FAQ: How to Remove “Show All”, “Hide All” and “Full Screen” in the SPELL Tabs Gratis Version

TabsSections

 

 

Haven’t tried out the gratis version of the SPELL Tabs yet? Fill out the contact form with your company information, and you’ll receive the solution within 48 hours.

The SPELL Tabs interface includes 3 sections:

  • tabs for inline content (bound to Web Parts, similar to the Easy Tabs)
  • tabs for links (navigate to other pages)
  • controls

When I started sharing samples from the SPELL program, last year, the most frequent question I got was: “How can I remove the link to Path to SharePoint from the tabs?”. That’s right, one of the tabs was a link to this blog (cf. above screenshot), a friendly reminder that I brought the solution to your home.

Not so friendly as it turned out, as seeing that tab systematically in any tabbed interface was more than a user can bear. Lesson learned, when I released the gratis version 1.1 earlier this year, I made sure the Path to SharePoint link was removed.

To date, more than 200 companies have adopted or are evaluating v1.1, and I am not getting questions about links anymore… here’s what I get now: “I don’t need the Show All (+), Hide All (-) and Full Screen ([ ]) controls, how can I remove them?”.

 

Why these controls?

First, let me explain the main reason why I added these controls in the first place: printing. Users sometimes like or need paper or pdf copies of the zone content. In such cases, they usually need to make all the Web Parts visible, and sometimes hide the rest of the page. In some cases, I have implemented custom interfaces where the user can pick which Web Parts he/she wants to print. Such implementations are usually combined with stylesheets that include media types.

So think about it before deciding to remove the controls!

 

How to modify or remove the controls?

In the full version, you can manage the controls via the Tabs editor. In the gratis version however, you need to do it manually:

1. Follow the general instructions in the documentation. You’ll end up with a URL that looks like this:

SPELL1.1.0TabsGratisVersion.aspx

SPELL1.1.0TabsGratisVersion.aspx#css.activeBackground=Orange

2. Append the custom control settings

SPELL1.1.0TabsGratisVersion.aspx#controls.viewAll=;controls.hideAll=;controls.fullScreen=

SPELL1.1.0TabsGratisVersion.aspx#css.activeBackground=Orange;controls.viewAll=;controls.hideAll=;controls.fullScreen=

 

Instead of removing the controls, you can also change their look, for example:

SPELL1.1.0TabsGratisVersion.aspx#controls.viewAll=Expand;controls.hideAll=Collapse

 

Trick or treat? Group items by month

OrderedMonthsIt’s that time of the year again when the unnatural becomes the norm, so let’s continue the tradition started last year with the SPELL program. Our goal today will be to display list or library items grouped by month, as shown in the screenshot.

The deal is that we don’t want any custom code or workflow here, just the regular out of the box UI features. We’ll be creating two calculated columns, called Year and Month, where we’ll insert the appropriate formulas. I chose the “Modified” column for my sample formulas, but of course any other date column would work too.

The YEAR and MONTH functions

YearNumber

A quick review of the SharePoint date functions gives you YEAR and MONTH that should fit the bill:

Year:  =YEAR(Modified)
Month: =MONTH(Modified)

The result is less than satisfactory though (see screenshot), as the year is displayed with a thousands separator. and months are displayed as numbers.

The magical TEXT function

MixedMonthsFurther exploration will take you to the TEXT function. It is not very well documented in SharePoint, fortunately you can rely on the Excel documentation and come out with the following formulas:
Year:  =TEXT(Modified,"yyyy")
Month: =TEXT(Modified,"mmmm")

Still not happy with the result? Right, the months are displayed in alphabetical order, not sequential order, not yet an ideal experience for our end user.

So let’s pull our last trick, and use the following formula for the calculated month:
Month: =REPT(" ",13-MONTH(Modified))&TEXT(Modified,"mmmm")

You can see the final result live on this page.

What’s the trick? We are still relying on the out of the box alphabetical sorting, but to force the order, we are adding a bunch of white spaces before the month name. The calculated Month actually contains the following values (each _ represents a white space):
____________January
___________February
__________March

__November
_December

Now, why don’t we see these spaces on the Web page? What makes the magic work is that when you insert multiple spaces in a Web page, the html specification says that

user agents should collapse input white space sequences

That’s it!

If you want to get really fancy, you could even use the zero-width space character. The best part is that people who edit your formula won’t even understand the trick, as the zero-width space won’t be visible (there’s however a good chance that they break your cool formula).

To take this further

You can apply this trick to other situations. A typical example is a color code. The alphabetical order will give you Green-Red-Yellow or Amber-Green-Red, you can address that by adding the appropriate leading spaces.

Be careful with this technique though: even if the rendering looks fine, the spaces are indeed stored in the field, and this might break other customizations. So this trick is better kept in a calculated column that will be exclusively used for rendering purposes.

