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Access Services in SharePoint 2013…More ‘No Code’ Solutions...

If you are like me, the thought of using Microsoft Access for ‘No Code Solutions’ in SharePoint 2013 probably elicited an eye-roll of sorts. We are talking about Access, the same Office application that created the dreaded .MDB files that have cluttered hard drives for years and caused many IT headaches. However, I thought I would give it a closer look after seeing some pretty impressive presentations of its use at this year’s SharePoint Conference and because I’m looking for what has become of ‘No Code’ or Composite solutions in SharePoint 2013. For reference, Composite Solutions in SharePoint have traditionally been business solutions in SharePoint that leverage InfoPath Forms, SharePoint Workflows, SharePoint Designer, Business Connectivity Services and Reporting without the need for custom code development. Like Excel Services, Visio Services and Word Services in SharePoint Access Services allows you to deploy Access Databases to SharePoint and allow users to access and use them without the need for the Desktop Client. The fact that you can host and use access applications on SharePoint as opposed to having an MDB on your hard drive or shared drive reason enough to give Access another look. Oh by the way, the Access Services App in SharePoint 2013 actually creates a new SQL database for each Access Services App that is added which provides much better scalability. Still not convinced? That’s OK neither was I but when you add in the new form designer, ability to run macros and the ability to use reporting tools like Power BI this becomes a very interesting solution for no-code solutions in SharePoint. Let’s take a quick look at how it works… To create an Access Services (assuming your SharePoint Admin has configured Access Services) simply ‘Add an App’ in the site where you want to host the App. Note: All Access Services Apps will appear in the Access Maroon color. In this example, I’m going to create a new App from scratch and use a predefined template once I have open the new App in the Access Desktop, but you can also upload an App package as the basis for your new App. App Packages are a Save Option in the Access 2013 Desktop. Once my new Access App is created we need to start adding tables to the using Access 2013 Desktop I can add tables manually or from existing sources, in this case I’m going to use a template for Asset Tracking. In the Asset are 3 tables (Assets, Categories and Employees) and a number of different forms. We can easily modify the forms to add additional fields, new buttons and new views all within the interface and they will render as a webpage when we access it in SharePoint. Here’s the same form in our SharePoint Online site. The bonus here is that we can now connect to Access Databases as a data source in PowerPivot and create PowerView reports. You will need to enable the Read-Only Connection in the Info backstage with Access 2013 in order to connect Excel to the data. As you can see, there are a number of compelling features in Access 2013 and Access Services in SharePoint 2013 that appeal to the ‘no-code’ solution crowd; in particular, those that have a lot of experience creating business solutions in Access. The fact that it creates and stores the data in SQL, provides web access to forms, an easy to use form design interface and the ability to connect to the...
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Windows Phone Office Lens Review

Windows Phone Office Lens Review

Microsoft recently released a new free Windows Phone App that allows you to easily capture Whiteboards, Documents and Photos called Office Lens. If you aren’t familiar with OneNote it is a killer note taking application that allows you to store notes as loosely or as structured as your organizational style permits. Storing your OneNote Notebooks Online (in SharePoint) in the Cloud (OneDrive) allows you to take notes on whatever device you have handy (iPad, Surface, iPhone, PC or Windows Phone). I, like a lot of people, rely heavily on OneNote for all my meeting notes, thoughts, and ideas. Until the release of Office Lens there really wasn’t an easy way to capture whiteboard images or documents. Since I take a lot of white board pictures on my Lumina 920 I thought I’d take it for a spin and I must say I was impressed. The app cleans up a lot of the typical problems with taking pictures of whiteboards (glare, orientation and overall readability…my messy handwriting aside). Take a look at the results below. You simply open the Office Lens App, set it to ‘Whiteboard mode’ and take a photo. The app does the rest of the work, storing the results in your ‘Unfiled Notes’ tab within OneNote.   There is also a document mode that allows you to take photos of receipts, business cards, etc   Office Lens is not complex but it is a powerful scanning app with seamless integration with OneNote to that produces some real productivity gains. Learn more about it...
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New in SharePoint Online…PowerBI Q&A

New in SharePoint Online…PowerBI Q&A...

