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Customizing the Digital Dashboard

You can customize your dashboards using the default management tools that ship with SPS. Remember that these tools are available only to those who have been given the Coordinator security role in the workspace.

To customize a dashboard, click the Layout link in the upper-right corner of the home site. This action produces the Web Part Layout page (Figure 3–8). On this page, you'll see where each part is located relative to the overall page. If you want a Web part to appear in a different portion of the page, simply drag and drop the part to the location and then click Save at the bottom of the page. You'll see the results when you next access the dashboard.

Figure 3-8Figure 3–8 Web Part Layout page

In this example, I moved the Quick Links Web part to a new location under the Announcements Web part. You can see the results in Figure 3–9. Note that this is not the page where you add or delete Web parts from your dashboard. You'll learn how to do this later in this chapter.

Figure 3-9Figure 3–9 Default Digital Dashboard with the Quick Links Web part moved to new location

You can customize the DD settings by clicking the Settings link in the upper-right corner. The Settings page allows you to configure the following values:

  • Display name: This is the name of the page in the title bar.

  • Caption: This text is displayed above the title bar in which the display name appears.

  • Description: This is for reference only. This text is not displayed anywhere.

  • Auto-refresh: Here, you specify how often to refresh the dashboard. This value is in seconds.

  • Style sheets: You select a cascading style sheet (CSS) to choose a predefined color package for the DD. You can also create your own CSS if you prefer.

If you click Show Advanced Settings, the Settings page will expand to include a number of important configuration options for the dashboard. Some of these options are illustrated in Figure 3–10.

  • Apply a customized cascading style sheet.

  • Specify a customized logo to appear in the title bar and navigation bar.

  • Change the order of the dashboard tabs in the navigation bar.

  • Direct the dashboard to check for updated versions of its Web parts and install them if there is a newer version on a master server.

  • Specify a link for a customized Help file for the dashboard.

  • Specify a location for storage of data used by the Web parts in the dashboard.

Figure 3-10Figure 3–10 Advanced dashboard configuration options on the Settings Web page

The Content page allows you to install and remove Web parts as needed. The Content page is accessed by clicking the Contents link in the upper-right corner of the Home page in the dashboard. When new Web parts are installed, they are displayed to all users by default. You can modify this default setting by clicking the Web part name, scrolling to the bottom of the General Settings page, and clicking Show Advanced Settings for the Web part. Near the bottom of the page, you'll find three user settings (Figure 3–11):

  • Allow users to remove this Web part from their dashboard.

  • Allow users to minimize this Web part on their dashboard.

  • Make this Web part visible on the dashboard.

Figure 3-11Figure 3–11 Content page for a dashboard

You should know that the wording of these settings is confusing. At face value, it seems that users can remove, minimize, or make visible Web parts in the dashboard on an individual basis. This is not the case. Only coordinators can perform these functions. This means that when you, for example, select to allow users to minimize a Web part, you're really only allowing coordinators to minimize a Web part when they are connected to the portal. Good ol' regular users won't have this option, even when the setting is selected in a Web part's properties.

From a user's perspective, Web parts are either there or they are not. They are either visible or invisible. So when you add a Web part, it's on the dashboard for all users to see.

Creating New Dashboards

SharePoint Portal Server ships with some useful management tools that allow you to create a new dashboard from within SPS. You don't need to know much programming, if any, to create a new dashboard. First, use your browser to set the focus on the dashboard in which you would like to create a new subdashboard. Then open the Contents by clicking the Content link in the upper-right part of the page. Scroll down to the bottom of the Content in the <nameofdashboard> Web page, and click the Create a Subdashboard link. You'll be presented with the General Settings page for your new dashboard, as illustrated in Figure 3–12. Configure the dashboard as you like, and then click Save. You'll immediately see the dashboard appear as a subdashboard in your dashboard site.

Figure 3-12Figure 3–12 General Settings page for creating a new dashboard

If you do this from the Home dashboard, the new dashboard will appear as another "main" dashboard to your users. So, if you want to create another main or top-level dashboard that appears as another tab in your overall portal, then create a subdashboard while focused on the Home dashboard.

After you've created the dashboard, you can populate it with Web parts from Microsoft or other vendors. You can even write your own Web parts, a subject covered in a little bit.

If you ever want to uninstall a dashboard from the default dashboard site, use the Web Folders interface to open the folders in the workspace, navigate to the Portal folder, and then delete the folder beneath the Portal folder that represents the dashboard you wish to uninstall. This action will cause the dashboard to disappear immediately. However, its tab may remain and, when clicked, will return a "Page Not Found" HTTP error message. To ensure that the tab does not appear when users refresh the Home dashboard site, flush the application-level cache in the Management dashboard (see the sidebar on page 62).

Another method of deleting a dashboard is to open its Settings and click the Delete Dashboard button. This button is available on all the dashboards except the Home and Document Inspection dashboards.

