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Creating SharePoint list items with java: tutorial

February 15, 2010 17 comments

This post completes the 2nd part of my series of “Using external business data with SharePoint”: SharePoint Web Services and Java

When I first tried to experiment with Java and SharePoint I really wondered why Microsoft didn’t invest a bit more into interoperability concerning their SharePoint platform. The potential is here: they have a market-leading product with rich Web Services. So why only support Microsoft languages? Why is there barely any Java documentation, support or examples? Or even (god forbid) a SharePoint Java library with some helper classes? I bet it would certainly attract new segments and stimulate the usage of SharePoint (or SharePoint Online) in heterogeneous IT ecosystems, what I’ve often seen in smaller companies… That would be a win-win situation for Microsoft and its customers in my opinion.

SharePoint Java Application screenshot

Tutorial introduction

In this post I will show a way to insert, update and delete SharePoint list items from Java. In case you want to build such an app from scratch, I invite you to read the three first steps of my previous tutorial that describe how to generate the Lists Web Service stub classes and how to authenticate to the Web Service. As usual, I’ve tested it with NetBeans and SharePoint Online, but it should work with MOSS 2007 and other Java IDEs. Please keep in mind that this is my take at Java and SharePoint and that there might be more efficient ways to do it, but hey, it works for me!

The challenge here will be to create a Lists request “wrapper” that will be able to do construct a basic CAML query skeleton. To better understand the structure of the request, the first stop is of course MSDN’s UpdateListItems doc. The problem is that MSDN often points fractions of the required CAML structure in their examples, but that’s not always enough, as we need to have a full SOAP sample for our Java app. What I found to be the most helpful was to fire up my browser and go to the URL of my Web Service method I was interested in. In this case, it will be UpdateListsItem, that can usually be found at sharepointsite/Lists/_vti_bin/Lists.asmx?op=UpdateListItems.

Tutorial: Creating list items from Java

In a hurry? You can download the full source code of what’s been covered until now here (GPLv2 license). Enjoy!

Here we go:

  1. Code the Lists request wrapper class. Basically this class will contain the XML SOAP request with the correct structure for the Lists Web Service. I included the imports below to avoid any ambiguity when fixing imports.
    import java.util.HashMap;
    import java.util.Map;
    import javax.xml.parsers.DocumentBuilder;
    import javax.xml.parsers.DocumentBuilderFactory;
    import javax.xml.parsers.ParserConfigurationException;
    import org.w3c.dom.Document;
    import org.w3c.dom.Element;
    import org.w3c.dom.Text;
    
    /**
     *   @author David Dudok de Wit
     *   @version 13 Feb. 2010
     */
    public class ListsRequest {
    
        private Document rootDocument;
        private Element rootDocContent;
    
        /**
         * @return the rootDocument
         */
        public Document getRootDocument() {
            return rootDocument;
        }
    
        /**
         * @return the rootDocContent
         */
        public Element getRootDocContent() {
            return rootDocContent;
        }
    }
    
    

     

  2. Code the ListsRequest constructor. This will construct a generic “New”, “Update” or “Delete” CAML request. In order to avoid errors I’ve added some requestType control checks. Moreover, to keep the constructor signature simple, I made it initialize less relevant parameters automatically (like try to insert each item of the batch operation, even if one fails).
        /**
         * This class creates a generic XML SOAP request pre-formatted for SharePoint
         * Lists web services requests (aka CAML query). What remains to be added are
         * the specific parameters (XML Elements with attributes).
         * For an example of a CAML Doc http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/lists.lists.updatelistitems.aspx
         * @param requestType Either New, Update or Delete
         * @throws Exception
         */
        public ListsRequest(String requestType) throws Exception {
            if (requestType != null) {
                if (requestType.equals("New") || requestType.equals("Update") || requestType.equals("Delete")) {
                    try {
                        Element rootElement = null;
                        DocumentBuilder docBuilder = null;
                        DocumentBuilderFactory dbfac = DocumentBuilderFactory.newInstance();
                        docBuilder = dbfac.newDocumentBuilder();
                        rootDocument = docBuilder.newDocument();
    
                        //Creates the root element
                        rootElement = rootDocument.createElement("Batch");
                        rootDocument.appendChild(rootElement);
    
