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Corey Roth [MVP]

A SharePoint MVP bringing you the latest time saving tips for SharePoint 2013, Office 365 / SharePoint Online and Visual Studio 2013.
  • Querying Office Delve Boards with JavaScript and REST

    The new functionality of Office Delve, Boards, just came out recently.  As a developer, you might be thinking how can I access this data in my own applications.  This post will help you get started.  These queries use the new Graph Query Language (GQL) syntax of Office Graph.  As the GQL reference link points out you should be warned that these APIs are highly subject to change and should not be used in production applications.  The queries we are using today were determined by examining the REST API calls from the pages inside Delve.  They may work now, but they may not work in the future.

    Querying the boards a user is following

    First, we want to determine which boards a user is following.  We want to return the same data that we see in the left navigation of Delve.

    DelveBoardList

    It appears Delve makes use of a new “protocol handler” like technology that has it’s own URL syntax.  These URLs look like TAG://PUBLIC.  To get the list of boards a user is following, we issue the following query:

    TAG://PUBLIC/?NAME=*

    However, we also have to include some Properties in our REST query to get the data we need.  In particular interest is the new GQL action number 1050 that you use on the me actor.  Here is what the entire REST query looks like.   I recommend limiting the SelectProperties that you returnThe important ones are Title, Path, and DocId.

    https://<tenant>.sharepoint.com/_api/search/query?QueryText='Path:"TAG://PUBLIC/?NAME=*"'&Properties='IncludeExternalContent:true,GraphQuery:actor(me\,action\:1050),GraphRankingModel:action\:1050\,weight\:1\,edgeFunc\:time\,mergeFunc\:max'&SelectProperties='Title,Path,DocId'

    Try typing it in the browser of your tenant. 

    DelveBoardFollowedXml

    Looking at the individual results, you’ll see the name of the board, it’s path and the DocId.   The Title contains the name of the board in all caps.  The Path we can use to query items that have been tagged. The DocId actually refers to an ActorId that we’ll use later.

    Querying the items tagged to a board

    When you visit a board’s page in Delve, it actually issues two queries to get the items that have been tagged to the board.  First, it issues a query using the path we saw above.  It does this to get the ActorId which is stored in the DocId property.  It then uses that ActorId in a second query to get the actual items that have been tagged to the board.  If you already know the ActorId, you can obviously skip the first step to retrieve it.

    To get the ActorId, we issue a query using the path on the TAG URL with the name in all caps following the NAME parameter.  This is just like what we saw in the results above.  Here is what the REST query looks like.  We are only interested in the DocId property so we specify that in the SelectProperties.

    https://<tenant>.sharepoint.com/_api/search/query?QueryText='Path="TAG://PUBLIC/?NAME=<board name>"'&Properties='IncludeExternalContent:true'&SelectProperties='DocId'

    Now let’s write some JavaScript code to retrieve this value.  In my example, we’re going to retrieve the ActorId for the Marketing board in a SharePoint-hosted app.  Make sure you request the Search permission in your AppManifest.xml.  I have URL encoded the URL.  This just uses a simple call with $.ajax.  I’ve left out the use of deferreds to keep it simple. 

    $(document).ready(function () {

        var queryUrl = _spPageContextInfo.webAbsoluteUrl + '/_api/search/query?' +

            'QueryText=%27Path%3D"TAG%3A%2F%2FPUBLIC%2F%3FNAME%3DMARKETING"%27&Properties=%27IncludeExternalContent:true%27&SelectProperties=%27DocId%27';

     

     

        $.ajax({ url: queryUrl, method: "GET", headers: { "Accept": "application/json; odata=verbose" }, success: onQuerySuccess, error: onQueryError });

     

    });

    In our onQuerySuccess function, we will retrieve the value of the ActorId.  Remember it is stored in the DocId managed property.  The data of search results is buried in multiple objects, so you have to go through quite a bit to get to it.  For more information on querying search with JavaScript and REST, see this code sample on MSDN Code.

    function onQuerySuccess(data) {

        var results = data.d.query.PrimaryQueryResult.RelevantResults.Table.Rows.results;

     

        var actorId;

        $.each(results[0].Cells.results, function () {

            if (this.Key == 'DocId')

                actorId = this.Value;

        });

     

        $("#actorId").html(actorId);

    }

    Now, that we have the ActorId, we can issue the query to get the item associated with the board.  In the simplest form, you issue a query with QueryText of * (everything).  You then issue a GraphQuery using the ActorId and the undocumented ActionId of 1045.  However, if you want the query to match exactly what is on the Board page, you need a few additional exclusions.  These exclusions specifically remove content hidden from Delve as well as only show specific file extensions.  Here is what the REST URL looks like.

    https://<tenant>.sharepoint.com/_api/search/query?QueryText='* AND ((NOT HideFromDelve:True) AND (FileExtension:doc OR FileExtension:docx OR FileExtension:ppt OR FileExtension:pptx OR FileExtension:xls OR FileExtension:xlsx OR FileExtension:pdf OR ContentTypeId:0x010100F3754F12A9B6490D9622A01FE9D8F012*))'&Properties='GraphQuery:actor(<actorId>\,action\:1045),GraphRankingModel:action\:1045\,weight\:1\,edgeFunc\:time\,mergeFunc\:max,IncludeExternalContent:true'

    When it comes to the JavaScript, we simply replace out the ActorId  Again we encode the URL.

    var boardQueryUrl = _spPageContextInfo.webAbsoluteUrl + '/_api/search/query?' +

        "QueryText='* AND ((NOT HideFromDelve:True) AND " +

        "(FileExtension:doc OR FileExtension:docx OR FileExtension:ppt OR FileExtension:pptx OR FileExtension:xls OR FileExtension:xlsx OR FileExtension:pdf OR ContentTypeId:0x010100F3754F12A9B6490D9622A01FE9D8F012*))'" +

        "&Properties='GraphQuery:actor(" + actorId + "%5C%2Caction%5C%3A1045),GraphRankingModel%3Aaction%5C%3A1045%5C%2Cweight%5C%3A1%5C%2CedgeFunc%5C%3Atime%5C%2CmergeFunc%5C%3Amax,IncludeExternalContent:true'";

     

    $.ajax({ url: boardQueryUrl, method: "GET", headers: { "Accept": "application/json; odata=verbose" }, success: onQuerySuccess2, error: onQueryError });

    Now, in our success function, I simply return the results as a table by iterating through all of the rows and cells of the results.  The first loop prints out the column names and the second one writes out each row.

    function onQuerySuccess2(data) {

        var results = data.d.query.PrimaryQueryResult.RelevantResults.Table.Rows.results;

     

        $("#results").append('<table>');

     

        $("#results").append('<tr>');

        $.each(results[0].Cells.results, function () {

            $("#results").append('<th>' + this.Key + '</th>');

        });

        $("#results").append('</tr>');

     

        $.each(results, function () {

            $("#results").append('<tr>');

            $.each(this.Cells.results, function () {

                $("#results").append('<td>' + this.Value + '</td>');

            });

            $("#results").append('</tr>');

        });

     

        $("#results").append('</table>');

    }

    Here’s what my results look like in my SharePoint-hosted app.

