Using Content Type Based Folders in SharePoint

When configuring document libraries in SharePoint that will contain folders, a good practice is to leverage the use of Content Type based folders as opposed to the standard basic folder that is enabled by default. Using a folder based on a content type provides the following benefits:

Folder Metadata!

You can add metadata to the folder which will help describe it better within the library. A common type of metadata that is useful is “folder scope notes” or “may contain” which is a column that outlines the type of information that might be stored in the folder. This helps drive better compliance but also provides usability benefits to end users. Another useful metadata field might be “Folder Number” or “Sort Order” which can help with how the folders are listed when alphabetic or date based columns do not align with how you wish to sort.

Limit Folder Creation!

You can choose where folders can be created. With content types, you can choose which content types are enabled under the New Button on specific folders. Therefore you can disable the use of folders by removing that content type on the levels you do not want it enabled. I typically do this after 1-2 levels of folders as I do not wish to have any more.

Level 1

Level 2

Manage View Availability!

You can select which views appear in specific folders. This allows for a very rich drill down experience by setting which views appear as a user navigates through folders. There is an administrative overhead of setting this up, but in the end, you can determine which columns appear in views as users select specific folders for navigation.

Where to Start?

To create a folder content type, simply create a new content type that inherits from the default folder Content Type. Then configure the way you would any other SharePoint content type.

Ironically, the one place this approach typically causes me pain is in areas where I wish to use the Content Organizer in a Records site. In these cases, the control that you use to identify the destination folder doesn’t play well with content type based folders.

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Anatomy of the Search Results Page in SharePoint 2013

One of the things I have always appreciated about the SharePoint search interface is the ability to configure it to specifically meet your needs for a particular type of content area.  This has only improved in SharePoint 2013 as the interfaces for selecting and prioritizing refiners has evolved significantly over the years to provide a better search experience after the user has submitted their query (reactive search).

The search results page is comprised of a variety of web parts that complete the user experience related to search. You can reorder, remove or add web parts to further enhance the experience. The key is recognizing that to customize your unique experience, all you need is to Edit the Search Results Page.

Some of the common web parts on a Search Results page include:

Search Box – The location a user will enter their search query. You can configure this web part to do things such as:

  • Redirect to a specific search results page which will thereby reset the search query and start a new one.
  • Filter the web parts on the page.  By filtering the web parts on the page, you will be further refining the search results. It’s important to understand the difference between this and the above option as they will provide a very different search experience.
  • Display the search navigation drop down which appears on your site collections if you have the Search Center settings enabled.

Search Navigation – A web part that provides a tabbed interface to allow a user to refine search results based on some predefined parameters such as result sources (scopes) or content sources.  This web part reads from the Search Settings (Under Site Administration) page of your site collection where you can configure Titles and Pages URLs for the predefined results pages you wish to have appear in your Search Center navigation.  These pages typically will contain web parts that have been filtered to only display a subset of data based on predefined properties.

Search Results

As you can imagine, this web part displays…wait for it…wait for it…search results.  I know, I know, I didn’t see that coming either.  But the fact is this web part is where the results of the search query will be displayed.  You can configure this web part by choosing how many results are to be displayed, how items are displayed and whether they leverage display templates related to the type of result or whether they use the same template for all results.  This web part also allows for preferences such as whether the search results will list duplicate items independently or group together.


Finally one of the most powerful web parts for providing an enhanced search experience is the Search Refinement web part. This web part drives which facets users can select to further refine their search results so that a more specific subset can be listed.  Things you can do by modifying this web part include choosing which properties appear as refiners within in the page, what order they appear in and whether they are single select refiners or multiple select. Depending on the content that is being returned, there may be advantages to fine tuning this web part so that very specific metadata values are displayed. For example in a Contract Management Search Center, you might be interested in displaying custom metadata such as Contract Type, Customer or Department beyond some of the more common default options such as Result Types and Author.

So what does this all mean?

Well the key point here is that out of the box, SharePoint will provide you with a Search Center site template and Search Results page that is already configured to provide a very effective and intuitive search experience. But depending on your business requirements, you may want to extend this further. Many organizations are unaware of the options that they have to fine tune this experience to suit their needs.

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Context Has Expired Error in SharePoint 2013

I started receiving this error on my search results pages when I was attempting to make some changes and tweaks.  I mentioned it to Shane and he had said he ran into the same issue a week or so ago and posted about it.  The issue relates to the Timezone not being set for the web application we were using on our virtual machine. To fix, log into Central Admin and change the timezone within the General Settings section of your web application settings.  You will want to do an IISReset and then all should be good.