                        //Creates the batch attributes
                        rootElement.setAttribute("ListVersion", "1");
                        rootElement.setAttribute("OnError", "Continue");
                        rootDocContent = rootDocument.createElement("Method");
                        rootDocContent.setAttribute("Cmd", requestType);
                        rootDocContent.setAttribute("ID", "1");
                        rootDocument.getElementsByTagName("Batch").item(0).appendChild(rootDocContent);
                    } catch (ParserConfigurationException ex) {
                        ex.printStackTrace();
                        throw (new Exception(ex.toString()));
                    }
                } else {
                    String err = "Unsupported request type";
                    throw (new Exception(err));
                }
            } else {
                String err = "Null parameters";
                throw (new Exception(err));
            }
        }
    
  3. Code the createListItem function. This function will inject a HashMap of attributes and their values into the ListsRequest CAML query, under an XML syntax.
        /**
         * Creates a SharePoint list item in the CAML format, and adds it to the rootRequest.
         * In SharePoint, this corresponds to a line in a list. The parameters given
         * here would correspond respectively to the name of the column where to
         * insert the info, and then the info itself.
         * The requestTypeElement should already be initialized before calling this
         * method.
         * XML example output:
         * < Field Name="ID" >4< Field >
         * < Field Name="Field_Name" >Value< /Field >
         * @param fields Contains a HashMap with attribute names as keys, and attributes
         * values as content
         * @return true if the item has been successfully added to the caml request
         */
        public boolean createListItem(HashMap<String, String> fields) {
            //params check
            if (fields != null && getRootDocContent() != null && this.getRootDocument() != null && !fields.isEmpty()) {
                Element createdElement = null;
                //Adds attribute by attribute to fields
                for (Map.Entry<String, String> aField : fields.entrySet()) {
                    createdElement = this.getRootDocument().createElement("Field");
                    createdElement.setAttribute("Name", aField.getKey());
                    Text attributeValue = getRootDocument().createTextNode("" + aField.getValue());
                    createdElement.appendChild(attributeValue);
                    this.getRootDocContent().appendChild(createdElement);
                }
                return true;
            }
            return false;
        }
    

     

  4. Code a higher level manager function. That’s from where we’ll authenticate, as well as decipher the error messages, and more importantly apply the business logic. This can be added in the Manager.java file. The example below is pretty basic doesn’t do basic existence checks, which means that the item will be inserted regardless if there’s already an item with the same attributes. It will however print the request in the console for debugging purposes (see the step 4 of my previous tutorial for the xmlToString function).
        /**
         * This function will insert the given item in the SharePoint that corresponds
         * to the list name given (or list GUID).
         * @param port an already authentificated SharePoint SOAP port
         * @param listName SharePoint list name or list GUID (guid must be enclosed in braces)
         * @param itemAttributes This represents the content of the item that need to be inserted.
         * The key represents the type of attribute (SharePoint column name) and the
         * value corresponds to the item attribute value.
         */
        public static void insertListItem(ListsSoap port, String listName, HashMap<String, String> itemAttributes) {
    
            //Parameters validity check
            if (port != null && listName != null && itemAttributes != null && !itemAttributes.isEmpty()) {
                try {
    
                    //Building the CAML query with one item to add, and printing request
                    ListsRequest newCompanyRequest = new ListsRequest("New");
                    newCompanyRequest.createListItem(itemAttributes);
                    System.out.println("REQUEST:"
                            + xmlToString(newCompanyRequest.getRootDocument()));
    
                    //initializing the Web Service operation here
                    Updates updates = new UpdateListItems.Updates();
    
                    //Preparing the request for the update
                    Object docObj = (Object) newCompanyRequest.getRootDocument().getDocumentElement();
                    updates.getContent().add(0, docObj);
    
                    //Sending the insert request to the Lists.UpdateListItems Web Service
                    UpdateListItemsResult result = port.updateListItems(listName, updates);
    
                    /*
                     *Printing the response in the console.
                     *If successful, the inserted item will be returned
                     */
                    System.out.println("RESPONSE : "
                            + xmlToString((org.w3c.dom.Document) (((ElementNSImpl) result.getContent().get(0)).getOwnerDocument())));
                } catch (Exception e) {
                    e.printStackTrace();
                }
            }
    

     

  5. Testing the code. Just put a few lines in main to test the whole thing. Note that if you have a column name that contains a space, you’ll have to replace the space character with _x0020_ in your attributes.
                 //Authentication parameters
                String userName = "yourusername";
                String password = "yourpassword";
                String sharePointListsWebServiceUrl = "https://yoursharepointsite.com/_vti_bin/Lists.asmx";
    
