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Presentations from SharePoint Saturday: The Conference DC

I just got back from SharePoint Saturday: The Conference (SPSTC) in DC.  What a great time! I got to a number of events throughout the year and really have to say I had more fun at SPSTC than I’ve had in a long time.  Kudos to the organizers and volunteers on a great event!


It was great get to talk with so many of the attendees and see others in the community that I don’t often get to see!  Not to mention the location in the DC area was awesome. 


For those of you that were able to come out to my sessions, thank you for coming out!  A special shout out to everyone at my search session for helping me get the room set up.  I apologize for being a little late making the slide decks available, but here they are. 


Hope to see everyone again at SharePoint Conference in Anaheim!

FAST Search for SharePoint Error: Unable to resolve Contentdistributor


I’ve been working on a custom search project recently and ran into an issue that had me scratching my head.  My FAST Content SSA wasn’t able to crawl successfully crawl content.  When I kicked off a full crawl it wouldn’t fail, but it would continue to run until I manually stopped it, never returning a single error, warning, or anything.  When I looked at the Event Viewer on the SharePoint Server I saw this:


Log Name: Application
Source:    SharePoint Server Search
Event ID:  2567
Task Category: Content Plugin

General: Failed to connect to Failed to initialize session with document engine: Unable to resolve Contentdistributor

I’ve solved this problem several times before, either by updating the certificate that SharePoint and FAST use to talk to each other or updating the port number listed for the content distributor. In fact when you search on this issue, that’s going to be what you are going to find as the most common solutions.  Apparently, in this case it was special.


It turns out there’s another reason why you get this issue – and that is because the user ID used to run the scripts to apply the SSL certificates needs to be same as the one that is listed for the SharePoint Search Service.  Once I realized this, it was easy enough to go into Central Administration and simply change the service account that is used for the SharePoint Search Service to the same one that is being used to run the script. 


The challenge here, is that if we use our typical install methodology with SharePoint that means that the account that is configured to run the SharePoint Search Service is not an administrator – but to run these SSL scripts for FAST you must be using an administrator account.  It isn’t surprising that this misconfiguration happened.


What is surprising is that after initial configuration, this wasn’t an issue.  In looking at the crawl logs, everything seemed to be fine until there was a password change. There could have been some strange order of operations thing – but I thought I’d mention that in case someone else runs into the issue.


For more information on the issue, the post that helped me solve this one came from here:


For more information on Creating and setting up the Content Search Service Application:


Managing certificates (FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint)

SharePoint 2010 Search New Query Syntax

One of the most common complaints about SharePoint search in MOSS 2007 was the inability to use Wildcards and Boolean Operators when performing search queries.  Both of these capabilities were supported by the search API but required either custom code or 3rd Party Search Utilities to take advantage of this. 


The good news is that SharePoint 2010 now supports both Wildcards and Boolean Operators when performing search queries!  What does this mean? 



Let’s start with the Wildcards.  It means that now you can enter a query like this directly into the search box:




This would return results that had keywords that started with “share” – it is very useful when you don’t know the exact spelling of something or you couldn’t remember the exact name of a keyword.  Also, with the new addition of the refinement panel you could start off with a very broad wildcard search and then refine your results to quickly get exactly the results you are looking for. Wildcard searches can be used in property searches as well – the example above is very simplistic but you could combine terms or property searches as needed.  For example this search would search on the Author Metadata property and return all results that started with John:




Boolean Operators

SharePoint 2010 Search now also supports Boolean Operators.  This means that you can now use things like “AND”, “OR”, parenthesis, =, >, <, <=, >= 


Here’s an example of the type of query you could run using the new syntax:


(“SharePoint Search” OR “Bing”) AND (title:”Keyword syntax” OR title:”Query Syntax”)


Boolean Operators have been around for a while but are usually only used by search power users. While wildcard searches allow users to do very broad searches, Boolean Operators allow users to do very specific searches so they can quickly find the results they are looking for that meet their search criteria.



With SharePoint 2007 the options for performing broad or specific searches were limited – although users could use the Advanced Search box it was confusing to many users.  This new syntax provides users with more options for finding content more quickly and efficiently.


Another option would be to use a technique I’d blogged about almost two years ago of using Javascript to build advanced searches.  This technique still applies but now you’ve got even more options available to create your search solutions!

SP2010: Where’s my search center?

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been heads down doing a lot of “stuff” – a large portion of that stuff was dedicated to working with SharePoint 2010 search.  It didn’t take long for me to notice that there’s been some fundamental changes to things. I’m not saying this as a negative – in fact I think there’s a lot of positives here but SharePoint 2010 takes a slightly different approach to some search basics. I’ve dealt with users long enough to know that small changes can cause some confusion so I hope to clarify things with this post.


Let’s start off with the title of this post – Where’s my search center? Great question!  For those of you might not know what I’m referring to, go try to create a new site collection based on one of the publishing site templates – either Enterprise Wiki or Publishing Portal.  By any chance do you happen to see a search center?  Probably not.  Users of MOSS 2007 might remember that search centers used to be automatically created as part of the publishing site templates before. 