Quick Demo: Process Navigation for SharePoint Forms

ProcessSteps

This month I am releasing version 1.1 of the SPELL library, with two major module rewrites. One of them is the SPELL Form module, which allows to enhance the out of the box SharePoint forms, and now includes features such as cascading selections and inline navigation. I’ll have more code to share next month, but for now let me just share a quick demo.

When we refer to inline navigation, we usually think tabs, like what we’ve been accustomed to with the Easy Tabs. The SPELL Nav and SPELL Form modules will render tabs by default, but beyond that they also have the ability to integrate other designs. For today’s demo, I have chosen a type of navigation often found in forms, and usually referred to as “process navigation” or “process steps”, where each “tab” is displayed as an arrow.

Click here for the live demo. Note that such designs rely on css properties that might not work in older browsers.

For the record, I had to fake the form, as you cannot display the out of the box forms on an Office 365 public site (!).

SPELL Nav, the successor of the Easy Tabs

The SPELL library is reaching version 0.8 this month. My main achievement in this release is the completion of the “Inline Navigation” module.

SPELL supports SharePoint 2007, 2010, 2013 and Office 365, and to demonstrate it I have updated all my sites:

All pages run the same version of SPELL, and the look of each menu is controlled via options. The idea is the same as with the original Easy Tabs – reuse the Web Part titles to automatically generate the navigation – but the code has been completely refactored. It is now more solid, for example when it comes to synchronization with the rest of the page, styling, print preview, and inclusion in wiki pages. It also offers more features:

  • Option to have more than one Web Part per tab
  • Compatible with display forms (this is especially useful if like me you are a fan of the “Related Items” feature)
  • Direct link to activate a specific tab (for example access the SharePoint Hosting section on the UMS home page)
  • Can be implemented in the middle of a zone, not necessarily at the top
  • Can include hyperlinks to external page (see the demos)
  • etc.

If you have subscribed to the SPELL interest list, you’ll receive a code sample by the end of this month.

As I have already mentioned, I consider that the Easy Tabs code is obsolete and I won’t update it. Also, it has become more and more time consuming to support such UI widgets because of the increasing number of SharePoint versions, browsers and supported devices (for example tablets and mobile), so I am more careful than before when it comes to releasing such tools.

That said, I understand that not everybody is willing to subscribe to the SPELL program. To allow end users to enjoy a smooth upgrade to SP 2013, in the next couple months I’ll publish in the SharePoint User Toolkit a lightweight version of the SPELL Nav that will cover most of the features offered by the current Easy Tabs.

[Update] SPELL Tabs: commercial and free versions now available

Teaser: real time Business Intelligence in SharePoint

StatesMap

I am making progress on my SPELL project. Its main component, the SPELL JavaScript library ($P), recently reached version 0.6 and has been implemented on a couple sites. I expect to reach version 0.7 by the end of the month and version 1 by the end of the year.

To showcase some of the capabilities of the SPELL library, I have set up a live demo featuring airline ontime statistics. In this demo, you can explore data across 3 dimensions: State (first level), Month and Carrier (second level). The third level are the list items themselves.

The first level is rendered via Google GeoCharts (for v1 SPELL will have other map options). The second level – matrix view – is a custom SPELL solution that mimics an Excel pivot table (much simpler though). You saw it in the slides if you read my previous post.

“Real time” refers to the fact that data is directly pulled from the SharePoint list. The charts always read the latest updates, as opposed to traditional BI patterns where data transfers are done at regular intervals. And there is no need for intermediate storage, as would be the case for Excel Services for example.

Note: for practical reasons the demo takes some shortcuts. For example the map doesn’t collect data directly from the list.

 I collected the airline data  (January to July 2012) from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, I’ll add August as soon as it becomes available. Obviously interacting with more than 3 million items would not be reasonable, so I have done some pre-processing to aggregate the data by month and state. This brings the number of items down to ~500/month, for a total of 3,500 since the beginning of the year.

This is the downside of this solution: because it directly interacts with lists, it is subject to SharePoint’s usual limitations, for example the 5000 item threshold on views in SP 2010. Technically the tool could work with much bigger data sets, but this would require some adjustments and might not be desirable.

The solution showcased here has no ambition to compete with well established tools like PerformancePoint, SSRS or even Excel, but rather to offer a lightweight alternative. It presents a number of advantages that make it attractive :

  • Compatible with SharePoint 2007, 2010, Office 365 (evaluation of SP 2013 in progress)
  • Can easily be implemented by an experienced end user. No server side install, files are simply uploaded to a document library.
  • Direct, real time access to the SharePoint data (which means for example that it follows site, list and item level permissions).
  • Pure html (no Flash or Silverlight), accessible from both desktop and mobile devices.

