Readability

Readability, that word refers to both the visual and the content of your text. To be readable, your text must first be visually easy to read. It may surprise you know that text on a screen is more difficult to read than the same text in print. In fact, printed text often is created using a serif style font such as Times Roman. The tiny crossbars on the letters of a serif font help the eye move horizontal across a line of text aiding in the ability to read more rapidly text in paragraphs and pages. To bring emphasis to titles and headings, a sans serif font such as Arial with its simpler straight lines and curves tend to make your eyes hesitate just a bit which helps titles and headings stand out.

Surprisingly, this should not be the way you format text for display on a screen. In fact, because it is more difficult to read text on a lighted screen, it is generally better to use an Arial style sans serif font to help make the letters clearer to read. Perhaps some of this is related to perceived character spacing since the straighter characters do not quite approach each other as much as do the serifs in a font such as Times Roman.

Pay attention to text size. Text that is too small or too large can make text more difficult to read. The problem here is multiplied by the different form factors that web pages, e-books, etc. have to deal with ranging from 24-inch desktop computer screens to 5-inch smartphone screens. Of course most electronic devices will allow the user to zoom in or zoom out of the text to effectively resize the text to their liking, but you may want to start with a font size that will make your text easy to read by the most number of users without manual adjustments.

Consistency in the use of fonts is also important. Once a font style is selected, it should be used for all content on all pages of a website. It can be quite annoying to deal with a different font style as one goes from one page to another (or even worse, one paragraph to another). This detracts from the sense of continuity between the different portions of the content. Sure you can use italics or special fonts for emphasis of small text segments. However, even putting an entire paragraph in a different font style can make it look like it does not belong.

Of course, all rules have exceptions. For example, you may place material quoted from another person or source in italics, or a different font style, or even a different color to purposefully bring emphasis to it. However, be careful of using type styles such as underlined text or certain colors of text in places where the user might misinterpret the text as representing a hyperlink.

Font colors should be carefully selected considering the background color to give the reader a high contrast. The greatest contrast is black text on white background or vice versa. However even here a white background is preferred for content read in normal lighting conditions and a black background is highly preferred for text read in the dark. In fact, some programs including some e-book readers have the ability to automatically flip the text and background colors based on the ambient light level. For example, my iPad’s iBook reader does that.

On the other hand, using a light blue text on a medium blue background may not provide enough contrast. A related problem I have seen is placing darker text on a black background such as a medium to dark blue or red on black. Also, some people perceive colored text on a colored background as being smaller than the equivalent black text on a white background. This is especially true of lighter text on a darker background.

Another consideration is the width of the text column. Generally web pages use two or more columns of text so that the reader can more easily move their eyes across the line of text and then quickly find their way down to the next line. The wider the text column, the more difficult this is.

Related to this is the size of the paragraphs. Longer paragraphs can feel exhausting to read compared to shorter paragraphs. Also, the use of shorter paragraphs forces the writer to condense their ideas into smaller more easily digested content nuggets.

Long web pages should be minimized. A user should not have to scroll down the equivalent of more than two or three screens to read the entire page. I’ve seen web pages that require the user to scroll and scroll and scroll to get to the bottom. Do you really think that users will ever find the content at the bottom of that page? Of course not. There is even good argument for a single article to be continued on another page after it begins to get too long. Don’t be afraid to break articles into multiple sub-topics that are then linked through multiple pages.

In addition to all the visual aspects of making your content readable, consider also the grade level of your writing and whether it is appropriate for your audience. Microsoft Word can analyze your text and report on its readability. To turn on this feature, open the File drop-down menu and select Options. In the dialog that appears, click on Proofing in the left column. Locate the section on the right side of the dialog: When correcting spelling and grammar in Word. Click the check box: Show Readability statistics. Now when you create text in Word, you can click the icon in the lower left status bar to the right of the word count. The resulting dialog box will give you readability statistics for your text including number of sentences in a paragraph and the average number of words in each sentence. At the bottom of the dialog is the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level. Try to keep this number between 8 and 10. This document is an 8.7.

Finally, don’t try to eliminate all white space on a page. White space gives your eyes a chance to rest. A page completely filled with text and no white space between paragraphs or columns or around images is very hard to read.

C’ya next time.

