Archive for September, 2016

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

Information Overload is a growing problem both in the workplace, and in life in general. Information Overload is when you are trying to deal with more information than you are able to process to make sensible decisions. The result is that you either delay making decisions, or you make the wrong decisions. And let’s be honest, we all feel a kind of information overload because of all of the sources of information we have today. If you are an office worker, you have to go get all the information from SharePoint, email, Yammer, and other systems you might have such as Zendesk, Salesforce, etc. latest Outlook Add-in called Collage aims to solve that problem, by using the latest available tools such as Microsoft’s Office Graph API and machine learning. Before starting the review, here are some words from the website!

Collage is the world’s first ‘topic-driven’ interface; it turns your Outlook window into the one place where all your important business information comes together…organized by topic. Simply view an email message and all related information from business apps, documents, or social updates appears in the Collage Outlook sidebar. Making sense of all your disconnected information has never been easier.

Automated Topic Discovery

Collage uses machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) to automatically discover topics contained in business app notifications, email messages, documents, and social posts.

Automatic Topic Matching

Collage employs sophisticated matching algorithms to pair topics across many information sources.

Take Action ‘in context’

Click on an item in Collage’s information stream; the corresponding native interface is opened to the appropriate record, so you can take necessary steps. This currently works for Office 365, Salesforce, Zendesk, and Yammer

Single Information Stream

Collage brings together notifications from all your information sources into a single unified information stream, displayed conveniently in an Outlook add-in. Collage Review Collage is installed as an Outlook Add-in directly from the Office Store. After Installing it, I decided to run it against my real main Inbox. Usually I run reviews on random accounts, however since Collage looks at my emails and assigns topics to them, I really needed an active Mailbox with a lot of context to be able to review its functionality. Since it’s my real mailbox, some items may be blurred, but you’re getting the real thing! Once I added the Add-in, the first thing I had to do was add all my services. Similar to the other Add-ins, you can easily access it from the Ribbon, and it will open as a side panel in Outlook. You can log in to all the services you use, by clicking on the Services tab, and then logging in to each service you use. Collage

I don’t have Zendesk, IBM or Salesforce, so I only connected to Yammer and Office 365. After that, I opened one of my emails for a project I have been working on the past year, which is my book on Deploying SharePoint 2016. As you see in the screenshot below in the red rectangle, Collage analyzed my email and found out that the topic is “Deploying SharePoint 2016”. In the Collage sidebar, I also see all the other emails that talk about the same topic, whatever service they are from. In this particular screenshot, they all come from email. Pretty cool! Collage

From the Collage Bar, I can also search for topics or tags. For example, when starting to type Meta, it proposed me two topics it found which are MetaCaseDesk and MetaOption, which are emails about another review I did on my blog! By searching with those tags, I can easily find all the topics Collage

As all machine learning is not perfect, some of the topics that picks provide no valuesuggests are not interesting. , or do not make any sense. For example, I have emailed a company to reserve something, and mentioned a MasterCard Priceless special price. I can right click on a topic and select to Ignore this topic. In this way, users can train Collage which topics are real, hence improving Collage’s ability to interpret and pick out topics of interest. As a side note, you can see that other than the Blue MasterCard Tag, Collage also identified another tag for my email which is UTC. Secondary tags for the same item will be shown in Gray, and you can also click on them so you can search for this secondary topic. Collage, also allows you to ignore certain users if you wish so. Collage

I can go and see my list of Ignored Topics anytime from the Collage Settings. Collage

Something I can do incase didn’t pick a topic on an email that I want, is to manually tag it from the timeline, and add a tag to it. In my case I added a new topic called “Live! 360” to this email. Again, as users manually tweak the set of topics, Collage gets better at surfacing interesting topics. Collage Collage

Something that I wish that Collage would let me do, but it doesn’t at the moment is to tag the current email that I have open. When I open an email and Collage doesn’t find any relevant topics, it shows that “Collage didn’t find relevant topics for this email”, but does not allow me to add my own from this view. , I have to find the same email from the timeline, and add it from there. I think that this is definitely a feature that I would want to have, and would love to see it included in a future update. Collage Collage also has a Discover Tab, which allows you to see trending documents around you, and show you documents that the Microsoft Graph thinks you might find interesting. The idea is really good, and it works well to identify recently changed documents. One minor quibble I had with Collage was that it could not open documents in my default browser, Chrome and instead opened everything in Internet Explorer. It turns out that because the Collage add-in (and all Outlook add-ins) runs in Outlook inside Internet Explorer (Microsoft AddIns Web architecture), there is no option other than opening the document in Internet Explorer. Collage


