Finding the task properties pane in SharePoint 2013 workflows

(this post was written using a SharePoint online environment and SharePoint Designer 2013)

So here’s the scenario, there is a central list where users add items and once submitted a workflow runs that assigns tasks to separate task lists. No big deal right?

The scenario

Task actions in SharePoint 2013 workflows are a pretty standard thing, the example above just assigns tasks to different lists (think HR, IT, Pensions) for work to be completed. The additional requirement I had was for these tasks to not send any system generated assignment emails when the tasks are assigned.

Example of creating & assigning a task in a SharePoint 2013 workflow.

The problem

This one really had me pulling my hair, but in a nutshell there is no obvious way to turn on/ off the emails that are system generated at the point which a task is assigned.

When you double-click on a task, an “Assign a Task” window opens. Within this window there is an “Email options” drop down, but this only has the email editor for the task creation email and the ability to turn on/ off the task overdue email(s). It doesn’t have any settings for switching on/ off the initial emails themselves.

The Assign a Task window doesn’t contain the properties to switch off system generated emails.

The hidden task properties pane

So at this point I began thinking there is no way to do this and the design for this process is now fundamentally flawed…until I right-clicked!

If you right-click on the list within the assign task action (the ICT Task List Members bit underlined in the example below) a menu will appear. Normally this menu contains some simple options like moving an action up or down. However, with task actions there is an additional option called “properties”.

Hidden properties button within the “assign a task” action.

After clicking on the “Properties” button, you’ll find an additional “Assign a Task Properties” window which contains the following, hidden properties:

Hidden assign a task properties window.
  • PreserveIncompleteTasks: set to true if you want non-completed tasks to be deleted when the task process is complete.
  • WaiveAssignmentEmail: set to false if you want to have an email sent out to the assignee when a task is created
  • WaiveCancelationEmail: set to false if you want to have an email sent out to the assignee when a task is canceled.

By default, all of these properties that are set to “no” or “false”, so will send emails based on the above parameters. To change, just click on the drop down next to each option and update to “yes” or “true” and the emails will stop sending!

How to show the folder path of a file in library views

Introduction

Firstly, I want to make a mention to this great blog post by Tom Benjamin for giving me the direction as to how to achieve this. His post is way more complex than what I was looking to do, so if you want to find out more about how to show files from a folder using CAML queries take a look:

Link: https://www.tombenjamin.ca/blog/designer/view/using-caml-query-show-files-folder/

The scenario

A common request I get is:

How do I see what folders/ sub-folders my files are in at a glance

– all users everywhere

Out of the box, there aren’t any columns available that you could potentially leverage to display this information in a standard SharePoint 2010 library.

The solution

So, just by adding one value in SharePoint Designer, here’s how you do it:

  • Navigate to the library you wish to change, create a new view under Library Tools > Library > Create View
  • Choose the relevant format of your view, give your view a name and press OK
  • Open SharePoint Designer > Open the site > open the library you were just working in
  • In the Views pane > click to open the view you just created
In SharePoint Designer, clicking on the view name will open the view in edit mode
  • In the code editor window, scroll down until you see something like the following:
<ViewFields>
	<FieldRef Name="DocIcon"/>
	<FieldRef Name="LinkFilename"/>
	<FieldRef Name="Modified"/>
	<FieldRef Name="Editor"/>
</ViewFields>
  • Add the following field reference in between the opening <ViewFields> and closing </ViewFields>
  • Add the field reference in the display order you would like it to appear in the view
Add the field reference to the View Fields list
  • Press the Save icon to save your changes
  • Press the Preview button to see your view in action in the browser

Now you will notice there is a new column being displayed “Path”, that is showing us the full location of the file or folder in the libary. You’ll also notice that this path will display data when at the library root, or in any folders or sub-folders in the library.

Library root displaying a files path
File in sub-folder displaying relative location

Bonus

Taking this one step further, what if we wanted to show files of a certain type, then create a view that groups these files by their folder location? Guess what, that’s exactly what I did!

