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Integrating SharePoint Search with the desktop

October 13, 2010 11 comments

I often get asked if it’s possible to integrate SharePoint search services with the users desktop. And yes of course it is! To summarize the features and how to get it up and running, follow the brief descriptions below.

Note that installing and integrating SharePoint search with the desktop is not equal to implementing “Enterprise search” as a concept. If an implementation of enterprise search is considered, be sure  to include topics like taxonomy tagging, topic maps, enterprise content management, metadata, information strategies and more. Making the search engine available for the user in different contexts is just a tiny little piece of the puzzle.

NOTE! Before you enable the desktop application’s ability to integrate with a search engine you will have to install and configure the search service. You may use SharePoint search features (both 2007 and 2010), Microsoft Search Server as well as FAST integrated search. However, this will not work with Windows SharePoint Services or SharePoint Foundation.

Microsoft Office research pane

The Microsoft Office research pane gives you the ability to search directly from within Office products. This feature has been available in Microsoft Office products since at least Office XP and is very easy to use. To add your SharePoint installation as a search provider in Office, do the following:

  1. Open the research pane
  2. Click the “Research options” at the bottom of the pane
  3. Click the “Add services” button in the Research options dialog
  4. Enter the URL to the SharePoint search service web service, similar to:
                  http://%5Byour_server%5D/_vti_bin/search.asmx
  5. Click your way out after the successful addition

And yes, it is possible to add search providers through centralized management, such as GPO’s. Read more at the xxx.

Internet Explorer 7+ search bar

When you use Internet Explorer 7 or newer you have a search bar integrated in IE. By default it’s pointed at Microsoft’s Bing and it’s possible to select additional search providers from a list. However, it’s more or less just as easy to add your SharePoint search service as a search provider within IE.

  1. With IE, navigate to http://www.ieaddons.com/en/createsearch.aspx
  2. Enter the URL to your search service including a query word “TEST” similar to:
                  http://%5Byour_server%5D/SearchCenter/Pages/results.aspx?k=TEST
  3. Give the search provider a name which will be displayed as the name of the service
  4. Select the proper character set the search service use
  5. Click the “Install provider” button to install the service in IE.

Read more on how to deploy this through GPO or other means of central administration.

Windows 7 Integrated Search

The Windows Search integrated in Windows 7 use OpenSearch to connect to different search providers. OpenSearch is a standard for query and result and is basically just XML and web services. With some quick steps you may add your SharePoint server search service as a possible search provider from Windows 7 search (available in Windows Explorer).

  1. Create an XML file containing information about where to find the search service. This XML file should look something like this (change highlighted content for customization):
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
    <OpenSearchDescription xmlns=”http://a9.com/-/spec/opensearch/1.1/” xmlns:ms-ose="http://schemas.microsoft.com/opensearchext/2009/">&#160;
      <ShortName>SharePoint Search</ShortName> 
      <Description>Search the local SharePoint installation</Description> 
      <Url type="application/rss+xml" template="http://[your_server]/searchcenter/_layouts/srchrss.aspx?k={searchTerms}&amp;web.count=50" />
      <Url type="text/html" template="http://[your_server]/searchcenter/Pages/results.aspx?k={searchTerms}"/>
    </OpenSearchDescription>
  2. Save the file as an .OSDX file
  3. Double click the file you created to import the settings into Windows and just follow the steps in the wizard.

Do note that Windows 7 supports OpenSearch and is able to integrate with any OpenSearch search provider. Both SharePoint Server 2007 and 2010 may be used as a search provider for OpenSearch connectors.

Another option with Windows Vista and Windows 7 is to define the Primary intranet search scope Url in the registry or through Group Policies. To implement this add the search provider URL use the Group Policy Editor or edit the registry key HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Search\PrimaryIntranetSearchScopeUrl with the following string value modified with your appropriate values:
     [ScopeName],http://%5Byour_server%5D/SearchCenter/Pages/results.aspx?k=$w
This will enable the integrated search capabilities to involve the SharePoint search engine.

