Archive for month: June, 2015

AzureSearchTool – More Options, More Fun

08 Jun 2015
June 8, 2015

Today I released the next version of the AzureSearchTool (v.0.3.0.0).
If you have not read about the tool at all, please see the introduction here.

In the very first version the tool was quite simple and most of the search parameters were not handled. That has changed now:

Index

I implemented the schema overview (actually that was not that much but looks great):

Index Schema and Statistics

Index Schema and Statistics

So now you can see what fields of what type you have – and how those fields are specified.

Below of the Schema you get the two available statistics – the count of documents you have indexed and how many storage you currently consume. Not that much to show here.

Query

The query side was more work, but it is definitely worth it. Currently there are 16 query parameters available (see specification) and the AzureSearchTool now assists you entering them. Some of the fields should be Url-Encoded so I handled that one, too.

The picture shows a rather basic query for the token “dsds”:

All options are handled now

All query options are handled now

That query results in a nice REST url that you can copy to your application:

Create that by hand or with Postman? Rather not.

If you managed to enter invalid values in the search query parameters, the AzureSearchTool now shows the error that is returned by Azure Search:

That error is really helpful!

That error is really helpful!

Overall

I think the feature set almost doubled in this release. Next on I will work on Facets & Suggestions.

AzureSearchTool – the easiest option to query Azure Search!

04 Jun 2015
June 4, 2015

Today I released my first Open Source tool to support the development, testing, debugging of Azure Search – the AzureSearchTool.

AzureSearchTool – v.0.1.5.0

The tool lets you connect to different indexes and assists you crafting search queries.
As a byproduct it generates a REST URL for you to use in your application or website.

With this it should be easier to develop against the Azure Search REST API – and should speed up the testing time enormously. When I started fiddling with the Azure Search API I was not aware what query options I have and how they play together (even tho the documentation is quite good!).

Download is free of charge: here

Features

In this very early release the tool covers the following areas:

Security / Access

Provide your Azure Search Service and your API Key (currently only Admin or Secondary) work. After connecting the tool will resolve all available indexes.

The tool from now then takes care of the api-key header.

Index

As of now, the tool will show you all available indexes. The schema / fields and types will be visible soon in the “Index” tab. If you want to change the index after you selected one, click in the menu on “Connection” and then on “Index”.

In the flyout menu you can select one of your available indexes.

In the flyout menu you can select one of your available indexes.

Search

In the Search section of the tool you have the option to craft queries and test them against the selected index. The tool supports you to create a query that uses the important options with an easy interface (try that with Postman – not as convenient, right?).
AzureSearch_Search

By now $top, $skip, $filter and api-version are implemented – the rest of the options will follow soon. Maybe I add validation and some examples, too.

Once you have changed the parameters, the URL in the top will be changed so that you can use it in your application.

Raw

You need the raw JSON data that is returned by Azure Search? You want it pretty? Click on “Raw” to get the results as it is returned by Azure Search.

You want it raw? You get it RAW!

You want it raw? You get it RAW!

Future

As you can see not all options are implemented – I released it early to get early feedback. In the near future I will implement the Search view and all the nice options you have there. Then I will add Suggestions and Facets – because they rock.

Lastly I will develop a nice view where you can upload test data according to the schema of the selected index. Maybe, but right now I doubt it, I will add support of Index operations to create and update an index – but the Azure Portal does that pretty well and the code operations are not too complex – but well, lets see.

Scoring Profiles? Index Statistics – they are on the list, too.

Feedback?

So you read until down here? If so, I would be happy to get some feedback from you. Something does not work? Something missing?

ShareCamp 2015 – Recap

01 Jun 2015
June 1, 2015

Germany’s latest and greatest SharePoint community event was last weekend (30.05.2015 & 31.05.2015 at Microsoft in Munich) – and it was awesome, once again!

ShareCamp Session Vote

ShareCamp Session Vote

sharecamp_sessionvote

200 attendees!

ShareCamp & Community

What is so special about ShareCamp? Easy question, it is entirely community-driven. On both days, Saturday and Sunday, there is a session vote before the “conference” starts. So the attendees prepare presentations and do a short intro during the vote – if more than 3 people raise their hand there will be a session and there were lots of em. 6 tracks in parallel if I recall it right. And the concept works for many years now, more than 200 attendees had a good time this year! Not to mention the SharePint party. The good thing here? No only experienced and known speakers get the chance to present their ideas. And not only the mainstream sessions get voted – there were a lot of close to or far way from SharePoint sessions. And I met a lot of old SharePoint friends that are spread over the country – good to see ya! 🙂

Alegri Team @ ShareCamp

Alegri Team @ ShareCamp

Sessions & Discussions

So what sessions did we have this year? A lot of them. Here is a list of the sessions I attended or prepared.

