Archive for August, 2016

Product overview by Vlad Catrinescu – requested by PDF Share Forms, but thoughts are my own.

With the popularity of SharePoint increasing daily, more and more companies are turning to SharePoint as their central hub for documents. One of the main advantages of SharePoint is business automation and moving towards the paperless office. SharePoint allows us to create lists, as well as InfoPath forms in order to capture information that was traditionally on paper forms. However, SharePoint does not support one of the main types of forms that are used in companies across the world: PDF Forms. PDF has become the standard file type for final documents because it’s compatible across devices and everyone can use it without installing anything on their device.

Thanks to Microsoft’s rich partner ecosystem, some partners have stepped up to create third party products that allow us to integrate PDF forms into SharePoint. One of those companies is called PDF Share Forms, and they have created a product called PDF Share Forms Information Worker. Before starting the review, let’s look at a few words from the PDF Share Forms website.

PDF is the most popular document format – it’s accepted anywhere in the World, it works on any platform, it is recognized by millions of developers, and supported by thousands of user groups. PDF is the only way to provide an electronic “hard copy” of any document. PDF Share Forms Information Worker – the only PDF form product that empowers non-developers without compromising necessity for complex and compliant forms. It takes less than two minutes to integrate forms like W9, I9 (Employment Verification Form) and start filling those in. Works on mobile devices. Online and offline.

PDF Share Forms Information Worker Review

The first thing we have to do in PDF Share Forms Information Worker is to create the PDF form templates that our users will fill out. This is done from a special page that can be accessed from the SharePoint site menu. From this page we can view the existing templates, create a new one from scratch, or Import a new template. We can also see how many times it has been used, and how many revisions exist.

Review of PDF Share Forms Information Worker

Once we go on a form and in the design view, we see what the form looks like, as well as define our fields.

Review of PDF Share Forms Information Worker

After the fields are defined, we can map the fields from the PDF form, directly to a column in that SharePoint library. Since the data will be stored both in the PDF and in the columns, it will allow us to use the powerful SharePoint document management features, such as workflows, views, etc. as well as have all the content in a PDF form that follows your standards.

Review of PDF Share Forms Information Worker

Another feature which I absolutely loved, is the ability to create stages. For example, when a person first opens a form, they will enter field 1 through 5. Afterwards, that person’s manager will fill section 6 through 9, and finally the CIO will fill section 10.

Review of PDF Share Forms Information Worker

From a user perspective, users will see forms exactly as content types in SharePoint and will be able to create them directly from the SharePoint ribbon. In the screenshot below we see the option to create the Legislation form we have configured earlier.

Review of PDF Share Forms Information Worker

The user will only be allowed to edit the fields from the stage, and the user can also highlight them so he can easily see what he needs to fill out. Everything is very user friendly, and the user controls to input information are very easy.

Review of PDF Share Forms Information Worker

To create forms, there are two options. The first one, and the one I personally find the easiest is that you can create forms directly in Microsoft Word. After creating them, you simply save them as a PDF file, and then use the Import Template option that we saw on the PDF Share Forms settings page.

Review of PDF Share Forms Information Worker

The other way to create forms is directly in the browser, by using the PDF Share Forms editor. While the editor works well, and you can drag and drop fields, I really prefer doing it through Microsoft Word because it’s something I am way more productive in.

Review of PDF Share Forms Information Worker

PDF Share Forms Information Worker also allows you to integrate the forms with Digital Signatures, and you can also integrate your forms with both SharePoint Designer Workflows and Nintex Workflows. This will allow your company to easily build approval workflows around the PDF forms you will create. PDF Share Forms Information Worker also works with non-authenticated users, allowing you to capture data from customers and partners, without needing to create them a username and password.

Conclusion

In this blog post we looked at PDF Share Forms Information Worker, a third party product that allows you to create and manage PDF forms, in SharePoint. Throughout the testing I found that the software was really easy to use. My favorite parts were the ability to map PDF Form fields to SharePoint Columns, Form Stages and the fact that I can create my forms in Microsoft Word where I am comfortable, and simply save them as PDF and it just works! If you need to manage PDF forms in SharePoint, you definitely need to check out PDF Share Forms Information Worker! Navigate to their site by clicking the logo below:

Review of PDF Share Forms Information Worker

5/5 (1)

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Product overview by Vlad Catrinescu – requested by MetaOption, but thoughts are my own.

