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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New release of Workbox 2010 is ready for download

We have published a new release of Workbox 2010. Current version is 2.2.0.1174.
As always you can get it from here: www.datapolis.com/workbox/get

What is new in the latest release:
  • Workflow Innovations
    Workbox has been extended to support new workflow types introduced by SharePoint 2010: Site Workflows, Reusable Workflows and Globally Reusable Workflows.
  • Extended Launch Forms
    Launch Forms for both actions and workflows have been extended with the possibility of using InfoPath forms or custom Web sites.
  • Add Item Activity With Possibility of Setting Item Field Values
    Add Item activity has been extended with the ability of setting field values of the newly created item, thus eliminating the need of using Edit Items activity to perform this task and allowing items to be added correctly when a list-level validation is set.
  • Add User to Active Directory Activity
    The activity allows creating new Active Directory accounts with defined properties.
  • Run PowerShell Script Activity
    The activity allows running PowerShell scripts on current SharePoint farm.
  • Send Web Service Request Function
    The function allows sending SOAP requests to Web services and receiving responses.
  • Extended Field Permissions
    Field permissions for workflow state now support two new fields: Attachments and Author Information.
  • End State Name in Workflow History
    Workflow end state’s custom name is now displayed in workflow history.
  • Extended Loop Activity
    Loop iterator has been added to Loop activity. The Result field has been renamed to Run Loop Again and, if performing next iteration will not be possible, the field will contain information about the cause.
Please update and let us know what you think!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Shootout: "Workflow on SharePoint" at the European SharePoint Conference

Shoot out in Berlin at European SharePoint Conference (17-20 Oct. 2011) is confirmed! [read more]

Since we are very excited about this event, we owe you a few words of explanation.
What is Shoot Out? It will be a great Workflow Battle between the most respected workflow companies, top Microsoft partners. Datapolis along with K2 and Nintex will participate in a workflow competition. Each company will be given three tasks, listed below:
  • Task 1 Create and publish a workflow for travel request [5 minutes each, total duration 15 minutes]
  • Task 2 On-board a new employee (Create AD account, grant SharePoint Access, create MySite, assign an office, print an ID Card, order a car from an external Dealer) [10 minutes each = 30 minutes]
  • Task 3 Describe the License Model
    • Price, description and limitations of the cheapest entry version
    • Price for a medium farm configuration, with 3 SharePoint servers and 500 users
      [5 minutes each on slides, totaling 15 minutes]
Who will win? There will be no vote taken by the audience to declare a winner, but the audience will be encouraged to tweet and blog about the Shoot Out. Finally all presentations will be judged by the jury that consists of vendor companies.

The Shoot Out initiative was presented by Michael Greth, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, specializing in SharePoint Server. Michael, due to his knowledge and technical expertise, is a VIP in the SharePoint world. He is also a member of the Conference Program Committee.

Please feel invited to Shoot Out in Berlin! Hoping to see you there cheering us on.
Remember: European SharePoint Conference, Berlin, October 19th, 11:15 AM!
 

Monday, September 26, 2011

We'll be at Microsoft SharePoint Conference in Anaheim

We are proud to announce we will be present at Microsoft SharePoint Conference, the biggest SharePoint event in the world which will be held on 3-6th October in Anaheim, CA, USA! Microsoft SharePoint Conference according to the organizer, Microsoft company, will gather more than 5000 attendees! More than 250 technical slots available for IT Pros, IT Devs and business. Unforgettable occasion to meet all significant people in the business, find out what is new in our SharePoint World. 
 
Datapolis will be presenting its flagship product Datapolis Workbox 2010. So if you are interested in Workbox functionality, we will be delighted to meet you personally at our booth no. 671, Hall B! Please feel invited! 

Microsoft SharePoint Conference is Datapolis’ second American technology conference this year. Busy times has come this fall. But this is what we like! Shortly after Microsoft SharePoint Conference we will be present in Berlin on European SharePoint Conference 2011! 
 
Looking forward to seeing you in Anaheim!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pawel's article published on WSS.pl


Recently I’ve decided to spread my vision of SharePoint more publicly. I’m proud to announce my article was published on Polish WSS community portal in the knowledge base section! I hope this will be helpful for those who have trouble with SharePoint configuration. 

