Managing Alerts

Because Web sites based on Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services are meant to help groups of users work together, they tend to grow quickly and change often. Keeping up with these changes can be difficult for users, especially if they aren't checking on the site every day. To help users stay in touch with changes on a site, Windows SharePoint Services includes a feature called Alerts, an e-mail notification service. When documents, lists, or items in a list on a server running Windows SharePoint Services are created, modified, or deleted, users who sign up for alerts receive messages informing them that changes have been made.

 Note   In SharePoint Team Services 1.0 from Microsoft, alerts were called Web subscriptions, but the functionality has not changed significantly.

Users can create alerts to track items within a site, such as:

 Important   Before alerts can work for a particular site, the e-mail server settings must be configured at the server or virtual server level. For more information, see Configuring E-Mail Settings.

When a user creates an alert for one of these items, he or she can specify what types of events will trigger an alert. Alerts can be generated whenever a document or list item is added, updated, or deleted in a document library or list, or when a Web discussion on a document or list changes. A user can specify one of these events, or select all of them to be notified whenever anything changes on the list, list item, document, or document library they want to track.

Users also have the ability to decide how often they want to receive alerts: immediately, daily, or weekly. Immediate alerts are sent as individual e-mail messages, and daily or weekly alerts are combined into summary messages for the entire Web site.

Users can change their alerts by using the My alerts on this site link on the Site Settings page of their Web site.

 Note    A user must have the View Items rights (rights: File-level and folder-level permissions that allow access to a Web site.) (included in the Contributor site group (site group: A custom security group that applies to a specific Web site. Users are assigned to site groups to grant them rights on a SharePoint site.) by default) to sign up for alerts.

Customizing the Message Text for Alerts

For Windows SharePoint Services, you can customize the contents of the alert messages. Keep in mind that while you can alter the contents of the message, there is still no mechanism for identifying and extracting exact text changes within a document or list item. You can, however, customize the text in the message and re-order, add, and remove fields from the message.

 Note   You must be an administrator on the local server computer to edit the XML templates for Windows SharePoint Services.

The message text for immediate, daily, and weekly alerts is based on content in a series of XML templates on the server computer. To customize the message text, you must edit the XML templates that contain the message text. The templates are stored on the front-end Web server (Web server: A computer that hosts Web pages and responds to requests from browsers. Also known as an HTTP server, a Web server stores files whose URLs begin with http://.) at \\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\60\Template\LCID\XML, where LCID is the locale ID. The templates that contain message text for alerts are described in the following table.

Template name Description Text and fields may include
notifsitehdr.xml The header text used for each e-mail alert Header information (such as site Uniform Resource Locator (URL) (Uniform Resource Locator (URL): An address that specifies a protocol (such as HTTP or FTP) and a location of an object, document, World Wide Web page, or other destination on the Internet or an intranet. Example: http://www.microsoft.com/.)), message title information (such as Daily or Weekly Summary), and item information.
notiflisthdr.xml The list header text Summary information for daily or weekly changes to a list.
notifitem.xml The event information Body text for e-mail messages, including the text and placeholders "item in list has been changed by name at time."
notifsiteftr.xml The footer text used for each e-mail alert Footer information, including the string "Click here to manage alert settings."

Editing any of the XML templates for Windows SharePoint Services can break the templates and, consequently, break the mechanism for sending alerts. Be sure to edit only the message text in the template and keep a backup copy of the original templates in case you need to revert to the originals. For more information about customizing XML templates, see the Windows SharePoint Services Software Development Kit.

You can edit the XML templates to include any of the following tags:

Tag Description
SiteUrl The full URL to the site.
SiteName The name of the site.
SiteLanguage The locale ID (LCID) for the language used in the site. For example, 1033 for U.S. English.
AlertFrequency Immediate (0), Daily (1), or Weekly (2).
ListUrl The full URL to the list.
ListName The name of the list.
ItemUrl The full URL to the item.
ItemName The name of the item.
EventType ItemAdded (1), Item Modified (2), Item Deleted (4), DiscussionAdded (16), Discussion Modified (32), Discussion Deleted (64), Discussion Closed (128), Discussion Activated (256).
ModifiedBy The name of the user who modified an item.
TimeLastModified The time the item was last modified.
MySubsUrl The full URL to the My Alerts on this Site page in Site Settings.

 Note   In the XML templates, you use numerical values instead of text to specify frequency and event types. So, if you want to set the AlertFrequency to weekly, you would use the value 2 in the template, rather than typing "weekly."

