Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Approve a document in Teams using Adaptive Cards and Flow

Co-incidentally the same scenarios often appear simultaneously from different people at the same time, and this is one of them.

I’ve been assisting with random comments to a client who wants to start an approval on a document, and have that show up as a card with Approve/Decline buttons in Teams. And yesterday the good SharePoint/Flow man himself Chaks at Microsoft reached out with a similar scenario.

Chaks wanted to build a bot for this, and I asked if he had tried the Adaptive Card action in Flow, and have card buttons trigger an approval/decline action via a HTTP trigger. Turns out that adaptive cards via Flow in Teams does not support Action.Http. End of story.

Here I am, having told a client this should be easy, and Chaks telling me I can’t do it. Being me, that’s not acceptable, of course it can be done – and turns out my ego was right this time :D (it’s not always)

Start the approval Flow from SharePoint.

Adaptive card in Teams.

Important: Enable Major, minor versioning and approval on the document library. And I have not put any thoughts into licensing of actions in Flow if any for this scenario.

How??? Let me show you!

Friday, May 3, 2019

Gotcha in Microsoft Flow when modifying properties on a newly created file

This one is a common task, something I've set up a quadrillion times with workflows and event receivers in SharePoint over the past decade or so. And now the time has come to using Microsoft Flow.

The scenario is that when a file is created, you have a piece of business logic which should set metadata on the file. It could be a status flag, a serial number - the business cases are many and diverse.

Read on, young apprentice (you know who you are :) )

Thursday, May 2, 2019

How to: Creating modern page templates, and retrofitting old pages as templates

Microsoft is in the process of rolling out modern page templates, which is something we've been waiting for for a good long while now. And finally the time has come :)

I've seen it in most tenants, but not all - so be patient as it's trickling in.

If you haven't tested this yet I'll do a quick walk-thru.

To create a template you perform the following steps: Create a new modern page, add all there is to it, hit publish, and you get the option to save the page as a template as seen in the image below.

Note: The option to save as a template only show the first time you publish, but the option is available if you click the Promote button on a page as well.

Once you have created a template it will show up when you click New page from the menu on any existing modern page (it does not show while in the Site Pages library or the cog wheel Add a page at the time of writing).

What if you have existing pages you want to use as templates? One option is to start a new page with Copy of this page, and follow the steps above. Then delete the original page you used as a template as well as your new copy.

But as we're all savvy modern users we know it's simpler. If  you look at how the template feature is actually implemented, you will quickly get the drift. Once you create your first template a folder named Templates is created in the Site Pages library and any page in this folder will show as a template.

Note: If the file you move has been published as a major version at one time or another, the template will also show in search. Same goes if you turn off minor versioning on the Site Pages library. So you might want to create a template from that file instead, and then delete the files still....

This means you can retro-fit existing templates in a site performing the following steps:
  • Create a dummy template in order to have the Template folder created and enabled for templating.
  • Select the page you want as a template, and drag/move it to the Templates folder, as there is no move command on the Site Pages library.
  • Navigate to the Templates folder and open the page and you see it's now been templaty'fied
When you now want to create a new page, the template will show up as easy as corral balls!

For the techies out there

A big thank you to Erwin Van Hunen for helping on this one.

If you manually want to set up the templating feature, say in a provisioning scenario, do the following:

  • Create a folder in Site Pages (name it whatever you want) and record the unique guid of the folder

    $f = Get-PnPFolder  SitePages/MyTemplates -Includes UniqueId
  • In the property bag of the Site Pages library, set vti_TemplatesFolderGuid to that guid

    Set-PnPPropertyBagValue -Key "vti_TemplatesFolderGuid" -Value $f.UniqueId -Folder "SitePages"

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Disable Event Firing when Flow updates a SharePoint list item

There’s a lengthy discussion over at to have a Flow trigger on a SharePoint item being modified, and then be able to update that same item in the workflow without causing it to re-trigger, causing a possible infinite loop.

The workaround posted so far is to check on a specific field if you are to update the item or not. This causes Flow to fire twice per item, one for the actual update, and one where it skips the update based on some status logic.

Melissa Hubbard has a post on the workaround solution over at THE INFINITE LOOP: WHAT IT IS AND HOW TO AVOID IT.

It is also possible to use the ValidateUpdateListItem REST API as well, but you need to ensure you get the dates formatted correctly. I could not make it work for Norwegian locale, but once setting the locale to English I got it working. Examine the output of the action after a test run to see if dates had issues or not.

A big thank you to John Liu for pointing this out, as I missed the trick of setting the date when testing this API when researching this post.

As an update to the JSON payload used in John's post, set bNewDocumentUpdate to true, if you don't want to add a new version to the item you are updating (kind of counter-intuitive).

[Original Post]

The underlying issue causing this behavior is that any update to a SharePoint item will trigger an update event for the list. EXCEPT if you use a method called SystemUpdate, which is only available via the JSOM/CSOM/Native SharePoint API’s, and not the REST API.

This quickly becomes very technical, but until the SharePoint Flow connectors support the ability to update using a System Update, this is what we have to deal with. It is certainly possible to overcome this issue, but it involves a bit of XML which might throw you off. If not, read on.

Gotcha in Microsoft Flow when handling SharePoint list item attachments

I’ve written a couple of these, where I in PowerApps allow the user to upload attachments to a list item. This feature can typically be used to upload documents or photos from the end user.

While list attachments work fine they are often easier managed in a separate document library, or perhaps you want to perform some other action on them. And this is where Flow comes into the picture. When the item is saved in SharePoint associate a Flow which triggers on new items in the list.