Here is the abstract:
Sometimes we need to create a new site based on a site template. It is especially useful when we build a solution based on a site and we want to deploy it on another environment or when client reports a problem and sends us the solution to debug. The site creation is really simple, yet while creating the site we can find stumble on an issue caused by the lack of essential functions on the site. This concerns full version of SharePoint Server, as well as SharePoint Foundation. I have came up with a procedure that will speed up finding and enabling the missing functions.

Enjoy!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Workbox 2.1.16 is released

New Workbox 2010 hotfix - 2.1.16.1083 was released. Below is the list of changes made in this version of Datapolis Workbox.
  • Error Fixes
    • Workbox now supports retrieving data from External Lists via lookups. Also, since lists of this type do not support workflow, Workbox has been made inactive on them.
    • Editing a procedure from Activity Diagram in Workbox Designer no longer produces broken lookups.

  • WBInterface now provides a schema that can be used for integrating Workbox with other applications, like Microsoft InfoPath.

  • Workflow diagram can now be printed directly from Workbox Designer.

  • Most of Workbox’s user interface has been translated into German.

  • List item edit form now contains Workflow Actions Ribbon button, which can be used to save the form and launch a Workbox action with one click.


To download Workbox please follow this link http://www.datapolis.com/Products/DatapolisWorkbox2010/Download.aspx

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Two new clips about installing and licensing

Hello

We have added two movie guides giving you step-by-step instructions how to setup and license Workbox.

Installation guide
Licensing guide

 Hope this will help you to quickly deploy Workbox to your environment.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

2 webinars on Wednesday (21-06)


This Wednesday we are giving two webinars for technical staff.

First webinar is focused on achieving some of the most common requirements of your business users. It is intended for people not familiar with Workbox and it's features. More details and registration.

Second webinar is a technical webinar about potential traps you can fall into when deploying SharePoint workflow solutions. This session is not a product session and is focused on standard SharePoint and WWF issues. If you are planning to develop an enterprise-wide solution or you have already tried and failed - this session is for you. We are going to have two sessions - one for Europe and one for US. Check out the details and register.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hotfix 1.7.7 is released

New hotfix for version 1.7 was released. The following issues were solved:
  • Activities not working for user who has permissions only to elements in a single folder on the site collection,
  • Errors when matching content types while importing workflow definition,
  • Error while editing user field with activities that work on list items,
  • Adding user, who's not among site users, to a list column,
  • Missing filters in lookups to list item,
  • Issues with adding and removing user permissions using activities.

To download the fixed version please follow this link
http://www.datapolis.com/Products/DatapolisWorkbox2007/FreeTrial.aspx

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Webinar - Help your business people create workflows effectively

Have you ever try to share the process with the business or define a time-restrained workflow?
Join our free webinar :
HELP YOUR BUSINESS PEOPLE CREATE WORKFLOWS EFFECTIVELY

Please look into Datapolis Workbox, a graphical workflow designer for SharePoint. You will learn:
  • How to map various business processes into workflows easily
  • How to document and change workflows in order to facilitate teamwork between business and IT departments
  • How to overcome SharePoint Designer limitations
Thursday, May 5 - 11.00am BST | 12.00pm CEST

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Impersonating user in Workbox vs impersonating user in SharePoint Designer

As you probably know SharePoint Designer 2010 allows you to create an impersonation step in which activities are done in impersonation mode. But what does it mean? And how it compares to Workbox impersonation?

I'll start to describe how the impersonation works in SPD 2010. By default (and it's the only option in SPD 2007) SPD workflows run in the context of the user who started the workflow. What it means that if your workflow is editing an item, checking some value on a list, adding items then this user needs to have permissions to do that in SharePoint. So in other words to edit an item with a workflow you need to make sure that every user who started the workflow has permissions to modify this item. If not, the workflow will fail. Impersonation allows you to run selected workflow activities in the context of the user who deployed the workflow. This approach is more safe, because users who create workflows are usually site owners or site collection admins and have permissions to do everything on the site.
Unfortunately both approaches have a big flaw. Lets imagine that we have quite complex process designed in SPD and it was started few weeks ago by user X. Unfortunately this user is no longer working for our company so his account was deactivated and his permissions revoked. Now if the workflow will try to edit an item it will fail, since the user who started the workflow no longer has permissions to edit the item .We can restart the workflow, but the problem is that we will need to start from beginning and loose all workflow data and progress. We will run even into bigger issues if user X was a workflow author and has used the impersonation steps in the workflow he has published. Now all workflows based on this workflow definition will crash when trying to do something that requires permissions.