    DelveBoardResults

    Comparing it to the original page in Delve for the boards, you will notice the results are the same.

    DelveBoardMarketing

    If you are interested in developing with Boards in Office Delve, I hope you have found this post helpful.  This information hasn’t really been documented so it’s highly subject to change.  Try it out and let me know what you come up with.

    Follow me on twitter: @coreyroth

  • A quick look at Boards in Office Delve

    Updated: January 9th, 2015

    You might have heard today that the new Boards (aka Pinterest) feature for Office Delve was released to First Release customers of Office 365.  I was lucky enough to have it show up already in a few of my tenants, so I thought I would share my initial experience. 

    When you open Delve now, you’ll notice a new icon that says Add to board

    DelvreBoardNoTag

    Clicking on the icon will allow you to type the name of a new board or select an existing one. 

    DelveBoardNewBoardName

    Once you have tagged your document, it will show underneath the document for all users.  Items tagged to boards are visible to all users.  However, the results are still security trimmed like everything else.  That means if Sara pins something to Acquisitions, but Alex doesn’t have permission to it, Alex won’t see it.

    DelveBoardItemTagged

    Clicking on the tag will take you a page with other items tagged.  When you first visit any board’s page, you will automatically be “following” it.  I suspect this makes the board show up in your list of boards in the navigation of Office Delve. 

    DelveBoardPage1

    When you click the Send a link button, it will open your mail client with a link to the board’s page in Delve.

     DelveBoardSendEmail

    If you look at the URL, you will notice a new query string parameter, b, with the board’s name.

    DelveBoardUrl

    Items can also belong to multiple boards.

    DelveBoardMultipleTags

    After we have added some items to boards, here is what a typical page might look like.

    DelveBoardHome

    You can remove an item from a board by right-clicking on the tag and choosing Remove from boards.

    DelveBoardRemoveTag

    New features tend to roll out over time in First Release, so one feature that is notably missing is the list of boards I am following.  It should be above the People list.  I suspect this will show up soon, and I’ll update my post with details when it arrives.

    DelveBoardNoList

    My understanding is that your list of boards updates every two hours or so.  After checking Delve later, the list of boards I am following now shows up.  If you unfollow a board, it will still show in this list until the cache clears.  If you create a new board, it won’t show up in this list until then either.

    DelveBoardList

    The concept of removing and managing boards has been a hot topic on Yammer this week.  If you are interested in the topic be sure and follow this thread.

    Delve Boards are an interesting new way of tagging documents.  It lets users organize things in logical buckets that make sense to them.  Now you might be wondering if this ties into anything like Managed Metadata Enterprise Keywords and unfortunately the answer is no.  The new system is disconnected from that.  I think users will like it though.  As an administrator though, it might be a while before you can do any maintenance of the boards.  I don’t think you need to worry about that too much though yet.  The whole purpose of this is that the tagging is end user driven and easy for the users.

  • Is Sling TV a good choice for cord-cutters?

    Dish Network announced at CES this week a new Internet-based TV service called Sling TV for $20 / month.  This new service, scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2015, will allow those without a traditional cable / satellite TV package to get the following 12 cable TV channels:

    • ESPN
    • ESPN2
    • TNT
    • TBS
    • Food Network
    • HGTV
    • Travel Channel
    • Adult Swim
    • Cartoon Network
    • Disney Channel
    • ABC Family
    • CNN

    Most specifically in this list are ESPN and TNT.  As an avid NBA fan, watching primetime games can’t be done without a traditional cable package.  With NBA League Pass these games are blacked out during primetime.  This is a great option for college sports as well.  I’ll be curious to see if your Sling TV subscription includes rights with WatchESPN.com.  As someone who watches sports, this offering looks appealing.

    Sling TV will be available on most of the popular streaming devices such as Amazon Fire TV, Google, Roku, and the Xbox One.  Most notably missing from this list if the Apple TV.

    Is this a step in the right direction though?

    Absolutely not.  This is more of the same from TV providers just a new medium.  It still doesn’t give us the a la carte pricing that we want.  It just gives us smaller and more manageable packages (not a bad thing for sure).  I’m still happy to see more options out there for those who don’t want a traditional TV package. 

    I also think the pricing is a little high for what a cord-cutter is willing to spend.  Part of what is driving that cost up is the including of ESPN which costs a provider more than $6 a user in fees.  Keep in mind, our bill is already starting to add back up with our multitude of services we have such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and CBS All Access.

    Even though it’s a small bundle, it still suffers from the same problem as the larger bundles.  I personally only need sports programming.  While some other people may only need kids programming.  Don’t make me get both.

    If you don’t watch sports, I would say there is no reason to ever pick this package up as a cord-cutter unless you just want programming from the Food Network or the Disney Channel.  Those with younger kids, I could certainly see the appeal though.  Until the content offering for sports improves online, I could see myself subscribing to this for a few months during the year.  The nice thing is there isn’t a contract to lock you in.

    The TV industry is having to shift this year thanks to the large number of streaming services coming to market.  Already we have seen CBS and HBO offering an online-only offering and I suspect a few more networks will have offering by the end of the year.  I think 2015 will be a good year for cord-cutters.

    Read more about Sling TV on their site.

    Follow me on twitter: @coreyroth

  • MVP Award Program Blog Cross Post: Cord-Cutting with the Xbox One

    clip_image002

    Originally posted on the MVP Award Program Blog on December 8th, 2014.

    In the last year or so I have proudly referred to myself as a “cord-cutter”. I’ve dropped my cable / satellite subscription in favor of streaming services and an over-the-air antenna. When it comes to streaming, of course the XBOX ONE excels with services such as Xbox Video, Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, NBA TV and Amazon. How is that any different than any of the many streaming devices out there such as Roku, Amazon FireTV, Chromecast and more though? From a standpoint of streaming alone, there really isn’t much difference. One place that really sets Xbox One apart though is its TV functionality via HDMI pass-through and OneGuide. This allows you to watch TV while still using other Xbox One apps at the same time with Snap mode. A great feature when you want to play a game but still keep an eye on the score of the game. I wanted to make use of with over-the-air TV, but I found that there wasn’t a lot of information out there on it to date.

    clip_image004

    Setting up over-the-air TV

    When first looking at this feature, it is 100% clear that this feature is designed for those with a cable or satellite box. That’s not me. When setting up Xbox One, it allows you to set up the device relatively easily to control your cable or satellite box. To do this though you will either need an Xbox with a Kinect sensor or an inexpensive IR transmitter cable. Personally I went with the IR transmitter cable because using a Kinect in my media room would be quite difficult because I keep all of my electronics in a closet. Shop around for these cables because they tend to range in price quite a bit.

