In the first article in this series, I’ve introduced skybow and our mission. In the next few articles, I’ll explain how we are doing it. In this article I will speak about UI and reporting.
1 – What is skybow?
2 – skybow solution accelerators: data modeling and processing
3 – skybow solution accelerators: UI and reporting
4 – skybow solution accelerators: what is under the hood?
5 – skybow: the next generation of products, and my role in it
Well, SharePoint UI is not something that anyone particularly loves, to be honest. I don’t know really anybody who is happy with the way how the forms look like, and connecting related data through webpart filters was never a pleasant experience. Let’s just say that skybow dynamic forms can close that gap. It is fully customizable HTML thing, which is able to show various master-slave, or master-multiple slaves relations, tabbed, grouped, whatever. Of course, all the data validation, calculation and aggregation rules mentioned in the previous article are fully followed and respected.
Besides the forms, there are many web parts which make users life easier – action links (for displaying the link actions), recently used items and favorite items are there to help users to find their way and to boost the adoption. If you don’t like SharePoint’s default UI at all, if you think that the ribbon is confusing for the customers, and want to replace it with skybow’s own touchable, metro-like interface (screenshot below), that is also possible, but not obligatory: skybow works equally good on vanilla SharePoint or customer’s heavily modified master page.
Reporting in SharePoint is also nonexistent. For any more complex stuff, we’ll need to plug the SSRS. One of the things skybow offers, is automated document generation, as an action (regardless if manual, conditional or scheduled), with possibility of parsing and evaluating skybow expressions. It sounds simple, but, actually, through the same expressions mentioned above, and conditional and scheduled actions, it is a full featured reporting engine, which runs across your SharePoint data, and creates Word or PDF documents (or anything that Word Automation Services are able to produce), stores them in a document library, or even a specific folder, and/or sends them per email (that’s just another scheduled action). Now imagine that “request for leave” scenario, when a manager wants a weekly summary of all approved and rejected leave requests in his mailbox… you get the idea. Through the expression language (that C# thing), which can be built in directly in the Word template fields, a lot of magic in those reports can be done.