Peter Gilbert

Institutional Web Managers Workshop 2010

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Looking forward to July, I will co-presenting a plenary talk on the Impact of SharePoint in Higher Education at the Institutional Web Managers Workshop 2010 at Sheffield University. I will be co-presenting with James Lappin from Thinking Records, who Photo of James Lappinwas the co-author of Northumbria University’s Investigation into the use of SharePoint in UK Higher Education Institutions (PDF) which was published in January 2010, and mentions UWE’s experiences along with several other universities.

The session will be held on day three, and the theme of the day is called “Doing the Day Job”. I’m really looking forward to it, as James is a great presenter, and hope that between us we can produce a lively session. James and I are both active on Twitter, and so I will with any luck be Twittering throughout the week on pete_gilbert as will James on jameslappin. The Twitter hash-tag for the event is ‘#iwmw10’.

I am hoping to meet several people who I only know from Twitter: Brian Kelly (from UKOLN), Mike Ellis and Matt Jukes just a few!

I am also looking forward to meeting Professor Melius Weideman from South Africa, who has written a book about website visibility. Unfortunately he’s not presenting but probably should be, maybe next year. I think it’s going to be an interesting few days. You can book here until Friday 18th June, but I advise getting in early.

As always keep watching this space for updates!

SharePoint 2010 Released this Week

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This week saw the release of Microsoft’s latest version of SharePoint – 2010 -  into the sweaty hands of developers and systems engineers across the world. While some of you you may be (correctly) nonplussed by this, those of us in the SharePoint community have been waiting for this moment for quite some time. Before you shout the words “geek!” or “nerd!” let me explain why this is important to me, and possibly why it matters to you too.

Improved Document and Records Management

6 pillars of moss sharepoint

SharePoint 2007 gave us an opportunity to collaborate on and manage our documents in a sensible way. Document libraries to store documents in, with file versioning and file locking with check-in/check-out and document approvals. There was even a rudimentary records management system, but it wasn’t very highly regarded by the records management industry.

SharePoint 2010 builds on this with more robust records management functionality, such as multi-level file plans, unique expiration and disposition, out-of-the-box metadata based classification, in-place records management and unique and persistent records identifiers. There are tons of other records management functionality in there too, more than enough to satisfy the needs of most organisations.

SharePoint also has much better handling of folders in this version too, which I am sure our users here at UWE will be pleased to see. Folders are now first-class citizens in SharePoint, both from a permissions perspective and from a records management perspective.

FAST People Search

The FAST search product has now been brought right into SharePoint 2010. It allows us to do things such as “faceted search” so that you can refine a search based on a set of metadata or refiners. This is critical for research and analysis applications where precise counts on facets are important decision making criteria. (You can see examples of deep refiners on FAST ESP powered sites like and

Visual document thumbnails and previewer Web Parts will be out-of-the-box with FAST Search for SharePoint 2010 to help users more quickly judge what is relevant in a search result list. This includes a graphical previewer for PowerPoint presentations based on Microsoft Silverlight that allows users to quickly find the “one slide” of interest without having to open up the entire presentation.

Office Integration

The social experience is very important to most users these days. Office 2010 and SharePoint now work closely together to provide a whole raft of services.


One of these features is the new activity feed that tracks a user’s interactions with SharePoint. In Outlook 2010 you can now view other people’s activity feeds by way of the Outlook Social Connector. This is extensible through the Office SDK, and this has been used already by LinkedIn (and soon Twitter and Facebook)

Screenshot taken from

Used in conjunction with the MySite, this gives you a really rich way of interacting with colleagues both in your department but also in the wider organisation. Really share knowledge.

The other thing that Outlook and SharePoint 2010 have is the ability to share and manage multiple calendars. Now you can have Exchange and SharePoint Calendars on the same page, with overlays, and colour coding. Room bookings anyone?


Many people use PowerPoint, and love it or hate it, it has become a standard in the business world for delivering presentations. The problem is that some users have problems with accessing PowerPoint remotely, so people have often resorted to products such as Live Meeting, GoTo or Webex to show a presentation on the internet.

Now that won’t be necessary, imagewe now have the PowerPoint Broadcast Service. Free of charge, you can now present your slide show over the internet for up to 50 users simultaneously. 


Many users at UWE will be familiar to InfoPath. We have been developing lots of forms that were previously paper processes (and we were as surprised as anyone when we found out how many processes were STILL paper based) and deploying them as InfoPath 2007 or web based replacements. InfoPath 2010 will give us even more integration with SharePoint 2010, with the ability for our users to develop and create professional web forms.

