A modern approach on connected web parts in O365

For those among us that had/have the pleasure to work with SharePoint on-prem, you may know that you have the option to use Connected web parts (eg. how it was done in MOSS 2007). The principle is rather simple; find a column that can be used a primary key, connect with it, and it’s done. Now you can filter a second list based on what you selected in the first one.

For quite a while, this simple option was not available in SharePoint online. Currently Connected Web Parts in Office 365 is something you can play with, and which has reached a mature level. In this post we’ll go through the possibilities and limitations of connected web parts, and some business cases where you can use them.

A standard setup

Let’s start with the most basic use for connected web parts in Office 365; where you want to filter a list based on a selection in another list. For this to work we need a source list and a target list. It’s important that both lists contain a column where you can retrieve the same values. In general you’ll achieve this by creating a lookup from the second list into the first list, but it will also work with other field types (although you’ll make it yourself more difficult :)). 

Setting up the Dynamic Filtering

In the following example we’re filtering a user’s list by selecting an alphabetical value

Connected Web Parts Before Filtering
Connected Web Parts After Filtering
Combining multiple connections

After setting up a basic example, let’s see what kind of multiple connections are possible. We’ll look at two typical scenarios:

  • Filtering a list on either of two other lists
This setup could for example happen when you have a list of customers, and you would like users to filter either on the country they are from, or on their initials.
Having two filter sources for one filter target

At this moment it is not possible having two sources pointing to the same target. Since the filtering is defined at the target list, which can only accommodate one configuration, you will have to look to a custom development or a search driven solution.

  • Filtering two lists from one source list

In the second multiple-connections example we will look at filtering two web parts based on one source. Since the connection is made at the receiving end, we can easily create both connections. 

Having one source filtering two targets
Cascading connected web parts

The third possibility with connected web parts is creating a cascade of connected web parts. This allow users to drill down in to their information with a couple of clicks. Examples could be in regards to staff-city-details or customers-locations-invoices.

Cascading 3 lists with two separate filters
Extra: List Properties

Everything we saw up to now was related to actively connecting two lists in order to drill down. In some cases you just want to show more details on a specific item. In that case you can use the List Properties Web Part

The List Properties Web Part isn’t the most sexy one out there, but with a couple of clicks it will already show you what you need.

List Properties Configuration Pane

 

In the examples given, we only worked with lists, but you can also connect with the file viewer, embed web part and document library web part.

 
Conclusion

The connected web parts in Office 365 allow power users to set up solution pretty easily. You could argue that the same could be achieved using Search Web Parts (which I also like to use), but nothing beats the speed and ease by which lists can be connected. These kind of solutions can only work if you spend time on preparing the required metadata and connections.

 

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