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Monthly Archives: February 2008

Minor Public Announcement: Windows Live Security Settings and Contacting Space Owners

I receive a handful of messages from individuals via the built-in "send a message" function Microsoft provides with live spaces (which also hosts my blog) every month.

About one third of the time, those users have secured their live spaces account such that I cannot reply.  This is some kind of anti-spam feature I assume.

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Simple Explanation: “Value does not fall within the expected range.”

UPDATE: An anonymous poster left a great comment about internal names.  Be sure to read it.

When working with event receivers and other code that references SharePoint list items via the object model, I often make mistakes that generate this error at runtime:

Error loading and running event receiver Conchango.xyzzyEventReceiver in xyzzy, Version=1.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=0dc50a750396c3ac. Additional information is below.  : Value does not fall within the expected range.    

I think this is a fairly generic error that is potentially caused many different ways.  However, one simple explanation is that I’m referencing a field incorrectly.  If the name of the field is "Due Date", I must reference it like this in an event receiver:

properties.ListItem["Due Date"]

When I misspell or use the wrong case when referencing the field, SharePoint generates the above mentioned runtime error.  For example, this is wrong:

properties.ListItem["due Date"]

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End User Quick Tip: Sort Views in a Document Library, List, etc.

We can, should and do create many views in SharePoint lists (document libraries, custom lists, etc).  SharePoint always lists available views in alphabetical order.  We cannot change this using out of the box functionality.  If it can be done via customization (and I’m not sure it can), it’s far to technical for your typical end user.

If you want to control the order in which SharePoint lists available views, simply prepend a number or letter to the view name, as in:

1 – By Material Type
2 – All Documents
3 – Due Date

-or-

A – By Material Type
B – All Documents
C – Due Date

I have also created views whose purpose is strictly to feed a KPI.  I have been following this naming convention:

Z_KPI_[description]

That causes my "KPI" views to appear at the bottom of the list.

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Sunday Funny: “When I Was a Little Boy”

As a parent, somewhere along the line I discovered the "When I was a little boy" trick. 

My son, probably four or five at the time, was playing a balloon and like most little boys that play with balloons, he popped it.  He was very upset.  The world had come to an end.  I said to him, "when I was little boy, I had a balloon and it popped and eventually, I got a new balloon."  It seemed to help him cope with his loss and led to a fun talk about what it was like when I was a little boy.

That worked well as a consolation technique and I used it a several times over the next period of time.  I did get into trouble once when his Monster Rancher 3 creature died.  I talked about how my dog, Prince, had died in a car accident.  This time, his response was, "Now I feel bad about two things!"  I shied away from using the "when I was a little boy" technique for consolation after that.

Before the dead dog incident, however, I had also started to use the technique to convince him to do chores.  "When I was a little boy, I had to go out and get the newspaper", "clean my room", "get Mommy her coffee cup", etc.

This too was pretty successful for a while, but he started to increasingly rebel against the tyranny of my childhood.  One event, in particular, marked the end.  I told him to bring the garbage cans from curb back to the garage.  He argued and I responded, "When I was a little boy, I had to take the garbage back to the garage."  He responded, "Oh yeah!  Well when you were a little boy, that was STUPID!".

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Views and Columns on Lists and Document Libraries Cannot Be Secured

UPDATE (02/29/08): This new codeplex project seems to provide a method for securing individual columns: http://www.codeplex.com/SPListDisplaySetting.  If you have any experience working with it, please leave a comment.

Forum posters frequently ask a question like this: "I have a manager view and and a staff view of a list.  How do I secure the manager view so that staff can not use it?"

They also frequently ask a related question: "I want to secure a specific metadata column so that only managers may edit that column while others may not even see it."

These  answers apply to both WSS 3.0 and MOSS:

  • SharePoint does not provide out-of-the-box support for securing views.
  • SharePoint does not provide out-of-the-box support for security columns.