Windows Desktop Search (WDS)

As an addition to Windows XP it was possible to install “Desktop Search”, a client based indexer and search engine. Since it stole all resources on the client, no one actually used it, but when you connect the Desktop Search to a centralized search engine such as SharePoint, the use is a lot more efficient.

To use Windows Desktop Search you will have to install the software. It’s downloadable from Microsoft as a free package for genuine Windows users. Please remember to use release 3.x for Windows XP and release 4.x for Windows Vista and Windows 7.

After the software has been installed, follow these steps to configure WDS to use the SharePoint search provider. Please note that local administrative privileges is required to complete these steps. Procedural steps has not been verified.

  1. Open the registry editor (regedit.exe).
  2. Navigate to HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Search.
  3. Add a new string value (REG_SZ) and name it “SecondaryIntranetSearchScopeUrl”.
  4. Set the value to “[ScopeName],[QueryUrl]?k=$w”, similar to:
             [ScopeName],http://%5Byour_server%5D/SearchCenter/Pages/results.aspx?k=$w
       
    For multiple providers separate each string with a semicolon.
  5. Save and close the registry editor

Since these settings are placed directly into the registry, it may be set by Group Policies as well. With Windows Vista the policy template (.adm file) is included with Windows. For Windows XP you will have to download the template from Microsoft.

Read also the MSDN blog article about enabling WDS for intranet search.

Recommended additional reading and resources

For further information on how to deploy search services I suggest you take a look at some of the following sites and pages:

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Windows Live Essentials 2011 Released

October 8, 2010 Leave a comment

The latest release of Live Essentials is now released and available for download in a lot of languages. Now that Microsoft has cleaned up some of the services, especially Live Mesh, Live Folders and Live Sync, it’s almost like a dream come true.

Yes, Microsoft has a long way to go to make this a complete and transparent personal cloud service. But in my opinion, they’re getting there.

Keep up the good work and make Google and Apple look like kids on a grown up playground 🙂

Download Live Essentials from http://get.live.com.

UPDATE!
It seems like it’s a bit too early to cheer. There’s some compatibility issues with the display driver, a Windows update and IE9 beta which causes several of the applications to hang or crash. After doing some research and trouble shooting I found the solution described as a part of Microsoft’s release notes for Live Essentials 2011.

The problem occurs as a conflict between the display driver and an update Microsoft release to add new graphics functionality to Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. To resolve this issue, basically do the following:

  1. Uninstall IE9 Technical Preview and Windows 7 SP1 Beta if installed.
  2. Update display drivers, especially if you use ATI/AMD display controllers.
  3. Remove KB2028560 from your computer.
  4. Install release 2 of KB2028560 (requires "Genuine Windows”).

At least this resolved my issues, and I’m able to reinstall Internet Explorer 9 Public Beta without any problems! 🙂

Installing SharePoint Foundation 2010 on Windows 7

July 20, 2010 8 comments

I know there’s a lot of posts describing how to install SharePoint Foundation 2010 (WSS4) on Windows 7 (see Microsoft’s installation procedure for Vista and Windows Server 2008 installations), but I just had to write my own short edition of the installation procedure available at MSDN.

Please note that Microsoft does not support this configuration for production environments. Windows 7 installations should only be used for development, testing and demo purposes!

Prerequisites

The following components and additions has to be installed on the computer running Windows 7 64-bit edition:

Installation procedure

Use the following procedure to install SharePoint Foundation:

  1. Make sure all prerequisites are met and no critical error is present in the event logs.
  2. Download SharePoint Foundation from Microsoft’s web site.
  3. Extract the web package to a temporary location using the /extract command line option.
  4. Edit the .\files\Setup\config.xml file according to the section below.
  5. Run the SharePoint Foundation setup, but do not run the configuration wizard.
  6. If you use a local SQL Server 2008, install KB970315.
  7. Run the SharePoint products and technologies configuration wizard.
  8. Install appropriate language packs.
  9. Configure SharePoint with the SharePoint Central Administration web application.

