Nifty: Microsoft Business Data Catalog Definition Editor for Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007

Ah Microsoft, you giveth and you taketh.


The Microsoft Business Data Catalog Definition Editor for Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 aka MSBDCDEFMOSS2007 (all me…) is a nifty yet hobbled tool fresh(ish) from Microsoft. In brief its features include:

  • Underlying XML is abstracted by the design surface and properties window
  • Drag and drop web methods, tables, or views to create line of business (LOB) connections.
  • Entities and methods are created automatically from database metadata and WSDLs.
  • Additional method instances can be added to further enhance the database or web service connection.
  • Method instances can be tested from within the tool, enabling incremental development of LOB connections

That said… Here’s the catch. (For now I hope…)
The tool is unusable with SQL Server 2005/2008 schemas… So, you cannot use it against AdventureWorks, BUT you can use it against AdventureWorksDW. If you dare to try, you will be rewarded with a “Could not process Table ‘….’. Also, make sure you have SELECT Rights on the Table/VIEW”.

Helpful links

How to enable anonymous access for your SharePoint sites

  1. From Central Administration > Application Management > Application Security > Authentication Providers, select a Web application and the zone you want to modify. This is usually default.

  2. In the middle of the page, check Enable Anonymous Access and choose Save

  3. All site collections in that Web application can now have anonymous access enabled.

  4. Go to a site collection in the Web application you just enabled anonymous access for

  5. From Site Actions > Site Settings, open Advanced Permissions

  6. From the Settings drop-down menu, select Anonymous Access

  7. For this example, enable anonymous access for Lists and Libraries and click OK

  8. Browse to any document library in this site collection

  9. From the Settings drop-down menu, select Document Library Settings

  10. In the Permissions and Management column, select Permissions for this document library

  11. From the Actions menu, select Edit Permissions to break inheritance

  12. From the newly appeared Settings drop-down menu, select Anonymous Access

  13. Check View Items and click OK.

How solution deployment has changed development with SharePoint technologies

Background:

Anyone who is familiar with development & deployment of custom solutions on SharePoint Portal Server 2003 or Windows SharePoint Services will probably agree when I say there are certain areas lacking in the end to end process.

For example, here is a high level generic step by step process that usually happens:

  1. Spec written (some people seem to think this step is optional)
  2. Developer develops code etc… Usually on a stand-alone, single server SharePoint environment. (I personally use a VPC for all development these days)
  3. Developer packages code into an installer if you are lucky
  4. Testing
  5. Hand off to production people who go and install it on the server(s).

This would normally be really easy right? Well, in SharePoint land there are many areas where “things” need to be done during an installation. Some of these are (but not limited to):

  • Assembly deployment. GAC or BIN
  • Web.config changes. Additions to the safe controls list, CAS security policies,
  • Resource files like images,
  • Dwp files
  • Site definitions (list definitions etc…)

Depending on how your development team packaged these would depend on how much work you had to do to deploy them.

To make matters worse, depending on your physical SharePoint farm you might need to do install steps on each server. This brought in complexity around what servers had what versions at what time etc… A nightmare if you were managing a large farm with many servers.

How we make this better in MOSS and WSSv3:

In MOSS we have a good solution to all of this called the Solution Framework. Here is a little summary about what this is:

“The Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) solution framework provides a way to bundle together all of the components for extending SharePoint in a new file called a solution file (a CAB-based format with a WSP extension). A solution is a deployable, reusable package that can contain a set of features and site definitions, templates, Web Parts, and assemblies that you can apply to a site, and individually enable or disable.” – WSS SDK

Not only this but the Solution Framework takes care of deploying the solution to ALL front end web servers in the farm without the admin having to go to each box to do this manually!

You can:

  • Deploy the Solution package to the farm
  • Retract the Solutions package
  • When a new web server is added, automatically deploy the solution to it
  • Deploy new versions of the Solution

Practical example:

In the system I talked about in “Application Development on MOSS & WSSv3” we are using a Solution package to deploy:

  • A custom Site Definition
  • 6 Feature Definitions (another new MOSS technology) that are:
    • Custom Workflows x2
    • Timer Job
    • Content Type
    • Custom List definition
    • Custom Site Columns definition
  • Web part
    • SafeControls list entry

Note: I won’t talk about Features or how to create them; Todd has a good post on that subject here: http://www.sharepointblogs.com/tbaginski/archive/2006/06/02/8062.aspx

[Updated] This means when we want to deploy this solution to a new farm we simply use the STSADM -addsolution -filename to upload the solution to the farm. Once uploaded you can simply to into the “Solution management” section under the “Operations” tab in the Central Administration Site, and deploy that solution.

Once it is uploaded we can then choose to Deploy that solution.

This gives you options on when you want the deployment to take place and to what web applications. (In the shot above I had an assembly being deployed to the GAC, hence the warning)

Although all this will be/is documented in the WSS SDK, I thought I quickly go over how to make a solution file.