Now let's take a look at impersonation in Workbox. By default all Workbox workflows run in the context of the SharePoint system account, in other words as the app pool account. This means that Workbox workflows will have full permissions to do everything on your SharePoint application. Before you start worrying that this is unsafe, lets look at the benefits of this approach.
First benefit is that you do not need to worry about ensuring that workflow starters or designers have all the permissions required for the workflow to run and that those permissions will not change some time (few days, month, year?) after the workflow was implemented.
Second benefit is that in many cases you do not want the users to have access to lists you are modifying or querying with the workflow. For example you would like the workflow to change the number of leave days the user has, but you don't want to allow the user to do that by themselves and you also want to make sure that each user sees only their own records.
Third benefit is that Workbox has a very nice feature in item activates. It allows you to decide if these activities should run as a system account or as a "current user". "Current user" in this case does not mean "user who has started the workflow" but the "user who has launched the action". So you are able to modify the item as the user who for example approved it and this will show in the item history and in the "modified by" column. You have also a third option "Current user with system rights". When you use this option Workbox will work in the context of the system account, but set the "Modified by" column to a current user. This way others will be able to see who has modified the item without the need to grant them additional permissions.

Now for the security concern. Theoretically running the workflow in the context of the system account can be dangerous - someone designing the workflow could do everything on the farm. Fortunately Workbox implements the security on the designer level. It means that users are not able to define or deploy a workflow that can modify or query objects (sites, lists, items) to which they do not have appropriate permissions. In other words - to modify an item on a list, to query a list, to see a site on a lookup tree you need to have "manage list" (for list and libraries) or "manage site" (for sites) permissions for the list or site you want to use. This way we ensure that if you cannot manage an object directly in SharePoint you will not be able to manage it and share it's contents using workflows.
All the above is true for any workflow solution that uses WWF engine and which workflows run as workflow author or initiator (for ex. Nintex).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Datapolis at Microsoft SharePoint & Office Conference in Milan

We are attending the Microsoft SharePoint & Office Conference in Milan.
If you are attending this conference please visit us in the booth number 20. On Thursday we will also host a session on SharePoint Designer limitations - http://www.sharepointconference.it/events/2011/agenda.aspx#SP203

See you there!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Datapolis at European SharePoint Best Practices conference

Datapolis has become a Gold Partner of European SharePoint Best Practices conference which will take place in London on April 11th-13th, 2011.

The third conference of its kind hosted by Combined Knowledge is set to be the European SharePoint conference of 2011, with over 96 sessions and 69 speakers. It will be the SharePoint conference to attend in Europe in 2011, no other event outside Microsoft’s in the US will have this many talented SharePoint speakers in one place.

Among the experts is Datapolis, which will present Workbox – a solution for optimizing business processes. We encourage you to visit our stand where we will share with you our knowledge and experience. You will have a chance to win a great prize.

We also invite you to attend our session on overcoming SharePoint Designer limitations on Tuesday the 12th at 12:45. [read more]

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Workbox 2.1 is ready! New SDK is ready! Sidebar Gadget is ready

What’s new in Workbox 2.1

Today we have published a new version of Workbox. Below is the list of changes made in the new version of Workbox.

  • Decisions

    New functionality extends existing usage of actions and states and makes designing of automatic workflows much easier.

    Decision which outgoing action to perform is make based on conditions – when incoming action for decision is launched. If none of conditions are met then the last action if launched.

  • Filtered lookups was expanded

    New functionalities allows you to:

    • Choose from elements collection returned by filtering; available options: First, Min, Max, All

    • Multiple sorting of returned collection

    • Save collection using provided separator

  • Launch workflow parameters

    Allow you to initialize workflow variables when launching workflow. It works similar to launch action parameters. Useful when passing input parameters for workflows during:

    • Manual launch

    • Using Workbox network service to launch workflow

    • When using “Launch workflow action”

  • Workbox Designer is using Silverlight 4!

    Building Workbox Designer with Silverlight 4 extends functionality and makes working with graphical designer much easier.

