The dreaded “D” word

I’m talking about DELETE. recycle-bin

The prospect of something getting deleted from SharePoint can strike fear into the hearts of many users. So much fear, in fact, that they go to extraordinary lengths to try to make it so that no one CAN delete anything…. EVER. But think about it- SharePoint is not a catch-all or a bottomless archive. SharePoint is generally meant to hold active content that matters- in real time- to you and your colleagues. Sometimes people need to delete things. Sometimes people SHOULD delete things.

Don’t you know that SharePoint has your back? Use the tools at your disposal to ensure that you’ll never be the last to know when someone deletes a document or a list item, and give you ample chance to restore it if necessary.

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Checking out documents = no one else can see them!

“I can see the April TPS Report but my boss can’t!” 

Guess what? Documents in a checked-out state are hidden from other users.

This simple solution is often overlooked.  You may not even realize they are checked out.  Rather than notice that the April TPS Report is checked out, you assume a permissions problem or other drastic reason. Trouble can come when well-meant efforts to “fix” the issue result in much more serious problems.  

As a rule, the first thing end users should do in this situation is to determine whether the items in question are checked out. Check them back in, and voilà! Visible again.

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“Where’s my document?”

Scenario: User reported, “Document X in Folder Y in Library Z should be visible to all users! I can see it but no one else can… What’s going on?”

There are several places to check in a situation like this. Many may assume a permissions issue, especially when folders are involved. Broken permission inheritance, perhaps? I checked the library permissions, folder permissions and document-level permissions. Everything was fine.

Next I wondered if the document was checked out. Nope!

Lastly I looked at versioning settings. Bingo! The library had major/minor versioning enabled, with the most restrictive drafts option selected. The document in question was in draft status, therefore the only people who could see it were its creator and those with Approver permissions. No one else would be able to see it until it’s published to a major version.

To help prevent situations like this, make sure those using the library understand what settings are in place. Versioning applies to the entire library, so only use it when it’s appropriate and logical for all documents in the library. It’s overkill and undue complexity to impose on users when the library doesn’t truly call for it across the board. Make sure all users understand such advanced features.

It’s also a good idea to include something in the library’s description referencing the use of versioning, so it’s not necessary to delve into the settings to discover what’s been put in place. Since permissions can prevent many from accessing the settings, users as well as troubleshooters will benefit from the heads-up.

Also, I would have made sure that the default library view displays both the “Version” column and the “Status” column, so it’s always clear what’s what. If those columns had been in place in this library, it would have been immediately apparent to me that the file was in Draft status and that the version number was indicative of that- it would have been something like 1.3 or 2.2, not the ends-in-zero number indicating a major version (such as 3.0).

Bottom line- if you’ve gone through the trouble of configuring major/minor versioning (including the strictest option for hiding viewing drafts), you should have a good reason. You should also have prepared your users for how that affects their ability to share documents. The command to publish to a major version isn’t glaringly obvious so get that training out there.

Calculated column to enable “does not begin with” list filter

It has always baffled me why SharePoint offered a “Begins with…” filter parameter but did not offer “Does not begin with…” to meet the opposite need. Clare Stone offers a brilliantly simple solution to this aggravating problem in her Pentalogic SharePoint Blog post, “How to Create a SharePoint ‘Does Not Begin With’ Filtered List View.” Calculated columns to the rescue again!

I also recommend downloading their Calculated Column Cheat Sheet for a great resource to keep on hand when you’re stumped about calculated columns.

See all Clare’s posts on the Pentalogic SharePoint Blog

Reusability as a SharePoint guiding principle

There are very few instances where you will interact with SharePoint and NOT find yourself in a position to benefit from re-used content in one form or another. From site columns to site templates, “one-off” content creation has practically no place in a well-planned SharePoint environment. SharePoint wants you to leverage that which has already been created, which is why so many features and tools exist that facilitate this behavior.

Create for re-use
The more you can standardize aspects of your SharePoint site, the better off you are. The more users your site has, the greater this need. Every time you create with re-use in mind, you save time and effort down the road for everyone (even though you may not see instant return on your investment). You also increase consistency, improve adoption rates, boost search results and build integration.

This is important to remember when you’re tempted to just throw another choice column into a default document library or list… instead, stop and consider whether that column should really be a site column. Wouldn’t it be better to place that column in a location where everyone could benefit from it? And while we’re on the subject, why not go ahead and save that library as a template, so no one has to recreate it from scratch? If you thought it was worth creating, chances are someone else will too.

I feel so strongly about this that I will go so far as to say ,“If you create something in SharePoint without first thoughfully evaluating it for re-use (or incorporation into an already-existing content element), you’re doing it wrong.” That evaluation should become second nature and be part of every creation process.

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