    Using this IR transmitter, you simply run a cable from your XBOX to the location of the IR receiver port on your various electronics. They make transmitters with multiple emitters so you can control your TV, tuners, and even your receiver all from one able.

    Now you might be wondering, how to use the Xbox One with an over-the-air antenna since you aren’t using a cable box? The answer is actually to acquire a simple over-the-air antenna tuner box. These run in price between $30 and $50 USD and can usually be found at your local electronics retailer or Amazon. I personally went with the HomeWorx HW-150PVR and recommend it because it actually works with the Xbox One. The box has an HDMI out which you can plug into the A/V HDMI input port of your Xbox One.

    My first over-the-air tuner box was not supported. The Xbox One supports many brands, but be warned that some of the tuners are from brands you have never heard of. The Xbox One simply doesn’t support them all. I’ve looked for a supported list on the Internet but I haven’t seen one to date.

    When you find a tuner you like, you will plug in an over-the-air antenna into the RF IN port. I have a few indoor antennas, but I’ve had pretty good success with this RCA Amplified TV Antenna. Where you live and various other factors will affect the number of channels you receive. I happen to live within line of sight of a number of broadcast TV towers so I can receive more than 60 channels. Most you likely won’t care about. The important thing for me was to get the major networks so I could watch live events like football and basketball.

    When you first launch OneGuide, it will walk you through setting up the device with your electronics. Part of the process is to find you TV, tuner, and audio receiver and test whether or not the Xbox One can control them. If your Kinect can broadcast the IR signals to your devices or if you have positioned your IR transmitter in the right place on your devices, it should be able to successfully power them off, change the volume, and change the channel. If it doesn’t work, you likely don’t have the transmitter or Kinect positioned right.

    Watching over-the-air TV

    Once everything is configured, you can tell Xbox One that you are using over-the-air TV. It does a pretty good job of pulling down all of the channels in your area. However, you may find that things are missing or it shows you channels you can’t receive. The listing probably won’t match up perfectly but it will probably cover the core network channels which are probably the ones you are looking for anyways. When you select a channel through the OneGuide, it will send the remote control commands to choose that channel. I find it to be a bit slow mainly because of how fast the tuner responds. It’s slightly annoying but no fault of the Xbox One. You can flip quickly through channels using the up and down buttons on the remote. If you don’t have a remote yet, don’t worry. You can use your Xbox One Controller. Just press the X button to launch OneGuide and press the A button to select a channel.

    clip_image006

    Many of the over-the-air tuners also support plugging in USB flash drives and hard drives. These can be used to add DVR-like functionality allowing you to record shows and pause live TV. If you select a show in OneGuide, it will even set up a recording for you but your mileage may vary. If you expect the experience to be as streamlined as what you get with a cable or satellite DVR, you may be disappointed. The recordings have cryptic filenames on the DVR and pausing live TV actually takes 10 – 15 seconds for it to pause it. There’s no way to get to the DVR functionality using the Xbox One controller or remote either. It’s better than nothing though.

    For those of you in Europe, you may have already heard about the Xbox One Digital TV Tuner. This simple USB device takes the signal from an over-the-air antenna and allows you to use the storage on your Xbox One as a DVR. I’d love to see this make its way to the United States.

    I’ve cut the cord and I haven’t looked back for a second. It used to be hard being a cord cutter, but it’s getting easier every year. Just recently, CBS announced an online service to watch live TV. They don’t have an Xbox One app yet, but I hope we see it soon along with other broadcasters. Occasionally, I wish I had a way to watch ESPN, but I have been able to get by without so far. As a recap, if you are a cord cutter and are considering the Xbox One, remember:

    · You need a Kinect or an IR transmitter cable

    · You need a supported over-the-air HD tuner with HDMI output

    · You need an over-the-air antenna

    · Apps aren’t available for some streaming services yet

    If you are thinking about cutting the cord and using your Xbox One, I hope this guide was useful. Be sure and refer to Set up live TV with your Xbox One for more details on getting started.

    Although, Corey Roth has mentioned products in this article, they are not an endorsement by him or Microsoft. They are simply products he has experience with and they have worked for him. Your experience may vary.

    Posted Dec 30 2014, 02:55 PM by CoreyRoth with no comments
    Filed under:
  • Adding a domain registered through GoDaddy to Office 365

    In working on one of my upcoming articles, I captured the steps to activate a domain registered through GoDaddy.com to your Office 365 subscription.  This will serve as a reference to that article when it comes out.  Since Microsoft and GoDaddy have a partnership, adding a domain is incredibly simple.  A wizard walks you through the process of confirming that you own the domain name.  It will even update DNS records for you automatically.

    Start by going to your Office 365 admin center and click on the DOMAINS link.  Click the Add domain link to get started.

    SyncDomainList

    When you click Add domain, it takes you to a screen that explains the steps to you.  Click Start step 1 to get started.

    SyncDomainGettingStartedStep1

    Next, we need to enter the name of our domain. 

    SyncConfirmDomainInput

    Office 365 will detect that your domain has been registered through GoDaddy.  When you click Confim ownership, it will then prompt you to sign in with your GoDaddy account.  Enter your credentials to continue.

    SyncConfirmDomainGoDaddyLogin

    As an alternative you can always perform the steps manually but it may take several days to complete as you wait for DNS entries to propagate.

    Next, you will need to grant Office 365 permission to modify your domain.  Click the Accept button.

    SyncConfirmDomainGoDaddyAuthorize

    Finally Office 365 will confirm that you own the domain name.

    SyncConfirmDomainComplete

    When you finish, Office 365 will prompt you about how you want to add users from this domain.  For today’s article, we’ll just skip this step.

    SyncDomainAddUsers

    This will then mark off Step 2 as complete.  Click Start step 3 to specify its purpose and configure DNS entries.

    SyncAddDomainStep2

    On this screen, you’ll choose whether you want to use this domain with Exchange and Lync.  Select the appropriate checkboxes and click Next.

    SyncDomainPurpose

    Normally this would mean creating DNS entries manually for things like your MX record, but Office 365 will configure all of your DNS entries at GoDaddy for you.  Click Set up records to proceed.

    SyncDomainRecordSetUpGoDaddy

    When it completes, you will get a confirmation screen with the records it configured for you.

    SyncDomainSetupComplete

    At this point you are done.  You may need to wait for some DNS entries to propagate but you can soon use all that Office 365 has to provide with your newly added domain.