  • Value editing directly in form’s field

    You can now change form field value by editing it directly on the form. To use lookups just click on icon placed on the right side of the field and choose one from history of lookups or create it from scratch.

  • Rich text box context menu

    You can right-click in the rich text box and use a context menu to copy and paste text between designer windows as well as between Workbox and other applications. This functionality allows you to copy lookups as well.

  • Changing color scheme of Workbox Designer

    You can choose one of predefined color schemes or define your own. You can set the following elements:

    • Actions – color of action, action name and icon (common color)

    • Workspace background color

    • Grid line color

    • “Add new role” icon color

    • Role and state highlight color

    • Panel with roles background color

    • Action indicators color

  • New fields for „Send E-mail” activity

    Added new, not required fields for message recipients:

    • CC (carbon copy)

    • BCC (blind carbon copy)

  • „Run asynchronously” option for selected activities

    Option is available for “Launch workflow” and “Launch action” activities.

  • Keyboard shortcuts inside Workbox Designer

    • CTRL+C – copy selected text to system clipboard

    • CTRL+X – cut selected text to system clipboard

    • CTRL+V – paste content from system clipboard

    • CTRL+Z – undo changes in form field

    • CTRL+Y – redo changes in form field

  • „Current Action Destination State’s Name” – new lookup for workflow states

    You can find it in following path: Workflow Data > Workflow States.

  • Icon indicating using some activities in action

    Over the arrow which shows action’s direction there is an icon which informs that there are following activities (or procedures with those activities):

    • Start workflow

    • Launch workflow action

    • Terminate workflow

  • Icon indicating using action execution conditions

    When at least one action execution condition exists proper icon indicator appears.

  • Icon indicating existing of selftimer

    If there is a selftimer defined using outgoing action for specific state – then that action gets an icon indicator.

  • New activity - „For each item”

    Activity allows launching other activities or activity group for list items matching provided conditions. This solution simplifies iterating through all or selected items, returning information which were modified.


Also we have published new Workbox 2010 SDK - with lot of new features - this is Software Development Kit for Workbox 2010. It includes Web Services description, Object Model description, help on how to create activities and functions and Visual Studio sample projects.

In addition we have published new Windows Desktop Gadget for Workbox - This small application placed on Windows 7 / Vista desktop gives users immediate information about new workflow tasks waiting for them. User can monitor chosen SharePoint lists and launch workflow actions straight from the gadget without the need to log into SharePoint. The gadget allows defining up to 8 shortcuts to SharePoint lists with deployed workflows.

To download our products please follow this link http://www.datapolis.com/Products/DatapolisWorkbox2010/Download.aspx

Friday, March 18, 2011

Another webinar on SharePoint designer limits

On Wednesday, March 23rd we are having another webinar regarding SharePoint designer limits in the workflow area. We also give you insight into new workflow features in SharePoint 2010. The webinar will be held at 9:00 AM Pacific Time (5pm CET).

More details and registration form can be found here.
We are also having a webinar in Polish, more details can be found here

Friday, March 11, 2011

SharePoint performance and setting the item permissions with a workflow

When you model processes in your environment you will sooner or later come upon a request to change a permissions of the item depending on some of the item's meta-data - the author, people assigned as approvers, divisions, categories etc.

The most natural way to tackle such request would be to have a event-handler or a workflow running when item is created or modified and modify current item's permissions. It very simple with Workbox - you just need to use the "set item permissions" activity - you can read more in this post.

If you deploy it on some small list with small number of users then everything will work fine. If you try to implement it on larger list (few thousand items) with larger number of users then you may run into serious performance issues. You can experience long page load times, very high load on the SQL processor, timeouts for queries and workflow crashes.


The information about  unique permission limits can be found here for 2007 and here for 2010 (look for the "Security scope") but it's worth clarifying what it exactly means.

For both SharePoint 2007 and 2010 there are limits of 1000 unique security scopes for a list. Microsoft defines a security scope as a "security boundary for a securable object and any of its children that do not have a separate security boundary defined".
In other words this is a definition of permissions a single item, folder or list. If you do not break the inheritance for any item, the total number of scopes for the list will be equal to 1. If you break inheritance for 2 items then the total number of  scopes for the list will be 3 - the scope for the list itself + the scopes for each item. But number of scope is not the full picture. The size of the scope also matters - if you set permissions on user levels, then the list will automatically get new entry in the scope for each user with the "Limited access" permission level, which then can be inherited by items that have their permission broken and before you know you end up with a large number of very large security scopes.