  • Navigate to your library > create a new view as before, this time base your new view off the one you just created
  • If you wish to only show files of a particular type, use the filter by settings (for example below is filtered to only shows Word documents)
  • Make sure “show all items without folders” is selected
  • Press OK
Filtering to only show word documents, also showing items without folders
  • Back in SharePoint Designer > Open up the view you just created
  • Scroll down until you see the opening <Query> tag and add the following beneath it:
<GroupBy Collapse="FALSE" GroupLimit="30">
	<FieldRef Name="FileDirRef"/>
</GroupBy>

Save and preview your view, it should now be grouping by the Path field:

I know this has proven really useful for my company, so hopefully this helps out someone else too 🙂


Save as site template missing or greyed out

(This post was written using a SharePoint 2010 environment)

I recently found myself needing to create a site template for a customer who required multiple sites created following a base format. So I decided to create a site template to achieve this to speed up the site creation process for said customer.

At first I went into the site settings of the site that the template would be based off to create it. I looked under look and feel in site settings, but alas the option to save as site template wasn’t there!

site-actions-no-site-template

Next, I accessed the site via SharePoint Designer, looked under the site ribbon menu and would you believe the save as template button was greyed out there also!

SPD-site-template-button-greyed

After researching online, it appears there can be problems creating templates from publishing sites in SharePoint 2010, however I found that following the steps below enabled me to create a new site template and activate it not problem!

  • Navigate to the site collection/ sub-site you wish to create the template from
  • Add the following to the URL at the end of the site name

/_layouts/savetmpl.aspx

  • Go back to the site collection or sub-site you wish to create new sites under
  • Site Actions – Site Settings – Look and Feel – Page Layouts and site templates
site-settings-site-templates
  • Find your newly created site template within the subsite templates list
  • Press Add
  • Press OK
adding-subsite-templates

Please note: if your sub-site is inheriting from the parent site, you will need to navigate to the parent and add the subsite template there for it to be available.

UPDATE 27/08/2019

Saving as site template is not a supported feature of SharePoint Online for modern sites. You will find for modern sites that this option is not available, but you have the ability to re-instate it via activating a feature. The official stance from Microsoft is:

Just to be clear. Using save-site-as-a-template with modern team sites or publishing sites is NOT supported. You can always find aways with tenant admin permissions to achieve things, but the fact that it’s doable does not mean it’s supported.

Any sites created with the template which has been produced with this method can have unexpected issues in the future, so provided steps should never be used.

Best regards,

Vesa Juvonen, Senior Program Manager, SharePoint Engineering, Microsoft.

UPDATE 27/08/2019

Saving as site template is not a supported feature of SharePoint Online for modern sites. You will find for modern sites that this option is not available, but you have the ability to re-instate it via activating a feature. The official stance from Microsoft is:

” Just to be clear. Using save-site-as-a-template with modern team sites or publishing sites is NOT supported. You can always find aways with tenant admin permissions to achieve things, but the fact that it’s doable does not mean it’s supported.

Any sites created with the template which has been produced with this method can have unexpected issues in the future, so provided steps should never be used. “


– Vesa Juvonen, Senior Program Manager, SharePoint Engineering, Microsoft.

Creating a new item from SharePoint Workflow – trailing space issue

I wanted to post this as I was banging my head against a brick wall for hours recently with this issue. Full credit goes to this stack overflow thread that described pretty much exactly what I was experiencing:

However, my situation was a little different so thought I would post this in case it helps someone else in future!

The details

SharePoint 2010 environment using a standard SharePoint Designer workflow. Straight-forward workflow that runs once a list item is created, creates a document set in a separate library, then updates the list item with a link to the document set (plus some other item metadata). All this is wrapped up in an impersonation step that uses a site collection admin user account.

Why an impersonation step?

An impersonation step is being used because when you create a new list item using a workflow, that new item is created by the System Account. So on any new item created by a workflow, “Start workflow on create” will not work because system account is not allowed to start a workflow.

The problem

Intermittently the workflow would fail on creating the document set. The workflow status showed “The workflow could not create the list item. Make sure the list exists and the user has permissions to add items to the list.”. The outcome is “Unknown Error”.

After speaking with users this didn’t seem to affect everyone all of the time. It only affected some people occasionally but it was affecting one user way more than others.

This user was creating the list item in exactly the same way as others in the team. I overserved the user creating the list item and couldn’t see any problems with how it was being done. Yet each time we conducted a test copying field information from an existing item the workflow continued to error.