To clarify, if you are using a Publishing Portal – don’t worry.  Your search center is there already. Go check View All Site Content and look at the subsites if you don’t believe me.  The problem in this case is that the default search scope is set to only search This Site.  If you run a search you’ll notice that you can change the scope from the results page.  To avoid having to do this and have the search box run the All Sites scope you can do the following:


Setting up your Publishing Portal to use the All Sites Scope by default

1. From the top level site in your site collection click Site Actions > Site Settings then go to the Search settings link from under the Site Collection Administration section.


2. Change the option in the section section for Site Collection Search Dropdown Mode to “Do not show scopes dropdown, and default to target results page.”  Press Ok.  VOILA!  Just like MOSS 2007!


Manually setting up SharePoint 2010 Search on your site

Let’s pretend you’ve got the Enterprise Wiki or possibly another template.  They actually don’t have the Search Center created for you – what now?  You’d just have to follow these simple steps:


1.  Create a new subsite with one of the search templates.


2. Once the site has been created, go back to the site settings page on the top level site in the site collection.  Assuming you are logged in as a Site Collection Administrator (which you’ll need to be if you are not) click on the Search settings link under the Site Collection Administration section.


3. In the first section called Site Collection Search Center change the radio button to “Enable custom scopes” and specify to use the URL of the new search center you just created.  Usually something like “/search” (without the quotations).


4. Then just as with the publishing portal, change the option in the section section for Site Collection Search Dropdown Mode to “Do not show scopes dropdown, and default to target results page.”  Press OK and again – back to MOSS 2007 behavior.


Why the change?

Why the change in behavior for the Publishing Portal and Enterprise Wiki?  The reason for the change to default the scope to the This Site scope was because it was determined based on research that most users would first look for content within the current site.  Although different, it is easy to configure as we showed above.


The biggest change in the new search philosophy can be seen with the Enterprise Wiki. Why is there no search center?  The reason behind this is because in many organizations there’s a need to have a centralized place to do searching. So the idea is that a single search center would be created for an organization that all site collections would point to.  However the great thing about SharePoint is that there’s a ton of flexibility to set things up to best suit your individual needs.  If you preferred the MOSS 2007 way of doing things you’ve got that option as well.  It only takes a few moments to make the change.


I’m very excited about the new search features in SP2010 and plan to be talking about it in upcoming posts!

Where have I been?

It’s really been far too long since I last posted to this space. This past year has been extremely busy both personally and professionally – I’ll spare you all the personal details but want to give a quick overview of what I’ve been doing and what you can expect moving forward.


For starters, I’ve been busy writing for three books. The first of which should be released before July 1st.  As we get closer with all of the texts I hope to provide more information on these awesome titles:

Professional SharePoint 2010 Administration

Professional SharePoint 2010 Branding and User Interface Design

Real World SharePoint 2010: Indispensable Experiences from 20 SharePoint MVPs


When I haven’t been writing books…..well I’ve been writing other stuff.  I’ve been contributing content for a Microsoft Search Portal which will be available in the very near future. I’ll be sure to post links as soon as I have them.


Prior to SharePoint Conference I recorded a couple screencasts about SP2010 which have been up for several months now and were recently re-recorded with updated content.  If you were interested to check out the old ones, take a look here:

What Can SharePoint 2010 Do For Me?

Getting Started with Search in SharePoint 2010


I’ve also been contributing to some SharePoint training courses which will be available soon from Microsoft Learning. 


My user group that I am co-founder for, the Orlando SharePoint User Group, has continued to grow. I’m very proud of how the SharePoint Community in Central Florida has continued to grow.  To help build on this, at the end of 2009 I helped to co-organize the first SharePoint Saturday in Tampa and will be holding our second one June 26th, 2010.  Registration is no open so go be sure to come check it out!  Although the speaker list hasn’t been officially announced yet, I can say that I’m very excited so if you are a SharePointer who can get to Tampa you aren’t going to want to miss this one!


This next few months should be very exciting and I’m looking forward to sharing everything in this space so stay tuned!

Upgrading your custom branded SharePoint site to SharePoint 2010 – Part 1

Apparently it has been about six months since I’ve written a blog post.  Its been a busy few months since then.  I’ll spare you all the details but long story short, I’m going to blame on it on the calm before the SharePoint 2010 storm that was unleashed at the SharePoint Conference in October when the beta was officially unleashed on the world.  All excuses aside, it is time to put back on the game face and get back to business. 


It was great relief when the beta was released and the NDA was lifted cause we could finally talk about all the cool new stuff.  There’s a ton of great new features and functionality but I was itching to get my hands dirty and do something real.  Something that others would be doing…what better place to start than upgrading something?


The goal was to take SharePoint911’s public MOSS site and upgrade it to SharePoint 2010.  In the next few blog posts I’m going to highlight the steps that I went through with the help of my colleague Randy Drisgill to eventually flip the switch on the new site.