The problem is not related to Workbox or a workflow in general - the cause is laying in the way SharePoint tackles the permission settings.I guess that when the SharePoint team has designed this functionality they did not think that people would break the inheritance this much. Having a workflow do it automatically for you can get you very quickly past the recommended limits.

What's worth mentioning is that Microsoft states that in case of exceeding the limits the impact of the performance degradation will be the entire farm not only the list where the security scope exist! This is something I can confirm because we have found out this problem on our own while deploying a solution for our customer (This limitation was documented only in the second half of 2010) - when our farm started to run terribly slow we started looking for the cause and after analyzing all the queries and SQL tables we saw what has happened.
The reason for this behavior is that SQL loads the ACLs into each list and item query and list of ACLs can have even few megabytes. And it's being loaded with EVERY query which brings your SQL to its knees. Here is a good article explaining this issue details http://e-junkie-chronicles.blogspot.com/2011/03/sharepoint-2010-performance-with-item_23.html

There is no good workaround for this problem.
Definitely you need to read this Best Practices document from Microsoft - http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg128955.aspx.
One of the solutions could be using folders - you can set up permissions for few folders and then put items in those folders based on their parameters. The benefit from this solution is that permission inheritance is broken only on the folder level, so even if you have few thousand items in each folder, they all inherit permission scopes from the folder, so the number of scopes does not rise with each new item. This solution has few downsides - you need to have a limited number of security combinations (like only A, only B, only A&B, only A&B&C, only B&C, etc), because if you would like to have a separate folders for all possible combination for 100 users then you will get (number of possible permissions)^(number of users) folders. For only 10 users and 3 different permissions you get 60k folders, which gets you nowhere. Second problem is that SharePoint does not allow you move an item into a folder - you need to create a new one in the folder and delete the existing one. And once you do it you loose your workflow, workflow history, change the item ID and link to it and will need to tackle it as well.
Other solution is to remove everyone's permission to such list and create your own web parts that will run with elevated privileges and will take care of the presentation of the list and it's items and restricting permissions. This means that SharePoint list would serve only as a database and you would need to code all other functionality (list views, display and edit forms, web services, etc) yourself.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Webinar - How to create complex workflows in SharePoint – overcoming SharePoint Designer 2010 limitations


As you probably know SharePoint Designer allows creating simple workflows. Have you ever try to share the process with the business or define a time-restrained workflow?
Free webinar:
How to create complex workflows in SharePoint – overcoming SharePoint Designer 2010 limitations.

Please join our Consultant Pawel Wrobel for 60 minute tour which will answer following questions:
  • What improvements SharePoint 2010 brought to workflows?
  • Where do SharePoint Designer workflows hit the wall?
  • How to create complex, business-oriented, human-centric workflows in SharePoint 2010?
We are running this webinar twice - you can attend the time which is most convenient for you:


To get more information about  Datapolis Workbox visit:

After the SPTechCon

We got back lat week, but amount of work waiting in our office has kept us from posting. We would like to thank all of you that have visited our booth. It was a great experience to show Workbox to you. We are planning to be present on most bigger SharePoint conferences this year and hope to see you there.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Visit Datapolis Workbox booth at SPTechCon San Francisco and win Toshiba Netbook

 
Datapolis will be exhibiting at the SPTechCon in San Francisco from 7th to 9th February showcasing the newest version of  Datapolis Workbox, a human-centric workflow solution for SharePoint.
Datapolis Workbox 2010 is a user-friendly and flexible graphical designer  for creating, automating
and managing workflows. Main features:
  • Graphical Web-based designer for SharePoint
  • Business-oriented solution – separated Business and Technical Layers
  • Ease of modifying and remodeling workflows
  • Full integration with SharePoint
  • Extended SharePoint permission model
  • Reporting and decision support
Please visit our booth #106 and fill in the questionnaire to win Toshiba Netbook.
To get more information about  Datapolis Workbox visit:
SPTechCon is the SharePoint conference with classes for IT professionals, business managers, analysts and developers.
The conference offers more than 90 classes and workshops, presented by both local and international SharePoint speakers. Conference will be held in San Francisco from 7th to 9th February 2011.