The solution

In my case, when I started to look at the list items where the workflow had failed, I noticed that the Name field for each list item contained a trailing space at the end of the text. I asked the user who this issue consistently affected to try creating new list items several times, copying the Name as normal but this time removing the trailing space and we no longer had issues!

Moral of the story…check for trailing spaces and beware!

Hide a SharePoint list or library from view all site contents

Have you ever been asked to hide a list or library from a SharePoint site? If so, you go straight for selecting ‘no’ to displaying the list or library on the Quick Launch or removing it from the navigation. However, your eagle eyed users notice the handy view all site contents option and see that it is still listed there – they want it gone!

Luckily, all you need is SharePoint Designer and it is as simple as a click of a button…

(These steps were created using SharePoint Server 2010)

  • Open the site that where list or library resides in SharePoint Designer
  • Under Lists and Libraries – Select the list or library you wish to hide
  • On the main list settings page – find the Settings section
    SPD
  • Check the Hide from browser option
    hidefrombrowser

Thats it! when you option the view all site content page now, that list or library will no longer be showing. Also, if you want to re-instate it at a later date, just un-check the box and it will re-appear.

This also works for SharePoint 2013, 2016 and SharePoint Online, under the site contents page.

Page declared a record or placed on hold and is read-only

If you’ve ever been in the situation where you try to edit a page in SharePoint and you see this seemingly unchangeable message appear at the top of the page stating:

“Page has been declared a record or placed on hold and is read-only”

Fear not! I’ve seen this message appear and it usually occurs when a user (or service account) is operating as a system account. This could have been set manually by said user if they have access to the web application via central admin:

If this is the case, you can overwrite the system account check in via SharePoint Designer. You’ll obviously need the correct permissions to access SPD beforehand! In the following example I’m using a SharePoint 2010 environment. To do this:

  1. Connect to your web application in SharePoint Designer
  2. Navigate to All Files – Pages
  3. Right-click on the page that is currently locked
  4. Undo checkout

NOTE: You won’t be able to view the individual pages within each Page Library if you navigate through Lists and Libraries. This space is used to view and manage the settings for each list type you have. All Files takes you to the ‘root’ of your web application, where you can see everything that sits under the web application.

Conditionally show or hide fields within a custom list form based on user permissions

InfoPath, I really like InfoPath. I like the interface and how easy it makes editing custom list forms in SharePoint (especially if you want to make snazzy looking forms in SharePoint 2010). However, custom actions do not like InfoPath, not one bit.

The problem

Here’s the situation, we have a heavily customised custom SharePoint 2010 list which was leveraging InfoPath based forms. We were getting reports of latency when trying to open the InfoPath forms and the decision was made to revert back to the default ones.

Also, another requirement was to have a two edit forms for this list, one set as default with several fields omitted for end users – another one for administrators of the list. Once the edit forms were created I embarked on my journey of creating a custom action that would open the administrator’s edit form from the ribbon, utilising rights masks to make it only appear for those with adequate permissions.

I quickly found that this wasn’t going to work. I tried several times to create the custom action but it just wouldn’t appear. Even after reverting the list back to the default forms from InfoPath through list settings and deleting the InfoPath forms from server the custom action wouldn’t show. I found some useful conversations about this issue below:

After I realised the custom action approach wasn’t going to work, I made the decision to go down the route of having one custom edit form that would conditionally show or hide fields based on their permissions – the answer I found was within a XSLT conditional if test!

The solution

Here are the steps taken to hide a field based on a user’s permissions within a custom edit form:

  • Open the list you want to edit in SharePoint Designer
    SharePoint Designer homepage
  • In the Forms section, open your custom edit form
  • Switch to Advanced Mode
    advanced mode sharepoint 2010
  • Use the design view and select the field you wish to hide
    split view sharepoint 2010
  • In the code view, add the following code snippet above and below your field:

<xsl:if test="ddwrt:IfHasRights(2048)">
</xsl:if>

  • The end result should look something like this:
  • Save the changes

If this has worked, you should now be able to test the edit form as a user with the correct permissions and see the field, then verify that for a user without the relevant permissions it’s hidden.

Within the if test, the number corresponds to a permissions mask that assigns a particular value (i.e. 2048 = Manage Lists).