Editing the config.xml file

As described in step 4 in the installation procedure above, the config.xml file has to be edited to allow installation on Windows 7. Add the following line in the configuration section:
<Setting Id="AllowWindowsClientInstall" Value="True"/>

The entire config.xml file should look similar to this:

<Configuration>
  <Package Id="sts">
    <Setting Id="SETUPTYPE" Value="CLEAN_INSTALL" />
  </Package>
  <DATADIR Value="%CommonProgramFiles%\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\14\Data" />
  <Logging Type="verbose" Path="%temp%" Template="Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 4.0 Setup *.log" />
  <PIDKEY Value="RBWQH-7PFXQ-D6RX2-HVK8Y-HP7F7" />
  <Setting Id="UsingUIInstallMode" Value="1" />
  <Setting Id="SETUP_REBOOT" Value="Never" />
  <Setting Id="AllowWindowsClientInstall" Value="True"/>
</Configuration>

IIS Features and Components

The follow screen shots shows required IIS components as described in the prerequisites section:

N’Joy!

Using LiveID with SharePoint

Managing users and user profiles on a public or community site running SharePoint is often a pain in the ass. Luckily some creative developers have created an authentication provider for SharePoint which authenticates users with Microsoft LiveID. I’ve tried different solutions, but the extended version of CKS:LiveID developed by Wictor Wilén seems to be the best to use and easiest to install and configure.

How to get started? Well, in short terms:

  • Download the Live Authentication Provider from Codeplex.
  • Register a LiveID authentication service at Microsoft Azure.
  • Install and configure the LiveID authentication provider according to the documentation provided with the solution file.
  • Add users and user permissions to your site, and…
  • Off you go!

    Please note that the authentication provider requires outbound http and https traffic (web services). If you use a proxy, please make sure you add the appropriate proxy settings in the web.config file!

    See also Wictor’s blog post on the solution.

    The DNN-approach

    Another approach is to use the LiveID integration provided with the DotNetNuke (DNN) framework. With some additional modules, it’s possible to use DNN as an authentication and user management front-end to SharePoint. This makes a great authentication provider and self-service user management solutions, especially since the modules for DNN is free and highly customizable.

    N’Joy!

    HowTo remove unused features from a site template file

    November 16, 2009 Leave a comment

    When you create a site template (.stp) or an export via stsadm.exe you will end up with a cabinet formatted archive with all the data and some XML files. One of these XML files, the Requirements.xml, contains references to all requirements the site template has. Unfortunately, SharePoint adds references to core features even if they’re not required. Typically, when you export a site from a SharePoint Enterprise server, all the enterprise features are included as requirements even if the feature set is turned off and not used.

    To fix this you will need to modify the Requirements.xml file inside the cabinet archive. This is how I do it:

    1. Rename the export or template file to .cab
    2. Extract all content to a separate directory
    3. Modify the Requirements.xml by removing all lines referring to features which is not required (be careful!)
    4. Create a new .cab file with all the same content and the modified Requirements.xml (I use Microsoft’s cabarc.exe)
    5. Rename the new cabinet file with the proper file extension
    6. Import the file according to the SharePoint environment

    Please note that any errors in the XML file or removal of actual required features may result in a corrupt cabinet file and/or a corrupted site, so BE CAREFUL!

    N’Joy!

    Desired SharePoint Solutions

    April 21, 2009 1 comment

    In many cases there’s a need for a set of default web parts and solutions for SharePoint to give the user a better experience, and designers tools to create nice web solutions. I’ve been working with SharePoint for quite a few years, and during this time my experience is that the following basic web parts and solutions often are required.

    If anyone have solutions for these needs or would like to develop them as Open Source projects, please let me know. In addition to the solutions specified below, I think the following solutions might be just as relevant, but will generate quite a lot of work:

    • Organization chart based on user profiles
    • Basic graphical charts, typically as included in .NET FrameWork 3.5, similar to the ChartPart for SharePoint or the Charting for SharePoint projects at Codeplex
    • Phone Book/List view of the profile database (not  just people search)
    • LDAP directory lookup and search
    • Customized list forms with a forms designer
    • File explorer with delegated permissions
    • PowerPoint mini-viewer web part to display a PPT in a small web part (Silverlight)
    • Rolling info screen presentation based on SharePoint content (Silverlight)
    • User self service with AD property modification, password resets and more
    • Server side Power Shell script execution
    • Corporate CV database based on the user profiles shared service

    In general all solutions should be flexible in terms of deployment scope, languages, WSS/MOSS and highly configurable.