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My Thoughts on Surface Pro After Several Months of Use

Earlier this year when the Surface Pros were released, I was quick to purchase one. In fact, Shane and I purchased his and hers 128gb models on launch day.  Naturally when they first arrived, they were all shiny and new.  The love I felt was overwhelming and I just couldn’t put it down. 

However after 5-6 months now, I have to say, it is still a very solid device and I use it daily. 

  • Note Taking – Possibly the biggest use it gets is as a note taking device.  Naturally I take it to every meeting and have not had a paper based notebook since receiving the device.  This isn’t a big shock for me however since if you flip back to my blog from the early days, I was an avid Tablet PC user in 2003-2004 at which point I became addicted to OneNote.  The fact I can take notes on my Surface and have them synced up instantly with my laptop and phone (via Skydrive) is beyond amazing.  Of course that isn’t a Surface thing so much as a OneNote thing but what is amazing about the surface is the pen.  I love writing and drawing with it.
  • Wireframes - For super low fidelity wireframing with clients, I often find myself sketching out design and layouts on my Surface while projecting on a screen or sharing via Lync screen sharing.  It gives me the flexibility and ease of drawing on a whiteboard, but also instant recording and saving so all my drawings are there when I am done.  If I want to share with participants, I can send out as a PDF or image in seconds after the meeting.  I will use tools such as Balsamiq to produce level 2 wireframes but for on the spot capture of priorities and concepts, I love using my surface as a sketchpad.
  • Airplanes – My Dell M4700 is a beast and serves me well for all heavy lifting. But there is no way I am getting any work done on this bugger on a plane while in economy class.  And as much as I like to fly up front, I spent 6-10 hours a week in a plane and am usually flying econo style.  My Surface fits perfect on the tray even when the person up front decides to recline their seat (which in my case is EVERY time).  Of course the one downfall is when I am in Executive Class which ironically with Air Canada is the one place my Surface doesn’t work well in laptop mode as the trays are very narrow so its hard to balance.  In those cases, I go in tablet mode and all is fine.
  • Presentations - If my presentation is using Office 365 or a remote server, then I am happy to run it from my Surface. However admittedly I rely still on my faithful Dell for scenarios requiring a local virtual image which is still about 50% of the time for me.

Some small things that I would like to see improved are the battery life.  I get about 3-4 hours if I am working hard core.  If I turn down some things as screen brightness and wi-fi, it might get better but for the most part I can make this work. My laptops are always in the same range so I am used to this timeline.  From an App perspective, I am not really lacking as I can install anything I would typically install on Windows but it would be nice to see more apps appear within the store. Its improving all the time however.  Finally I love the way the stylus clicks in the side but I wouldn’t mind if I could stick it inside the device as you often can with other tablets. I have lost a few pens now due to rushing out of a client site and forgetting to grab my pen which was sitting on the side while the surface was charging.

All and all though – a great device and one I am still very happy with after 5-6 months.

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SharePoint 2013 – Invalid Field Name Error on Publishing Site

SharePoint Server 2013 offers a Design Manager tool that allows you to export your custom look and feel on one site collection as a wsp file and then import it into another site collection. Overall the concept works quite nicely however if you have done much work with it, you may have discovered that a bug exists whereby the Page Content Type and some of its child content types become negatively impacted. This is true even if you take an out of the box look and feel, export it and then import back into the same site collection.

You have a publishing site for which you have imported a custom design using the Design Manager. However when you go to create a page, you receive the following error message:

The invalid field name error is referring to the fact the content type that they page template relies on is missing a field that is referenced by the Page Layout. This is because for some reason when you import a design using the Design Manager, the Page Content Type (along with a few others) get modified and columns are removed. So to fix this, you need to go into the settings for the Page Content Type and Article Page Content Type (and any others that are being leveraged by your Page Layouts) to add the missing fields back in. The image below demonstrates the missing fields for the Page Content Type.

The process for adding back in can be done by going to the Site Settings page of the Top Level site of your site collection, clicking Content Types, selecting the affected content types (for example Page Content Type) and adding the existing site columns back in.  In the case of Page Content Type, you must add in the items in the above image that are highlighted in yellow. For Article Page, you must add back in Byline, Image Caption, Page Content and Summary Links.

