I’ve installed VBulletin Publishing Suite 4.0

So although I seem to be an all SharePoint person – that’s just not true. I’m also a php person. I have a vbulletin forum that I’ve been dying to upgrade to the new vbulletin publishing suite. I waited until the alpha tests were done and now have installed the beta version. This is going to completely blow away the idea of just a forum since it now includes:

Forums
A content management system
Blogs
Better social networking features

So far the installation was a bit tricky. None of the legacy plugins, products, themes, etc work. So right now – I have a plain vanilla site 🙂 I’ll be posting more once I have more to share.

Atlanta Eats: Noche Vinings

Noche Logo
Noche Logo

About a month ago, I ate at Noche Vinings. Now for those who don’t know – Noche is another one of the Here to Serve restaurants. I’m not a huge fan of this chain of restaurants. They aren’t bad – but I’m sort of anti-chain restaurants. I consider most of their food technically correct although never impressive. That being said – you generally won’t have a bad time when you go to one of them. So before I get into the specifics, I wasn’t terribly impressed with Noche – so this won’t be a post recommending this place. The drinks were good, the ambiance as great, the food was pathetic 🙁

Location

2850 Paces Ferry Rd
Atlanta, GA 30339-5719
(770) 432-3277

Website: http://www.h2sr.com/noche-vinings/

Menu: http://www.h2sr.com/noche-vinings/?page_id=671

Food

The food here was a sore disappointment. I’ve eaten at the other here to serve restaurants (shout, twist, strip) and they are almost always functionally acceptable. However, we had about 8 – 9 tapas and all of them were bad. The drinks were good, but I can’t stress how bad the entrees were. I found that the food generally had no flavor. Although fairly visually appealing, the favors simply didn’t live up to the hype.

Ambiance

The decor was great. Our table was right near the open fireplace. There isn’t much to say except they clearly spent most of their money on making sure this place looks good!

Random Thoughts

I’d go back here but not to eat. It’s a great place in Vinings to hang out with friends, get some drinks, and chill.

Atlanta Eats: Divan

Divan Logo
Divan Logo

This weekend we ate at Divan in Atlanta. This is definitely one of those “uuber” trendy spots in Atlanta. It’s a restaurant and hookah lounge. It’s definitely close quarters as it’s extremely small. It has all the makings of a place that you would “want” to be seen in.  The food here was impressive!  I was disappointed that although we had a reservation, we waited over an hour and a half for our table. Granted the host offered a bottle of champagne to make up for it – but if we weren’t eager to spend our birthday with a friend – I’m not sure I would have waited so long. The food was good – so at least we weren’t upset at the food too. They do have Valet, but they have a very small lot. As a result, we were unable to use the valet service. You can park at the Wolf Camera right next to it without getting towed.

Location

3125 Piedmont Road
Atlanta, GA 30305
(404) 467-4297

Website: http://www.divanatlanta.com/

Menu: http://www.divanatlanta.com/menu.html

It isn’t too far from the buckhead diner – just for reference.

Food

Their menu is extremely limited. However, in their defense, everything we tried was good. I ate the falafaels, caprese salad, and lamb kabobs. I suggest the potatoes as well as an appetizer. The drinks are strong – and pomegranate everything seems to be their specialty. We had a mojito flavored hookah. That is definitely worth trying.

Ambiance

Divan bar
Divan bar

This restaurant is essentially a decent sized house that has been converted into a restaurant. It gives it a nice personal feel. Private dining rooms are the size of bedrooms with couches and low tables instead of your traditional tables. It is a Hookah lounge as well. I just want to point out – this place is TINY! Absolutely tiny! Since it’s the size of a home, it’s very cramped. The bar looks nice, but it can only seat 5 – 6 people comfortably.

Random Thoughts

I like this place a lot. The food is good – despite the few choices. I think they will definitely get my business again. I did hijack the photo above – but it’s an image of the bar I mentioned.

Restricting view access on a list and Alerts

This is a quick and dirty tip, but I thought it would be good to share. It’s quite common to set up a list so that users can only view and edit items that they add. I’ve always used this when I have a sort of “ticketing” system. I want everyone to be able to add new items, and to see what their additions are – but I don’t want them viewing anyone else’s submissions.

