Taking SharePoint Files Offline – When to use Outlook 2007, Groove 2007 and/or OneNote 2007


This blog post aims to compare how Outlook 2007, Groove 2007 and OneNote 2007 enable users to take files offline from SharePoint. Hopefully, this will be useful for those who work remotely (away from ‘the office’) but want to view, edit and update documents and/or list items stored in SharePoint without having to use a VPN to dial into the corporate network.


So...when comparing the 2007 version of three products, the main conclusions are:

· Although OneNote provides a 2-way synch between client and server, it only allows OneNote files to be synched. This is great if you spend most of your time making notes, but not so good if you want to take documents, spreadsheets and other types of files offline. You can of course embed files into notebooks, but for most people, this maybe a bit cumbersome.

· OneNote automatically manages the synching of files. There is no need for users to check-in and check-out files, as with Outlook and Groove.

· Using Groove, and the SharePoint Files Tool within it, it is very easy to add new files to a SharePoint library. You simply add it to the Groove workspace and let Groove do the rest.

· Groove allows users to indirectly add files to SharePoint. As long as one member of a Groove workspace can synch files with SharePoint, the other workspace members just need internet access.

· Groove provides a workspace to allow users to discuss offline files, making it easy to relate comments/discussions to recent changes.

· Groove and Outlook allow multiple files types (e.g. word docs, spreadsheets and pdf’s) to be taken offline.

· Groove and Outlook allow document metadata to be edited offline.

· Using Outlook, you need to configure a SharePoint library to receive incoming email if you want to add new files to it.

· Only Outlook allows list integration, including integration of Calendars, Contacts, Discussion Boards and Task lists. This is a key differentiator.

· Only Outlook renders RSS feeds, keeping you up-to-date with changes to lists and libraries (assuming they have RSS feeds enabled)

· Only Outlook allows files to be sent from a mobile to SharePoint (via email).

· Groove allows auto-synch of files with SharePoint according to a schedule. OneNote performs an auto-synch with SharePoint when connectivity is established between client and server. Outlook auto synchs lists but not libraries (requires manual check-in of files).

· All three products enable versioning to be maintained


With the above differences in mind it is possible to summarise when to use each product.

Use Groove 2007 when you want to:

· Take a SharePoint library full of different file types (e.g. docs, spreadsheets and pdf’s) offline

· Easily add files to SharePoint

· Take files offline but there are only one or two people in your team with regular connection to SharePoint

· When users want to store discussions/comments alongside offline files

Use OneNote 2007 when you want to:

· Take audio, video, hand-written notes offline

Use Outlook 2007 when you:

· Want to take SharePoint lists offline

· Are more interested in being informed of changes to lists and libraries, rather than making changes. RSS feeds from lists/libraries can be easily configured.

· Want to use a mobile phone to take files offline