  • A quick way to get to list settings in SharePoint-hosted apps

    If you are a developer working with the SharePoint app model and have deployed a list, you might have noticed that the list settings button is missing from the ribbon.

    SharePointAppListRibbonNoListSettings

    Now, you typically probably don’t want to adjust list settings inside an app through the UI.  However, it’s not uncommon that you want to look at your list settings in the development process to confirm you did everything right.  For example, maybe you want to check the permissions on the list. 

    If you know the List Id, you can always just go directly to ListEdit.aspx, but I find that’s a lot of work.  Instead, I found the easiest way is go to active the LIST ribbon and then click Modify View.

    SharePointAppListRibbonModifyView

    That will take you to a page where you can edit a view.  However, it also gives you a breadcrumb back to Settings.

    SharePointAppModifyListViewSettingsBreadcrumb

    You’ll now be on your list settings page.

    SharePointAppListSettings2

    This is a great way to manually set permissions on your list when needed.  You can also adjust a number of other settings.  Just be warned that some settings don’t work such as Information Management Policy Settings.  You will get a 500 error when you do that.

    This is a simple tip but maybe some of you developers out there will find it useful.

  • Windows 10 Technical Preview on the Surface Pro 3: two months later

    I’ve been running Windows 10 Technical Preview since it came out on October 1st.  We’re now on our third build (Build 9879) so I thought I would share my experience so far on my Surface Pro 3.  With Windows 10, they have given us access to builds earlier than we used to get in the past.  As a result, you are going to get to deal with different challenges with each build.  That’s just what you get when installing on an early release.  We expect that though.

    Dealing with issues (bugs)

    When you decide to run any beta operating system, you need to decide if the potential issues are too much of an annoyance for you to get work done.  I am running this on my primary device (my Surface Pro 3).  Sometimes the issues can be a pain, but nothing has been a showstopper yet.

    In the first build, we had to deal with issues such as mouse wheel scrolling not working on external monitors.  That’s been fixed.  Now the most common issue is explorer.exe crashes.  When this happens, applications in the task bar may not show an icon properly.  Be warned, it will also cause the clock to get “stuck in time”.  I found myself being late once or twice because of that.  KB3020114 is supposed to fix this issue though.  If you haven’t installed it yet, you can also mitigate this issue some by reverting back to the Start screen instead of the Start menu.  You can do this by right-clicking on the taskbar and choosing Properties.  Then click on the Start Menu tab and uncheck Use the Start menu instead of the Start screen.

    Windows10ReenableStartScreen

    If you use any Windows Store (metro) apps, you will notice a few issues as well.  In build 9879, any time an app gets minimized (or you lock your device), it will stop running.  This causes streaming apps such as Xbox Music or iHeartRADIO to stop streaming. 

    Another issue with Windows Store apps is that they will all crash at once.  You’ll find that all of them simply have stopped running.  There is a process named Application Frame Host which powers all of your Windows Store apps to run in windowed mode.  When this process dies, so does your Windows Store apps.  When this happens you simply restart the application.

    Windows 10 Features to adjust to

    Windows 10 adds the ability to runs Windows Store apps in windowed mode.  This sounds great in theory, but I find myself constantly adjusting the windows sizes as they are never right.  This especially applies when you drag them onto secondary monitors.  When you drag them over, display scaling messes it up when you try to snap them in one continuous action from the primary monitor to the secondary.  This means you’ll have to snap the application again.  I then often find myself resizing the application two or three more times to get it to snap just right. 

    I am not a fan of the new Start menu at all.  The titles have no sense of arrangement and they are just all jumbled together.  This leads me to go back to the original Windows 8.1 style Start screen.  I know I am probably one of the few people on the planet though that prefer it though.

    Selecting a WiFi network has a new touch friendly menu.  This allows you to connect but getting to advanced network settings from here is tough.

    Windows10WifiSettings

    OneDrive (consumer) has also changed as I mentioned in my last article.  It changes the way synchronization happens.  For the most part I think it probably works better now but occasionally I still have issues.

    Surface Pro 3 specific issues

    The Surface Pen works in Windows 10 just fine.  However, the ability to wake the device up while it is sleeping by pressing the button currently does not.  I didn’t find myself using that feature very often though as cool as it is.

    I have had a lot of issues with the device waking up and running instead of going into connected standby mode with Build 9879.  I have pulled my Surface out of my bag to find it running hot more than once.  I honestly don’t think connected standby works at all right now so I have started shutting the device down when I want to make sure it doesn’t come on.

    Battery life is also considerably less with Windows 10.  I’ve found that this happens every time I run a beta operating system though. 

    Should you install it?

    Unless you are just dying to see the new features, I would probably not install Build 9879 on your Surface Pro 3.  None of the issues are absolute deal breakers, but they can be annoying at times.  However, they aren’t so bad that I am considering going back to Windows 8.1.  I am just going to hold out until the next build.  Microsoft has announced a Windows 10 event on January 21st, so I would guess we’ll see something around then.

    If you do decide to proceed with the install you can get it by joining the Windows Insider Program.  Be sure to read the Before you Install link and have backed up your data or have it in the cloud somewhere.

    - @coreyroth on twitter

  • Querying Office 365 Groups with Search

    I have been working with the new Office 365 Groups feature a little bit and I wanted to see how I could surface them from a regular SharePoint Online site.  In my example today, I have created two public groups and three private groups.

    GroupList

    My first thought was to use Search.  Ultimately, I knew the file storage behind groups was powered by a site collection.  I just need to figure out which WebTemplate was being used.  You can see the name of the site collection fairly easily by looking at one of the documents in search.  It’s simply stored at /sites/<GroupID>.  You can see your Group ID when creating the group initially.

    CreateGroupWithGroupId

    Using the REST API, we can then just assemble the URL with /_api/web onto the existing URL such as https://tenant.sharepoint.com/sites/GroupID/_api/web.  Looking through these results I found out that the WebTemplate for the site is simply named GROUP.  Now that we have this, we can query search using the WebTemplate managed property.  The query we want is simply:

    WebTemplate:GROUP

    You can type this directly into the keyword textbox in your Search Center.

    GroupsInSearchCenter

    Now wait a minute.  I am in five groups but it’s only showing me two.  After doing some research and some additional queries, I discovered that no matter what I did, search could never find private groups or the documents within them.  I am not sure if this is a bug or it is intentional, but as of right now you can only see public Groups with search.  Still this might be valuable to you, so you could always use this query inside the Content Search web part.

    GroupsInContentSearch

    I am hoping that we can query private groups as well in the future, but it’s still nice to be able to query your groups if you use a lot of public ones.

  • Troubleshooting “There was an error during the operation” when deploying SharePoint Apps with Visual Studio

    When working with SharePoint Apps in Visual Studio 2013, you might receive the following error during deployment.