This could for example be the ideal tool for a mid-size matrix organization, with multiple teams working on multiple programs. Managers could monitor the organization health, use the matrix view to analyze trends (what brings my organization up/down, a specific project or a specific team?), and finally access the items themselves.

Introducing SPELL, a framework to speed up SharePoint customizations

Spell (paranormal), the claimed art of altering things either by supernatural means or through knowledge of occult natural laws unknown to science.

(Source: Wikipedia)

For 8 years, I have been writing solutions for SharePoint from the user’s side – I mean with only the SharePoint UI or tools like SharePoint Designer (originally FrontPage) as entry points, without direct access to the server.

When I started, in 2004, these were mainly patches to enhance the SharePoint interface, like menus or tabs. Then in the following years, the evolution of JavaScript and AJAX, and key enhancements in SharePoint 2007, like workflows, allowed me to build more and more sophisticated solutions, evolving from enhanced Web pages to the status of small applications.

In 2008, I started publishing some solutions on my blog. Others did the same, and today SharePoint users can find online a large choice of tools that allow them to quickly enhance a basic SharePoint team site.

However, this organic growth comes at a price. When users start relying heavily on these solutions, their pages become cluttered. Sites become much slower because of redundancies. Maintenance quickly becomes an issue, especially when these users start adding libraries like jQuery. Sometimes, there will be conflicts between the tools, because they were not built with modularity and scalability in mind.

I have been witnessing these issues in the past couple years, and also facing them myself, as I was duplicating the same snippets over and over across different modules. To address this, some time ago I started grouping all my scattered solutions under a single umbrella, called SPELL.

What can SPELL do?

The goal is to offer a consistent, easy-to-maintain-and-upgrade package that covers all the customizations that can be done from the user’s side: client side scripting, CSS, XSL views, SharePoint Designer workflows, calculated columns, etc.

For now, SPELL is mainly a JavaScript library (abbreviated $P) that allows to:

  • enhance the look of SharePoint pages, with tabs, slideshows, menus, etc.
  • build dashboards, including color coded indicators and charts
  • enhance the out of the box forms (New, Display, Edit)
  • connect with plugins offered by JavaScript libraries (jQuery or other) for additional functionalities
  • etc.

The free SharePoint User Toolkit gives you an idea of the kind of questions SPELL can address, although on a completely different scale.

SPELL includes utilities such as for example:

  • functions to facilitate the use of Web services, REST services, RSS, owssvr, etc.
  • functions to interact with the content of SharePoint pages
  • data format manipulations (xml, JSON, datatables)
  • a templating engine

Who could be interested in SPELL?

SPELL is for anybody who need to customize SharePoint, beyond out of the box list views and page layouts. It works with SharePoint 2007, SharePoint 2010 or SharePoint Online (Office 365), An important difference with traditional libraries is that SPELL is meant to be end user friendly, in the same spirit as the SharePoint User Toolkit. The idea is to offer a Lego-like set, so that even users with limited technical knowledge can safely assemble solutions.

Despite an ambitious scope, SPELL doesn’t aim at replacing server side solutions on large scale deployments. Its purpose is rather to fill the gaps, at the team level, or serve as an intermediary step while waiting for final solutions that have longer development cycles.

Timeline and availability

I have been working on this project, on and off, since 2010. The main component of the framework, the JavaScript library, just reached version 0.3, and is the first version to be put in production. In the weeks and months to come, it’ll be deployed for my current users, going from DJ30 companies to small businesses (and even one man shops). I also plan to build a special edition with tabs, slideshow and charting connectors as part of a hosting service. Later on, SPELL will be the core of a SharePoint coaching program that will start this Fall. The objective is to reach version 1.0 by October.

An important step this year will be to assess SPELL against the new version of SharePoint, and confirm if the upgrade process is as easy as advertised…

For more details…

I am currently building an interest list for the SPELL coaching program. Feel free to send me an e-mail, and I’ll include you in a distribution list to receive progress updates and code samples. You’re also welcome to provide specific information about your environment and your needs, to discuss how SPELL could help on your projects.

Pie and Bar Charts (Google connector)

Pie

I already mentioned it briefly in an earlier post: the SharePoint User Toolkit now includes a tool that allows you to add simple pie or bar charts to your SharePoint pages.

The code is actually a connector that points to the powerful Google Visualization interface. For this reason, Internet access is required.

A common concern with online tools is data security. In this case, we are safe, Google’s privacy policy explicitly states that no data is sent to the server. The charts are directly rendered in your browser. This is a major difference with the Google Image Chart API, where data is sent in clear to the server, which uses it to build and return an image.

Under the hood, the code works the same way as the Image Rotator: it retrieves data from a specific view of your SharePoint list.