Before we begin – let me real quick explain what we are working with here.  SharePoint911’s public facing site started life as an out of the box site collection using the Publishing Portal site template.  To get the user interface we were looking for, it has a custom master page and several page layouts with supporting CSS and images.  Everything about the site is deployed with a SharePoint Solution Package (.WSP file).  This means all files on the site are uncustomized.


The whole idea seemed pretty simple – move the content database to the SharePoint 2010 server which will upgrade the content on the fly via the database attach method and use the visual upgrade functionality of SharePoint 2010 which should allow us to get our site migrated while still using the old master page until we could a new master page for the site.  Here’s the basic steps I followed:

1) Backed up the main content database from SQL on my MOSS farm.

2) Restored the content database to the SQL server in my SharePoint 2010 farm.

3) Added and deployed my WSP to the SharePoint 2010 farm

4) Create a new web application called

4) Ran the following command to attach the database to SharePoint 2010:

stsadm –o addcontentdb –databasename wss_content_blah –url –preserveolduserexperience true


Fun side note – when you do the db attach you actually get some feedback this time around about the progress.  No more staring at a blinking cursor for 5 mins! 


Theoretically – the next step should be that I open up the site and it will come up with the v3 look and feel but can still take advantage of the other things that SP2010 has to offer.  But that isn’t what happened.  I was greeted with the following error:


http://server/_catalogs/masterpage/sp911.master(123): error CS0234: The type or namespace name 'SearchBoxEx' does not exist in the namespace 'Microsoft.SharePoint.Portal.WebControls' (are you missing an assembly reference?)


My first reaction was to pick up the phone and ask Randy what the heck he did to break the site.  After a little playing we realized a few things were true, removing the SearchBoxEx control did fix the problem, but you shouldn’t have to.  We also found that if you copied the code out of the v3 BlueBand.master and tried to deploy it with a Feature you’d get the same behavior because it had the same control.


It turns out this is a bug in the Beta which will be fixed in RTM.  Just to be clear on this – if you try to deploy an uncustomized master page which uses the SearchBoxEx control using visual upgrade you will receive the error.  If you do encounter this issue there is a very simple work around: Customize the master page.  We aren’t really sure why this works, but we assume that the reason is because customizing the page seems to give SharePoint the ability to inject code into the master page which somehow seems to circumvent this issue.


Overall, aside from this little hiccup the migration process was very smooth.  The end result was our v3 branding running in a SharePoint 2010 environment.  In the next installment I’ll talk about how I imported my v3 WSP into Visual Studio 2010 and deployed the changes to my new site. Stay tuned!!


For a peek at the finished product of the migration take a look at

Slides from Real SharePoint Solutions for Tough Business Times

Thanks again to everyone who came out today and braved the rough weather in Tampa!  I’ve included some links below to the slides as well as the sample alternate CSS and banner image I demoed in the session.


SharePoint Branding For The Rest of Us (slides)

Sample CSS and banner


Also, if you interested in checking out those new themes from Microsoft here’s a link to my colleague, Randy Drisgill’s blog post on them complete with screenshots:


If you were in interested in seeing one of the themes in action with some light customization – or are in the Orlando area and want to check out the Orlando SharePoint User Group check out:

Demystifying SharePoint Branding Updated Slide Deck from SPTechCon

Thanks to everyone who came out to Randy and my session yesterday at SPTechCon!  As some of you noticed, the slide deck we were presenting from had a few changes over the slides that were available from the conference site.  Here are slides we used in the presentation:


Branding Demystified - SPTechCon Boston


Randy should have the code samples up shortly.

Proof positive that the SharePoint install account is critical!!


I’ve read and heard many places that the account you use to install SharePoint gets mystical powers that can’t really be explained.  I’ve always listened to that advice but never really understood why – until last week!


Let me backup for a second and explain what I’m talking about.  When you go through the SharePoint installation process, once you’ve started the started the process the first account you’ll be asked to enter is the account that SharePoint will use to access SQL.  This isn’t the account I’m referring to – the account I’m referring to is the account that you are logged into Windows Server with during the installation. 


The scenario I ran into is very typical, Admin logs into Windows Server with his or her own account (that has administrator rights on the server) and then proceeds to perform the installation.  On the surface, this will work fine in most cases.  The installation will complete and SharePoint will load.  Everyone will be happy.  For now….


In my case, I was helping to configure an environment that was originally setup several months back.  For whatever reason things were working correctly and it was decided it would just be faster to uninstall and reinstall to fix the problem.  I sat down and began the uninstall process from Add/Remove programs and was surprised when it failed.  Became even more frustrated when it failed another three times!  Turns out I was trying to do the uninstall using the SP_Admin account, however the installation was done using one of the network admin’s accounts.  So I went over, asked the guy to login and tried the uninstall one more time.  Poof!!  Worked immediately.


In my case, I was lucky.  The administrator was still around.  But what if he no longer worked there?  Maybe he was a consultant or won the lottery?  I might have been staring a very messy uninstall right in the face.


Just remember, the account you are logged in with during your SP install makes a big difference! 

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