Multi Browser Support

This is a really good direction that Microsoft has been going in for quite some time, and with 2010 we finally have what they call Tier 1” support for Firefox. It’s not that SharePoint 2007 didn't work with other browsers, it did, but it sometimes was a pain especially when it came to documents. Now that has gone as it is now much easier to open, edit and view Office 2007 and Office 2010 files from Firefox. And it is much improved for Safari too.

Ribbon Bar and better Navigation

One of the biggest gripes that our users here have is the navigation in SharePoint and the utilities on the top link bar.






The ribbon makes life much easier when you are in document libraries and lists, pulling together all kinds of commands that were spread out in several different place before. The ribbon changes depending on what area you are looking at to give you targeted commands.

Navigation is improved in SharePoint 2010, with the ability to create navigation hierarchies based on taxonomy. What’s that I hear you cry? Well, you can now create menus based on tags that have been applied to documents. In fact you can also base navigation on defined search terms using the FAST search engine (faceted search again). If you are involved in research, this a valuable set of features.

When Can We Have It?


SharePoint 2010 is available, well, from last week. Here at UWE we are committed to bringing it to most people before the end of this year (2010) so keep watching this space for updates!

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SharePoint User Group Meeting 27th Jan

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There will be a meeting of the SharePoint User Group UK on the 27th January 2010 at 6.30pm at HP Labs in Bristol. I have been a member of this august institution for at least three if not four years, but have never attended a single meeting, my usual excuse is that as I dont have a car it's difficult to get to places like Reading and London in the evening, when these meetings are usually held.

This time, however, I have no excuse, as the meeting is to be held in our very own backyard as it were, in the HP Labs behind the staff restaurant (for us UWE people anyway). Anyway its a stone throw away from UWE (literally) so it will be easy for me to get to. No excuses then, so it looks like I'm going along.

On the agenda:
6:30pm Welcome

6:40 - 7:20 Andy Ginn: An overview of HP white papers and tools organisations can use when adopting SharePoint. Andy introduces some useful tools for sizing and configuration of SharePoint environments, and reviews research from HP labs looking at the performance of SharePoint on Windows Server 03/SQL Server 05 versus Windows Server 08/SQL Server 08 – come along and see if the results are as you would expect! Best practice guidance on the use of virtualised solutions is also reviewed.

7:20 - 7:35pm New Speaker Slot - Lee Fedder
Integrating SharePoint with insurance claims management applications via web services. Issues and lessons learned.

7:35 - 8pm Break, pizzas

8 - 9pm Mark Macrae: Utilising SQL Reporting Services in Integrated Mode for SharePoint and Empowering Information Managers with Report Builder. In this session Mark will be focussing on Reporting Services - a ‘free’ but often forgotten Business Intelligence tool which has much improved with SQL 2008. Mark will discuss the steps required to install and configure SSRS in SharePoint Integrated Mode, complete with the much improved Report Builder 2.0. He will then demonstrate how Report Builder can be used by Power Users to quickly build reports, manage and version them in SharePoint, approve and publish to an audience. Finally, Mark will examine the improvements which SharePoint 2010, SQL 2008 R2 and Report Builder 3 will offer when they are released.

To sign up go to The SharePoint User Group UK meeting thread and add your name by the 25th Jan. See you there!

Use of SharePoint in UK Higher Education Institutions

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I presented yesterday at the Microsoft SharePoint in UK Higher Education Institutions event held in London. Organised on the back on the study carried out by Northumbria University and backed by Eduserv, the event offered managers, academics and administrators the chance to find out how people are using SharePoint, and any lessons learned along the way.

It was a well attended event, and had sold out weeks before, so I felt a bit of pressure presenting with such an “education heavy” crowd. I needn’t have worried, as the people from Northumbria University and Eduserv were really friendly. In particular Julie McLeod from NU made us feel very welcome. And it was good to see James Lappin from Thinking Records again. Julie acted as chair for the morning and James chaired the afternoon session.

It was also good to finally meet Andy Powell from Eduserv, with whom I have talked occasionally on Twitter over the last couple of years. Nice people and a good atmosphere, and I hope useful to the people who turned up trying to find out more about use of SharePoint in education.

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Modify Screen Clipping Behaviour in OneNote

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OneNote is a really good tool but when you first set it up you might find yourself fighting the settings for a week or so.

For instance – Screen Clippings. A really useful tool built right into the product. You can modify the behaviour of screen clippings. By default they get pasted automatically in the unfiled notebook. This is fine but I have found that when you are working on a document or note you more often than not need to paste directly into the page you are working on. Modify by right mouse clicking on the icon in the dock. Choose the screen clipping defaults option and choose the setting that meets what you are trying to do.