Consists of:

  • A CAB file containing
    • A Manifest.xml file
    • All the files for the Features etc… that make up your solution

Below is a cut down sample XML manifest.xml file for the example I used above (highlighted text is comments):

< ?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
< xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/sharepoint/" solutionid="{79d1a62e-3627-11db-963e-00e08161165f}" resetwebserver="TRUE">

<>
< deploymenttarget="GlobalAssemblyCache" location="Foo.Sharepoint.WebpartsFoo.SharePoint.WebParts.dll">
<>
< assembly="Foo.Sharepoint.Webparts, Version=1.0.0.0, Culture=Neutral, PublicKeyToken=63cce650e8605f5d" namespace="Foo.Sharepoint.Webparts" typename="*">
< /SafeControls>
< /Assembly>
< deploymenttarget="GlobalAssemblyCache" location="Foo.Sharepoint.Timer/Foo.Sharepoint.Timer.dll">
< /Assemblies>

<>

< location="Foo.Sharepoint.TimerFeature.xml">

< location="Foo.CustomTypeFeature.xml">

< location="Foo.FooLibraryFeature.xml">

< location="Foo.ColumnsFeature.xml">

< location="Foo.Workflow.ProcessFooFeature.xml">

< location="Foo.Workflow.ProvisionFooFeature.xml">

< /FeatureManifests>

<>
< location="FOO">
< location="1033XMLWEBTEMPFoo.XML">
< /SiteDefinitionManifest>
< /SiteDefinitionManifests>
< /Solution>

Then you package this up along with all your Feature files into a CAB file with a “.wsp” extension. In short each feature goes into a sub-dir in the CAB that matches the path you have in the Manifest.xml file. You can use cabmake.exe to do this, or any other tool you like.

Then you are ready to go and deploy!

Although this is probably a little more work to begin with, your deployment team will thank you for it immensely.

Will Office 14 be ready for release in 2009?

In late July it was suggested that Office 14, the codename for the successor to Office 2007, would be released in either late 2009 or early 2010. This led to speculation that the next version of Office would be simultaneously released with Windows 7, much like Office 2007 and Vista were.

Blogger Stephen Chapman recently posted a screenshot he obtained in July 2008, suggesting that Office 2009 would indeed be released this year:

However, this information is now outdated, and Microsoft still has not started the Office 14 beta program. Most Windows 7 testers may not have received any builds as of yet, but select testers have, many builds have already leaked, and a public beta is supposed to be released very soon (at latest Friday).

On the other hand, Office 14 does not even have leaked screenshots yet, let alone a private or public beta. For this reason, I find it doubtful that Office 14 will be released simultaneously with Windows 7, especially given how quickly development for Vista’s successor seems to be going. Nevertheless, the beta program for an office suite can be much shorter than that of an operating system, so there is still hope.

Internet Explorer 8 Blocker Toolkit arrives

As with IE7, Microsoft is planning to distribute IE8 as a high-priority update through Automatic Updates (AU), as well as the Windows Update (WU) and Microsoft Update (MU) services. The company is also offering a tool for those who want to avoid the automatic distribution: the Internet Explorer 8 Blocker Toolkit is available for download from the Microsoft Download Center (MDC).

IE8 will be sent out automatically sometime after it is available as a download on MDC. The toolkit will turn IE8 into an optional update on all supported operating systems: Windows XP SP2 and above, Windows Server 2003 SP2 and above, Windows Vista, and Windows Server 2008. For Vista and Server 2008, IE8 will be listed as Important, while for XP and Server 2003, the update will be listed as High Priority. The tool is mainly aimed at IT professionals working in a corporate environment who still need test the new browser with internal applications and sites, although individuals may use it as well.

The release comes just before Microsoft is expected to give the public an IE8 Release Candidate. A final version is expected sometime after, possibly in April. The latest build Microsoft gave testers was 8.0.6001.18344, which was given out as part of an out-of-band security update. Right before that, testers were given RC1 (8.0.6001.18343). The public still only has access to IE8 Beta 2, which was released in August.

WSRP Toolkit for SharePoint: Aka render SharePoint data natively from BEA AquaLogic Portal, IBM WebSphere Portal, SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Portal etc.

The WSRP Toolkit for SharePoint provides sample code for producing WSRP conformant data from SharePoint lists and libraries. External portal platforms (e.g. BEA AquaLogic Portal, IBM WebSphere Portal, SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Portal etc.) can then render SharePoint data natively through their WSRP consumer portlets. The Toolkit is available now for download from the MSDN Code Gallery.

Specifically it consists of

  1. Visual Studio sample projects that demonstrate two different approaches to producing WSRP conformant output from SharePoint lists and libraries
  2. A whitepaper that provides details on the different architectural approaches of the two WSRP producer samples
  3. Screen casts showing the two WSRP producer samples in action

Of course WSRP is just one of many options available to support portal interoperability and Microsoft continues to invest in open standards for interoperability including XML based web services, CMIS, Office Open XML, RSS and REST. Microsoft is also investing heavily in Silverlight, designed to deliver rich user experiences and applications across multiple platforms. For more details on the SharePoint interoperability story, visit the TechNet Office SharePoint Server Interoperability TechCenter.

Integrating Visio 2007 and SharePoint: Task list items as a PivotDiagram

A nice way of presenting the contents of a task list with Visio 2007 is as a PivotDiagram…

To start you, or rather your end users, need either Visio or the Visio Viewer from here: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=d88e4542-b174-4198-ae31-6884e9edd524&DisplayLang=en

From the tasks list “Actions” -> “Create Visio Diagram”. Wait for the file to open, build, and then save to an appropriate document library.
When the visitor clicks on the link to the file it will/should load in an IE browser with tabs, zoom, and other Visio niceties

Caveat: the file will not update its display on task list item change as it is essentially an import into Visio. In my next Visio article I will explain how to overcome this hurdle.