Buzzword Bingo + MOSS 2007/WSS v3

Hold on to your hats while I step you (as best I can right now) through the anatomy of a MOSS 2007 Internet Facing WCM capable Variations based site in a light hearted and educationally confusing way …

I wanted to share this whirlwind of information the same way I seem to be learning it.
My Buzzword Bingo Version of Customizing a Variations Based, Internet Facing, WCM/Publishing site in MOSS 2007/WSS v3.

Once you have found the central administration, made your way to the application managment, figured out how to change the web application/port you can then create a site collection, of course this is no regular site, it must be an “Internet Facing, WCM capable publishing site” – keep that in mind when selecting a template.
Next we need to make it multilingual (variations) based, create our variation labels and finally create the heirarchy so that we can actually “begin”.

Content is king we are told so lets start by identifiying the unique pages in our site. These can be represented as Content Types which have Columns within them representing the actual bits of content. Again remember “publishing site” so be sure to choose “Publishing Capable” column types.

We may as well “do something” with our newly created content types so why not created Page Layouts based on them? Great Idea! We can do this via the UI in the browser, or through SharePoint Designer 2007, woo-hoo I love options!

This is great we have a multilingual internet facing wcm capable site that has content types to represent the unique pages and (publishing capable) columns within them to represent the content.

Great we have some building blocks – lets put them together and customize the look by opening SharePoint Designer 2007, connecting to our site. Once inside we need to connect to the _catalogs folder to find the masterpage folder in order to eventually figure out we’re trying to locate TopNavFlyouts.master to make some basic “layout changes” to the overall site. After checking-out of TopNavFlyouts.master, figuring out what all these silly placeholders and controls are and doing some minor customization work to pages we are ready.

So when a users security trimming still allows them to click Create Page within the Site Actions Tab, what actually transpires is:

The user selects one of the Page Layouts you created based on the Content Types based on Unique Pages which have Columns inside them to represent the Content.

The server then says thank you for selecting this page layout – let me now figure out what Master Page your Page Layout is inherting a layout from so that I can merge them together, placing the controls in the appropriate placeholders, show off your shiny new customizations, and eventually present the user with a single Page that they can then interact with by placing content on the page using the WCM features included in MOSS 2007.

Clear as mud? – Again don’t worry, I promise I will create a much needed breakdown of this process in a format you can understand.

SharePoint Community Kit

Lawrence, and Bil have pointed out that CodePlex is officailly launched. One project that I am pleased to say Amanda and I will both be involved with is the SharePoint Community Kit.

You will be able to track the progress from the Project Site on CodePlex.

If you have ideas we are all ears, shoot me an email, leave a comment, use a pigeon … It’s all the same to me.

SharePoint Products and Technologies article on sponsored me to go to Tech ED Boston as a technical writer this year. I had a chance to report back with several articles based on the events and things that really sparked my interest.
My latest article has been posted, this one very focused on SharePoint Technologies, and the community surrounding it.

Lawerence Liu from the SharePoint Team @ Microsoft was even kind enough to share his vision for the community and explains how the community helps to shape the SharePoint Product Group.

Read the “Microsoft Getting Serious About Collaboration” article here 

The importance of planning in MOSS 2007/WSS v3

It’s absolutely critical that you understand the anatomy of sites in MOSS 2007 (WCM) and WSS v3 in order to properly plan your site content and architecture.

I have read countless articles on the ASP.NET 2.0 master pages feature and I have noticed the common explanation is that “master pages should contain common shared elements such as a header, navigation menu, or footer.”  While this may be correct for a lot of cases, it is equally important to understand where it is “not” the case.

You have a variations (multilingual) WCM capable publishing site which you need to customize.  In this situation you may not want to include a ‘static navigation’ bar in your master page.  In a variations scenario, you have multiple sites based on language and each would have to change. 

While it may be unintentional, MOSS 2007 (WCM) / WSS v3 promote site and content architecture planning.  Basically if you do not carefully plan your content types, columns, page layouts and master page customizations you are setting yourself up for failure.

Remember folks – the content should come “before” the design.  Plan your content (types/columns) and page layouts prior to beginning any customization work.