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Working with Date Formats in SharePoint 2010

As you may or may not know, you can sometimes use the Regional Settings in SharePoint to present dates and currency type information in a format that is typical for your locale. For example, today (March 26, 2012) is typically presented as 26/03/2012 in Canada however in the US you might see 03/26/2012.

By default, my SharePoint Server install was utilizing an English (United States) locale. Therefore when I viewed any date based column on the server, the date would be displayed as MM/DD/YYYY.

However using the Regional Settings option, I can change these dates to follow my regional preference.

Changing Your Regional Settings

To change your Regional Settings, expand the drop down menu that appears to the right of your name as shown in the image below and select the My Settings option.

Select the My Regional Settings link. If you do not see this option, you may not be permitted to change your Regional Settings by your System Administrator.

By default, your profile will follow whatever settings have been defined for the current site you are visiting. However by deselecting the checkbox, you can specify your own preferences for items such as Locale, Time Zone, and Calendar as shown below.

By selecting English (Canada) and saving my changes, I can return to my site and the previously shown list will now be displayed using the date format of DD/MM/YYYY.


Changing a Site’s Locale

You can also tweak a specific site or site collection to follow a specific locale. So for example, you may have your Newfoundland and Labrador sales team site use an English (Canada) locale but your Texas based sales team site would use the English (United States) locale. To change the locale for a specific site, go to the Site Settings area and select Regional Settings from the Site Administration group of links.


But What About Other Formats That Are Not Regional?

Some organizations have adopted a format that is compatible with ISO 8601 as the standard format for dates. This format would present the above referenced date as 2012-03-26. This is very common for organizations that are multi-national or have adopted a more standardized approach to Document Management and Records Keeping. Unfortunately, out of the box, SharePoint doesn’t offer a very simple way to format all dates in this manner. However there are workarounds. As with all workarounds, you may want to ensure you have considered the long term impacts of such approaches when it comes to manageability and maintenance.

For such scenarios, you can create custom calculated columns within your content types (recommended) or lists to display the date in the format desired. For example, to display content in a format that is consistent with ISO 8601, I would create two custom columns to represent ISO Formatted Created Date and ISO Formatted Modified Date on my content types called “Organizational Document” and “Organizational Item” which act as the parent for all my custom content types. This allows me to make these columns available throughout my SharePoint environment on all my custom content types that inherit from these parents.

To do this, I created a calculated site column called “Creation Date” with the following settings:

And another called “Modified On” with these settings:


Then in my various views throughout my site collection, rather than displayed the default Created and Modified date values, I would use my custom columns as shown below.

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SPTECHCON 2012 in San Francisco – Thanks for Coming Out!

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of heading down to San Francisco for the SPTECHCON conference. This was a great opportunity for me since I hadn’t spoken at this conference before and also because…well it was February and any place with a warm climate is a welcome change to the weather here in Newfoundland during February / March.

To make the trip even more worthwhile it was wonderful to see some of my old friends from the SharePoint world and meet some new ones. There really is no way to describe the value I get out of connecting face to face with other members of the SharePoint community. It is such a vibrant and exciting world to work in.

I presented two sessions while there so I figured I would share my slide decks on here even though I believe they were also hosted on the conference website.

  • SPTECHCON – Building a Records Management Practice
  • SPTECHCON – The Core Pillars of an Effective Document Management Solution (I even squeezed some pics of Gros Morne and Cape Spear in this one)
  • If you were there and I didn’t get to chat with you. Drop me a note as I always love to hear from people. Thanks to Cary J. Calderone for his kind words on his blog regarding my sessions. It always makes the long trip worthwhile when you see that people enjoyed your session like that.

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    SharePoint 2010 Quick Hints – Where Are All The Templates?

    So one of the things that you may notice when you create a new site collection in SharePoint Server 2010 based upon the Publishing Portal is that your initial options for creating new content areas such as lists and sites are limited.

    For example, when you attempt to create a new site, you may only see the following as options:

    In addition, you may want to create a simple collaboration list such as a contacts list, but when you go to the list creation options, you only see the following:

    However have no fears! You can still create items based on the missing templates, you just have to enable the options for these other templates first. So here are the steps you need to follow:

    Configuring Which Site Templates Are Available For Use as a Subsite

    1. Select Site Settings from the Site Actions menu.
    2. From the Look and Feel section of links, select the Site Templates and Page Layouts option.



