against the document within SharePoint, and choose an email alertclip_image004 – these screenshots were taken from SharePoint 2007 but 2010 has the same concept.

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Ferrari powered by Sharepoint

ms_casestudies_logo[1] I noticed that the Sharepoint case study for Ferrari today, posted at the end of July – link here. The case study includes a cool video hosted in a nice Silverlight player – looks really slick and well worth a look, especially if you’re one of the Tifosi or just  like Ferrari road cars.

On a related note, if you’re a fan, check out one of the best car-related ads I think I’ve ever seen – Shell host a high-quality streaming version of it on their site:


The noise of the flat-12 F312B driving through Hong Kong makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up every time I’ve watched it…

Seadragon begets Silverlight “Deep Zoom”

There’s a headline that might baffle…

Seadragon Inc was a Seattle-based software company who had done a load of work on handling vast quantities of imagery and being able to manipulate the data in real-time, on-screen. Microsoft acquired Seadragon and has been beavering away behind the scenes to finesse the technology further and to integrate it into other means of delivery – if you haven’t seen it, check out the awesome demo done by Blaise Aguera y Arcas at last year’s TED conference:

Using photos of oft-snapped subjects (like Notre Dame) scraped from around the Web, Photosynth (based on Seadragon technology) creates breathtaking multidimensional spaces with zoom and navigation features that outstrip all expectation. Its architect, Blaise Aguera y Arcas, shows it off in this standing-ovation demo. Curious about that speck in corner? Dive into a freefall and watch as the speck becomes a gargoyle. With an unpleasant grimace. And an ant-sized chip in its lower left molar. "Perhaps the most amazing demo I’ve seen this year," wrote Ethan Zuckerman, after TED2007. Indeed, Photosynth might utterly transform the way we manipulate and experience digital images.

Well, the Seadragon technology gets closer to being available as part of Silverlight 2.0 Beta 1, now referred to as "Deep Zoom". It was announced recently at Mix08, and I must have missed the significance of this piece but when I saw the first Deep Zoom demo site, I thought "Wow".

One of the demos at the Mix08 conference in Vegas last week, was of a pretty amazing site put up by Hard Rock Cafe, showcasing some of the rock memorabilia they have – mosey over to http://memorabilia.hardrock.com and you’ll get prompted to install Silverlight 2.0 beta 1 if you want.


The Hard Rock site was built from the ground up in one month, and contains many gigabytes of visual imagery. Not that you’d notice when you visit for the first time having installed Silverlight 2.0…

The back end of the Memorabilia site uses Sharepoint for its content management, although the front end is all custom in Silverlight. There was a parallel announcement at MIX about the Silverlight Blueprint for Sharepoint, more details here.

No more to say about this other than it’s really, really, cool. Combine the early delivery of stuff like the Hard Rock Cafe demo site, with Blaise’s idea in the TED Video about how this technology could be used to present information in a non-linear way – imagine being able to zoom into the full stop at the end of a sentence to get pages and pages more detail about what the sentence contained – and the future way that web pages could be delivered to us might be very different from the linear, monolithic way a lot of information is presented today.

Exciting, isn’t it?

More info on "Deep Zoom:






Deep Zoom composer tool preview

Microsoft launches “Online” hosted services

In an attempt to clarify the whole online software branding, with “Live” being consumer oriented and “Online” being aimed at businesses, Microsoft launched a new service recently, but that may have gone unnoticed (what with other launch events such as PerformancePoint Server for business intelligence, or the Unified Communications launch of OCS and Exchange SP1 etc).

The new “Online” service (“Business Productivity Infrastructure“) is offering Exchange mailboxes, Sharepoint sites and Office Communication Server hosted presence & IM. Currently the service is aimed at larger enterprise customers, though it will be extended to smaller organisations in due course. The Exchange, Sharepoint and OCS parts are all available separately, under the titles Exchange Online, Sharepoint Online and Office Communications Online.

The whole online services offering can be a bit confusing – at one level, Microsoft sells “Exchange Hosted Services” (EHS), which is a hosted filtering, archiving and encryption service that routes inbound & outbound SMTP mail to/from an organisation, weeds out the spam and infected messages then delivers what’s left, optionally keeping a copy “in the cloud” for later access (eg for compliance purposes).image

In this EHS model, you can still run Exchange “on premise”, it’s just that the hosted filtering etc helps reduce the volume of inbound junk.

This kind of service differs from the hosted Exchange offerings from various partners, who will host Exchange mailboxes for you in their data centres. Hosted Exchange has been around in one form or another for years, and it makes a lot of sense for start up companies or smaller orgs who don’t want the overhead and up-front expense of buying & managing their own server in-house.


Rather than buying Exchange servers & licenses, with Hosted Exchange, the customers have a monthly subscription to the hosted provider, who provide all the service via a URL which can be used by Outlook or Outlook Web Access to connect. Hosted Exchange typically has a separate login for the end users, though in more advanced cases, the hosting provided may have a private network link back into the corporate network, allowing access to the corporate Active Directory.

There are hosting providers who will basically manage the server and the delivery of the service to your end users, but the licenses are owned by the customer directly – so in effect, you’d buy Exchange but instead of running it yourself, on your own premises, you outsource that operation to someone else, for a negotiated price.

The new Microsoft Exchange Online service effectively delivers hosted Exchange, but allows for customers who’ve already bought Exchange etc directly. In other words, you’d be able to go to a partner who re-sells the Exchange Online service, and buy the hosted service from them at a lower cost because you’ve already bought the rights to use the software (so the cost would be the operational part, not the software subscription).

This new service adds an extra choice, but it’s not going to replace Hosted Exchange – it’s quite likely that you’ll be able to get a more customised service directly from a hosting partner, and it might be less expensive than the Microsoft Online service too, depending on who’s offering it and where.

Live Writer beta 2 releases

I only really started blogging “properly” when Windows Live Writer (WLW) beta first shipped… it’s been a really user-friendly tool for blogging, for a whole load of reasons.

The WLW team has just shipped a new beta which has a nice UI polish, some great new features (like inline spell checking) and other interesting stuff like Sharepoint 2007 integration (since Sharepoint 2007 implements blogging).

Steve posted about this and other Live betas (Live Mail & Live Messenger).

WSS Site Admin Templates now online

The second wave of releases for the Windows Sharepoint Services v3.0 templates (being referred to as the “Fabulous Forty” in some quarters … anyone remember the Nifty Fifty?) is now online

Server Admin Templates
Absence Request and Vacation Schedule Management
Budgeting and Tracking Multiple Projects
Bug Database
Call Center
Change Request Management
Compliance Process Support Site
Contacts Management
Document Library and Review
Event Planning
Expense Reimbursement and Approval
Help Desk
Inventory Tracking
IT Team Workspace
Job Requisition and Interview Management
Knowledge Base
Lending Library
Physical Asset Tracking and Management
Project Tracking Workspace
Room and Equipment Reservations
Sales Lead Pipeline

Sharepoint Services v3.0 Application Templates

I noticed the other day that the first batch of templates have been published for Windows Sharepoint Services v3 – the free team site application that’s been upgraded dramatically as part of the Office 2007 release wave.

There are some interesting site admin template apps published on the Application Templates site, along with some details of forthcoming aerver admin templates (which are probably more generically useful, to be honest… things like expense reimbursement and vacation scheduling).

There are also WSS3.0-compatible versions of the old server templates available as part of the WSS2.0 upgrade toolkit, so if you can’t wait a few weeks for the rest of the new templates to make it onto the site, then check out the older ones here.