1. Azure Search vs SharePoint Search (2x)

On Saturday I held a presentation about Azure Search. The title was on purpose a little bit baiting, you can’t compare the incomparable here and that’s good. But I started with a brief overview what SharePoint Search is, how it evolved and talked about its strength and weaknesses. Then I switched over to the brand new Azure Search I evaluated for a client project. And showed a demo app that is (Sourcecode) available here. Basically I showed the entire Azure Search workflow from service & index creation, pushing documents via SharePoint to Azure Search – and the options you have to get items back out of it. I had good fun. So much, that I presented the session again on Sunday 🙂 Here I showed a second demo (available here) that indexed a local folder and pushed the filenames and paths to Azure Search. Does that sound familiar? I tried to cover some of the typical SharePoint content sources: SharePoint Content and Fileshares. It’s not even close what I showed but similar.

I received some good questions during the talk (out of my head in my words):

  • Where is the content? The content will be stored in Azure Search / Cloud.
  • Can you index Office Documents? Yes, but you need to extract the content of the files.
  • How about item security? If you want them, you have to build them. Azure Search has a different focus than SharePoint Search – keep that in mind. Different product, not a replacement!
  • Can you push items to the cloud? YES!!!
  • How you get the items back? You get them via the REST interface and they are transported as JSON.
  • Can you combine SharePoint Search and Azure Search? Not out of the box – you would need to create an opensearch provider that translates the JSON to opensearch compliant XML.
  • Is it ready yet? Yes, definitely. But I have the feeling Azure Search will improve rapidly in the near future.

My slides (German most of it) are available here – but as usual they are not as good without the demo.

Expect some blog posts here, I really like Azure Search!

2. Governance & JavaScript Solutions – how does that fit together?

My second session on Saturday with my colleagues Marco Schmucker and Matthias Edom – we talked about the blessings and curses of JavaScript solutions – what you can do and what it will cost you/your clients. The entire session was based on the scenario that you upgrade you SharePoint to a next version and should estimate how much effort you have to put into it – and what could essentially break. And we discussed with the audience, we gather a lot of different aspects and experiences. Good fun!

Scripting and Governance session

Scripting and Governance session

 

 

 

 

 

Slides will be available once I get the link.

3. Provider-hosted App Framework

I am slightly interested into SharePoint Provider-hosted apps and all areas around it. Maybe because I recently started to learn MVC. Maybe because I like the idea of having all the great stuff outside of SharePoint. But in this session Christian Groß (Solutions2Share) showed what framework they use to create their apps. I was really surprised to hear what they experienced over the last year and what it means to build a product – and how important logging, supporting and ticketing is. Good stuff, I hope they will release it as open source sometime in the future…

4. SharePoint Toolbox

The ShareCamp evergreen, I think it’s the 4th time that we had this session at a ShareCamp. I am into tools and this session is about tools – so what could go wrong?! My friend Henning Eiben moderated a really entertaining session with lots of idea sharing and tool discussions. I think we gathered and introduced about 50 tools – commercial or Open Source that every SharePoint developer or IT-PRO should know. ULSViewer, SPDockit, CamlDesigner, SPServices, CKSDev, SearchQueryTool, LogParser, AutoSPInstaller family, SharePoint Patch Service – just to name a bunch!

Dont be a fool – use a tool!

Henning collected a lot of the tools in a delicious feed – go take a look!

6. Provider Hosted Apps Hackathon

I prepared nothing for it – and expected a lot of this session – fun most importantly. We only had one hour to “create” something that looks like an SharePoint app. So what did we do? We decided do a simple app that shows two buttons and asks the key question: “How was your day today?” So we had two buttons with good and bad. The strech goal here was to ship a minimal viable product that simply stored the value in a SharePoint list – in one hour impossible? Damn right. But during the hour we talked and discuss a lot about the problems we face with Provider-hosted apps, whats good and bad – and what challenges & opportunities we see. We almost got it working tho, very close to storing the results – soooo close! 🙂

6. Azure Workshop

I only attended the very last 15 minutes. Too bad, it must have been awesome. At least I heard that many of the attendees said it was their highlight. Okay Patrick Heyde (Microsoft) had some advantages: Firstly he had 3 hours to show how to provision a SharePoint environment on Azure and the experiences he collected over the past 4 years in his role – and he “bribed” the attendees with 75€ Azure vouchers to play with it. Too bad there were so many sessions in parallel – there will hopefully be a next time!

In general I think there should be more sessions that have more time – I would love to talk about SharePoint/Azure Search for a day… or two 🙂

Summary

The weekend was packed and I learned a lot – I totally enjoyed it. I am really looking forward for next year!

Thanks again to all sponsors, organizers and speakers – Germany’s SharePoint community would not work without you!

ShareCamp raffle - lots of prices and gadgets!

ShareCamp raffle – lots of prices and gadgets!

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