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Using Site Columns, Document Templates, and Office 2013 Quick Parts to Expose Data to SharePoint 2013

In his presentation, “Building Composite Solutions for SharePoint 2013 with the Browser” Asif Rehmani, SharePoint MVP and MCT, demonstrated how an Expense Report Created in Microsoft Word can be used as a method of adding data to SharePoint which can be exposed to users in a manner that facilitates business intelligence (BI) gathering objectives. The problem is how to expose the data from MS Word forms like expense reports to SharePoint search, sort, etc?

Asif presented likely options to accomplish this task:

  1. the user inputs the metadata into SharePoint columns or,
  2. a workflow is run once a completed expense report is added to a Library App for SharePoint 2013, or
  3. a 3rd Party application is used to transparently perform the task, or, finally,
  4. use Quick Parts for Microsoft Word to surface data within SharePoint columns

The balance of this section of Rehmani’s presentation is a demonstration of option 4, above. The first step in this option is to create a new site content type. This step is accomplished by SharePoint users with site owner privileges, and above. One of these users accesses the Site Settings page for a SharePoint site, and, then, selects “Site Content Types,” which can be found under the “Web Designer Galleries” heading. Once the “Site Content Types” settings page is accessed, the user will create a new content type. Asif Rehmani used the name “Expense Report” for the new content type that he created for this presentation. The “Parent Content Type” settings for this new type included “Document Content Types” for “Select parent content type from:” and “Document” for “Parent content type:”. Finally, a new group was created for the “Put this site content type into:” setting. The name of the new group chosen for the new group in the presentation is “AW” for “Adventure Works”.

Once the new content type has been created, our presentation included a demonstration of how to use the “Add from new site column” to specify the SharePoint columns to which form data should be sorted once a completed expense report is added to our presentation Document Library App. New site columns for each of the fields of our demonstration form were added and assigned to our new “Adventure Works”, “AW” Group. These fields include “Employee”, “Dept”, and “Expense”. For “Dept” Asif Rehmani demonstrated how the “Create Column” feature of SharePoint 2013 can be used to instruct the application that the “type of information in [the] column” is a choice, for which a menu of choices will be offered to the user completing the form. It is even possible to input a template to SharePoint 2013 for an MS Word form through the “advanced options” feature of the “Add a new site column” procedure.

Once this method of exposing the data to SharePoint search, etc is built, the system must be tested. The first step in our presentation for testing the system included the addition of a new Document Library App. Once a suitable document library repository for completed forms has been identified, a user with appropriate privileges must instruct the system to permit management of content types (or else the process will not work). All of the required steps to activate the system created in our presentation are accomplished on the Settings screen for our new Document Library App.

As Asif Rehmani notes, the real “magic” of this browser based process is to be found once the expense report template just uploaded to SharePoint 2013 is modified. In fact the modification amounts to implementing “Quick Parts” to add placeholders for our columns in each of the form fields. For example, a placeholder for “Employee” is added to the “Name” field of the form. As well, a placeholder for “Dept” is added to the “Department” field, and, finally, a placeholder for “Expense” is added to the “Total Expenses” field.

The Quick Parts feature is accessed through MS Word 2013. The process is to insert quick parts from the “Insert” ribbon for this Office 2013 application. We need to note that the prominence of the icon for Quick Parts has been diminished for MS Word 2013 vs MS Word 2010. The site column settings that we built for SharePoint are accessible, as “Server Properties”, through the “Document Property” Quick Part type in MS Word 2013. Asif demonstrates how to select each of the three required place holders and add them to the form template stored in SharePoint 2013.

Once the template form has been added to SharePoint 2013, then users can simply process their work directly within SharePoint. The procedure is to select “Create a New Expense Report” from the “New Document” option for the Document Library App created for our presentation. Once this create option is selected, the form is served to the user, complete with each of the quick parts placeholders required to populate the metadata to SharePoint in a manner that is otherwise completely transparent to the user.

This demonstration was well received by those who attended Asif Rehmani’s presentation.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved
on behalf of Rehmani Consulting, Inc.