    Content Tagging with Tag Clouds

    This solution is more or less the same as any standard tagging feature, but for some reason it’s not included in SharePoint. The solution should cover as many of the following requirements as possible:

    • Tagging of any content type in any site within a site collection
    • Dynamically storing all used tags in a configurable tags list
    • Auto complete lookup towards the configured tags list (Ajax)
    • Highly customizable rendering

    The SPTags project at Codeplex is a possible solution to cover this need.

    Cross Site List Aggregator and Rollup

    This solutions should be able to aggregate information from a specified list type in different sites and display the aggregated result. The solution should be able to use all Sharepoint view features, such as the default list view, calendar, Gantt charts and more.

    A possible solution for this is the Portal Solutions SharePoint Toolbox project at Codeplex.

    Advanced Lookup Field

    The standard lookup field in Sharepoint is very limited. It’s not possible to use this field cross site or towards any other data source other than a Sharepoint list. In addition, it’s not very user friendly, especially with a large number of entries returned to the user.

    Some of the basic features of this solutions should be:

    • If the input field is free text, it should be possible to enable auto complete as the user types. Typically implemented as Ajax.
    • It should be possible to use more or less any data source as a lookup source.
    • The lookup should be able to filter and sort the returned results based on configurable options.
    • It should be possible to enable dynamically connected lookup fields which filters the selection list based on a value in another field.
    • Both multi select and single select must be configurable
    • The rendering of the selection alternatives must be configurable

    The SharePoint Filtered Lookup Field project at Codeplex covers the need for filters in a lookup field, but it’s not possible to combine this feature with other solutions such as dynamic/connected and auto complete lookup fields.

    The SharePoint Connected Lookup project at Codeplex covers basic needs for dynamically connected lookup fields, but again it’s not possible to combine this feature with other solutions.

    Multi RSS Feed Reader

    The MOSS RSS feed reader does not support WSS and multiple feeds, and in many cases it’s desirable to have multiple feeds combined as one. It’s also important to have a good RSS reader for WSS.

    The best solution I’ve found so far is the Smiling Goat RSS Reader, but there are several issues with this solution. Among other things, the solution has problems with non-English characters and the formatting is poor. For commercial use it’s not preferable to have author branding as the web part icon.

    Content Rating

    This solution should be able to rate any content on a SharePoint site or site collection regardless of content type (libraries, lists and pages). The rating should be configurable as both strings and numbers as well as the presentation such as images, strings or other visual effects.

    The SharePoint Tool Basket project at Codeplex contains a solution which might cover this need, but I’ve not been able to try this out yet.

    Mini Calendar View

    On most intranets and public internet sites, where a schedule is an important part of the business, it’s often requested to have a tiny calendar on the front page which highlights the dates in a month with content and displays the entries when a user hovers over the date. Each date in the mini calendar view should be linked to a calendar and the appropriate date.

    I know that Bamboo Solutions have some commercial alternatives, but I haven’t been able to test them yet.

    Calculated Icon Field Type

    Lists in SharePoint is often used as an alternative to Excel spreadsheets, but there’s one important feature missing which is conditional formatting, especially icons to visualize status of the rows.

    I’ve seen some solutions at Codeplex, but these solutions are limited in use. Among other things, it’s not possible to configure which images to use and the criteria/rules are limited to specific values or ranges. It should be possible to define SharePoint formulas as the criteria and custom images based on the result of the formula.

    Based on a tip from one of my associates, I’ve manage to accomplish this by altering the fldtypes.xml file on the server, but I don’t think hacks are the way to go in a commercial production environment.

    In addition it would have been nice to have conditional formatting in any list similar to conditional formatting in Excel 2007.

    User Poll

    This solutions is a quite straight forward User Poll, but it should be possible to use the Poll both as an authenticated user and as an anonymous user. It should be configurable if the user may respond several times or not, and if the user may see the results of the poll.