What is important to note is that when list items with attachments are created, the item is first created, and then each attachment will be a subsequent operation. When this action is performed using a phone or tablet the attachment upload might take some time, and Flow might very well trigger before all the attachments are done uploading - the effect being that Flow will miss some of the attachments, and your business process can miss some important data.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Exposing a Group calendar in Teams (also for external members)

Every Microsoft Team is built upon an Office 365 Group, and each group has a group calendar. Unfortunately external users don’t have direct access to this calendar. There are a couple of ways to add a group calendar to Teams as a teams tab, but currently there is only one configurable approach which works for external members of a team/group.

(The non-working option is to add a teams tab which point to the URL for the groups calendar.)

The steps involved are to go to the Teams modern team site, create a new page, add the calendar web part to that page, and then link to to that page as a teams tab.

Here I’ve create a page called calendar.

In the Microsoft Teams client, add a SharePoint tab, pointing to this page.

When an external user visits the team, the calendar displays nicely in the tab, as it would for internal users.

Note: Newly added users to a team might not see the calendar right away as it takes a little bit of time for permissions to synchronize

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A simple solution to implementing proper back functionality in PowerApps

When navigating between screens in PowerApps you use the Navigate function. There is also a Back function which takes you to the previous screen. The caveat with Back is that it doesn’t build a navigation history, but remember the previous screen only. This means that if you go from screen 5 to 4 using Back, then the next Back call will take you to 5 again, not screen 3.

Do I really need to think about this?

Puzzlepart introduces Hook me up! – an anchor part for modern pagers

In January of 2018 I wrote a post showing how you could use the modern script editor web part to add a jump anchor to a modern page. Of course, you should shy this web part due to possible security risks (unless you really really know what you are doing).

Last night Theresa Eller was looking for a proper solution to this on twitter, so I whipped up a small web part which adds an invisible span tag to the page, which you can anchor to. If you set scrolltome as the id, you can reference it when creating a hyper link in the text web part.


This time around I made the code compatible with both SharePoint 2016 and 2019 as well.

Go download the sppkg file from and install it where needed.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Fetch a Bearer token in SharePoint context to be used with a back-end service

Image may contain: car

(The post image has nothing to do with bearer tokens, but the Lego 1967 Mustang GT I finished building is just freakishly cool!)

I’m working on a solution which has a small UI created using the SharePoint Framework. This UI will make an authenticated call to a back-end service, which again has to read some data from a SharePoint list for validation.

The easy approach would be to read the validation data in the UI, but this would lead to a potential security hole, disclosing the verification mechanism. I could also have read the SharePoint data using app-only permissions in the back-end service, but this adds one more moving piece.

Thus, I ended up with fetching a valid Bearer token for the logged in user, and passing that along to the back-end service, which in turn can use it for SharePoint authorization.

The code itself is fairly simple from within the SPFx web part.

const provider = await this.context.aadTokenProviderFactory.getTokenProvider();
const token = await provider.getToken('https://<tenant>');

Took me a few tries, but pass in the root URL for your tenant and you get a token you can use for future calls against any SharePoint resource (as long as it’s valid).

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Governance and consciousness around handling Teams and Groups

foosball table shallow focus photography

I have worked in the space of content production and collaboration for quite a few years now. Along this journey new tools and technologies have arrived to help us better manage the content being produced. At the same time content production increases, and it’s no easy feat for neither technology nor people to keep up with the constant battle of managing content the right way, and making sure the right content is readily available and findable.

To simplify matters we can divide the problem into two.

  1. How do you make sure content is stored correctly according to business rules and regulations which might apply
  2. How do you make sure stale/old/obsolete content is removed and not hoarded to ensure valid content is surfaced

I have previously written about why and how you can take control of Teams and Office 365 Group creation in Office 365, and approaches automating the lifecycle management of Teams and Groups.

There is no one solution which just solves everything and each business has to form their own opinion on how they want to use technology to improve the quality of content stored in their organization. The only known is that the longer you wait before deciding on a path, the harder it is to fit the solution on top of existing content afterwards.

Once you have decided what your governance plan should be, you need to figure out what parts can be automated, and what parts require human actions – and how can you ensure humans take the correct action. If being asked if you should keep or delete a Team/Group if it seems inactive, the default human response is probably to keep it, as then you won’t get blamed for deleting anything important. A better process might be to make sure employees take ownership and are made accountable of their content – to filter out the good from the bad – and perhaps move the good content to another permanent storage.

Or go the easy route and let anarchy take hold and hope technology by itself will solve all your problems in the long run – any plan decided is better than no plan at all :)

If some of this sounds interesting, feel free to attend my session “What Options do You Have to Govern the Lifecycle of Office 365 Groups and Teams?” at the SharePoint Conference in May:

Office 365 Groups and Teams introduce many workloads such as document management, tasks management, and chat logs. Built into the Office 365 platform your organization has many tools and functions available to help control how information is governed and to help you control the lifecycle of the information stored within the groups and teams.

The goal of my presentation is to show what tools are available in the Office 365 suite to help with lifecycle management and to show how you can use them to ensure a healthy environment with reduced information bloat while still maintaining information control and integrity. Some of the functions are available in different administration UI’s, but for the IT Pro’s loving PowerShell out there, most of it today is available via PowerShell and the Microsoft Graph.

Using admin UI’s and PowerShell I will dig into some of those capabilities and show how you can get hold of the information you need in order to implement your business rules and requirements for lifecycle management of Office 365 Groups and Teams.

Save $50 and register via today!


Happy content controlling!

Post image by Alex Sajan at Unsplash