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TFPL SharePoint Summit October 2009

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home1 I am getting good feedback about the TFPL SharePoint summit talk that I did in London last week. Entitled “Reorganising around SharePoint” I spoke about how we had initially introduced SharePoint into UWE, how the take-up has been, and introduced some case studies that covered how it has been used and developed.

It was so well received that I have been asked to give the talk again at an upcoming event in London for Eduserv, covering the Use of SharePoint in UK Higher Education Institutions. It will be on the 25th November at the Aeonian Training Centre, Shropshire House, London. This event will obviously have an education focus, as opposed to the wider business focus at the TFPL event last week. Hopefully I will see you there!

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How To Display the InfoPath Form Version on the Form

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How To Display the InfoPath Form Version on the Form - Westin's Technical Log

Version Number

I was having a very long and heated discussion with somebody the other day about managing code and other assets that are used within SharePoint. They were arguing (rather persuasively) that everything should be managed using the SourceSafe that is built into Visual Studio Team Services. I was arguing the opposite tack, and that it was very difficult to manage artefacts that have been created by other developers and that don’t fit into the source code system.

The upside of all of this was of course that I lost the argument although I am still looking for a solution to this problem.

Having accepted the fact that everything has to go into such a system soon, I am taking a lot more notice of version numbers of things that I create. For instance the versioning that is built into InfoPath 2007 is very useful for tracking changes etc. But there is no obvious way of exposing that number to people at run-time. But I have found this nugget of information on Westin’s Technical Log which seems to do just that. You need to create a text box and then insert this expression:

substring-before( substring-after( /processing-instruction()[local-name(.) = "mso-infoPathSolution"], 'solutionVersion="'), '"')

And there you go. Version information about the current InfoPath Form. Very useful for when you need to find out from a user what version they are using etc. Now all I need to do is start keeping my form sources in a sensible place and I’m home free!

eFIN10 Bids System – Update

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image We are continuing to test the eFIN10 capital Bid system that I have been developing using SharePoint, InfoPath 2007 and Skelta.

I have been working in IT for many years, so it really shouldn’t come as such a surprise to me that testing a system with real users instead of test accounts would find so many bugs. But this testing round has uncovered a multitude of items that I thought had been put to bed weeks ago. You got to love users and their ability to find things wrong! The benefit of this is of course that when we actually go live with this we will have a much more usable and stable system.

As always too I have found out that the real issues are seldom technical, most of the technical issues have been ironed out before people got to touch it. The issues are those people issues, such as the real change in working practice. Even though we have mirrored the paper process pretty thoroughly, it is still more formal using the web based form. People are not used to having an automated system email them to tell them when an item of work requires their approval. I think this problem becomes more of an issue as you go up through the organisation, and can only really be solved with diplomatic and sensitive training. And visits from a project manager to hand out soothing words to worried participants! Either way it is an important process, as it is forcing us to look at every business process, and ask important questions like: could we be doing this better? And more importantly do we need to be doing this particular business process at all?

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TFPL SharePoint Summit 15th Oct 2009

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SFW Ltd logo

I will be presenting at the 4th TFPL SharePoint Summit on the 15th October 2009 at The Crowne Plaza, London. The theme of the summit is ‘Benefits realisation’ and I hope to cover how we have used SharePoint at UWE and hopefully bring out what benefits we have realised. I will examine 4 case studies; The Student Village, Simita Law simulation, The Graduate Development Programme SharePoint site, and the eFIN10 capital bids workflow.

I am at present getting my presentation up and ready, and finding out the hard way that it is very difficult to work on stuff like this in an open plan office with lots of noise and distraction. But, get it done I must so back to the grindstone!

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eFIN10 Bids System

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I have been working this last few weeks on the UWE capital bids process. This consists of SharePoint, which acts as the display surface, InfoPath, which acts as a method to capture and display data, and Skelta, which acts as the workflow controller and is the tool that we used to model the business processes. It replaces an earlier paper process that tied a large group of people up every year in an administrative round that went on sometimes for months. With the new system it looks likely that this will now be possible to get approvals within days.

Early testing has been positive, with as usual the main barriers being training and people issues rather than the technical issues that you might expect.

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u+weAbout this blog

SharePoint evangelist and "developer" working at UWE. I work in SharePoint technologies using C#, InfoPath, Skelta and blog about their good and bad points here. In my "spare" time I am an artist and photographer and help organise the Southbank Bristol Arts Trail as well as running other arts events throughout the year. UWE is not responsible for the content of any external links. The views expressed here are my own and not those of my employer.

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