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ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

Last time we talked about following a document. While the ability to follow a document is relatively new in SharePoint, alerts have been around at least since I started using SharePoint 2007. Alerts are more narrowly focused than the social tool: Following. By that I mean, alerts are available only to track changes to documents (or items in a list). You cannot create an alert on a user or tag. However, alerts provide some additional flexibility on what types of changes you want to track and when you want to hear about them. So let’s dive into alerts.

If I were to open any library or list, I can click on the Library (List) tab or the Document (Item) tab. In both ribbons, there is an icon with the name Alert Me in a group called Share & Track. Does Microsoft duplicate this feature on both ribbons for some reason? Actually, yes. The Alert Me icon in the Library or List ribbon is meant if you want to create an alert to changes to any document in the entire library or list. This feature is useful if you need to monitor whether others are adding, editing or removing documents or list items. On the other hand the Alert Me icon in the Document or Item tab can be used to monitor individual documents or items for changes. So the first thing I have to decide is whether I want to track changes to the overall library or list or to an individual document or item.

For the balance of this discussion, I will assume that I want to monitor changes to an individual document in a library. However, the technique that I will show here is essentially the same for monitoring changes to the entire library, an entire list, or just a single item in a list. I mention the differences at the end of this article.

If I want to create an alert, I need to select the document first by either clicking on a non-hyperlinked column within the document or preferably by clicking the check box in the first column of the document row.

Note, you may think that you can create an alert on multiple documents by selecting their individual checkboxes before continuing. Unfortunately, if you select more than one document, the Alert Me option in the Document ribbon becomes disabled. You can only create alerts individually on documents.

The image below shows the Alert me icon in the Share & Track group. I have already clicked on the lower half of the icon (where the down pointing triangle appears) to open the dropdown menu of options. In this case, I want to select the first (or default) option for this icon to set an alert on the currently selected document.

Next SharePoint opens a dialog which is rather long. Therefore, I will have to explain first the top half and then the bottom half. In the following image, you see the top half of the New Alert dialog. The first thing you need to do is to create an alert title. Because you can create many alerts on different documents in different libraries in different sites, you want to carefully name your alert so that when you manage your alerts (note the second option in the above dropdown) you can easily identify the alert that you may want to change or delete.

A side note on managing your alerts. You can only manage alerts within a single site at a time. You cannot see all of your alerts within a site collection or a SharePoint farm, at least not with the built-in tools. There are some 3rd party scripts that will help you see and delete alerts across all your sites. I may discuss this in a future blog.

Although I’m not going to go into detail here about naming conventions (that is almost like talking about religion or politics), you may want to consider the following factors in defining your alert name:

  • The name of the site/library
  • The name of the document
  • The type of change you want to have the alert monitor.
  • The frequency of the alert reporting

I will show you the latter two factors when we get to the second half of the dialog in just a moment.

The second thing you may need to do is define to whom you want to send the alert. By default, most users want to receive the alert themselves. In fact, unless you have owner rights to a site (as I do), you can only create alerts that you receive and you will not be able to enter users for this property. On the other hand, site owners can create a list of users separated by semi-colons to specify who should receive an alert.

In addition, you may or may not have the ability to send the alerts by E-mail or text message depending on how your SharePoint administrator has set up your system. I’ll assume that e-mail notification will be on for most users and create my alert that way.

Moving to the second half of the dialog, the next property of the alert I can set is to define which types of changes I want to see in my alert. Read these options carefully. Only the first option, Anything Changes, will report changes that I myself made to the document along with changes from others. I may not want to see my changes since I already should remember them. Therefore, the other three options become more interesting. The second option shows me changes that anyone but me made to any document. Again, I may not care so much about changes made to other people’s documents, but only documents that I added to the library. In that case, I might select the third option. Perhaps even that is too much information. Perhaps I want to know when someone else comes in after I have made changes to a document, whether I originally created that document or not, and may have made changes on top of my changes. Then I would select the last option in this group.

The last option I can set for a document alert is when I want the alert sent. I could ask to see the alert immediately (or at least within a few seconds). Unless knowing about the change is critical, this may be more annoying that it is worth. Perhaps I would prefer a daily summary of all changes made to the document. Sure that may mean that I may not be made aware of a change for up to 24 hours after a change was made, but that may be enough. Note that if I select this option, I will have to select what time of day I want to receive that alert. In the figure above, I selected to receive the alert at 1:00 PM.

