Production Tips

I haven’t been posting much because I am knee deep in actively producing the new release of my company’s intranet in SharePoint. The more I produce, the more I understand. It gets easier.. The first few times you attempt some things, or attempt to understand why you would use some things, it’s a trial. But when you do them over and over again, suddenly you just know how a new site or area should be produced; you know that you need to create some new site columns, set up a content type (understand the value of those, too), create some page layouts, etc. There are a lot of steps involved, but as long as you keep organized, it is manageable.

So this post is a list of some production tips, things that I use everyday to get stuff done in SharePoint.

Tip 1: Use two monitors
Seriously, trying to do anything with SharePoint with one monitor is crazy. For my setup, I have two flat panels next to each other (I already warned my boss I was going to bug him soon to replace them with widescreen monitors-makes a big difference). On monitor one, I have SharePoint Designer, Word, etc. open. Monitor two is all for IE. If I could have more than two monitors set up, I would.

Tip 2: Use a scratch file
I keep a .txt file saved to my desktop that has commonly used paths and classes in it. I also use it for temp storage of items that I am copy/pasting, links, notes-whatever I need to work on at that time. When I am done for the day, I close the file and start fresh the next day. I keep the commonly used stuff in there and wipe out the temp stuff. This has been a lifesaver. I hate having to jump sites within SharePoint to find the link to a list or file, whatever. i just store that info here.

Tip 3: Use multiple IE tabs to hold several views of the site you are working on
When you are working on a subsite, you have to jump to the root a lot to access the content types, site columns, layouts, etc. If you have one tab open with the site you are working on, and one open to the site settings, you can move around a lot faster and save time.

Tip 4: Document Everything!
There are so many elements and steps involved in creating and producing a site. I think that keeping careful records of exactly what you did, what was created, etc. makes your life easier, and helps in the future when you or someone else has to maintain what you built.

  • Notebook: I have a notebook at my side at all time. I write down everything, and then use these notes to create more permanent documentation later
  • Create a Project Management site in SharePoint: I created a site to hold all of the production information for the sites I build in SharePoint. I have several lists and libraries dedicated to storing different types of information about the sites.

    – I have a library to store all build docs for the sites. For each site or area I build, I create a base doc file that stores how the site was created. i also create a “how to” doc with screenshots and step by step instructions for how to maintain the site.

    – I keep a “Production Notes” list for storing info about the sites that still need to be done

    – I have an “Elements” list where I record every site, content type, site column, page layout, master page, etc. created for the intranet. I am about 15% done producing my intranet and this list is already about 50 items long.

Tip 5: Use IE Developer toolbar
I have mentioned this tip before, but it is worth repeating. This toolbar allows you to see all of the classes used on the page-this helps tremendously;y when you are trying to brand a site. There are a bunch of other tools within this toolbar that are lifesavers as well. It’s free, works much like FireBug in Firefox, and it will save your sanity… ;0)