There are several techniques one can follow to meet these kinds of security requirements.  Here’s what I can think of:

  • Use out-of-the-box item level security.  Views always honor item level security configuration.  Event receivers and/or workflow can automate security assignment.
  • Use personal views for "privileged" views.  These are easy enough to set up.  However, due to their "personal" nature, these need to be configured for each user.  Use standard security configuration to prevent anyone else from creating a personal view.
  • Use a data view web part and implement some kind of AJAXy security trimming solution.
  • Roll your own list display functionality and incorporate security trimming at the column level.
  • Modify the data entry forms and use JavaScript in conjunction with the security model to implement column-level security trimming.
  • Use an InfoPath form for data entry.  Implement column-level security trimming via web service calls to SharePoint and conditionally hide fields as needed.
  • Roll your own ASP.NET data entry function that implements column level security trimming.

None of those options are really that great, but there is at least a path to follow if you need to, even if it’s hard.

NOTE: If you go down any of these paths, don’t forget about "Actions -> Open with Windows Explorer".  You want to be sure that you test with that feature to make sure that it doesn’t work as a "back door" and defeat your security scheme.

If you have other ideas for or experiences with securing columns or views, please email me or leave a comment and I’ll update this posting as appropriate.

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Quick Tip: BDC ADF Version Numbers Are Your Friend

If you’re hand-coding ADF files and doing a lot of code/import/test cycles, use the version number to make your life easier. 

I hate to admit it, but until this week, I was always deleting the ADF and re-importing it.  This would break my business data columns and make me re-wire them.  All unnecessary.

File this under "it’s obvious once you see it".

Example:

<LobSystem
xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance" xsi:schemaLocation="http://schemas.microsoft.com/office/2006/03/BusinessDataCatalog BDCMetadata.xsd" Type="WebService" Version="1.2.0.0" Name="xyzzyDocumentReview" xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/office/2006/03/BusinessDataCatalog">

Change that version and re-import and the existing business data column uses the updated version automatically with no additional configuration required.

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Solution: BDC Picker Shows Only One Column Of Results

In my on-going attempts at providing a more useful lookup column using BDC, I hit a wall with the BDC picker.  If you haven’t see it, the BDC picker is similar to a people picker except that it works with columns of type "business data".

You access the picker by clicking on the open book icon of a business data column as shown:

The above image shows a business data column called "Master Document Id".  That column is connected, via BDC, to a web service.  The web service returns two columns of information: Document ID and Title.  The business purpose here is to provide a "this document is based on" function.  Users select a "master" document and when they save, an event receiver copies meta data fields from the referenced master.

By default, the BDC picker looks like this when I search for a document whose ID = "38":

That’s helpful, but not good enough.  People don’t think in terms of IDs, they think in terms of titles and/or other meta data.  The picker allows you to search on other columns (e.g. Title) but won’t show the actual list of titles it found, just their DocId’s as shown here:

(The screen shot isn’t so great because I didn’t pick a search that returns any valid results, but you can see that if it had found some results, it would only have shown DocId’s, not titles).

I searched high and low for the answer to this and failed.  My colleague, the venerable Jonathan Bradshaw, had faced and solved this issue.  When I reached out to him for help, he pointed me in the right direction.

Configure the picker to show multiple columns via the "ShowInPicker" property in the ADF:

         <Property Name="ShowInPicker" Type="System.Boolean">true</Property>

In more detail:

  <!-- Title -->
  <TypeDescriptor TypeName="System.String" Name="Title" >
    <LocalizedDisplayNames>
      <LocalizedDisplayName LCID="1033">Title</LocalizedDisplayName>
    </LocalizedDisplayNames>
    <Properties>
      <Property Name="DisplayByDefault" Type="System.Boolean">true</Property>
      <Property Name="ShowInPicker" Type="System.Boolean">true</Property>
    </Properties>
  </TypeDescriptor>

Setting this property does introduce a minor problem.  As soon as you set it once, you need to set it for every column you want to show.  In my case, BDC picker showed DocId by default.  However, once I added "ShowInPicker" to Title, DocId no longer displayed.  I solved that by explicitly setting the ShowInPicker property for Doc ID.

Here is the result:

(I’ll explain the odd-looking "168 – CamlSchema.xsd" construction in a future blog post.  In short, it’s a concatenated string that allows for a slightly better user experience).

Of course, having written this blog entry, I just did a search for "ShowInPicker" and found numerous hits, including this one: http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms583986.aspx.  It explains the meaning of that property along with some other good BDC stuff.