    Some projects at Codeplex covers some of the needs, but anonymous poll is not supported and the configurability and styling is very poor.

    What’s New and What’s Hot

    This is actually two different solutions which is closely related. The What’s New web part should display the newest items on a site or site collection with the ability to filter on specific lists. It should be customizable how the result is displayed and how many items to return.

    The What’s Hot web part should display the top x items on a site or site collection. The solutions should be able to exclude some pages/entries, such as the home page of the site, and the information returned or displayed should be customizable.

    Web Capture Web Part

    In SharePoint Portal Server 2003 (SPS) Microsoft shipped a web part called "Web Capture" which grabbed parts of any web page and displayed the result in a web part. With Office Systems 2007 the feature disappeared, including the client side ActiveX control required to browse and select elements for the targeted web page.

    Since it’s lots of web sites and web applications which doesn’t support any kind of data aggregation or integration, this solutions was great. However, it’s gone.

    I deployed the SPS web part on WSS/MOSS and the web part it self works fine, but it’s required to use Office 2003 to have the ability to browse and select which element to grab. In addition, the old web part only supports table tags, and the div tags are more commonly used and the W3C recommended tag for layout purposes.

    Ticker Web Part

    The Ticker should be able to display content from lists, web services and RSS feeds as a scrolling text, both vertically and horizontally, similar to the stock ticker you might find on any financial web page. The web part should be able to use both JavaScript and Silverlight or flash as client side presentation.

    A better Vista than Vista

    December 10, 2008 Leave a comment

    I’ve been running Windows 7 Ultimate pre-beta (build 6801) for about a month now, and my conclusion is that the pre-beta release of Windows 7 is a lot better than Vista even as a pre-beta. Feature wise, it’s only a few changes in the basic usage of the OS compared to Vista, but I would like to emphasize a couple important changes.

    1. Running applications with elevated privileges
      One of most annoying parts of Vista is the elevated privileges dialog which appears each time you would like to run an application with administrative rights. I think the idea is very nice, but how the user experiences these pop-ups (and the endless time it takes) is horrible.
      In Windows 7 the feature is still present, but it’s now possible to run applications in elevated mode without the notification message. The icon on the applications which requires elevated privileges contains the well known shield (same as in Vista), but when the application is launched it’s just launched.
      If you like to launch an application which does not require elevated privileges with elevated privileges, you do the same as you’ve always done. Right-click and select “Run as administrator”.
       
    2. The concept of “Libraries”
      With Windows 7 you are presented with a new virtual folder structure called Libraries. A library contains a set of pointers to different physical file locations but seems like a folder tree to the user. During the past month I’ve grown so attached to this feature that each time I use a computer with XP or Vista, I nearly can’t find my way around.
      This is a very nice feature which I’ve been waiting for for years!
       
    3. The transparent desktop wide Side Bar
      The side bar is now desktop wide (not limited to the side of the screen) and completely transparent. Since the resource usages has been heavily reduced, it’s now possible to use gadgets (at least most of them) in an efficient way. Now my desktop contains key information from the net, most of which is a result of a query presented as a feed. In addition I’ve added some tools I use frequently. And yes, it works!
       

    With regards to stability, I think it’s very stable, especially when you take the fact that it’s a pre-beta into consideration. In one month, I’ve had 2 complete system crashes which was related to third party drivers which, of course, was written for Vista. In addition I’ve experienced some snags which usually results in a restart of an application, but with basic applications such as Office 2007 and some utilities it usually works fine.

    Speed! has always been an issue when working with Windows and Microsoft OS’s. My expectations was very low since my try-out was based on a pre-beta release of Windows. My experience was quite the opposite. Windows 7 is much faster to use than Vista with the same hardware configuration. The startup time was reduced by almost 50 %, and the system is seldom non-responsive. It’s even possible to actually use the Side Bar without having to buy a new computer (although, some gadgets should not be used if you want to be able to work properly).

    My conclusion is quite easy. I’m going to use Windows 7 instead of Vista even if it’s in the early beta stages. No more Vista for me!

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