Item Level Read and Edit Access
Item Level Read and Edit Access

In case you don’t know how to do this :

Go to List Settings –> Advanced Settings

Scroll down to the Item Level Permissions section

Under Read Access Specify only their own

Under Edit Access select only their own .

Voila! Now users can only see and modify what they have seen.

Here’s the catch though. You can’t use alerts on a list that has these item level permissions. If a user tries to set an alert on the list – you will receive the following error message :

You cannot create alerts for lists for which users can only read their own items.   at Microsoft.SharePoint.ApplicationPages.SubNewPage.OnLoad(EventArgs e)
at System.Web.UI.Control.LoadRecursive()
at System.Web.UI.Page.ProcessRequestMain(Boolean includeStagesBeforeAsyncPoint, Boolean includeStagesAfterAsyncPoint)

So just be aware – if you set item level read restrictions on a sharepoint list – you lose the ability to use alerts. I haven’t tested this to see if a custom workflow will work – but I believe you can have the email alerts with a custom workflow..

Combining Columns and Folders in SharePoint

One of the beautiful things about SharePoint is its ability to provide endless ways to organize your content. Most people are familiar with folders and still like to use them. However, columns are definitely a more effective way to organize information because you have additional sorting and filtering options. That being said, SharePoint gives you the ability to do both.  The benefit of doing this is that you can leverage the organization functions of sorting and filtering in one view, and then create another view that displays the actual folders.

To be explicit – here’s how this works. First you create a document library. Once your library is created, create the columns that you want. Once this is done – you can go and create the folders that you want. At this point you have folders and columns. This is useful, but there are a few things to know. For starters, by default – SharePoint will display folders and columns together. But what if you want to display all of the files inside of your folders ? This can be done with a view.

folder options in views
folder options in views

Create a standard view.

Under the folders section – select  Show all items without folders.

This will display your list with all of your folders collapsed.

By doing this you have made it effectively possible to display the entire contents of a document library that is also organized by folders.  This gives you two methods of organizing content and gives users the option to choose the method of navigation that works best for them.

Using the Quick Launch in SharePoint

I figured I’d write a small piece about the quick launch in SharePoint. For starters, the quick launch is the vertical menu that appears on the left side of your pages. It’s pretty useful because it gives you quick access to all of the resources within your team site.

quick launch menu
quick launch menu

The quick launch allows you to view all of the content in your team site. By default when a list is created, it automatically will appear in the quick launch. You can change that – but we’ll discuss that later.

The quick launch automatically breaks down your lists by their type. For example, all document libraries will be listed under documents. Calendars, Tasks, custom lists…etc will be listed under Lists. Message Boards are listed under discussions. If you have subsites – they will appear under sites.

There are two other options – People and Groups – and Recycle Bin. The people and groups allows you to see the people and groups that are in your team site. Depending on your rights, you may be able to only see people or you may have rights to set permissions.

The recycle bin is self explanatory – it’s the recycle bin.

So you might be asking   – what’s the point of all of this? Imagine if you have created a team site where you are using dozens of lists on different pages. You may not want to list 36 lists on the main page of your team site. Furthermore, you may not want your navigation to drive users to that long list. In such cases, you will want to hide that from the quick launch and have people use a navigation of your choice.  Just to mention, a quick and dirty way to do that is to create a links list that has hyperlinks to your new pages. This gives an alternate navigation that’s easy to manage.

Hiding lists from the quick launch

Options to hide quick launch
Options to hide quick launch

If you want to hide your list from the quick launch, go to list settings –> title, description, and navigation. Then update your settings to select to not  display the item on the quick launch. This will hide the list from the quick launch.

Changing what appears in the quick launch

Beyond just configuring a list to appear or not appear in the quick launch – you can also add hyperlinks to the quick launch. You can do this by going to Site Actions –> Under Look and Feel – clicking on Navigation . Here you can change the current navigation – aka the quick launch. You can add headings and then also add hyperlinks to any items.

