Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Usefull and Free SharePoint Tools (Part 1)

Over the past few months I have been working with several tools for SharePoint. Some of these tools I find very usefull:

When you need to copy a lot of data to SharePoint (for example from a file share), doing this manually is:

  1. A lot of work
  2. Not easy to do, especially when you need to upload a directory structure. You have to use the explorer view
  3. Not really IT like (script what you can script, better lazy than tired :-)

Browsing through the Internet I ran into a tool called DAVCopy. This tool can upload files and directories to SharePoint, with the same functionality as XCopy. For example /E for subdirectories including empty ones.

The tool has some shortcomings though:

  1. As most of you probably already know, SharePoint doesn't accept certain characters in filenames ( Just like copying with the Explorer view, DAVCopy just tries to upload the files without checking any illegal characters. A good thing is that DAVCopy logs the error and skips the illegal file.

    To get around this issue I created my own filename checker script, which corrects all illegal characters before running DAVCopy.
  2. The logging of the tool is very limited. It can only write logging to the console. A nice logging to a text file and especially a good summary will be a great improvement!

Link: DAVCopy

SharePoint 2007 Shared Services Provider User Profile Property Replicator
On a lot of projects we are using a development/test/acceptance/production strategy. Each environment must have its own settings. When migrating a solution to a new environment, all required settings need to be migrated as well. One of these settings are the custom User Profile Properties. A solution I recently deployed required these properties to be present before it started to work.

Creating these properties manually is not only time consuming, but also susceptable to errors. The User Profile Property Replicator tool is able to export and import these properties using XML files. I created an export of all properties in my development environment, changed the XML file to just include my custom properties and used this file to create the properties on all other environments. Quick, easy and without errors!

The only thing that can be improved is changing properties. When importing a property that already exists, the tool skips this property. I would like to see that the tool would update the property instead of skipping it. This is especially usefull when using big choice lists!

Link: MOSS Profile Replicate

Sharepoint Shared Services Search Provider Property Creation
Just like the tool above, this tool is able to export and import properties to/from XML files. Only this tool can export and import crawled properties, managed properties, content sources and search scopes.

A solution I had to deploy was relying on crawled and managed properties. To be able to map crawled properties to managed properties, the indexer first needed to discover these crawled properties in documents or content types. Using this tool I was able to export all managed and crawled properties from my development environment, change the exported XML files and import these properties into other environment. Again quick, easy and without errors!

Link: MOSS Provider Property Creation

SharePoint 2007 Shared Services Provider User Profile Importer
SharePoint is able to import settings from a external source (Active Directory, BDC source, etc) and map these values to certain profile fields. The external source is then leading for that property. But for some fields, you might not have an external source available but do want the field populated. Using the Profile Importer you can. Just create a XML input file and a XML mapping file (map the used XML tags in the input file to User Profile Property field) and off you go.

After creating my own User Profile Property, I would like to have certain values populated for certain users. Unfortunately these values were not in the Active Directory, so I could not sync them from AD. Using the Profile Importer tool I am able to populate the values I want into the fields I want for the users I want. All and all a great tool!

Link: MOSS Profile Import

SharePoint Solution Installer
As of SharePoint 2007 all custom components can be deployed using the Solution Deployment framework. Developer just have to place their solutions into a wsp package, which can then be imported into SharePoint 2007 and deployed to all servers.

Importing and removing wsp files into SharePoint 2007 must be done using the stsadm command, after which the solutions can be deployed from the Central Admin. The steps become difficult when you try to deploy a new version of a wsp file:

  1. Retract the old version from the Central Admin
  2. Use stsadm to remove the old version from solution deployment
  3. Use stsadm to add the new version to solution deployment
  4. Deploy the new version from the Central Admin

In other words switching between tools a lot. There must be an easier way!

And with the SharePoint Solution Installer there is! The tool first checks if SharePoint is installed, then if you have sufficient permissions to perform a deployment, if the Administration and Timer services are running and if the solution is already installed. If this is not the case, you can choose the web application to which the solution must be deployed. If it is installed, you can select to remove or repair (!!!!) the solution. In case of a repair, the tool automatically performs the four steps above automatically.

Installing wsp files made easy!!

Link: Sharepoint Solution Installer

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