Finally, I can choose to receive a weekly summary for the alert. In that case, I must define not only the time that I want the alert sent, but also the day of the week I want. For example, I might want to see my weekly alerts first thing Monday morning.

When I click OK at the bottom of the dialog, SharePoint saves my alert definition and begins monitoring for the changes I asked for. If any changes occur to the document in the current reporting period, I will receive an e-mail detailing the changes. If no changes occur, no e-mail is sent.

There is one significant difference when creating an alert on an entire library or list, I can specify whether I only want to see:

  • when new documents are added to the library,
  • when existing documents are modified in the library,
  • when existing documents are deleted from the library,
  • or all of the above.

Note, it is not possible with a single library alert to see only additions and deletions to the library. Either I have to deal with receiving a single alert with all changes to the library or I can create two alerts, one for additions and one for deletions.

So as promised, why would I use an alert over following or vice versa? First, I like getting email alerts about changes and not having to go to my Newsfeed page. Also I like the fact that I can customize the type of change to the document or the library that I’m interested in and not have to wade through changes that do not interest me. On the other hand, alerts do not let me following people or tags to let me know what else individuals are doing or where other similar content may be. I can also follow documents and libraries without having to implement e-mail or SMS services which alerts require.

So I hope now you know how to decide whether you want to follow objects in SharePoint or to receive alerts. Each has their place if you use them wisely.

C’ya next time.

Someone Is Following Me

So last time I showed you how to share access to documents in your SharePoint document library. If you are only allowing others to view the documents, you may not have any additional concerns. However, if you grant them edit access, you might be interested in knowing if or when they make changes to one of the documents. More importantly for them, they may want to follow your document to know when you or someone else has made a change to it. One way that you (or they) can do this is to follow the document. While today’s discussion will focus on following documents, you can also follow sites, tags, and people.

If after you read this document, you do not see the buttons to follow documents (or sites or people) contact your SharePoint administrator. They may not have turned on this capability in Central Administration. Note that your SharePoint Administrator can also limit the number of people, documents, or sites that can be followed.

The following figure shows a document library with one of the documents selected by clicking on the ellipses to show the additional features dialog.

By clicking the FOLLOW command at the bottom of the dialog, I can receive notices on my Newsfeed page when this document is changed, even if only the properties of the document have been changed such as the document name or other metadata value. After clicking FOLLOW, SharePoint immediately confirms that I am following this document by temporarily displaying a message box in the upper right corner of the screen.

To check my newsfeed for updates to anything I am following, click the Newsfeed button on the My apps dialog (click the grid to the immediate left of the Office 365 banner).

In the center of the Newsfeed page, you should see a list of the most recent activity in the items that you are tracking. In this case, there is only one item showing. However, after marking several documents, people, sites, and tags to follow, this list can be rather large. Notice that in this case, the text tells me the name of the person who acted on the document, what they did, and the name of the document. If I hover over an entry, an ‘X‘ appears on the right side and clicking this icon will remove the item from my feeds list. They will also automatically be removed after several days. However, since this information is only stored in cache, if there is a reboot or an iisreset, the list can be truncated sooner.

On the right side of the Newsfeed page, you can see a summary of the number of people, sites, documents, and tags that you are following. If you click on any of these (that have a value greater than 0), SharePoint shows a list of the items you are following.

If I were to click on the number ‘2‘ above ‘documents’ above, I can see information about the two documents that I am following. I can click on a document name and SharePoint assumes that I want to open the document. If the document happens to be a Word document, Word Online opens the document in view mode. Of course, I can choose to edit the document either online or on my local machine by clicking one of the options in the Edit Document dropdown. I can also stop following a document by clicking the Stop following link beneath each document name and address. Similar options exist for displaying and following people, sites and tags.

If I were to click on the Stop following link, SharePoint gives me a chance to confirm that I really want to stop following that item or I can cancel from an accidental click on the link.