In this blog post, we have reviewed’s latest product called Collage. Collage is an Outlook add-in that locates and displays all information related to those topics in the same Outlook window – information from applications, documents, other emails, and social interactions. It can currently connect to Office 365, Salesforce, IBM Connections, Yammer and Zendesk and get information from all those sources, in the Collage sidebar. Microsoft Dynamics is on the way.

During my testing, I have found Collage to be really useful, and it was able to identify most of my emails with the correct topics, and allowed me to easily find emails for the same projects, without going to other folders of my email and doing other searches. Something that I wish that Collage had, was the ability for me to tag the currently open email directly, and not only from the timeline, which would allow me to tag items faster. The Discover tab also showed me useful documents from my SharePoint Online tenant, which I found a cool feature.

As with the other products I have reviewed in the past, the quality was top-notch, I didn’t encounter any strange or unexpected behavior, and the interface was super easy to use, without ever needing to open the instructions manual.

If you want to get all the information you are looking for, from multiple systems, directly in your Outlook window, make sure to check out Collage by clicking on the banner below! Collage

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I am extremely happy to announce that my fifth Pluralsight course has been released this weekend, and this one is on the latest and greatest version of SharePoint!

Planning for SharePoint Server 2016

SharePoint Server 2016 is the latest release of SharePoint Server and includes awesome features for business users, but quite a few changes for SharePoint IT Professionals. New features such as MinRole, combined with new requirements such as mandatory Office Online Server configuration for Business Intelligence, will change the way that SharePoint Administrators will design their SharePoint farm.

In this course, Planning for SharePoint Server 2016: Physical Topology and Services, you’ll learn foundational knowledge in order to properly plan for a SharePoint 2016 topology according to your business needs. First, you’ll learn how to architecture a topology in Traditional, Streamlined, and MinRole strategies. Next, you’ll learn how to plan for your Service Applications such as Search, User Profile, and the Productivity Service applications, as well as how they can affect your Physical Topology. Finally, you’ll learn how to plan for SharePoint Hybrid, Business Intelligence, SharePoint 2013 Workflows, SharePoint add-ins and more.

When you’re finished with this course, you’ll have the skills and knowledge of SharePoint 2016 needed to properly plan a SharePoint 2016 Physical Topology according to your business needs. This course also covers part of the “Planning” Objectives of the SharePoint 2016 MCSE Exam 70-339. (View more info here: )

You can find the course on Pluralsight at or by clicking the banner blow:

Planning for SharePoint Server 2016

If you don’t have a Pluralsight Subscription, check out how to get a free 3 months on my blog post over here: ! If you enjoy the course and you learned a lot, you can share it on social media by directly retweeting the tweet below!

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Leave a comment and don’t forget to like the Absolute SharePoint Blog Page   on Facebook and to follow me on Twitter here  for the latest news and technical articles on SharePoint.  I am also a Pluralsight author, and you can view all the courses I created on my author page.
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The Word Automation Services Service Application is a Service Application that automatically converts documents supported by the Word client application into formats such as PDF and XPS. In a simpler way to explain it, the Word Automation Services takes the “Save As” functionality of the Word client, and replicates the functionality on SharePoint.

However, the Word Automation Service Application, does not have a user interface to test that it was configured properly. The only way to actually Test the Word Automation Service Application is trough code, which as a SharePoint IT Professional, I don’t want to write code simply to test a Service Application. Luckily, PowerShell is there for us! By using PowerShell, we can convert a document from Word to PDF, and test that this service application is working properly!

We will first load the assembly required to call Word Automation Services functions.

We then create new Object of type ConversionJobSettings specifying the Output format is PDF.

We then create a new object of type ConversionJob and give it our Service Application Proxy Name, in our case Word Automation, as well as the $jobsettings object. We then set the $Job.Usertoken to the SharePoint SPWeb where the document is stored.


Lastly, we add the properties for the file that we want converted. We give it the URL to the Word Document, as well as the URL to the future PDF document, which does not exist yet. We then Start the Job.