    App installation encountered the following errors:
      
      @"Error 1
            CorrelationId: c423d0af-c32b-4702-8be3-a3c1a4b3010e
            ErrorDetail: There was an error during the operation.
            ErrorType: Configuration
            ErrorTypeName: Configuration
            ExceptionMessage: RestrictAssociationToId - ListId Lists/ListName
            Source: Common
            SourceName: Common App Deployment
    Error occurred in deployment step 'Install app for SharePoint': Failed to install app for SharePoint. Please see the output window for details.

    VisualStudioErrorWorkflow

    Although there are a number of causes for this, I find that these are typically related to dependencies in your Feature Manager.  Take a look at mine below.

    VisualStudio2013FeatureManager

    As you can see for some reason, my list is not included in the package.  Although this example is simple, it’s not uncommon when you start dealing with multiple features and lists.  The specific ExceptionMessage trictAssociationToId - ListId Lists/ListName is because I have a workflow associated with the list, but the list is not getting deployed.  Once I add the list back to the feature, the issue goes away.

    If you start receiving errors like this go back and look at your feature manager and make sure everything in your project is getting deployed in the order you want.

  • A look at the OneDrive updates in Windows 10 Technical Preview

    The second update to the Windows 10 Technical Preview (Build 9879) came out today and there are a lot of exciting updated.  Today’s release in particular had a large number of changes in how OneDrive worked.  The way you sync files has changes and I am thinking this is going to lead us to a more reliable sync experience. 

    Sync Changes

    After you login for the first time, you will see a new prompt for OneDrive.  Clicking on it will allow you to select which folders you would like to sync.  If your OneDrive is massive like mine, then you understand the importance of selective sync. 

    Windows10UpdateOneDrivce

    Select the folders that you want to sync and OneDrive will start doing it’s thing.  However, if you were running a previous build of Windows and had files synced already there will be a few peculiarities.  If you don’t select the folder here but you still have it on your PC, then you will get a notice after a while that there are some sync issues.

    Windows10U2OneDriveConflicts

    This notice instructs you to delete the folder on your local PC if you want it to fix itself.   This does in fact fix the issue.  Just delete the folder and the error goes away.   However, you may not want to do this if you aren’t sure things are synced back up to the cloud.  Instead if you decide you want to sync the folder in question, go back and choose it in the OneDrive settings.  To do this, you’ll find a new icon in your taskbar.  Click on it, go to Settings –> Choose Folders.  Here you can pick the folders you want to sync like you did.

    Be careful here people!  Don’t ruin your day by accidently losing a folder in OneDrive.  Make sure your files are where you think they are.  I haven’t had any issues, but you can see where there is plenty of room for error here as we make this transition.

    According to the Windows Blog, people really struggled with what files were synced and what were not.   For this reason, the direction is to not show any folder on the file system that has not been synced.  Therefore there may be folders in the cloud, that you cannot see unless you go to the OneDrive web site.  I’m not sure if I like this change or not.  They’ve added some nice enhancements to the shell (which I’ll cover shortly) and that means you cannot take advantage of these unless you have the files synced to your file system.

    Progress Updates

    When OneDrive is doing something, it’s actually easy to tell.  First, you’ll see a moving bar undeneath the cloud icon.  Even better though is if you hover over it, it will tell you how many files it is syncing and how large they are.  This is a great improvement!

    Windows10U2OneDriveInAction

    Shell Changes

    If you take a look at OneDrive on the file system, you’ll notice slightly different icons to indicate which folders are sycned and which one have issues.  You’ll notice a lot of mine have the red icon because I have the folder present but I am not syncing the file.

    Windows10OneDriveFileExplorer

    Right clicking on the folder, I can see in the context menu that my only option is to View Sync Problems.

    Windows10U2OneDriveSyncProblems

    However, when you click on a folder that you have synced, you get a few more options.

    Windows10U2OneDriveContextLinks

    The first menu item is Share a OneDrive link.  Be careful with this one!  This will share whatever folder you have highlighted anonymously.  It will share the folder immediately anonymously and put the link in your clipboard. 

    Windows10U2ShareOneDriveLink

    If you want to control what you share and what permissions, then be sure and use the More OneDrive sharing options link.  This will take you to OneDrive.com where you can fine-tune the permissions.

    Lastly, the View on OneDrive.com link will open a web browser with a link directly to your document or folder.  I think these will be useful improvements when using explorer to view your synced files.

    New Settings

    There are some new settings in the OneDrive app.  Available by right clicking on the icon in your task bar and choosing settings.  One of the most exciting settings that you will find here is the setting Let me use OneDrive to fetch any of my files on this PC.

    Windows10U2OneDriveSettings

    This setting disappeared from Windows 8.1 and I am glad it is back.  It lets you access any file on your PC through the OneDrive web site.  Just look for the list of PCs available in the navigation.  Clicking on it the first time will prompt you for a security check.  I assume it is supposed to send a text message to your phone like other checks but this time it just let me right in.

    Windows10U2OneDrivePCFilesSecurityCheck

    Once you continue, you will be able to see the files on your computer and access them.  This is great when you forgot to put a file in OneDrive.

    Windows10U2OneDrivePCFiles

    Buried in the settings, on the Performance tab, you will also find a new setting Improve upload speed by uploading files in batches.

    OneDriveSettingsPerformance

    This leads me to believe that they have made improvements in how file syncing occurs.  I’ve selected in and I am going to see how performance goes, but it does warn you that it uses significantly more bandwidth.

     

    I’m pretty excited about this latest round in improvements in OneDrive.  If you are running the latest build of Windows 10 Technical Preview, give it a try.  Just be careful so that you don’t accidently lose something.

    Follow me on twitter: @coreyroth

  • First look at Windows 10 Technical Preview on the Surface Pro 3

    With the new of the release of Windows 10 Technical Preview, I was quick to download it and try it out.  Despite all of the warning about only using this on a secondary PC, I went ahead and installed it any way on my favorite device the Surface Pro 3.  I have a long standing history of installing beta operating systems on computers I shouldn’t, so why should this one be any different. :)  The nice thing about Windows 10 installer is that it will let you install on existing Windows 8.1 installations.  You can even do other things in the background while it is installing (although it tells you not too).  I let it install over lunch and things are looking good so far.  Here are some of the highlights and answers to questions you might have.

    Do I have to reinstall everything?

    No.  You are able to upgrade from Windows 8.1 Pro to Windows 10 Enterprise without any issues (at least I didn’t have any).  You will have the option to keep files, apps, and settings.  This means you aren’t doing a clean install.  All of your applications and files will still be there when you have upgraded.

    How long does it take?

    The installation takes about half an hour.  The installer looks similar to the Windows 8.1 installer. 

    Windows10Install1

    You will reboot a few times during the process.