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Quick & Easy: Create a Folder and Assign a Content Type (Or, Have Your KPIs and Eat Them Too)

In order to work around a KPI problem I wrote about here, I did some testing and discovered that KPI’s work against folders with meta data in the same way that they work against documents or list items.   I proved it out by creating a new content type based on the folder content type and then added a few fields.  I created some indicators and proved to myself that KPIs work as expected.  This was welcome news.  It’s not perfect, because the drill-down you get from the KPI against the folders is not exactly what you want.  This isn’t too much a drawback in my case because 1) the end users don’t know any better and 2) the drill-down goes to a folder.  They click the folder name and they are at the item.  It’s two clicks instead of one, which isn’t the end of the world.

This flowed nicely with the work I was doing.  I am creating a folder for every document that gets uploaded.  This is done via an event receiver.  As a result, it’s a piece of cake to keep the parent folder’s meta data in sync with the KPI-driven meta data from the file itself since the plumbing is already in place.  This allows me to have my KPI’s and eat them too 🙂

I modified the event receiver to add the folder and then set this new folder’s content type to my custom KPI-friendly content type.  This bit of code did the trick:

  SPFolderCollection srcFolders = targetWeb.GetFolder("Documents").SubFolders;
  SPFolder addedFolder = srcFolders.Add(properties.ListItem.ID.ToString());
  SPContentTypeId kpiCT = new SPContentTypeId("0x0120002A666CAA9176DC4AA8CBAA9DC6B4039F");
  addedFolder.Item["Content Type ID"] = kpiCT;
  addedFolder.Item.Update();

To locate the actual Content Type ID, I accessed that content type via site settings and copy/pasted it from the URL as shown:

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Quick and Easy: Get the SPFolder of an SPListItem in an Event Receiver

I hate to admit it, but I struggled with this one all day.  My event receiver needs to update a field of its parent folder.  This little bit shows how to do it:

        private void UpdateParentFolder(SPItemEventProperties properties)
        {

            SPFolder thisItemFolder = properties.ListItem.File.ParentFolder;
            thisItemFolder.Item["ZZ Approval Status"] = "Good news, everyone!";
            thisItemFolder.Item.Update();
           
           
        } // UpdateParentFolder

In this case, I’m working with a document library and the properties are coming from an ItemAdded event.

The trick is that you can’t get the SPFolder of the item directly from the item itself (i.e. properties.ListItem.Folder is null).  Instead, go to the list item’s associated File and get the File’s folder.

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Yet Another Event Receiver Debug Trick

I’m sure I’m not the first person to come up with this.  However, I haven’t noticed anyone publish a trick like this since I started paying close attention to the community last July.  So, I thought I’d post it this quick and easy debug tip.

I’m working on an event receiver that started to generate this error in the 12 hive:

Error loading and running event receiver Conchango.xyzzyEventReceiver in xyzzy, Version=1.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=blahbalhbalh. Additional information is below.  : Object reference not set to an instance of an object.    

I didn’t know where I had introduced this bug because I had done too many things in one of my code/deploy/test cycles. 

I tried this solution to get my pdb in there with hopes that SharePoint’s 12 hive would show the stack trace, but no luck.  I don’t know if it’s possible and if someone does, please let me know 🙂

I know it’s possible to write your own log messages to the 12 hive.  Frankly, I wanted something a little less scary and quicker to implement.

It occurred to me that I could at least get some basic trace information by catching and re-throwing generic exceptions like this:

  try {
    UpdateEditionDate(properties);
  }
  catch (Exception e)
  {
    throw new Exception("Dispatcher, UpdateEditionDate(): Exception: [" + e.ToString() + "].");
  }

This showed up in the 12 hive thusly:

Error loading and running event receiver Conchango.xyzzyEventReceiver in xyzzy, Version=1.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=blahblahblah. Additional information is below.  : Dispatcher, UpdateEditionDate(): Exception: [System.NullReferenceException: Object reference not set to an instance of an object.     at Conchango.xyzzyManagementEventReceiver.UpdateEditionDate(SPItemEventProperties properties)     at Conchango.xyzzyManagementEventReceiver.Dispatcher(SPItemEventProperties properties, String eventDescription)].

That gave me all the detail I needed to track down that particular problem and I expect to use it a lot going forward.

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