Facility CMIS Web Parts

I’ve just been looking at the server statistics and have noticed that I’ve had several hits from people who had searched for Facility CMIS web parts or serco CMIS web parts. Just to let you know that I’m currently working on some web parts for Facility CMIS ready to release in January at BETT.

These will cover areas like My Details, timetable, attendance, assessment etc, for pupils, staff and parents. If anyone is interested then drop me a line at miswebparts@salamandersoft.co.uk and I’ll keep you updated on progress.

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SLK and large groups

A couple of the threads on the SLK forum at the moment are about using large domain groups with SLK.

In my personal opinion you should not be assigning thousands of learners to a site. SLK is designed to show all learners assigned to a site, so with that many learners, even with optimization, it’s going to be slow. Even if displaying all the users was lightning fast, from a user’s point of view it’s unusable. Hunting through 6000 learners for the ones you want to assign to is a pain, and would actually be worse and more time consuming if it was paged.

I think that you need more targeted sites for assigning work. Without a better idea of a specific organisation or SharePoint set up it’s had to suggest best practises, but here are a few ideas.

  • In a school, have a site per class/teaching group with the appropriate pupils as learners.
  • In a company, have a site per department with the departmental members as learners.
  • If you regularly give set courses, have a site per course with the SLK Learner role assigned as appropriate
  • Have a site per instructor, which they have control over. They can then give permissions to the appropriate learners.

You will probably find if you create extra sites, they will expand to become collaboration sites as well as just sites for assigning work.

Don’t forget, you don’t have to create specific sites just to assign work. You can re-use your existing hierarchy by assigning SLK Learner and Instructor permissions on the existing sites.

Of course sometimes there are situations when you might need to assign work to a large number of users. In that case it might be useful to have an option to assign to a group without displaying the members. It would still be slow on assigning as it gets assigned to each user. This would need a change to the SLK code though and work on it seems to be stalled at the moment.

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Office Web Applications – Word etc in your browser

Last Friday I went to a SharePoint user group hosted by Microsoft in Reading. While there Microsoft highlighted some of the announcements which were made at the PDC conference in October.

One of the highlights was that in Office 14, the next version of Microsoft Office, Microsoft will deliver “Office Web Applications” which are lightweight versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote which run in browsers. This won’t just be IE either, they will be cross-browser compatible and run on different devices as well, such as your phone.

Microsoft’s aim with the online verion is to make them ‘high-fidelity’, i.e. they will look exactly the same in the browser based version as the rich-client version. They will also support multiple people editing a single document at a time, just like currently in OneNote. The online versions won’t have all the features of the rich-client version, but I imagine that most of what we use them for will be supported, with only the more esoteric functions missing.

Licensing and costs have not been announced yet, but Microsoft will deliver Office Web Applications to consumers through Office Live and to businesses as a hosted subsription service and through existing volume licensing agreements.

It will be interesting to see how peoples view of Office changes with the move towards person licensing rather than device licensing. I can see a large take-up amongst students where they can use the free ad-funded license. However, I imagine businesses are going to be more cautious and roll-out the rich-client when they upgrade rather then just rely on the web based offering as it will be quite a mind-set change.

There’s some more information on the Microsoft PressPass site.

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Use MOSS filter webparts with Data Viewer Web Part

One of my existing customers is currently trialling the Data Viewer Web Part in order to display the timetable from Facility CMIS. He was quite happy writing the SQL to retrieve it from the database, but wanted a quick and easy way to display it. He was delighted with how simple it was to retrieve the information for the logged in pupil by using a parameterised query with the pupil’s Student ID was is stored in Active Directory.

For the staff though, he wanted them to be able to display a selected pupil’s timetable and suggested using the MOSS filter webparts. I hadn’t actually come across these before so did some investigation and decided it would be nice if the Data Viewer could be connected to them, and it didn’t look too difficult. In the end it took longer than anticipated due to where in the web part lifecyle the connection was made, and how that interacted with the sorting and paging functionality, but now the Data Viewer Web Part can be connected to the MOSS filter web parts. The value from a filter web part can now be used in the parameterised SQL query, just like Active Directory attributes can.

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Add Hyperlink to Data Viewer Web Part

I had interest in the Data Viewer Web Part from a school who wanted to list the videos stored in their media server within their SharePoint portal. Their media server didn’t have any native way of doing this, but they were familiar with the database structure so were interested in seeing if the web part could help them.

They really wanted to be able to display a link so that the users could click on it and then see the appropriate video. I thought that this sounded like a good idea and added a column formatting option so that a column could be turned into a hyperlink, optionally displaying another column as the hyperlink text. This worked perfectly for them and they are now using it to surface their videos in SharePoint.

The column formatting option only currently supports converting into hyperlinks and hiding a column (if being used for the text in the hyperlink), but I could easily extend it to support other types of formatting. However, most formatting could be done in the SQL statement already by using the built in SQL formatting.

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