Using PowerShell to find last DirSync

When troubleshooting DirSync issues with Office 365, it is sometimes difficult to know if the DirSync successfully applied to Office 365.

There is a quick way to check this and it provides the data for when the update last took place. First you will need to make sure that you have installed the Azure AD Module for PowerShell, you can download from here.

When this has installed, run Connect-MsolService to connect to the Office 365 tenancy, this should be a global administrator account.

Azure Connect PowerShell

Then run Get-MsolCompanyInformation to get the tenancy information which includes the last dirsync time and last password sync



How to embed a Twitter widget on a SharePoint page

Many schools and businesses are using twitter as a social communication platform to send out news and information to users. How to embed twitter feeds on SharePoint intranets and public sites has been a popular question recently so thought I would share with you how it is done. I’ve also created a video guide on YouTube to talk through the process.

First login to your twitter account in a browser on a desktop computer (it doesn’t have to be the same account as the one that you want to display in your widget).

Click on your profile picture in the top right of the screen and select “Settings” from the drop down menu.

Twitter

Select “Widgets” from the left side menu.

Twitter

Create a new widget.

Twitter

Choose your design and configuration. More options are available via the customisation documentation link on the page. Click “Create Widget” to generate the code.

Twitter

Copy and paste the code into a Script Editor web part. The Script Editor web part can be found under the “Media and Content” category.

Twitter

I go through the process in more detail in the video below. Hope you find it useful. For SharePoint support and consultancy please contact me at Cloud Design Box.



How to render display template on a list view

This blog post is a bit more technical than my previous entries. Just recently, I was required to show two different views of a list on the same page (both styled with JS Display Templates). It’s relatively straight forward when you know how to quickly get the view GUID from the web part.

JS Display template only applying to one web part

You may have seen in other posts that you can get the GUID of a view by going to the edit view page and grabbing it from the URL encoded string. However this doesn’t always work for web parts added to the page as they tend to get thier own unique “current view”.

There is a really easy and quick way of finding this GUID using an alert in your JavaScript Display Template. When you are working with the current list object, in my example below “ctx”, you can get the view GUID from this object by calling “ctx.view”. Wrap that up in an alert and the alerts will render from top to bottom on the page and display each web part view GUID.

alert(ctx.view);

Once you have the GUID, use another if statement in your code to set the base view id. Now your JavaScript only applies to that one view for the list.

if (ctx.view === "{07BC665B-0274-42D2-97BF-8EBEA8B72436}") {
	//Override the BaseViewID if it's the one we want.
	ctx.BaseViewID = 722;                
}


Class site templates in SharePoint

As part of my work for Cloud Design Box, I have been working on class templates for student and teacher collaboration in SharePoint. My templates are using lots of display templates and are provisioned automatically from MIS data using the Salamander provisioning tools. Each template combines, out-of-the-box lists and libraries with custom content types, search web parts and JavaScript display templates. It’s available in both SharePoint on-premises and SharePoint Online. The video below goes through some of the features available for the class sites. Each class template is customised on a per school basis with a responsive design so that it will work on all devices.

For more information or an online demo, contact me by clicking here.



Creating a simple SharePoint Workflow to send an email

I have made the video below on how to create a basic SharePoint workflow to send emails. This could be used for sending out remittance advice (like in the example below) but it could also be used with additional workflow logic for sending out help desk emails, renewal reminders, etc.

Hope you find it useful, please feel free to contact me at Cloud Design Box if you have any further questions. I’ll try and make a full blog post on this subject with screenshots as soon as I get chance.



Adding a custom tile to the app launcher in Office 365



The Office 365 app launcher is a great way of getting easy access to single sign-on applications within Office 365 and externally. Recently Microsoft introduced some functionality to allow users to add thier own links to the app launcher. This is a great way of quickly getting to a particular link.

To add a new tile, you will need to create an image for the background of the tile. Ideally you want this to be a white image with a transparent background saved as a PNG. This keeps it in line with the app launcher style and the transparency shows the tile colour behind the background image. This should be a small and compressed image to keep the load time to a minimum.

The tile image is best hosted in a SharePoint picture library, make a note of the absolute link to the picture as you will require this when adding the custom tile.

In the Office 365 Admin interface, select the “Organisation Name (Edit)” link in the top right corner.

Organisation edit link

In the left menu, select “Custom tiles” and then click on the plus button to add a new link.

Add custom tile

Enter a name, url (where you want the tile to send users), description and Image Url (from the image stored in the SharePoint picture library).

Enter tile details

Press Save. The new tile will still not appear in the app launcher, however it is now available to add by clicking on “my apps” at the bottom of the app launcher.

my apps link

Select “Pin to app launcher” from the menu next to the new custom tile.

pin to app launcher

The new custom tile is now added to the app launcher.

Office 365 App Launcher

This is a great way to add a quick link to your SharePoint site collections without having to go throught the “Sites” page each time.

Please note that this method only adds the custom tile to the app launcher for the currently logged in user, not all users in the organisation. At the present time there isn’t an option to do this.

Using SharePoint Groups

What is a SharePoint group?

A SharePoint group is a group of users which can be used to permission a site. Groups can be re-used around the site collection and can be used to permission, sites, lists, libraries, folders and items. Using SharePoint groups allows the administrator to control access without having to edit individual permissions, only the SharePoint group membership requires editing rather than each permission level.

Creating a SharePoint Group

Select “Site settings” from the SharePoint menu.

SharePoint Group Permissions

Select “People and Groups” from the “Users and Permissions” menu.

SharePoint Group Permissions

Select “Groups” on the left side menu, this will show a list of all the groups on the site collection.

SharePoint Group Permissions

Create a new group by selecting “New Group” from the “New” drop down menu.

