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Archive for November, 2008

StickySorter Free from OfficeLabs

Posted by workerthread on November 28, 2008

The idea of affinity diagrams is by no means new and it gets used in lots of different areas as a way of organising thoughts and ideas during a brainstorming session.  All you need is a whiteboard and a whole pile of sticky or Post-it notes, and you can begin putting things together:

The big problem with this is when your team all want to take the final product away with them, and all you’ve got is a wall full of sticky notes.  Well now you can download a nice free tool from Microsoft Office Labs called StickySorter that lets you create your affinity diagrams on your PC.  It’s a fairly simple tool, but quite useful in a brainstorming session if you have a laptop and a projector:

I can see this being quite useful for stuff like SharePoint site and metadata/taxonomy planning.  The diagrams are saved in .csv format, so you can also start with a simple Excel-created list and import that into your diagram.

Posted in Business Intelligence, Microsoft SharePoint, Office, Search | Comments Off on StickySorter Free from OfficeLabs

SharePoint Search From Office Applications

Posted by workerthread on November 28, 2008

OK I know that there are already blog posts out there on this subject, but I wanted to put something down in one place for my own clients.  Also I find it’s often the case that when I talk to users about this, they aren’t even aware of the existence of the Office Research pane and how they can use it from inside Word, Excel, or PowerPoint (and indeed OneNote or Visio).

So, a quick recap.  If you are using Office 2003 or 2007, you have a research pane available which will let you perform lookups against reference books and sites such as Encarta, Live Search, MSN Money etc.  You can also connect to external translation services and reference sites.  If you’re using Office 2007, applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint have a Research button in the Review tab, like so:


And this will give you a good selection of resources against which you can “fact-check” your document or presentation, or perhaps get more detailed online information:


Indeed in some applications such as Word, Outlook emails and OneNote you don’t even need to open the Research Pane – you can just highlight the research term and right-click to select Look-Up.

So far so good, but if you also use Office SharePoint Server 2007 search, or WSS 3.0 search,  you can add either of these services to the list of available research options in Office.  This is achievable because both MOSS and WSS provide a web service which Office Research can connect to.  In the case of MOSS the web service is search.asmx and for WSS it is spsearch.asmx.  It’s located in the /_vti_bin folder under your portal.  So for example, if your MOSS portal is http://intranet then the URL for the search web service is http://intranet/_vti_bin/search.asmx .  If you navigate to this URL in a browser this is what you will see:


And here is how we register the service in Office Research.  First you need to open the Research pane in one of the Office applications, for example MS Word.  At the bottom you will see a “Research Options” hyperlink:


Clicking on this will bring up an options dialog:


Click on Add Services, and in the address line, enter the URL of the search web service from your SharePoint site – in my case that would be http://intranet/_vti_bin/search.asmx but if you are using WSS 3.0 it would be something like http://<myWSSPortalName>/_vti_bin/spsearch.asmx :  


Once you click Add, you will see this confirmation dialog:


and clicking Install will add the SharePoint search service to your research options, then you will be able to carry out SharePoint searches from inside your Office applications:


And that’s it!  if you’re interested in what’s going on under the covers with this web service, the MOSSSearch site has a downloadable UI test tool which you can point at your search service.

Come to think of it, this would be a good add-in for Windows Live Writer

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Posted in Microsoft SharePoint, Office, Search | 3 Comments »

Report Builder 2.0 with CRM 4.0

Posted by workerthread on November 11, 2008

A quick follow-up to yesterday’s post on the release of Report Builder 2.0.  I just noticed this excellent walkthrough on the Dynamics CRM Team blog which shows you how to use Report Builder 2.0 with CRM 4.0.  Don’t overlook the fact that this requires SQL Server 2008 though, if you want to use your reports (including gauges and charts) inside the CRM application like this:


This Microsoft KB article confirms that CRM 4.0 is compatible with SQL Server 2008 but this may be a while down the line for many CRM users.  An alternative might be to use SQL Server 2008 on your reporting portal (perhaps together with SharePoint?) and use the CRM database as the data source?

Posted in Business Intelligence, Microsoft SharePoint, SQL Server | Comments Off on Report Builder 2.0 with CRM 4.0