Flushing the Application-Level Cache

To improve the performance of SPS, the store process caches some data in memory. The cache is stored and created on a Web-part-by-Web-part basis. If you make changes to data that, by default, is stored in the cache, you'll need to flush the cache to have the changes take effect. This also has an impact on permission changes to portal content. If you deny access to content that was previously available to users, they will continue to have access to the denied content until you flush the application-level cache.

Moreover, out of the box, the way the application-level cache is set up, it can work against you. If the first user to connect to content that is denied only to some users is a denied user, that permission assignment will be cached and applied to all users who try to access Web part. Similarly, if the first user to connect to content that is denied only to some users is an allowed user, that permission assignment will be cached and applied to all users.

Settings saved in the application cache are applied to all users, even if it is an incorrect application of a setting to a user. To work around this issue, perform the following tasks. First, open the Advanced settings of the Web part you need to modify. In the Should the Content of This Web Part Be Cached setting, select Per User. Save the Web part and flush the application; level cache. Now each user's settings will be saved in the application cache.

SPS Dashboard Types

SharePoint Portal Server has two dashboard types: workspace dashboards and personal dashboards. Workspace dashboards are customized by the workspace coordinator, who controls the type and content of information on the dashboard. Web parts can be personalized, but only with the help of the workspace coordinator.

Personal dashboards must be allowed by the coordinator. However, once allowed, they can be fully customized by the user. Personal dashboards are held in the Dashboards folder of a workspace.

I've demonstrated how to create a new workspace dashboard, so now, let's look at how to create a new personal dashboard. First, be aware that, by default, the Web part to create a new personal dashboard is located on the Management dashboard. If you want this Web part to appear in the Home dashboard, you must export the Web part from the Management dashboard and import it into the Home dashboard.

To export a Web part, open its settings under the Content link and scroll to the bottom of the page; then click the Export button. The Export Web Part to File dialog box will appear, and you can choose to save this Web part to a convenient location by specifying the directory location and clicking Save. Once you've exported the Web part, it's time to navigate back to the Home page, click the Contents link, and then click the Import a Web Part File link. Select the Personal Dashboards Web part in the Select Web Part File to Import dialog box, and click Open. By default, the Web part is set to install in the middle zone of the dashboard. You can move it to a different location by opening its settings and selecting a different zone. As illustrated in Figure 3–13, I've chosen to place this Web part in the left banner zone.

Figure 3-13Figure 3–13 Personal Dashboard Web part in the left banner zone of the Home dashboard

Once the Web part is located on the Home dashboard, users can use it to create their own personalized dashboards. To create a personalized dashboard, click on the link, and the General Settings page for the dashboard will appear. The default name will be the logged-on name of the user, but the user can change this if desired.

The default settings for the new dashboard are predefined by SPS and are held in the <workspacename>/portal/resources folder. Once created, the personalized dashboard will appear as a link inside the Dashboards folder on the Document Library dashboard. In Figure 3–14, I'm logged on as the Administrator for Server1, so my personalized dashboard is named Administrator.

Figure 3-14Figure 3–14 Administrator personal dashboard link

Users can access their personal dashboard as they would any Web site: by entering the URL in the address bar of their browser, by creating a shortcut to the link on their desktop, by setting their personalized dashboard as their default Home page in their browser, or by using the link created in the Dashboards folder.

The default URL for a personal dashboard assumes the following syntax:


Hence, for a server named Server1 and a workspace named Administration for a user named Russ, the URL to Russ's personal dashboard would be as follows:


The user who creates the dashboard will be the dashboard's default coordinator. Interestingly, if a user is granted permissions to create her own personal dashboard, the workspace coordinator will have only Reader role permissions to it. The Everyone security group will have Reader role permissions, and security inheritance will be disabled by default.


Only users who are authors or coordinators on the Dashboards folder can create personal dashboards from the Personal Dashboards Web part on the dashboard site. To give all users the ability to create their own personal dashboards, give the Everyone group Author permissions to the Dashboards folder. To disable a user from making changes to his personal dashboard, ensure that the Reader role is assigned for him. Also, to disable personal dashboard creation for all users, remove the Personal Dashboard Web part from the dashboard site.

Only coordinators can change these security settings, so if a user creates a new, personalized dashboard, she will still need to work with you, the coordinator, to change the permissions. To change permissions on a personalized dashboard, access the dashboard using a Web folder, navigate to the Dashboards folder, and open the folder. Each personal dashboard will appear as a folder. Open its properties, and then make the necessary changes on the Security tab.


You may be wondering why I've not covered using SQL Server or Exchange public folders as a platform for hosting a Digital Dashboard for SharePoint Portal Server. The reason I've chosen not to discuss these platforms in this book is that Microsoft does not support these configurations, at least at the time of this writing. I will include a discussion of these platforms for the Digital Dashboard when Microsoft offers support for those configurations.

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