    Windows10Install2

    After the install you will need to choose a Wireless network and type in the password for your account.  Once you get booted up, everything should look similar and all of your programs will still be there.

    Getting started

    Microsoft has included a link on the desktop to the Windows Preview web site which has a series of links to help get you started.  I recommend taking a look as it has some useful information about the new features.

    Windows10GettingStartedLink

    Does everything still work?

    It appears to.  All of my devices are installed correctly in the device manager. 

    Windows10SurfaceDeviceManager

    I tried a number of programs including desktop programs like Office and Windows Store apps such as Mail and Flipboard. 

    Windows10WithApps

    Everything seems to run just fine.  Touch input still works and so does the Surface Pen.

    The new Start Menu

    I’m not sure what to think of the new start menu. 

    Windows10StartMenu

    It’s goal is to combine the best of both worlds between desktop and touch.  It combines a traditional desktop start menu with tiles from the start screen.  I find it works great for desktop, but in touch it doesn’t really make sense.  Some of the icons are hard to touch.  It’s not terrible but I think it can be better.  You’ll even notice that the Power button is easy to find.

    Clicking on the All Apps button shows you a list of all installed applications that reminds me very much of the Windows XP start menu.

    StartMenuApps

    If you were one of the few that liked the Start Screen, you can turn it back on.  In the Start Menu, type Navigation Properties and click on the Start Menu tab.

    Windows10ReenableStartScreen

    Once you select this, you will be prompted to close all applications and logout. 

    Windows10ChangeStartSettings

    When you log back in, the start menu will be back.  It looks exactly like it did in Windows 8.1.

    Taskbar Changes

    The taskbar has a few new icons next to the familiar Windows icon. 

    Windows10TaskbarNewIcons

    The first icon allows you to search.  Clicking it will show you a list of trending searches.

    Windows10SearchButton

    It doesn’t just search the Internet though.  It will show you your own apps and matching documents in addition to results from the Internet.

    Windows10SearchLocal

    The next icon is your app switcher.  It will show you all of the applications you have open whether they are desktop apps or Windows store apps.  You can flip between applications here or even close them.  It comes up by pressing Alt+Tab or Windows+Tab as well. 

    Windows10TaskSwitcher

    The app switcher also gives you the ability to add an additional virtual desktop.  A lot of operating systems have had this for while so this is a welcome addition to Windows.  This gives you the ability to have different sets of apps running on each desktop.  This can be nice to keep things less cluttered.

    Finally the last icon is our new Windows Explorer.  You’ll notice a new section called Frequent Folders and Frequent Files.  This will help you jump quickly to files that you have worked with recently.

    ExplorerRecentFiles

    Windows Store Apps in Windows Mode

    This makes a lot of sense for desktop users.  For touch users, I’m not so sure.  Everything resizes just fine.  However, I miss being able to dock apps like Skype and iHeartRadio to a nice narrow bar at the side of the screen.  You can still do it, but it takes a lot more effort.  Also the familiar “Swipe-down” motion appears to be gone (even when the app is running in full screen mode).  Now, you have to click on the elipsis (…) in the taskbar and choose App Commands.  It seems to take a lot more effort since that menu appears to be geared towards desktop users.

    Windows10AppCommandMenu

    Can I still run Windows Store apps in full screen mode?

    Yes, by clicking the Full Screen menu item in the menu above.  However, I found that none of the gestures work when the apps is running in full screen such as swiping down.  For example, you can’t swipe down and drag to dock the window to the side of the screen.  Swiping in from the left side while in full screen mode now brings up the app switcher.

    What has remained the same?

    Surprisingly a lot.  Microsoft has pointed out that none of the new consumer features are in this preview.  This release is focused on the Enterprise.  Lots of things remain the same including the Settings screen, logging in, the charms menu, and the issues with DPI scaling and multi-monitors.  That means your Lync window is still going to be massive when you drag it onto your second screen.

    How stable is it?

    It’s hard to tell yet.  I have put my computer to sleep with the power button once or twice and I have found that the device has rebooted.  Maybe it’s just installing updates, I don’t know.  It’s too soon to tell.

    One new feature is the Preview Builds in Update and Recovery in PC Settings.  Here you can configure how your PC looks for new builds of the Technical Preview.

    Should you install it?

    Only if you are willing to accept the risks of installing a beta operations system.  Just because it worked for me (so far), doesn’t mean you won’t have issues.  Microsoft recommends installing on a secondary device.  Be sure and save a copy of your recovery drive before you install it.  This will let you revert back to your previous operating system should you have issues.

    If you have any feedback for the Windows product team, just open your start menu and type Windows Feedback.  This will launch an app that allows you to report issues.  In fact it feels a lot like user voice in a lot of ways.  I think this is a great way to express your thoughts about the new operating system.

    So far Windows 10 Technical Preview runs fairly well on the Surface Pro 3.  In fact you really won’t notice that many changes using it aside from the start menu and the Windows Store apps running in windowed mode.  I’ll post updates as I use it for and let you know of any issues.

  • Office 365 YamJams are a good place to learn about new features

    Have you checked out one of the YamJams yet on the Office 365 Technical Network?  I’ve participated in the last few around new features in Office 365.  I found that I have been able to learn a lot about the topic at hand directly from Microsoft product team members.

    On September 10th, they had the Delve YamJam.  Here I was able to learn more about the new feature.  What excited me is that I was able to get some of my developer specific questions answered.  They did an excellent job.

    On September 29th, they had a YamJam about the new Office 365 groups feature.  Members of the product team went into the details of how the underlying features were implemented using hidden site collections in SharePoint Online.

    Next up is the Driving Adoption YamJam coming up on 10/1 at 9:00 am PDT.

    Did you miss a YamJam?  Don’t worry the content is still there even after it occurs.  They even write up a summary post a few days later with the key takeaways.  Here’s an example from the Delve YamJam

    If you are not a member of the Office 365 Technical Network on Yammer be sure and join.  It’s a great place to ask questions.

  • A quick look at Delve in Office 365

    You might have heard the news that Microsoft is rolling out Delve to Office 365 starting today.  I was lucky enough to get it pushed to my demo site so I wanted to share some details.

    When Delve is activated on your tenant, you will see a link in your suite bar.

    DelveSuiteBar

    Click the link to get started.  Your first time, you will see an intro screen, telling you a little bit more. 

    DelveStart

    By default, you are going to get an empty screen unless you have some content shared with you.  You won’t see the full power of Delve until you have a sufficiently active SharePoint tenant.

    DelveStart2

    However, if you have some content loaded, you can start to see it in action when you click on My Work.

    DelveMyWork2

    Here you will find documents relevant to you because you have modified them. 

    You can easily do keyword searches with Delve and get a nice visual display of the results.

