First look of Microsoft Forms app

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There was always a need of a simple system that can create Quiz or Survey. We are familiar with the Survey feature on SharePoint. But the challenge when using this Survey list in SharePoint is that Site have to be created and all users have to have access to it in order to participate. With new Microsoft online app “Microsoft Forms” we have very easy, intuitive and effective way to compose quiz, surveys or pools and offer them to our target audience.

Microsoft Forms was announced back in April 2016, but only in Office 365 Education vertical. It was first intended to be used by the teachers so they can create questionnaires, collect parents feedback and more.

Quick quizzes and surveys with Microsoft Forms
Today, we are also announcing Microsoft Forms. Microsoft Forms is a new part of Office 365 Education that allows teachers or students to easily and quickly create custom surveys, quizzes, questionnaires, registrations and more. Form authors can invite others to complete forms, which they can do using any web browser, even on mobile devices. Form authors can view results as they are submitted using the built-in analytics, and Forms data (i.e., quiz results) can be easily exported to Excel for additional analysis or grading.

This June, Microsoft Forms have become available in Preview in the commercial versions of Office 365.

Microsoft Forms Public Preview for Office 365 commercial customers
Following the launch of Microsoft Forms in Education last summer, we heard from businesses that they need an easy-to-use tool for creating surveys, quizzes and polls. Today, we’re rolling out the public preview of Microsoft Forms to our Office 365 commercial subscribers, so you can collect information from customers, employees and partners. The preview is currently rolling out to tenants whose entire organizations are signed up for First Release, and will gradually be available to other tenants in a few months.

The application is very simple to be used. Once you log in, you got the list of all already created Forms, or you can create new Form or Quiz.

Add new Forms or Quiz and Add Questions

There are plenty of options with the questions and answers, textual answers, ratings, choices and more. You can find more on the any resources that already exist on the net, starting from introduction video

More resources

 

SharePoint configuration error related to incorrect server time

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Recently I was installing and configuring new SharePoint 2013 farm using AutoSPInstaller in offline mode. The script throw an error during the search configuration white it tries start and connect to Search Host Controller service on both Web Front-Ends and to configure Query web service to run on them. During the OS installation, on the serves I have noticed that the was around 20 minutes difference between them. We tried to start Windows Time service and tough that the problem will go away and they will sync with AD time. But that was not the case. I received this error in PowerShell during search configuration: Failed to connect to Host controller in Server : XYZ. The error showed nothing connected to time. I tried to start it manually, but every time I started the configuration script, the service got restarted and I end up with this error. The I tried to save myself with ULS and finaly read this:

Failed to connect to Host controller in Server : XYZ. Exception : System.ServiceModel.Security.SecurityNegotiationException: A call to SSPI failed, see inner exception. —> System.Security.Authentication.AuthenticationException: A call to SSPI failed, see inner exception. —> System.ComponentModel.Win32Exception: The clocks on the client and server machines are skewed

Now we have more clear view of the problem and once we managed to get host OS in sync with AD time service, the problem got away.

 

 

Category: SharePoint 2013

Creating custom web property bag declaratively

As a SharePoint consultant I’m always looking for possibilities to implement some requirement on top of SharePoint that is not supported out of the box. I’m working on a project that requires site categorization (on SPWeb level). On top of that requirement, there is also a requirement for building searchable site directory using that categorization. First thing that came on my mind was to use properties from site property bag for storing web categorization and then try to search sites/web based on data in that properties.

Luckily, searching for this topics on the net, I came to one really good blog post that confirmed that this whole idea is possible with new SharePoint 2013 features.

So next question is how to create these custom web properties. Most of the information on the net lead to process of properties creation trough C# or PowerShell. But in my case I wanted these custom web properties to be created each time web is created from my custom site definition. What are my possibilities?

  1. Add Web Receiver (Event Receiver) through a Feature that is activated each time this kind of site/web is created. Add C# code in the event receiver that created these properties,
  2. Find better way that does not include C# coding, but use well known SharePoint declarative programming

Because I try always to stay away from hard coding in C# for features that can be implemented with declarative programming, I started to search on the net for this kind of solution. There was almost nothing on this topic on the blogs. But, I found an MSDN documentation for Property Bag Schema.