Designing in MOSS 2007/WSS 3.0 – “The Pitch” …

Coming from a web “designer” / graphic designer background, I have my fair share of beefs with SharePoint technologies as a web based platform.  I’ll have a fairly detailed post outlining some of that in the next day or so, in the interim I wanted to share a positive experience I had today while a colleague and I were mulling about under the hood, and something just clicked.

I have spent the last several weeks/months and continue to spend my days immersed in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0. Of course a major part of my focus is dealing with “customizing” the interface.

I am asked fairly often – What makes the next version better in terms of customization – today it finally sunk in and I have my pitch for designing in 2007.

“In past versions of SharePoint technologies I could strip a page down and customize it to the point it was unrecognizable as a “SharePoint” site.  With 2007 technologies, I can not only strip a page down and customize it, but I can also empower users to “Create” pages based on the customized versions without ever writing a single line of code.  That is a huge selling point 2007/v3 has over 2003/v2.

Don’t worry if you have no clue what I am talking about – I will be writing many step-by-step guides and articles on master pages, page layouts, content types, and how they can be leveraged using SharePoint Designer 2007 in the coming weeks.

Stay tuned – I have several other nice treats in the pipe which I’ll be able to share more on soon.

Julie Lerman and Hubby take on Newfoundland

This week Julie Lerman and hubby are staying with us which should be a lot of fun. Julie is set to deliver (I believe) an ADO.NET presentation to our St. John’s .NET usergroup.

It should be a fun week as we teach them to speak newfinese, take in the sights … and of course we have MOSS 2007 + WSS v3 at our place which we’ll force feed her while she’s here.  She LOVES SharePoint!

Customizing Master Pages using SharePoint Designer 2007 (Tip)

I just noticed this little tidbit and figured I would pass it along.  When customizing sites in WSS v2 I made a habit of duplicating and renaming the default.aspx file for disaster recovery purposes. 

MOSS 2007 makes use of the ASP.NET 2.0 feature of “Master Pages” – basically a master page sets the stage for the look and feel – headers, menu’s footers etc.  You then create content pages that “inherit” the master page and hence follow a consistent look/feel.

Thing is though – if you were to open a .master page in SharePoint Designer 2007 and rename it – SharePoint Designer 2007 is smart enough to go to those content pages and change the reference to the master page.

Something to keep in mind, if you thought you done well be backing up your default.master and have been making changes to a new one, your content pages may still reference your backed-up .master page.

A real case scenario (happened to me 5 minutes ago)

While customizing a publishing site just now, I renamed my TopNavFlyouts.master to ORIGINAL-TopNavFlyouts.master and *THEN* duplicated it renaming it back to TopNavFlyouts.master.  The content pages were changed when I renamed the page to reference ORIGINAL- so I wasn’t seeing my changes take place.

Hopefully this will save you a grey hair.

SharePoint Designer 2007 – Hidden Gems

styles1.jpgOne of the great things about SharePoint Designer 2007 is the much improved CSS support. When customizing SharePoint sites, there is now a much cleaner interfacce for dealing with multiple stylesheets.One common scenario might be that you want to customize a variations based WCM (publishing) site. Below lists a couple of quick steps to get you started as well as a couple of visuals for reference.

1) Open your Internet Presense, or Publishing Site if using variations using File, Open Site in SharePoint Designer 2007

2) From the left menu locate and open the _catalogs directory, inside you will find the master pages library where the files you want to edit are stored.

3) Open the TopNavFlyouts.master (I’m as confused as anyone on the name so don’t ask)

4) With the TopNavFlyouts.master open, you should notice a new set of menu’s in the right toolbar – towards the bottom you will see the “manage styles” area. This area is of particular interest as it lists all the style-sheets applied to a particular page and to the best of my knowledge in the order they are referenced which means each layer “down” can over-ride the previous. Double clicking any of these style-sheets will open it for editing at which time you will notice a second level of items in the manage styles menu (the classes). Double clicking any of these bring you directly to the code for editing.

One great tip: While on your TopNavFlyouts.master page select the options drop down in your manage styles pane – there is an option that lets you show ONLY styles which are applicable to the page you are editing. (screenshot below).

You can use the visuals below as a reference:
styles3.jpg styles2.jpg