I'm working with a client on building up a project management tool in Sharepoint; one thing that's really piqued their interest is the concept of getting short flashes of information when their staff logs into the landing page. I think it's a lovely idea, and I'm intend on giving them this functionality - but how, you might ask? There doesn't seem to be any Sharepoint feature for doing that!
We tend to forget that Sharepoint is, above all, a web-based solution. This means that, with a little ingenuity (and sometimes a lot of sweat and blood), you can integrate some of the latest, coolest web features into your existing Sharepoint. Fortunately, notifications are not too complicated. In this short article, we're going to walk through creating very cool notifications using Gritter, a jQuery-based "plugin", with Sharepoint.
Step One: Create a Sandbox
This may be as simple as creating a new page in your Site Pages repository. I seriously recommend implementing a proof-of-concept rather than work on your production page... If you're not familiar with these libraries, the last place you want to test things out is on your production work, as easy as these implementations may seem.
Apart from your page, your sandbox will need a few extra files. These you can either place in the Site Assets repository of your PoC portal, or in the Site Assets repo of your root. The latter has the benefit of being accessible to your entire audience (or at least I assume so, it will depend on your permissions). The files that you need are the latest minified version of jQuery, the latest version of Gritter, and the latest version of SPServices (double-check these pages for compatibility issues, of course - if Gritter or SPServices tell you that they won't work with certain versions of jQuery, don't use those versions...)
When downloading Gritter, you'll notice that it is a zip file that has several folders and files. I recommend that you keep those in one single place in your Site Assets. I find it's easiest to use Sharepoint Designer to do that.
Step Two: Add Your jQuery References
Now that you have a sandbox, you can start working with it. In case you're wondering, this section is assuming that you're working with Sharepoint Designer to do your work.
Open your sandbox page in SPD, editing it in Advanced Mode. Locate the PlaceHolderMain placeholder and add the references to your script files:
You can test that the libraries loaded correctly by firing up Chrome, navigating to your PoC page, and opening your Console (F12). In the Console, type the following:
If either of these return 'undefined', review your references, make sure the files are uploaded in the correct location.
Step Three: Setting up your notifications!
OK, now we know that all the necessary libraries are loaded. Time to develop notifications.
Always develop incrementally, testing your code one chunk at a time. To that effect, here's code that you should insert after the above script blocks:
If that works, you know that Gritter is functional for static content! Now it's time to pull the real notifications from a list -- this is where SPServices comes in. Before we proceed, we need something to pull information from: create a custom list with a single title for your PoC, "Latest Activities" for instance. Then, you will call the GetListItems function using SPServices.
The following code replaces your test notification:
Et voilà -- Gritter and Sharepoint notifications in a nutshell! Your page will load and, once loaded, will call the getLastActivity function. getLastActivity pulls the latest item from the Latest Activities list (we use the CAMLQuery parameter to order by create date, and the CAMLRowLimit parameter to only return one parameter), and use a callback function to call the notify() function. The notify function is what is responsible for rendering the Gritter notification.