Here is a list of all the values and permissions masks:

PermissionPermission Mask
ViewListItems1
AddListItems2
EditListItems4
DeleteListItems8
ApproveItems16
OpenItems32
ViewVersions64
DeleteVersions128
CancelCheckout256
PersonalViews512
ManageLists2048
ViewFormPages4096
Open65536
ViewPages131072
AddAndCustomizePages262144
AppleThemeBorder524288
ApplyStyleSheets1048576
ViewUsageData2097152
CreateSSCSite4194314
ManageSubwebs8388608
CreateGroups16777216
ManagePermissions33554432
BrowseDirectories67108864
BrowseUserInfo134217728
AddDelPrivateWebParts268435456
UpdatePersonalWebParts536870912
ManageWeb1073741824
UseRemoteAPIs137438953472
ManageAlerts274877906944
CreateAlerts549755813888
EditMyUserInfo1099511627776
EnumeratePermissions4611686018427387904
FullMask9223372036854775807

The SharePoint date format problem

I know what you’re thinking, what date format problem? Well this is something that’s cropped up for me time and time again so let me explain. Most requests I get for new SharePoint lists will usually contain a variety of custom date columns and said list will also require that the default display form shows a unique view of this data.

On the default display form, you will notice that the custom date columns will be showing data that looks like this:

bad date format

Well this just won’t do, will it? The good news is we can fix it!

To be able to customise the display form, you will need to be able to connect to your SharePoint environment using SharePoint Designer, if you don’t have it you can download it from Microsoft here:

SharePoint Designer 2010 (32 bit)

For this example, we are only focusing on one custom date column, at the end of the post I will summarise how to fix this issue for multiple custom date columns.

  • Open SharePoint Designer and connect to your environment
  • Navigate to the lists and libraries and open the list you want to change
  • Within the Forms section – New Form
SharePoint New Form

(I’d recommend creating a new display form for no other reason than to avoid potentially breaking the active one).

  • Give the form a logical name so you can identify it at a glance as a display form (I usually go for DispForm2)
  • Press OK
  • The code behind the display form will open, don’t worry too much about this we are only interested in a small portion of the code.
  • In the Ribbon – under the Home Tab – Press Advanced Mode
Advanced button on ribbon
  • If it’s not already, at the bottom of the form – change the view to split view
SharePoint split view
  • Scroll through the design view of your form until you find the custom date field – select it
  • In the code view, make sure the following line is highlighted:
    <xsl:value-of select="@Start_x0020_Date"/>
    (NOTE: the bits after the @ will be the name of your date field)
  • If you amend this line of code to look like this:
    <xsl:value-of select="ddwrt:FormatDate(string(@Start_x0020_Date), 2057, 3)"/>
  • you should see something like this:
    11 June 2014
  • Save the display form
  • Press Preview in browser to double check the format date function is working as expected
  • Close preview browser, close the display form
  • In the forms section of the list – select your form
  • In the Ribbon – Set as Default
set as default

That’s all there is too it! It might seem like quite a few steps but it isn’t too bad once you get comfortable with the forms code view.

If you have more than one custom date column that you need to format, just amend the code of each custom date column using the example above as a guide (just make sure if you copy/paste the code that each @ name is different.

FormatDate function and locales explained

What our updated code is doing is inserting a FormatDate function, which allows us to add the locale parameters to the end of our line code (the 2057, 3). The locale parameters control what the output of the FormatDate function will be, here are some examples of the outputs and locale parameters:

OutputLocaleFormat
3/23/200910331
3/23/2009 12:00 AM10332
Monday, March 23 200910333
12:00 AM10334
Monday, March 23, 2009 12:00 AM10337
3/23/2009 12:00:00 AM103313
Monday, March 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM103315
23/03/200920571
3/23/2009 12:00 AM20572
23 March 200920573
00:0020574
23/03/2009 00:0020575
23 March 2009 00:0020577
00:00:00205712
23/03/2009 00:00:00205713
23 March 2009 00:00:00205715

If you are looking for a list of all the available locales you can find them here:

https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms912047(v=winembedded.10).aspx

That’s it for now, if you’ve got anything you’d like me to cover feel free to get in touch or leave a comment!