Before ending for today, I want to clear up something that may be confusing as you create your sites.  You may have created a team site to work on in SharePoint Online and you may see a web part with the title Newsfeed in the lower left of the default page. (You can see this in my January 24th 2015 post http://bit.ly/1EkTWoa).  Do not confuse this Newsfeed web part with the Newsfeed app I referenced above in your My Apps dialog.  They are not the same.  In fact, the team site Newsfeed is actually more of a traditional Internet newsfeed in which you can post information pertinent to the site and allow others to respond or comment on it.  Do not look here for references to sites, people, documents, or tags that you are following.

That’s all for this week. Next week I’ll close this mini-series with a review of using alerts as an alternative to following a document and explore some reasons why I might choose to follow some documents while preferring to receive alerts on others.

C’ya.

Rumors of My Death Have Been Exaggerated – InfoPath

In an article dated February 9, 2015, Vlad Catrinescu reports that Microsoft’s SharePoint team blog states that InfoPath Forms Services will be included in the next on-premises release of SharePoint Server 2016, as well as being fully supported in Office 365 until further notice. However, InfoPath 2013 application remains the last version to be released, but it will work with SharePoint Server 2016. At the same time, FoSL (Forms on SharePoint Lists) has been cancelled from the next release of SharePoint. For more details, go to: http://bit.ly/1vgn0YW.

Sharing Documents in SharePoint Online

There is nothing wrong with using SharePoint along with its document libraries to simply keep all of your documents in the cloud so that you can access them from anywhere. However, a likely scenario is loading documents you want to share with other members of your work teams so they can view and edit them. By default, documents loaded into SharePoint online are not shared. That’s probably a good default. You would not want to have to remember to take away rights to a private document you uploaded. Another way to look at it is, you may need to share different documents with different groups of people.

Today we are going to start a short series of discussions on how to share documents you have added to your libraries with other members of your work team and show two ways you can track their changes. Let’s begin by going to the document library I created for use in the last few blogs.

I selected the document named: Document in the above image by clicking on the selection checkbox to the left of the filename. Notice that this highlights several of the other options at the top of the library including: edit, manage, and share. To share this document I can click the command: share.

I can also click the ellipsis button to the right of the filename and from the dialog that opens, click the SHARE command along the bottom of the dialog.

Both actions open the Share dialog shown below:

Note in the upper left that SharePoint tells you that the document is currently shared only with you. To invite other people to edit your document, make sure the Invite people menu item on the left side of the screen is selected. Then enter the names of the people with whom you want to share the document in the text box to the right. Enter the names one at a time. Because I am tied to Active Directory, SharePoint will use the characters I enter and perform a search on names that have the combination of letters that I’ve entered as shown below (ok, I blurred some of them out to protect the guilty). The more characters you enter, the more refined the search can be. However, don’t be afraid to stop before entered the person’s complete name and then select them from the dropdown list. Note that this can be very useful especially when you are not entirely sure of the correct spelling of the person’s name.

You can select more than one person to share the file by adding a semi-colon between the names. You can also select groups that your organization may have defined in Active Directory to give everyone within that group access to your file.

But what if you don’t want to give the person(s) the ability to edit your file. Maybe you only want to let them view the file. Notice the dropdown list to the right of the name textbox. Click the arrow to open the dropdown and select Can View to limit the users to viewing your document.

If you have some people who you want to be able to view the document and some who you want to edit the document, you must go through the process twice, once for those who can view only the document and once for those who can edit the document.

Because the people you are inviting to edit or view your document will receive an email to announce their permissions to your document, you can also include in the textbox immediately below the box where you entered their names text to tell them why they are getting rights to your file. In some case, you may need to ask the user to sign-in first before they get access to your site. This insures that only those you invite to view or edit your document can actually get to it even if someone else ‘finds’ the link to your library.

Finally, there is one final command that simply says, ‘SHOW OPTIONS’. Honestly, the first time I saw this, I was expected that clicking this command would open an entire dialog with other properties that I could set. Rather, I was surprised to find that it only refreshed the current screen to shown one additional option that asks whether you want to send an email invitation to the people you just selected.

Of course, you don’t need to send an email invitation. You could simply tell the people to go to your site and view or edit the document. However, if you are inviting a lot of people, sending an email is a lot more efficient. In addition, the email that is sent will include information like the link to the document so they can simply click on it to go to the file. The email they receive will look something like the following image.

Well, that’s it for this week. Next time I will look at how to get notified of changes made by people who share edits rights with your document. C’ya.