With over 250 000 companies using SharePoint day to day for their collaboration needs, the ecosystem of SharePoint third party vendors has grown tremendously over the past years. Companies invested heavily in their SharePoint deployment and by buying different products that are hosted on SharePoint, they can increase the ROI of their SharePoint deployment. One type of software that most companies have is a Helpdesk software, to manage both internal and external tickets. A few Microsoft partners saw an opportunity and created Helpdesk systems that run directly on SharePoint. One of those partners is MetaOption, a New Jersey based software development, consulting and IT service company, has developed a product called MetaCaseDesk: A SharePoint based Helpdesk, Ticketing and Case Management Solution. Before starting the review of MetaCaseDesk, here are a few words about the product, directly from the MetaCaseDesk site:

MetaCaseDesk is an advanced Helpdesk, Ticketing Tool and Case management solution for customers running on-premises Microsoft SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint 2010.

Customers not using SharePoint and SharePoint Office 365 customers have an option to use MetaCaseDesk on MetaOption Cloud.

MetaCaseDesk has two major portals. Support User portal allows supports users to login, create, manage and track tickets. Customer portal allows users to login into a secure SharePoint website and report/track incidents/cases.

Supported authentication modes for customer users are Active Directory (AD), Cross Domain Authentication, Custom Login/Password, and Web Services. Thus, System setting allows users to view ticket through a secure link without logging into the system.

MetaCaseDesk Review

For this review, MetaOption gave me a demo environment with multiple tickets already submitted. MetaCaseDesk has two portals that we will look at in this review. The first one is the Support User Portal. The Support User Portal is where your Helpdesk team will log in and manage tickets.

When inside a ticket, we first see all the information about the customer, and the ticket such as ticket number, opened date, due date as well as priority and who this ticket is assigned to.

Lower on the ticket page, we can see all the history of the ticket, as well as the email logs. With MetaCaseDesk, you can open support tickets from the two portals, as well as by directly by email. Users will not have to go to the site to reply to a ticket, everything can be done by email which is pretty awesome.

Not only you can open tickets by email, you can also reply to them by email, or as a support person, you can reply to them directly from the MetaOption Interface and do other actions such as Close the ticket at the same time.

MetaOption also has two different dashboards that Helpdesk managers can use to see the status of the support queue. The first one that we saw in the first screenshot of the review is called the Analytical Dashboard. The second one seen below is the Graphical Dashboard, which is a bit more visual, and allows you to view the health of your system in only a few seconds.

MetaCaseDesk also allows you to create recurring tickets. For example, create a ticket for the SQL DBA every Monday to make sure that all database backups have completed successfully.

MetaCaseDesk also allows you to create a Knowledge Base. Having a Knowledge Base will allow users to find answers to some of their errors, without even opening a ticket. If users still open support tickets about those issues, support personnel can direct users to articles in the knowledgebase which should answer their questions.

Now that we did an overview of the Support User Portal, let’s take a look at the Customer Portal. The Customer Portal is where your customers would login and create tickets.

MetaCaseDesk

Creating a ticket is easy, you simply have to fill the information in the form and click Submit. When configuring MetaCaseDesk, you also have the option to add Custom Fields if you want to track other types of information.

MetaCaseDesk

From the Customer Portal, you also have Access to the Knowledge Base, but only the items that have been made visible. When creating a Knowledge Base article, Support Personnel can keep it internal to support, or publish it on the customer portal.

MetaCaseDesk

Lastly, one of the cool options of MetaCaseDesk is the ability to create multiple business units. A business unit can be everything from different offices inside your organization, or different departments ex: Customer Support, HR, Billing, etc. Business Units can have different permissions, so only the right users have access to the support tickets in that business unit.

MetaCaseDesk

In order to correctly route item, MetaCaseDesk allows you to create Assignment Rules based on keywords, from what email it’s received or Customers as source. You can assign multiple rules, and decide their priority. An internal workflow system will analyze the ticket, and assign it to the proper Business Unit or user based on the rules you have created.

MetaCaseDesk

You could direct all the tickets containing “Server” or “Desktop” to the HelpDesk group for example, while all the tickets with the keyword “Invoice” to the Billing group. I think this is a great feature for companies who want to manage all their tickets on SharePoint, but want to make sure only the right people see the tickets they are supposed to see.

Conclusion

In this blog post, we have looked at MetaCaseDesk, a Helpdesk tool created by MetaOption, which is hosted on top of SharePoint. The tool definitely has a lot of features, and is really easy to use. I really liked the fact that you can open and reply to tickets directly via email, as well as the recurring ticket functionality and the knowledge base. I didn’t have any bugs with all the included features, and they all worked really fast. What I wish the tool had is a way to track how much time a support user spends on a certain ticket, in order to be able to bill your customers for support at the end of the month. If needed, I am sure this could be done using a Custom Field, but I would have really liked of it was included Out of the Box!

If you are looking for a Helpdesk tool based on SharePoint, make sure to check out MetaCaseDesk by MetaOption by clicking the logo below.

5/5 (1)

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