    3. From this location you can either select to all subsites to use any template or you can specifically select your desired templates to allow from this list.


    So you might be thinking, “Why didn’t they just allow all site templates to be used from the start? It’s so lame that I have to complete this step”.

    Well the truth is that this is just a single step in configuring the Publishing Portal (or any site collection) for use and it’s a valid consideration when planning your SharePoint site collections to determine which subsites you are going to allow from specific areas. As an example, in a Projects area, you may only want users to create sites that are based upon the templates you have defined for managing projects. Therefore you would restrict the Projects landing area to only allow those templates as subsites. Similarly if you have a Departmental sites area and you have defined a standard template for Departmental sites, you would apply this setting there so that people couldn’t just choose any site for that area.

    Configuring the Publishing Portal to Allow All Common Collaborative List Templates

    1. Select Site Settings from the Site Actions menu.
    2. From the Site Administration section of links, select the Site Features option.
    3. Scroll to the Team Collaboration Lists feature and click Activate.


    Now when you return to the list creation screen, you will see all the common collaborative list types including the missing Contacts list.

    Again you may be asking why this wasn’t enabled by default like it was in 2007. Well the truth here again comes down to initially limiting choices to those most commonly required for a specific site type or usage scenario. Because the Publishing Portal is a template designed for usage around a communications type site using the publishing capabilities of SharePoint, collaborative features are not turned on by default. However as you can see, they can be added if required by following the above described steps. That said, I do advise to use careful planning when turning on features to ensure you are activating features in the places where you actually need them. To quote a great mind in the SharePoint world, just because you can doesn’t always mean you should. In a lot of cases, you don’t really need or want to be adding collaborative content to the top level of your communications site collection.

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    Site and Site Collection Level Recycle Bin

    Previously a common question I would get from folks new to SharePoint would be “How do I recover the site I just deleted via the Recycle Bin?” to which unfortunately my reply would be “Umm you don’t.” This was a little scary for some situations since in many cases in SharePoint, we might use a site as a container for a group of documents rather than a folder and it can be a bit of a headache to do a site level restore from a larger backup. Plus let’s face it…If I accidentally delete something, I don’t necessarily want to run off to IT to confess to it.

    With SharePoint 2010 Service Pack 1, one of the new features that was introduced was a site and site collection level recycle bin.

    Once Service Pack 1 has been installed within your SharePoint environment, deleted sites will appear in the Site Collection Recycle Bin ((Site Settings -> Site Collection Administration -> Recycle Bin) under “Items Deleted From End User Recycle Bin”.

    If you have a deleted Site Collection that you need to rescue, you can run a Powershell Command to get your site back.

    First you must run the Get-SPDeletedSite command to retrieve information regarding deleted site collections that exist within the farm.

    Then once you know the ID of the deleted site collection, you can run the following command.

    Restore-SPDeletedSite -Identity ENTER ABOVE VALUE FOR SITEID

    And just like that your site collection is restored!



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    The Content Query Web Part, A Document Library and An Anonymous User

    The title of this post sounds something like a joke but alas it’s no joke but rather an unpleasant error you may encounter at some point using SharePoint Server 2010.

    If you have a Content Query Web Part (CQWP) on a page that is pointing to a SharePoint Library (Asset, Picture, or Document), you may discover that an anonymous user will receive an exception error similar to the following when they access the page. 

    Unable to display this Web Part. To troubleshoot the problem, open this Web page in a Microsoft SharePoint Foundation-compatible HTML editor such as Microsoft SharePoint Designer. If the problem persists, contact your Web server administrator.
    Correlation ID: Blah Blah Blah

    Meanwhile an authenticated user will see the content just fine.  At first, my instinct was to look to see if I had made an error in the custom xsl that I had applied to the web part.  But alas, I then remembered that I do not make errors. (Just kidding!!!) However applying a default style resulted in the same error.  As did pointing the web part to another library and trying different page layouts etc…  I then thought perhaps that a stylesheet was checked out and not published as that might help explain the different behaviour for the different user types.  But again this turned out not to be the issue.

    Then I did some searching around and found a great blog post by Waldek Mastykarz that is the solution to the above error.  Essentially the problem is caused by missing values for the CommonViewFields property of your web part.  By exporting the web part, opening it in Notepad and replacing the CommonViewFields property line with Waldek’s suggested properties and importing the web part back onto the page – you are golden!

    A big thanks to Waldek for coming up with this fix! Saved me a major headache.

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