SharePoint Group Permissions

Enter a name and description for the new group.

SharePoint Group Permissions

The Group owner has overall control of the group settings and members. This is usually either an administrator or someone you have delegated the running of the group to.

SharePoint Group Permissions

You can decide to keep the membership of the group private to the users in the group or let everyone see the group membership. There is also an option to allow group members to edit the membership of a group. This is great for collaborative sites where members may wish to share with others without having to go to the group owner. It helps remove some of the burden from the group owner and can open up sharing and collaboration without admin intervention.

SharePoint Group Permissions

Membership requests allow users who are not members of the group, the ability to request membership. This can be set to auto-accept which is useful for open groups or the requests can be sent to an email address for approval by the group owner (or members if this option was enabled earlier).

SharePoint Group Permissions

Permission levels can be set when creating the group. Please note that setting permissions here will only apply to the site which you are currently on. It is advised that you create the group without any permissions and then go back into the sites to add relevant permissions to avoid any confusion.

Click “Create” to finish setting up the group.

Adding members to the group

Once the group has been created, you may notice that the only member is the group owner. Additional users can be added by going to the “Add Users” option under the “New” menu.

SharePoint Group Permissions

Enter the name(s) of the members(s) you wish you add to the group. Under advanced options, you will see that the default setting is to send an email to any users added to the group. This is optional and can be deselected. In addition to this, you can customise the personal message in the email invitation for these users.

Note: Active Directory security groups can also be added here if using DirSync (in Office 365)

SharePoint Group Permissions

Click Share to add the users to the group.

Permissioning a site with a SharePoint Group

Once the group has been created, it can be used to permission subsites, lists, libraries, folders and even items. To give the group’s members permissions on a SharePoint site, first navigate to the SharePoint site itself.

Select “Site Settings” from the menu.

SharePoint Group Permissions

Select “Site permissions” from the “Users and Permissions” menu.

SharePoint Group Permissions

Select “Grant Permissions” from the “Permissions” tab.

SharePoint Group Permissions

As you start to type in the name of the group, SharePoint will pick up the group name.

SharePoint Group Permissions

Click “SHOW OPTIONS” to view the permission levels.

Select a permission level from the drop down and decide whether you would like to send an email to the group.

SharePoint Group Permissions

Avoid adding the group to another SharePoint group (this is usually the default option and can over complicate your permissions). Use one of the permission levels available:

  • Read – Can view the site but cannot edit any items or pages
  • Contribute – Can add, edit and delete list items. User cannot create new apps or sites.
  • Design – Users have contribute but in addition, they can also create and delete apps and subsites. Apply themes and designs.
  • Full Control – Users can do anything on the site including change permissions (usually admins only)

There are other permission levels, you can also specify your own. For a full reference of permission levels please see the Microsoft site:

Microsoft Office 365 Support – Permissions

Troubleshooting “this site has not been shared with you”

I’m often asked to solve permission errors in SharePoint. It’s not hard to do with the tools available in SharePoint, you don’t even have to know much about AD especially if you use SharePoint groups.

Ways to permission a SharePoint site:

  • Permission directly against the user – not recommended as a lot of maintenance required when someone joins or leaves the organisation.
  • Use SharePoint Groups – SharePoint groups allow you to manage users within the SharePoint interface, they can be reused all over the site collection
  • Active Directory Security Groups – AD groups might already exist on your domain, these can be used but be aware that SharePoint 2013 caches the membership of these groups for around 2 hours and when using Office 365, DirSync will need to run to replicate these groups in the cloud.

What can be permissioned in SharePoint?

  • Sites – entire subsites
  • Lists – individual lists and libraries such as a document library
  • Folders – folders within a library
  • Items – items within a list or library

SharePoint permissions flow down the site from the root of the site collection unless otherwise changed. If permissions are changed at any level, any items below it will inherit the changed permissions.

SharePoint has a very easy way to check permissions of an individual user, check out my video below on how to use it.



How to create a basic content type

I’ve just created a video guide on creating a simple content type and attaching it to a document library.

You can add custom metadata to a SharePoint list by:

  • Adding columns directly onto the list
  • Using Site Columns (can be reused with other lists)
  • Content Types (can be reused and keeps a set of custom columns together in a content type)

If you decide to use a content type, you will also get the benefits of being able to apply a workflow to the content type (rather than to each list individually). If you are thinking of developing search, content types can be a great way to filter and search for specific types of data in a list. You can also use multiple content types in a list (each with different columns), for example an invoice and a receipt.



Selecting an Office 365 Business plan for the first time

Microsoft provide a nice comparison list of all the available 365 plans for business.

Click here to view the comparison table

However when planning to move to Office 365, you may not have considered the implications of initially choosing a particular plan. You may also have a number of different licences for different users in the organisation (you don’t have to stick to one plan). For example some users may need to download office on their machine (accountants using the full desktop version of Excel) and some may just need a mailbox. I briefly go over the different plans in the video below.



Remember that business licences are for users who don’t need centralised deployment and control. Small businesses may opt for the business licences while larger ones may need some compliance and centralised administration.

Just a quick note on upgrading licences for older tenancies using the Office 365 small business plan. I recently worked with a client using the old Small Business licences, they wanted to upgrade to enterprise but due to it being on the old 365 platform, it wasn’t possible to upgrade from within the admin centre. The only option to upgrade was to create a new tenancy, manually migrate PST files (exchange) and re-sync document libraries (SharePoint) up to the new tenancy using OneDrive for business sync tool. Very annoying and a lot of work! However all users on the new platform with Business licences can upgrade their licences in-place by going to the subscriptions page. I have also been informed by Microsoft that these older plans cannot be renewed after October 2015 and Microsoft will offer some migration options before the licences run out.