You can use any XML editing tool, such as Notepad, to edit the templates. Keep in mind that any changes you make to this message text are used for all alert messages sent to all users of your server. If you are in a server farm (server farm: A centralized grouping of network servers maintained by an enterprise or, often, an Internet service provider (ISP). A server farm provides a network with load balancing, scalability, and fault tolerance.) environment, you must edit the templates on each server in the server farm, or copy the edited templates to each server in the server farm. You must be an administrator of the local server computer to edit the XML templates for Windows SharePoint Services.

Configuring and Managing Alerts

You can view alerts for a Web site or subsite and delete alerts that are no longer needed.

If you are a server administrator or a member of the SharePoint administrators group, you can also use SharePoint Central Administration pages to configure settings for alerts, such as the following:

  • View alert settings.
  • Turn alerts on or off.
  • Specify how many alerts users can create.

You can also use the Stsadm.exe command-line tool to configure alert settings if you are a server administrator. Using the command line, you can:

  • Turn alerts on or off.
  • Specify how many alerts users can create.

Alerts use the Windows SharePoint Services e-mail settings to send alert items. When you configure alert settings, be sure that you also double-check the e-mail settings for your virtual server (virtual server: A virtual computer that resides on an HTTP server but appears to the user as a separate HTTP server. Several virtual servers can reside on one computer. Each virtual server can have its own domain name and IP address.). For more information, see Configuring E-Mail Settings.

 Important   When you remove a user from a Web site, site group, or cross-site group after he or she has created alerts, you must manually delete any alerts that he or she has set up. This is also true for any lists or libraries where you change security settings to limit access. If a user has set up alerts for the list or library, he or she will continue to receive them after you change the security settings. It is important to delete these alerts to prevent unauthorized users from having access to site and user information.

Managing Alerts for a Web Site

You can use HTML Administration pages to view and delete alerts on your site. To manage alerts, you use the Manage User Alerts page in the Site Administration pages.

Manage alerts
  1. On the Site Settings page for the Web site, under Administration, click Go to Site Administration.
  2. Under Management and Statistics, click Manage user alerts.
  3. On the Manage User Alerts page, select a user name in the Display alerts for ___ box, and then click Update.
  4. To delete an alert, select the check box next to the alert, and then click Delete Selected Alerts.

Configuring Alerts for a Virtual Server

You can also change alert settings for a virtual server. Changes you make on the virtual server affect all Web sites under that virtual server. To change settings for a virtual server, you use commands on the Virtual Server Settings page. You must be a member of the SharePoint administrators group or an administrator of the local computer to change virtual server settings.

Configure alerts for a virtual server
  1. On the server that contains the virtual server, click Start, point to All Programs, point to Administrative Tools, and then click SharePoint Central Administration.
  2. On the Central Administration page, under Virtual Server Configuration, click Configure virtual server settings.
  3. On the Virtual Server List page, click the virtual server you want to configure.
  4. On the Virtual Server Settings page, under Virtual Server Management, click Virtual server general settings.
  5. In the Alerts section, next to Alerts on this server are, click On or Off.
  6. Under Maximum number of alerts that a user can create, specify whether users can have a limited or unlimited number of alerts.
    • If you want to limit the number of alerts users can create, specify the number of alerts a user can create.
    • If you want users to be able to create as many alerts as they like, select Unlimited number.
  7. Click OK.

Using the Command Line to Configure Alerts

You can manage alerts from the command line by using the GetProperty and SetProperty operations with Stsadm.exe. You can set the following properties to configure how alerts work.

Property Description
alerts-enabled Turn alerts on or off.
alerts-limited Specify whether users are limited to a specific number of alerts.
alerts-maximum Specify the maximum number of alerts users can create.
job-immediate-alerts Specify how often to check for immediate alerts (in minutes).
job-daily-alerts Specify the time of day (using a 24-hour clock) to send out daily alerts.
job-weekly-alerts Specify the day of the week and time of day (using a 24-hour clock) to send out weekly alerts.

The following example shows the syntax to use to turn off alerts:

stsadm.exe -o setproperty -url <url> -pn alerts-enabled 
-pv false

Related Topics

For more information about using the administration tools or setting properties on the command line, see "Introducing the Administration Tools for Windows SharePoint Services" in the Windows SharePoint Services Administrator's Guide and Command-Line Properties.

The Alerts feature relies on the e-mail settings and timer service settings you configured for your server or virtual server. For more information about configuring e-mail settings, see Configuring E-Mail Settings. For more information about Microsoft SharePoint Timer Services, see Scheduling Timed Jobs.