Creating a Blog using Office 365 Small Business

If you want an inexpensive yet convenient way to host your own Blog, Office 365 can fit the bill. With a little bit of tweaking, you can create a publicly accessible blog. The purpose of this blog post is to guide you step-by-step and get you going.

As I described in an earlier post, Office 365 Small Business can be quite limiting because there is no out of the box way to edit Anonymous user permissions. To get a fully functional blog, you’ll need to use a workaround, but I hope you find the effort is well worth it.

Getting Started

First you’ll want to make sure you have your own Office 365 website available. Microsoft makes it easy for you by allowing you to sign up for a free trial. After you login to your own website, make your way to your Team Site.

You won’t be creating your blog under your Team Site because it doesn’t allow any access to anonymous users, however visiting your Team Site will provide an easy way to get to your root site’s settings page.

  1. Click ‘Site Actions’ -> ‘Site Settings’

    This will take you to your Team Site’s settings page.

  2. Click ‘Go to top level site settings’

    This will take you to your Root Site’s settings page.

You should now be able to see your site collection settings page which will give you access to the various galleries (Solution, Theme, List Template, Web Part, etc.) and Search settings.

Your root site collection, by default, will allow Anonymous users very limited read access to your site. To harness the full power of SharePoint, you’ll need to be able to control this.

Install Anonymous Access List Permissionator Web Part (AALP)

To be able to modify the Anonymous access permissions, you’ll need to install the AALP or something similar. You can find the WSP here, or feel free to download the source code and edit it as you like.

  1. Click ‘Solutions’

  2. Click ‘Solutions’ (this will display the proper Ribbon options)

  3. Click ‘Upload Solution’

  4. Click ‘Browse…’ and then select the AnonymousAccessListPermissionator.wsp file from your local computer.

  5. Click ‘OK’

  6. Click the check box next to the newly uploaded solution and then click ‘Activate’

  7. You will be asked to verify if you’d like to activate the solution. Click ‘Activate’ again.

Activating the solution will install a web part into your Web Part gallery. This web part, when placed on a page, will allow you to set Anonymous permissions for any list within your web site. You can read more about it here.

Create a Blog Sub-site

After installing the AALP, return to your root site collection’s site settings page (http://www.<yourwebsite>.com/_layouts/settings.aspx). From here, you will be creating a sub-site.

  1. Click ‘All Site Content’

  2. Click ‘Create’

  3. Click ‘Site’
  4. Click ‘Blog’ and give it a name and URL

By default, your sub-site will inherit the Anonymous read permissions from your root site, so you’ll have limited use of your blog. At this point, use another browser instance to check what your blog will do for the anonymous user. I usually have another browser window open (Firefox, Chrome, Opera etc.) to check my anonymous experience while my authenticated user account is logged in to Internet Explorer for configuring my blog.

Although you can see your blog’s default page, notice that clicking on the default blog post, categories, archives, links, or photos hyperlinks will prompt the user for authentication.

We’ll fix that quickly using the AALP.

Set Anonymous Permissions for your Blog lists

Your next step will be to modify the Anonymous permissions for the various SharePoint lists used by the blog sub-site. Use your browser that is logged in to your blog site.

  1. Click ‘All Site Content’

     

  2. Click ‘Create’

  3. Click ‘Library’ -> ‘Document Library’

  4. Click ‘More Options’ and then give your Document Library a Name. Under the Document Template section, choose ‘Web Part page’ for Base Document type, choose Web Part Page and click ‘Create’

    After your document library is created, you’ll be redirected to it. From here you will create a simple page that will include the AALP web part you installed earlier.

  5. Click ‘Documents’ and then click ‘New Document
  6. Name your document SetPermissions.aspx and then click ‘Create’

  7. Click ‘Add a Web Part’

  8. Select the Anonymous Access List Permissionator and click ‘Add’

  9. Click Stop Editing

    Now the Web Part is available for you to use. We will now set permissions for the various lists used by the blog sub-site.

  10. Select the ‘Posts’ list from the drop down menu.
  11. While holding down the Ctrl key, click the following permissions in the List Box: ViewListItems, ViewFormPages, Open, ViewPages.

  12. Click ‘Set Permissions’
  13. Select the ‘Photos’ list from the drop down menu.

    You’ll notice that the permissions that you selected in the previous step are already selected.

  14. Click ‘Set Permissions’
  15. Repeat previous 2 steps (12 and 13) for the following lists:
    • Links
    • Categories
    • Comments
  16. If you want to enable public comments, you’ll also need to add the ‘AddListItems’ permission to the comments list. Be careful of what permissions you grant to Anonymous users because you may be opening the door to spammers.

Using your secondary (non-authenticated) browser, visit your blog site to check the permissions.

You’ll notice that clicking on the various sections of the site will now function properly! In addition, by granting the proper read permissions to the Photos library, you will be able to use Microsoft Word to create your blog posts, place images directly into word, and then publish directly to your Office 365 SharePoint Blog site.

Create your first blog post

Now that your site is ready to go, give your new blog a whirl by creating your first post. Use your browser that is logged in to your blog site.  

  1. Navigate to your newly created blog site.
  2. Click ‘Launch blog program to post’

  3. You will be prompted to register your blog site with word. Click ‘OK’

  4. Within Microsoft Word, select a title for your blog post.

  5. Enter some text, do some formatting and add some pictures.
  6. Click ‘Insert Category’ and either select a category from the drop down list or create a new one by simply typing in the category box.

  7. Click ‘Publish’

    Publishing will make your blog post visible to the public and upload all photos for you and link them to your blog post.

If you don’t have Microsoft Word, you’ll still be able to use the SharePoint user interface to create and edit you posts.

  1. Navigate to your newly created blog site.
  2. Click ‘Create a post’

  3. Enter text into the form.

  4. Click ‘Publish’

Now visit your site using your secondary (non-authenticated) browser to view your new blog post(s)!

You’ll find that the last piece of functionality for your blog will be to enable the Search box for anonymous users (without prompting them for authentication). This will be covered in a future blog post.

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