Last week Microsoft officially released its PowerBI service for Office 365. Power BI has grown to encapsulate the four Microsoft Excel plugins/features of Power Query, Power Pivot, Power View and Power Maps. In addition, when Power BI is deployed to an Office 365 tenant you get a host of features for managing data connections, access to Power View reports via Windows 8 app, a PowerBI dashboard and my favorite natural language search. Insights through Q&A At the heart of Business Intelligence is the quest for information/data needed to monitor progress and make business decisions. In reality, answers to questions like ‘How many customers do we have?’ With existing BI tools these types of questions are often answered with reports. Reports are sent via email, printed out put on a SharePoint site or consumed in the form of a dash board. With Power BI this is done by typing your question. Membership Example In order to take PowerBI for a spin I used an Excel PowerPivot document with 5 million rows of data about the membership of my subscription based website. To get started, I simply uploaded the file which was around 80 MB (Power BI can support files up to 250 MB). Once uploaded, I just needed to enable it and click ‘Add to Q&A’ which allows you to control what data is available in the Q and A interface. I clicked ‘Search with Power BI Q&A’ and was ready to ask some questions like…     This is a pretty powerful way of getting the information you need. The interface is pretty sleek (does require IE 10) and provides ways to change the visual from Bar Chart to Pie Chart to Map, etc. You can even save the question to the Power BI dashboard as a ‘Featured Question’ so that others can simply click on it to view the report without having to ask the question themselves. I really like this natural language option for getting to the data I need quickly and...
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SharePoint 2013: 5 Noticeable Improvements in eDiscovery

SharePoint 2013: 5 Noticeable Improvements in eDiscovery...

?One of the most improved areas of SharePoint 2013 lies within the eDiscovery capabilities. The SharePoint 2013 eDiscovery capabilities are a great leap forward from SharePoint 2010, which greatly benefited from the addition of FAST Search Capabilities to provide SharePoint with its first real eDiscovery capabilities. With SharePoint 2010, you could place legal holds on entire SharePoint sites, copy eDiscovery search results to a separate repository and of course an API to develop your own eDiscovery capabilities. However, SharePoint 2010 was still fairly limited in that discovery and/or holds were mostly limited to SharePoint and holds were not transparent (i.e. people could see the holds and also could not modify the content). In SharePoint 2013, these limitations have been addressed as well as other useful tools for using eDiscovery have been included. 1.  New eDiscovery Site Template – In SharePoint 2013 Microsoft introduces a new site template for use by eDiscovery teams. Creating a new case creates a new team site using the eDiscovery site template. Each new site or ‘case’ includes various lists and libraries that can be used by a team performing an investigation. 2.  eDiscovery Search Queries – Because SharePoint 2013 eDiscovery utilizes the much improved enterprise search capabilities of the SharePoint you can expect faster and more accurate queries for review and export. 3.  In-Place Holds – In SharePoint 2013 you can place SharePoint documents, list items and pages on legal hold. You can also place Exchange 2013 mailboxes on legal hold. Unlike SharePoint 2010, this can be done without users becoming aware and allows them to keep working on the content while it is in legal hold status. You can place items on hold at the site/mailbox level as well as locate specific documents in a search query. 4.  Export – In SharePoint 2013 you can export the results from search queries in order to provide the results to external users (which is often required when dealing with litigation). Similar to in-place exported content can be from SharePoint documents, lists, pages and Exchange objects. 5.  Preservation Hold Library – In SharePoint 2013 when a site has an in-place hold applied to it any modified or deleted content will be placed in the Preservation Hold Library. This was implemented to prevent having always export content (and consume unnecessary disk space) when placing a legal hold on a document. In conclusion, while this is certainly not a ‘best of breed’ eDiscovery solution, Microsoft has made significant improvements to how organizations can locate, place on legal hold and export content in SharePoint 2013 and Exchange 2013. The most notable feature gap remains the ability to search past versions of documents. However, as is the case with many of the capabilities of SharePoint, functionality gaps like this that can be addressed by custom programming using the API or via 3rd Party tools....