In the schema article, child elements like PropertyBag Element and Property Element  are also linked and explained. Next question, where should I add these xml declarations? The parent element of the top PropertyBag element is Elements. So this means that it should reside in Empty Element project item created in Visual Studio. Then it can be deployed and activated on SharePoint as a Feature from onet.xml of the custom site definition. So lets start:

 

  1. Open Visual Studio project where you Site Definition is already created (or you are staring to develop)
  2. Create new Project Item -SharePoint Empty Element
  3. Inside the elements note add your custom web properties definition

    You can notice that I’m creating two custom properties, with names SiteCategory and OwnerArea. I can set default values for them, but in my case I don’t need that.
  4. Then create one Feature, Web scoped and my suggestion is to be hidden
  5. Add created Element with property bag in this feature
  6. Open onet.xml and add this feature activation element in the WebFeatures section

We are done. Now deploy your Site Definition with Property Bag feature. Create site or web from this site definition and you should be able to see your web properties created.
In order to see web properties from property bag, I use CodePlex project (WSP) available on the following link https://pbs2013.codeplex.com/

In the next blog post I will explain how to make these web properties searchable trough SharePoint search application.

PropertyBagSettingsEdit

Installing SharePoint Designer 2013 Service Pack 1 got me error “There are no products affected by this package”

If you have installed your SharePoint Development machine, and updated the SP version on Service Pack 1, but without previously installing SharePoint Designer, probably you will experience this situation. I noticed today that I have no SharePoint Designer 2013 installed on my SP2013 SP1 development machine. I need one, So I installed the SharePoint designer 2013 RTM version first. Then I proceed to install SP2013 Designer SP1 and I received this message:

SharePoint Designer 2013 RTM to SP1 Install Error

SharePoint Designer 2013 RTM to SP1 Install Error

Hmm, I first suspected that I have already installed SP2013 Designer with SP1 and whent into the program to check the same. But, the version (build) number say 15.0.4420.1017 which is by Todd Klindt’s post about SharePoint Build numbers is the RTM.

Next try, restart the machine, always try the “old fashion” in the first try :). No luck after reboot, same message. Hmm, there have to be a way to tell the installer to bypass the version check. And the magic come with:

SP2013 Designer - PACKAGE.BYPASS.DETECTION.CHECK=1

SP2013 Designer – PACKAGE.BYPASS.DETECTION.CHECK=1

After this command, the error message was gone, the update finished installation with no error. At the end the version in the Designer was changed.

SP2013 Designer SP1 Version

 

Windows 10 and Office 365 Single Sign-On

Recently I read a post on “Active Directory Team Blog” about new possibilities in Windows 10 and Azure Active Directory. I was very impressed and excited about the steps that MS took to bring the cloud much closed to the companies. In the blog post with title “Azure Active Directory and Windows 10: Bringing the cloud to enterprise desktops!”, AD Team announced that Windows 10 enabled PCs can JOIN Azure Active Directory. Yes! There is no more need to have on-prem server as Domain Controller. This means that you can log-on to your PC directly with account created on Azure Active Directory.

Reading further and investigating Singe Sign-On (SSO) possibilities with this new feature, I found that on Windows 10, similar to Win 8.1, you can add (associate) Microsoft account. But also you can associate Azure AD account or Office 365 account (because Office 365 accounts are in fact Azure AD accounts). This bring us to the point. This way you have enabled SSO to your Office 365 service.

Let’s imagine this more traditional situation. You are joined to your corporate domain (on-prem) and on your account, on your PC with windows 10 you associate your Office 365 account. This way every time you open your Office 365 SharePoint site, you will get logged automatically with the associated account.

Now let’s see how to do this. This is the test Office 365 site with one test user created

O356UsersList

Now on the PC where we are logged on with Local or AD account, we go to Settings to associate our Office 365 account

Step 1, got to Windows 10 -> Settings -> Account

Step 2, on your account section, at the bottom of the page, click on “Add a work or school account”

AddO356Account2

Step 3, enter Office 356 login and password (those from first print screen – list of Office 365 users), and Sign in

AddO356Account3

If now you try to open your SharePoint Online (Office 365) you will get automatically signed in with this associated account

SPOnlineSSO

 

 

Search terms: Office 365 and Windows 10 Single Sign-On, Office 365 SSO, Windows 10 associate Office 365 account, Win10 SSO, SSO on Windows 10   

 

Windows Updates changes regarding SharePoint patches

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There have been an announcement these days about changes in the distribution of SharePoint patches with Windows Updates. Begining of february there was a post by Stefan Gosner that “starting with February 2015 CU SharePoint Product Updates including non-security product updates will be made available via Windows Update.” – post. This was very brave but also risky decision by Microsoft. I have experienced problems with some of my customers who installed CUs over Windows Updates and their WSUS. SharePoint Updates, especially CUs should always be installed, only if necessary, by SharePoint Administrator.

Today I read form Stefan again that this decision has changed and only security related patches will be delivered over WSUS – post

But, the best solution to prevent unwanted installations of any updates on your production SharePoint server/farm is to disable automatic updates and always decide which updates you want to install.