Navigation Options
Navigation Options

A real world application of this would be creating pages to house additional lists. Instead of linking people directly to the lists, you can put the links to the pages that display the lists. Then you would configure the pages to have specific views for your lists. This allows you to tailor your end users’ experience by formatting the way the list appears for them. You can also use the navigation options to change the order of items that appear in the quick launch to the left.

You can remove items from the quick launch or navigation this way. This means that you have two ways to remove an item from the quick launch. If it is a list, you can do it from the list settings (described above) . If it is a link you’ve added, you have to use this menu.

In case you were wondering what the difference between global navigation and current navigation is : The global navigation is the horizontal navigation bar. The current navigation is your quick launch. We won’t go into the global navigation now, but at least we’ve covered how to update the links and options in the quick launch. Hopefully this gives you a good picture of what is possible with changing the navigation on your team site.

SharePoint Document Libraries: The Inside Scoop

Whenever people think about SharePoint, the first thing that comes to mind is document management. I can’t tell you how many times I meet people and they say “SharePoint yeah – isn’t that for managing documents?”. Technically this is true, but there’s so much more to it than that. However, since document management seems to be the first thing that people think of, I figured that I’d do a post about what you can do with SharePoint document libraries.

To start, this section is to answer anyone who prefers share drives over SharePoint document libraries. If you’ve worked with a large group of people using a share drive, you know that they quickly devolve into a myriad of folders, reports, photos, and randomly organized project folders. This isn’t a reflection on anyone’s poor organizational skill at all. After all, since you can’t see what is inside of a folder, until you open it – how can you possibly keep all sub folders organized? SharePoint has all of the solutions for this:
Columns:

Columns are a great feature of SharePoint. Since most people are guilty of tacking on names and letters to the end of a document to show who edited it last and what version it is – you will like this solution. A column is simply meta data that can be added onto any item in a list in SharePoint. In the case of a document library they come automatically with two columns: title and description. By default SharePoint keeps track of the creator, person that last modified, and when it was last modified – so there’s no reason to have special columns for that. However, despite these columns, you can add your own columns. For example, a notes column for members to leave notes to one another about the document. I often use a “type of resource” column to give people a chance to code the document. For example – you might want people to select if the document is minutes, agenda, report, or other. By doing this – with a view you can instantly see all documents coded as minutes, agendas , or reports ( even if they are in sub folders!).

Also important to note – the file name and the title of a document are two completely different things. You can have normal file names in SharePoint but have descriptive titles and descriptions columns. This makes it easier for people to see what files they are really looking at.

Views:

Views are available to all SharePoint lists, but they make the document library especially powerful. By using columns, you can create views based on those columns. For example, I may want to have a view that shows a user all documents that they have modified. I may want a view for all documents that are pending approval. I may want a view that shows all documents in alphabetical order and another one in chronological order from the time that they were created. Views allow you to take an entire set of documents and display them in different ways to different people.

Folders:

Yes folders still exist in SharePoint! You can combine them with columns as well. This means that you can have folders which are familiar to your users, but also use columns so that you can benefit from views. Here’s a little known fact: when setting up a view, you can actually specify whether folders should appear or be collapsed. This means that you can “hide” folders when you want to see all documents but also show folders, when you want to.

folder options in views
folder options in views

This is done when configuring a view. You simply scroll down to the folder section and select your choice. Show items inside folders will show your folders. Show all items without folders will hide your folders. Please note** In both cases, you will still be able to see the columns you’ve decided to show. Therefore you can have folders and columns in the same view.

Content Approval:

Sometimes you will want all of your team members to submit documents, but as a manager, you don’t want people to share those documents until you have reviewed and approved them. Content approval allows everyone to upload documents, but limits everyone else from seeing them until they are approved.

Versioning:

One of SharePoint’s strongest features is version control. Finally there is a way to create accountability and secure modifications to documents. The version feature in SharePoint is robust, giving you a wide range of options. With versioning you can ensure that no changes to documents are lost. This is great for collaboration. You can easily roll back to previous versions and even have users submit comments with each version. You can then scroll through the previous versions getting quick summaries of what comments were left with each copy. This allows multiple people to work on a single document without fear of anyone overwriting someone else’s work.

version options in sharepoint
version options in sharepoint

From the version options menu you can turn versioning on and off. You also have the option to determine how you want the versions to be logged. You can choose major and minor reviews. This is the difference between going 1, 2, 3, 4 etc in version numbers to 1.0 , 1.1 , 1.2, 2.0, 3.0, 3.1, 3.2….etc.

