(Rating: 4 out of 5)
One column type missing from SharePoint that I've always found useful is the cascading list. Not only is a cascading list a staple field type on most web forms, but it is a big favorite with end users. It magically narrows down your choices on the next column once you've made a selection from the previous column! Big deal right? We've seen these things for years on the web, but Microsoft just did not feel comfortable with making these an out-of-the-box option. Luckily for us, we've got options from 3rd party developers...
This review covers KWizCom's Cascading Lookup Plus field type. Feature-wise, this is really the Cadillac of cascading list products available as it has a ton of options not available in the others. But with that honor, it comes with a more expensive $799 per site license price tag.
In addition to basic cascading list functionality, the product also includes the following:
- Two-way lookups, which are useful for a customer's order history
- Cross-site lookups of any list
- Filtered lookups
- Many skins to choose from for the drop down lists
- Compatible with FireFox and Chrome
As you'd expect this product allows you to configure multiple cascading columns that are dependent on each other. Whether you want your users to effortlessly make selections on a form or accurately browse the appropriate metadata fields in a DMS, then this is a field type that you'll want. The image below shows a basic setup of cascading lists with the Office 2007 skin applied. Warning: If you are a Red Sox fan, then you will more than likely not enjoy my example list that includes my favorite Yankees players.
Notice that after I've selected the appropriate division, only the teams within the AL East division are shown.
As mentioned above, this product will also allow you to create relational two-way lookups on lists. This is really useful if you have an order entry system within SharePoint. I did not have time to re-create this scenario for myself, but the image below shows the developers’ usage of this option.
The other feature that I personally liked over the competition is the ability to apply skins with the combo boxes. This adds a lot to the end-user experience, and it requires no administrative overhead. Since this product doubles as a generic cross-site lookup, then you could replace all of your OOTB SharePoint lookups with this one to utilize the skins. You do not have to use the cascading or two-way lookup features with this product to utilize basic lookup. Check out some of the available skins below.
Although this product is certainly feature-rich, it isn't without fault. For most organizations looking for cascading list functionality, the price may be a little bit too high. It would be nice if there was a cheaper cascading columns-only version.
Secondly, at the time of this article, there are a lot of problems when trying to include cascading columns within site templates. In my testing, it was completely unusable with document libraries. It may be possible to utilize cascading columns within lists without this issue, but as far document libraries go, you will have to remove the columns and re-create them in new sites.
Lastly, there is little to no documentation on how to configure cascading columns correctly. Just about every 3rd party cascading column product I've used accomplishes this functionality differently, so I needed to know how this product worked. Unfortunately, it took an email from support to send me screenshots of how to do this. Documentation is a no-brainer for an online sales experience, so hopefully this will be corrected.
This is a great product that really combines three major features that can be useful to any SharePoint implementation. The skins are a plus, and there are a ton of options when you configure your lists with this field type. This product receives 4 stars though for the lack of documentation and the problems encountered when using site templates. If these two issues are addressed, then it easily becomes a 5 star product.