The Word Automation Services job runs asynchronous, meaning that we won’t know when it will run directly from PowerShell, however we can force the job to run right away by starting the Word Automation timer job.

If we put it all together, the script looks like this:


To see the status of the job, run the following PowerShell cmdlet where “Word Automation” is the name of your Word Automation Services Application.

Initially it will show as InProgress since we force started the Timer Job as seen in the screenshot below.

Test the Word Automation Service Application

Once the job is completed, it will either show as Succeeded or Failed. If everything was configured correctly, it should show as Succeeded as seen in the screenshot below, and you should see your PDF document in your document library.

Test the Word Automation Service Application

Did you find this article useful?

If yes, you will love Deploying SharePoint 2016: Best Practices for Installing, Configuring, and Maintaining SharePoint Server 2016 written by myself, and SharePoint Server MVP Trevor Seward! Get it now at the links below!

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Leave a comment and don’t forget to like the Absolute SharePoint Blog Page   on Facebook and to follow me on Twitter here  for the latest news and technical articles on SharePoint.  I am also a Pluralsight author, and you can view all the courses I created on my author page.
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My Conferences for the rest of 2016

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The last four months of the year are always busy in the SharePoint conferences world and with the launch of SharePoint 2016 this year, those conferences will be more exciting than ever! Here are my conferences for the rest of 2016! I hope to see as many of you as possible!

Microsoft Ignite – Atlanta – September 26-30

I will be in the Expo Hall all week long so if you want to have a chat, don’t hesitate to write in the comments here, or ping me on twitter!

Monday between 6 and 7 PM during the Welcome Reception I will be at the Pluralsight Booth. Grab a drink and come say hi!

South Africa Road trip

During most of the month of October, I will be in South Africa for a few SharePoint events, and a few weeks of vacation! Here are the events I will be speaking at:

SharePoint Saturday Johannesburg – October 8

    I will be speaking on “What’s new in SharePoint 2016 for IT Pros”. Register for free at:

SharePoint Saturday Cape Town – October 22

I will be speaking on “What’s new in SharePoint 2016 for IT Pros”. Register for free at:

SharePoint Saturday Durban -October 29

    I will be speaking on “What’s new in SharePoint 2016 for IT Pros”. Register for free at

Between Cape Town and Durban, there will also be multiple smaller events across South Africa. Make sure to check the site of the The South African aOS road trip 2016 to stay informed on the dates and location on each event! Sign up for updates at

European SharePoint Conference – Vienna – November 14-17

Last year ESPC in Stockholm was a blast, and I am really excited to be part of the conference this year again in Vienna! Sign up at and use the code ESPC16VC to save 10% off the registration fees!

My Conferences for the rest of 2016

Office & SharePoint Live! – Orlando – December 5-9

This conference was previously known as SPLive360 and is really a blast! This year they are focusing on the technical folks, with a lot of sessions for IT Professionals and Developers. In Orlando, I have a half day workshop on Installing and Configuring SharePoint Server 2016 , which is followed by another workshop for IT Professionals by a workshop on Upgrade to SharePoint 2016 by SharePoint MVP Matthew McDermott. This will be an amazing day for SharePoint IT Professionals who need to plan their SharePoint 2016 deployment and migration in their environment! I will also have two more sessions, one on Tuesday and one on Wednesday:

  • What’s new in SharePoint 2016 for IT Pros – Tuesday, December 6, 2016
  • PowerShell for Office 365 – Wednesday, December 7, 2016

SPECIAL OFFER: As a speaker, I can extend $500 savings on the 5-day package. Register here: . Make sure to use code LSPK15

My Conferences for the rest of 2016

SharePoint Fest – Chicago – December 8-9

My final SharePoint conference of the year will be SharePoint Fest Chicago. I got really lucky that the schedules worked out , because SharePoint Fest is an amazing conference and this year I will be able to do the complete tour (Denver, DC, Seattle, Chicago). I will be presenting two sessions at SharePoint Fest Chicago, one on Thursday and one on Friday! Register at: 

  • SIA 104 – PowerShell for Office 365
  • SPT 200 – Data Loss Prevention in SharePoint 2016





I hope to see you at one of those conferences, and if not, there’s always 2017!



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