    DelveSearchResults

    Delve can figure out people that are relevant to you and you will see them listed in the navigation.  Click on the link and it will show you the documents that they have worked on.  Remember, you only see documents that you have permission to view.

    DelvePeopleResults

    Delve has a small settings menu which you can access in the top right corner of the Suite Bar.

    DelveSettingsMenu

    It takes you to a settings page where you can disable Delve.

    DelveSettings

    For those curious about where Delve lives, it’s hosted by the My Site (Personal Site) collection on a page named me.aspx.

    You can see some of the URLs below.

    Delve Home Page URL example (v=home):

    DelveHomeUrl

    Delve Search URL example (q parameter):

    DelveSearchUrl

    Delve People Results URL example (p parameter):

    DelvePeopleResultsUrl

    Delve My Work URL example (v=mywork)

    DelveMyWorkUrl

    I have noticed that the pictures of people aren’t loading correctly on my tenant.  I don’t know if that is a Delve issue or something else.

    If you are wanting to check out Delve, be sure and read Office Delve for Office 365 admins.  You’ll need to turn on the First Release program in your Office 365 Service Settings.

    DelveFirstRelease

    You’ll need to enable Delve on the SharePoint Settings as well.  Choose the option Allow access to the Office Graph (default).

    DelveOfficeGraphEnabled

    If you don’t have Delve yet, check those settings in the post above and then be patient.  You should have Delve soon once you make those changes.

  • Completing Real Estate Transactions with OneDrive and OneNote

    My wife, @jennifermason, and I recently sold our house and bought a new one in the Dallas / Fort Worth area.  We didn’t use a realtor (I refuse to capitalize that word) in selling our house and we didn’t use one in buying the new one.  As a result, I had to manage a lot of the paper work myself.  It really wasn’t that hard to do thanks to OneDrive, OneNote, and document signing tools.  We’ll look at how we managed all of this on both the selling side as well as the home loan.

    Selling the house

    When we went to put the house on the market, I did my research and I kept a lot of this info in OneNote.  Since we hadn’t had the house long, it wasn’t hard for us to come up with a selling price.  We looked at what we owed, what we paid, and used Zillow to figure out what houses were moving for.  This gave us our price and we went with it.  We went to Home Depot and picked up a For Sale by Owner sign and stuck it in the yard.

    Along with the yard sign, we printed up some nice flyers for our house to stick in an IntoTube (which you can also get at Home Depot).  Realtors will tell you that you shouldn’t put flyers in front of your house as that doesn’t attract buyers.  The only reason they tell you that is that by having only a phone number on your sign they can show them someone else’s house if yours isn’t the right fit.  Remember, everything a realtor tells you is to put more money in his or her pocket faster.

    The phone number I printed on the sign was not my own.  Instead, I used Google Voice and had it forward calls to my phone.  This gives me a nice buffer to keep crazies from calling my phone and for me to block bad seller’s agents telling me I’ll never sell my house.  I had one call several times.

    I had my first phone call on the house within an hour and I ended up having three showings by the end of the weekend.  All of this from a sign and listings on Craigslist and Zillow.  After the initial period, I decided I wanted to put our house on the MLS so it would show up for realtors and on Realtor.com.  Normally, you have to have a seller’s agent do that and now they get your 3% and 3% goes to whomever presents the buyer.  There are a number of realtors now that will do it for a flat fee between $250 and $500.  One happened to call me called ListingSpark and they do theirs for $7 / day (billed monthly).  What I liked about them is that their services included a lock box, sign, and they would even show your house if the buyer didn’t have a realtor.  This meant realtors could find my house in the MLS, request a showing, and we didn’t even have to be present to show it (just like with a traditional realtor).  It didn’t take long to get some showings with this service and eventually we had an offer.  With the offer in place, we had to get our documents in order.

    Setting up OneDrive

    My wife and I were already heavy users of OneDrive.  We have a shared folder on my OneDrive account in which we both have contribute access.  In here, I started a new folder simply named Real Estate.  Before you sell a house, you will want to get a few documents together.  We’ll keep these in the Real Estate folder so that we can easily find them and share them throughout the process.  The most important document you need is the Seller Disclosure. 

    Luckily, in the State of Texas, you can find just about any document you need on the Texas Real Estate Commission web site.  They are all in PDF form here.  The poor people that run the web site actually believe you can’t edit them because of that.  You’ll actually see a link to companies selling software that makes the forms editable.  Ha!  As some of you might know, there are a number of options when it comes to editing PDF.  We can use Adobe Acrobat, FoxIT Writer, the PDF reflow feature in Microsoft Word 2013.  There’s actually a much simpler option though, document signing tools such as DocuSign.

    My first exposure ever with DocuSign was signing contracts with Microsoft.  You simply upload a PDF and then it allows you to drag text fields, checkboxes, and signature lines onto your document.  The first step is to upload the document.

    DocuSignSendDocumentStep1

    The service will allow you to have yourself as a signer and then you can add your spouse, the buyer, realtors, etc, as needed.  In the example below, we both are signing it and then it gets sent to the realtor.  DocuSign will automatically send it once all of the signatures are received, but sometimes I preferred to send it myself so I would leave that step out.  Instead I would upload the file to my OneDrive and provide a link.  More on sharing with OneDrive soon.

    DocuSignSendDocumentStep1MultipleRecipients

    Once you go to the next step, you can edit the document.  It’s as simple as dragging and dropping the fields throughout the document.  In the example, below you can see how I have added text boxes to the blanks in the contract.

    DocuSignEditDocument

    DocuSign works great.  It really is the Cadillac of document signing services.  Unfortunately, it is really expensive and not geared towards consumers at all.  When you first create an account you get 5 documents you can sign.  That is it.  This is a real estate transaction so obviously you are going to need more than that.  DocuSign has absolutely terrible pricing plans.  They are geared towards business and come with annual terms for the lowest rates  Their individual account lets you sign 5 documents a month for $10.  When you run out, you get to upgrade again.  Then the professional plans are $20 for unlimited (if paid annually) and $30 if paid monthly.  No thanks.

    Although DocuSign works great, it was time to find a new service.  This led me to run into HelloSign.  They gave you three free documents a month and you can upgrade to unlimited for $15 / month.  What’s nice is their unlimited plan gives you a 30 day trial.  That was enough for me to close my transaction.  HelloSign has similar features to DocuSign but not as many controls to pick from that you can drag onto your PDF.  However, I found the ones it had were sufficient.  What I didn’t like is that it put an audit page with the dates everything was signed in the PDF.  I think this could only be removed if you signed up for an Enterprise plan. The product worked though and it got me through my transaction.

