You can use Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 to access document libraries offline from Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 or Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. Let's look at how this integration works and what you can expect from it.
In last month's column ("SharePoint Integration with Outlook 2007, Part 1"), I explained that you enable synchronization by accessing the document library in SharePoint and clicking "Connect to Outlook" on the Actions menu. When you sync a document library, you need to consider at what folder level you want to add it to Outlook. The synchronization will include all subfolders—which might create a large amount of locally synchronized data. You can't exclude individual subfolders.
After you synchronize a document library, you can use Outlook to rename or delete the top-level folder, but not any subfolders. Creating subfolders, moving them, and adding items are currently possible only through SharePoint. You can access the folders through Outlook, but you can't modify the structure. However, Outlook recognizes when you rename, move, delete, or create new folders in SharePoint.
If the whole document library is moved or deleted through SharePoint, Outlook will produce an error when it tries to synchronize the document library. You need to remove the original link and resync the library to fix the problem. Another problem appears when you use Remove Offline Copy to remove locally downloaded items. This feature temporarily removes the local item but using the Send/Receive function downloads the item again.
I also mentioned last month that document library items are stored in read-only PSTs, but you're able to modify items that were created by Word 2007, Excel 2007, or PowerPoint 2007. When you open such items, a Message Bar appears at the top of the document, and you can click Edit Offline. The local copy of the changed item is stored in the SharePoint Drafts folder in My Documents. Thereafter, Outlook 2007 accesses the local copy, not the PST. You can also check out the item from SharePoint when you're online by using the Check Out feature and selecting "Use my local drafts folder"; you'll automatically be able to modify the document offline with this method.
After you modify the item and exit the application, a check is performed to see whether you're online and the item can be updated on the SharePoint site. If not, it stays in the SharePoint Drafts folder until you open it again, but the document will have an icon to show that it was modified, and it will also appear in your SharePoint Drafts Search folder in Outlook. When you connect to SharePoint later and open the changed item, a dialog box appears to let you update the changes to the server. You need to open every modified item from the SharePoint Drafts folder; Outlook won't notify you automatically to update these items.
If you want to modify a file other than Word 2007, Excel 2007, or PowerPoint 2007, you have to open the item as read-only and save it locally with a new name. When you're done with the file, you need to remember to upload and replace it on the SharePoint site using a browser.
In the next column, I'll continue my SharePoint and Outlook series and show you how to work with SharePoint calendars, tasks, and contacts. You can expect more exciting features to help you use these products for efficient teamwork.
Outlook Internet Site of the Month
Live Search Maps Add-in for Microsoft Office Outlook not only lets you add driving directions and maps to your appointments, but it also includes information about traffic and travel time. It requires Outlook 2002 or later. If recipients don't have the add-on, they receive links to display the information in a browser. Get this freeware tool via the Microsoft website.
If you find a new, interesting link, tool, or add-on for Outlook, let me know!