Category: SharePoint | Tags: ,

Windows PowerShell “abused” :) – in good way

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There is a definition for Windows PowerShell on Microsoft TechNet site that says:

“Windows PowerShell® is a task-based command-line shell and scripting language designed especially for system administration. Built on the .NET Framework, Windows PowerShell helps IT professionals and power users control and automate the administration of the Windows operating system and applications that run on Windows.”

Event it is stated that designed especially for system administration I use it also for another purposes, quick code script, doing something on SharePoint, downloading some files, etc, there are people who have gone much further. Today I found very interesting blog post from Jeff Adkin, a Microsoft Premier Field Engineer and Pluralsight trainer, where he and his colleagues demonstrate how Windows PowerShell can be “abused” and create a GAME completely in PS Script.

This is the blog post and the short video there. They have done Great Job!

Category: Uncategorized | Tags:

Create SharePoint Content Database in Pre-Created SQL Database with PowerShell

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We all know that creating SharePoint Content Database can be done trough Central Administration UI or with PowerShell script. One of the biggest performance bottleneck for SharePoint Content DB, especially when adding or updating documents, is SQL DB Auto-growth. When document is added to SharePoint site, it is stored in SQL Database. When this database is full (database file is full), the SQL Auto-grow the database file, reserving additional space for storing data (in our case documents). When we add a lot of documents very often, this Auto-growth process is executed often also and consume valuable resources (processor, disk IOPS, and time). To avoid this operation to execute very often, we should create Content DB with size that we assume will be consumed in near future and also configure “very carefully DB auto-growth size”. This can be done if we pre-create SQL Database with predefined initial size and auto-growth and then create SharePoint Content Database on top of this (or inside) Database.

The whole process could be automated with PowerShell script, which creates SQL Database on a SQL Server (Could be SQL Cluster also) and then create Content DB. This PowerShell script function, creates SQL Database with predefined file size and auto-growth plus some other settings:

This function will create SQL Database on the SQL Server $sqlname with name $dbname. Database file will be created in folder path $databasefilepath with initial size In MB $dbFileInitialSizeMB and will auto-grow $dbFileGrowthSizeMB. Same for the T-LOG file is defined trough parameters, $logfilepath, $logFileInitialSizeMB,$logFileGrowthSizeMB.

Now we can create SharePoint Content Database:

New-SPContentDatabase $contentDbName -WebApplication $webAppUrl -DatabaseServer $sqlDBServerName 

 

Check disk available space for you SharePoint Content Database

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On a Large Scale SharePoint Farms you often need to create Content Database for one Site Collection with predefined size and growth. This way you increase performance, especially insert and update operations on the database. During the planning process you can plan for a initial Site Collections size, depending on the number of files and their size (there is correct formula for sizing planning).

Other thing is that you may want to create new site collection and corresponding content database automatically:

  • when first one is big enough
  • each week, each month
  • other logic

For this reason you want to use PowerShell to create new site collection. The process of creating new site collection for storing large amount of documents and size goes like this:

Flow1

 

You create SQL Database using PowerShell SQL AddOn and specify file locations (mdf and ldf) where the database will be created. You also want to create SQL Database with predefined size and growth in order to avoid to often database growth. And lastly, before creating database (ex. initial 30 GB) you want to check if there is enough available space on the SQL Server drive/s.

Here is a PowerShell script that is doing the job:

Once you are sure that you have enough space to create your SQL Database, you can continue. The script for creating SQL Database with predefined size and growth with powershell will be discussed in the next blog post.

SharePoint 2013 Enterprise Search common errors

Back in SharePoint 2010, User Profile service application was one of the “most problematic” sub systems. In this version, it seems that Enterprise Search service application is “taking the leadership”. II n this post I will mention two of them that I experienced in the several different scenarios.

  1. Topology activation failed. No system manager locations set, search application might not be ready yet
  2. Unable to retrieve topology component health states. This may be because the admin component is not up and running

For both of them, on different farms I have found, and there are also many other posts suggesting same, that if I edit C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office Servers\15.0\Search\Runtime\1.0\noderunner.exe.config and limit the memory consumption, the noderunners know to stuck and give one of these error depending of the state of the service application. So if you try to provision search application with node runners with limited memory you can experience first error, and if your search application is already provisioned and you change config file, you can experience second error.

Also, there is post about additional required updates, especially for windows 2008 r2, that need to be installed aside from SP2013 Preparation tool: http://www.dontpapanic.com/blog/?p=256

In another farm, I experienced this kind of errors and there was different problem and hopefully solution. Sometimes Usage and Health application Proxy is not provisioned on the system and cause errors. The solution is to execute this PowerShell script to provision:

$UP = Get-SPServiceApplicationProxy | where {$_.TypeName -like “Usage*”}
$UP.Provision()

Hope this will help to others find the possible solutions on one place.