Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Bringing Textile Markers to SharePoint Text Fields

We recently put in a color splash into our IntelliGantt Web Part so that customers could start introducing their own custom fields and have them perform as key performance indicators. What you do is tell the IntelliGantt Web Part which custom field you want to key off of and then provide the colors to use. Typically this is a choice field and the color series matches the choice values.

Another customer of ours wanted to ability to highlight tasks within the web part. I thought 'hey, the new color splashes would be cool.' But what they really wanted was a bit more text formatting. Something like making the title bold, or in italics or underlined. I first started thinking about HTML markup around the text fields, naturally, but how to store that in SharePoint and still have it be readable? Not going to happen.

Then I remembered something we had on the drawing board as a result of our experience creating products for Basecamp. They use a simple Textile markup that can both instruct programs how to change text decorations and maintain readability for normal humans. So we applied the bold, italic and underline markers to all our text fields and the results look good:

What we've done is added a bit of processing to SharePoint text field resolution such that

  • If text begins and ends with *, then it is bold
  • If text begins and ends with _, then it is italics
  • If text begins and ends with +, then it is underlined

Any text field can contain these textile markings. We do have one issue with Summary Tasks because they do not accept * characters. I suppose we can offer a SharePoint errata to the Textile specification, but for now summary tasks can italicized or underlined

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