It’s important to determine how many versions you want to keep. It’s tempting to just keep it unlimited – but choose a realistic number. For example – will you need to roll back 45 versions of  a document? You can also select how many drafts to keep. Now I should clarify, the 1.1 , 1.2, 1.3 are all considered drafts. Major versions have whole numbers, 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 ….etc.

You can also determine who gets to see the draft items in the library. You can allow any user to see them, only their creators, or only people with approval rights.

You can require that documents be checked out before they are edited. But I’ll discuss that next.

Version control also gives a good measure of accountability. Not that we ever expect it, but version control keeps a footprint of every action , protecting you from someone who may maliciously  modify a file.

Check In / Check Out:

Check In / Check Out is a wonderful feature. This allows a team member to mark a document as “mine for editing” and it restricts anyone else from editing the document until they are done. When combined with versioning you get a very strong solution for collaborating on documents. While a document is checked out, other people can see the previous version, but they can’t make edits. They also can’t see the version that is being worked on. I highly recommend turning this feature on.

Templates:

So what if you are creating a library to hold a certain type of report? You may want users to first download a template and then start compiling their reports. With SharePoint you can actually set a template for a document library. This template could be, for example, a blank report that team members can use to fill out.

template options for a document library
template options for a document library

Under advanced settings, there are template options. You can simply click on the Edit Template link to customize this to whatever content you want. This is extremely useful because once this feature is set, when a user clicks “new” they will automatically get a document formatted with this template. You will have saved the step of having to first get the template document and then save it to the document library before they start working on the file.

Workspaces:

Document workspaces are mini sites designed to allow advanced collaboration on a document. While your IT policy may restrict this, because it can create a situation where you have thousands of miniature sites, the functionality is pretty cool.

Creating a document workspace menu options
Creating a document workspace menu options

You can access this by clicking the arrow in the menu box around your file name. Then you click on Send To and then Create Document Workspace.

This creates a sub site where you have the option to work on a document, assign tasks, manage links, view members of the workspace, and collaborate further.

Once you have finished your collaboration and finalized your document, you can send it back to your main team site. Just imagine the implications for business processes that require extensive revision of documents by multiple people!

Document Work Space Send Options
Document Work Space Send Options

Once the document has been finalized, simply open the document menu options, go to Send To and then Publish to Source and the document will be sent back to the main team site.

Workflows:

I won’t go too deep into workflows, but I’ll try to give a quick overview. Workflows are just AWESOME! They are a way to trigger actions in SharePoint when something happens. For example, what if you want three people to provide feedback on a document when it is uploaded? You could use a feedback workflow to manage this process. The workflow would notify people that they need to provide feedback, create a task in a task list asking for their review, send reminders when it isn’t completed on time, and notify you that all feedback has been received. Just for good measure, the workflow would automatically collate those responses and make them available instantly. That’s just one example of a workflow. You may want to route a report to multiple team sites when it has been approved. This can be done with a workflow as well. There are endless options when creating workflows.

Alerts:

Alerts are a quick and dirty way to get email notifications when something has changed in your document library. I’ll save the details for alerts for another day – but I will mention the following things:

  1. You can set alerts for yourself as well as for others.
  2. You can choose when to receive alerts (daily, weekly, instantly)
  3. You can choose what types of alerts you want to receive ( when something’s added, deleted, edited, or even if someone has done something to a document you created or modified)

Explorer View:

For those users who are still accustomed to viewing their documents like a windows folder, there is an explorer view option that is default. This will display your document library like a network folder. Here’s a great tip – when dumping large amounts of files into SharePoint or trying to move a large amount out – you can click and drag files in and out of the explorer view.

Recycle Bin:

Network drives do not have recycle bins. Therefore when you delete a file – it’s truly gone. Any good IT setup will have some kind of backup solution, but it’s costly to have to back up huge amounts of data to retrieve one file. SharePoint provides a recycle bin within the team site as well as an additional one in the Central Administration. By doing this, you can protect your content from being truly destroyed.