    Sharing Documents

    If you have gotten a mortgage recently, you know how much of a pain it is.  They are constantly asking for documents and they lose half of the ones you send them.  Surprisingly, none of them ever use any kind of secure document sharing service.  I’d be happy with a SharePoint site using Office 365.  Unfortunately, most of them just want you to e-mail them.  Someone from my lender even insisted that sending these documents with sensitive information is secure over e-mail.  I laughed.  To handle this situation, I created a new folder named Home Loan and started dumping things like tax returns, investment statements, and pay stubs in there.  Then I made use of the Sharing feature in OneDrive.  Just click on the folder and then click the Share button at the top.

    There are a number of sharing options when it comes to OneDrive and you want to get this right.  You don’t want to just provide a link that anyone can use to access it.  You want these users to authenticate.  Start by typing in the user’s e-mail address.  This doesn’t have to be a Microsoft account.  Typically, the user’s live account will be different than his or her e-mail address.

    OneDriveShareEmail

    Be sure and click Recipients can only view.  This provides an option where you can specify what permission the user has and whether or not they need a Microsoft account.  I find that lenders don’t ever need permissions to edit documents, so I choose Recipients can only view.  Next choose Recipients need to sign in with a Microsoft account.  This ensures they have to login to see your documents.

    OneDriveSharePermissions

    Now this meant I had to add every single person that needed access to the files at the lender one-by-one.  I’d rather do that then open it up to the world though.  With all the people that I had to share documents with, I only had one that couldn’t seem to figure out how to login and view the documents.  I suspected she had multiple Microsoft accounts and that was the issue.

    For sensitive documents, you don’t want to use the Get a link option.  This generates a random URL in which anyone can access your documents without authentication.  However, I found this useful for sharing documents such as receipts to the buyer’s realtor when I was selling my house.  Since this information was less sensitive, it made sense to use this option to share documents.

    Using OneNote

    My wife and I kept a lot of information about the process.  We already had a shared notebook in our family room, so we created a new section called Real Estate.  In here, I had a page for the for sale process including where I am marketing it and what to put on the flyer.  I kept another page for house showings.  When I was doing showings myself, I asked for information on the buyer including photo identification.  Once the contract was signed, I created a page to manage the amendment items that the buyer requested.  We also used a page to keep a checklist of all of the utilities we needed to disconnect and connect.  When we were looking for a new house, we used it to keep track of the ones we were interested in.  Once we selected one, we kept things like the new house measurements in it.  Finally, we started keeping a list of all of the new things we need to buy for the house.  OneNote has been a vital part of our real estate process.

    image

    When it’s all over…

    Don’t forget to revoke permissions to everything that you shared.  You don’t want to keep these documents shared with people that no longer need them.  This goes especially for documents that you allowed anonymous access on.

    I sold our house without a listing agent and I bought our new one without a buyer’s agent.  When I was looking at houses, I even had a seller’s agent it was illegal in Texas for me to see a house without a buyer’s agent.  That liar has been reported to the Texas Real Estate Commission. :)  This kept thousands of dollars in our pocket and let us negotiate a better price with the builder since they didn’t have to pay a real estate commission.  Realtors will tell you that you can never do it without them but in reality most of them don’t do that much for you.  If you do a little research, you can do it yourself too.

  • Achievement unlocked: Inkmaster

    When it comes to using Ink in Microsoft Office, it’s been there for longer than you probably have realized.  Even if you had a Surface Pro or Surface Pro 2, you probably never took advantage of it.  The device was simply too heavy.  Now, with the Surface Pro 3, you might have noticed the ability to use Ink is all throughout Office.  It turns out it’s not just in OneNote.  You can use it throughout the Office suite, you just have to look for it.  Read on this post to make the most of the Surface Pen so that you can become an Inkmaster!

    InkmasterAchievement

    Inking in Word

    Did you know that you can use ink when reviewing a document?  I didn’t until Surface Pro 3.  When you are reviewing a document, look for the Ink Comment button, it may be collapsed depending on the width of your screen.

    WordInkCommentButton

    Once you click it, you will see a new special comment box, just for inking.

    WordInkCommentEmpty

    Grab your stylus and start writing.  It will automatically expand as you add more text.

    WordInkCommentWithText

    You can also use the Start Inking button to start drawing on your document anywhere.  As soon as you bring the stylus close to the screen in an Office app, the Pens menu will appear.

    WordRibbonStartInkingButton

    Once you click the button, the standard inking ribbon appears and you can write and draw all over your document.

    WordPensRibbon

    You can use a variety of pen colors in addition to highlighters.

    WordInkMarkedUp

    Inking in Outlook

    You can also use Ink in Outlook of all places but it’s a bit more difficult to find.  When you are replying to a message, click Popout to open the message in a unique window.  If you remember, Outlook is actually launching an instance of Word for the text editor.  By doing that, you can click Start Inking from the Review menu.  When you do that, you can Ink in your reply along with using the highlighting features.

    OutlookInkReply

    Inking in Excel

    Ink will show up just about anywhere.  All you have to do is wave the stylus over the screen in Excel and you will see the Pens menu show up.  Click on it and you can start Inking to your heart’s content.

    ExcelInkRibbon

    Inking in Excel is a great way to annotate things.  Take a look.

    ExcelInk

    Inking in PowerPoint

    PowerPoint supports ink as well.  Want to make some comments on someone’s slides?  Just bust out your Surface Pen and make your notes.

    PowerPointInk

    Ink in Lync

    When you are conducting an online meeting with Lync, it supports Ink as well…sort of.  You can use the whiteboard feature in a meeting.  It works ok, but it’s not really designed for a stylus.  It doesn’t feature any of the standard menus nor does the eraser function work when you press the bottom button on the Surface Pen.  You can still draw some things with a stylus, but it would be nice to see an update.

    LyncInk

    Ink in Visio

    Like the Lync team, the Visio team apparently decided to go with their own Ink implementation as the controls are a bit different.  Hovering the stylus over the screen will not activate a Pens menu in Visio.  Instead, you need to go to the Review menu and click on Ink.

    VisioInk

    Here you have a choice between a Ballpoint Pen and Highlighter.  However the icons in which you select them are different.  After you select the tool you want then you have to select the Color and Weight.

    Once you draw on the diagram, it will create a shape automatically for whatever you draw (if you have the option checked).

    VisioInkWithShape

    It also features highlighting tools.

    VisioInk2

    Ink is everywhere in Office

    It doesn’t matter what Office application you are using, chance are you can use your Surface Pen in it.  I find that this has already transformed the way I work.  Even when I am using the mouse, I often keep the Surface Pen in my hand so that I can mark on something with ease.  I use it to review documents, take notes, and annotate.  Having the Surface Pen in your set of tools gives you a slight advantage when you are working on Office documents.  Maybe, it’s not for everyone, but once you get used to using it, it’s hard to go back.  In fact you wish your colleagues had a stylus too when they are working on documents with you!

    Be sure and check out my complete Surface Pro 3 review if you are considering one.

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