                //Opening the SOAP port of the Lists Web Service
                ListsSoap port = Manager.sharePointListsAuth(userName, password, sharePointListsWebServiceUrl);
    
                //Name or GUID (with braces) of the list
                String listName = "TempList";
    
               //Create the attributes with the format "Column name" => "value"
                HashMap<String, String> item = new HashMap<String,String>();
                item.put("Title", "Michael Drummond");
                item.put("Address", "USA");
    
                //If your column name has a space in it, replace the space with _x0020_
                item.put("Premium_x0020_customer", "1");
                Manager.insertListItem(port, listName, item);
    
  6. Updating or deleting an item is very similar; you just have to specify the “ID” of the List item (which can be extracted by reading the list first), just like we did in the previous step with the attributes.

 

That’s it!
Keep in mind that this is a simple example that’s not guaranteed to be appropriate for a production environment. For example, It would be interesting to tweak the code to do allow batch inserts/deletes as well as a transaction system that would be able to cache the requests in case of failure. I hope you found this post helpful.

Using external business data with SharePoint Online Part 1: Scenario and conception of a solution

January 17, 2010 2 comments

The first project I would like to put forward on this blog concerns the integration of external business data with Microsoft SharePoint Online. This theme concerned a part of my Bachelor’s thesis that I did last summer which was named “Electronic Documents Management Optimization In A Consulting Firm”.  I will share the parts that I found the most interesting and challenging, in my opinion.

Context

First of all I would like to put some context on the topic that I will cover. The company I worked for was a small “deskless” RH consulting business that managed all of its information (addresses, meetings, projects, etc) through the web, on a custom built PHP-MySQL CRM (Customer Relationship Management) server. It was hosted by a local ISP on a linux server.

It soon became apparent that such a CRM wouldn’t be able to support a centralized document management system, which the company increasingly needed. Consequently, they had to find a solution available on the market.

The company finally settled for Microsoft’s cloud based solution, SharePoint Online, which is part of the Business Productivity Online Suite, to manage their documents. It turned out to be perfectly suited for such a small deskless company. It offered great functionality fora very low cost (thanks to the Software As A Service model, where you pay only for what you use), and low maintenance once set up.

Conception of a solution

One of the challenges of SharePoint Online is that there isn’t any obvious way to integrate external business data from a non-Microsoft source.

Abstract schema of a CRM, Connector and SharePoint Online interacting

This was however a very important point in my project, because alot of the company’s documents had to be organized by client’s names. And guess what: the clients names had to be the same in the CRM’s MySQL database and a SharePoint Online’s list.

But thanks to SharePoint Online’s Web Services, it was possible to build a connector in Java that that made the link between the CRM and SharePoint.

It is important to note that the connector can’t be actioned from within SharePoint Online, as it is impossible at this time to deploy custom code on SharePoint’s cloud-based server. Therefore, clients information would need to be entirely manipulated from within the CRM (and therefore the connector), and the SharePoint clients list protected from users manual access.

Java was chosen because it could directly be deployed on the company’s rented LAMP server.

The point here is to show you that if don’t have a Microsoft infrastructure (Access database, Windows OS that can deploy C# code), but would like to integrate existent business data with a low-priced SharePoint Online solution, it is possible. I’ll use PHP and Java as examples.

How it works

The objective was to have the same names of the clients in the CRM and in a SharePoint Online’s clients list. The designed solution worked like this:

SharePoint Online Connector interaction with external business data

  1. A collaborator types in a new client’s information in an HTML form on the CRM, from his computer.
  2. The Apache server, which is running PHP, adds the client’s information in the local MySQL database, while sending the same info to a “Java to SharePoint connector” running on Tomcat (this is done with a PHP-Java Bridge).
  3. The Java connector processes the received data and encapsulates it into an XAML request that is sent SharePoint Online’s ASMX 2.0 Lists Web Service.
  4. The data is added in the list (which name was detailed in a properties file used by the connector). The list in SharePoint Online is the most restricted as possible for SharePoint Users: the whole point of building a connector is lost if clients information is manipulated from more than one place, for the simple reason that SharePoint Online can’t push those information outside of its walls!
  5. SharePoint Online sends the result back to the connector, which is then passed to PHP, which in turn displays the result to the end user.

The Java code used to build the connector and the implementation of the bridge with PHP will be described in further posts. Your comments are welcome!