Advanced Permissions:

You have the option to really set your permissions in SharePoint to a granular level. You can limit the ability to upload, edit, read, approve, and delete files across the document library. With the new version of SharePoint (2007) you can also set granular item-level permissions. Therefore you set broad permissions for the entire library and then have different rules for individual documents. No share drive gives you that much control.

Warnings:

So I figured I’d give some tips  and point out pitfalls for good document library management.

  • The first is that there is a 1000 item limit in folders in document libraries.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t have over 1000 items in a folder, but that your document library performance will start to go quirky. If you are using columns, this should be a non issue. After all, you can create views where you hide the folders. So don’t be afraid to use folders, and keep the 1000 limit number in mind.
  • You should avoid crazy file names. The number one problem I’ve seen with people having issues with uploading files is that they put punctuation in file names. My advice is to never put punctuation in a file name. I’d stick to letters, numbers, spaces, and underscores.  SharePoint is web based so things like ampersands “&” can cause all kinds of havoc.
  • You should avoid long file names. Since SharePoint is web based there is a limit to the number of characters that a URL can have. Your file names fall into this category.
  • Avoid excessively deep folder structures. Your folder names fall into that character limit as well – so after a while, if you go willy nilly with your folder creation, SharePoint will start to tell you “No more folders!”. My advice has always been this – if you need more than 2 – 3 folder levels then you need multiple document libraries!
  • Always use titles and description fields – they make your document library easy to use.
  • When using the explorer view: If you have required fields your documents will automatically be checked out to you when you upload documents with the explorer view. To avoid this you should not make any fields required. If you must make them required, you should make a datasheet view that will allow users to quickly update the documents and check them back in. This problem can be a nuisance.

Final Thoughts:

Hopefully I’ve made a strong case for this – but I hope from reading this you can see why share drives are completely antiquated. By utilizing document libraries to their full capability, you can improve efficiency by providing team members with endless ways to find their resources. You can also create programmatic solutions for team members to collaborate effectively while preventing version control problems, unwanted loss of information and accountability. You also have ways to organize information in ways that no folder structure on a share drive could ever do!

Atlanta Eats: Top Spice Toco Hills


Top Spice Spice Display
Top Spice Spice Display

Top Spice is a Thai and Malaysian restaurant. I’ve been eating at the top spice franchises for a few years now. There’s also one in Marietta off of Cobb parkway route  41, near the toys-r-us, post office, and LA Fitness. They are known for amazing tasting food and a pretty nice decor. This is simply not your average Chinese food joint!

Location:

Top Spice @ Toco Hills
3007 North Druid Hills Rd
Atlanta, GA 30329
tel: 404.728.0588
fax: 404.728.1132

Website: www.topspiceatlanta.com Menu : click here

Food:

So as mentioned before, Top Spice is more than just Chinese food. You will find the usual staples of fried rice and egg rolls, but you will also get some seriously different dishes, such as the roti canai, spicy shrimp and minced pork glass noodle salad, fried tofu, fried calamari, pad thai, and panang char kway teow. And in case the last one threw you a curve ball : it’s Famous Malaysian wok-fried flat rice noodles w/ shrimp, squid, bean sprouts, egg, soy sauce & chili paste. My two favorite dishes there are the Beef Rengdang, tenderloin beef in a spicy paste and served with fresh cucumbers as well as the spicy combo fried rice. And let me be clear – this is no ordinary fried rice. It’s a combination of rice, beef, shrimp, pork, chicken, peas, carrots, eggs, tomatoes, cucumber, and lime! You can order it at different levels of spiciness from level 1 to to level 8. I have a high tolerance for spicy foods, but I felt that the level 4 was the turning point where the spiciness tended to overpower the flavors.

Ambiance:

I’ve only eaten there in the day for lunch. Most times I order it for delivery. It is very clean and it’s clear that some serious attention to detail went into th decor. It’s not really a family type joint – but I’d suggest it for dates.

Random Thoughts:

This place is great bang for your buck. Entrees hover around 10 bucks – but they can go higher than that. I’ve never had anything that was bad from Top Spice. Definitely worth checking out!