SharePoint 2007 Documents to go - working with online/offline documents

  • I work with SharePoint sites quite a lot and leverage technologies new to Office 2007 such as SharePoint Lists synchronized in Outlook 2007. Essentially Outlook 2007 allows you to have offline synchronized copies held in a local .PST file that you can work on, on a plane/train, at home, etc. When you get back on the LAN or have VPN access you can re-synch. HTTPS (Outlook Anywhere) support is available without the need for a VPN, but most corporations turn this off to stop data roaming, or being spied on, say, in a hotel or coffee shop. OWA also supports this feature (i.e., HTTPS tunnelling through to SharePoint 2007 sites), but again it can be turned off.


  • Outlook SP Lists, support check-in/out, version control, workflow tasks, and compare and merge control in Word 2007, for example, all natively from within the application once opened via Outlook 2007. If two people are working on the document at the same time, you get prompted to open a read-only copy, plus automatic notification when the revised document becomes available. Once the other person releases the document, a dialog box pops up asking you to open it in Read/Write mode with the option to merge any changes. The long Document Updates pane below only appears when there are conflicts outstanding due to differences in the local Outlook-based copy against the Server copy.

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  • Outlook 2007 simply acts as the data store and makes sure changes are passed through to SharePoint 2007 and vice-versa. You have to open and close the document and not update the Server Copy to get the additional SharePoint functionality to percolate through—a tad frustrating as I would at least like to see these options grayed out and an explanation as to why they are unavailable. After the document has been edited via Outlook and you click the Do Not Update the Server copy, you can click the Office button to reveal a new Server tab. Now you should see the additional SharePoint functionality come through.



  • Now, in fairness, all this extra functionality works fairly well and without much ado, but couldn't it be done more elegantly and be more closely married to the SharePoint interface look and feel? Well yes, step in Colligo Contributor for SharePoint 2003/2007 with full Outlook and Internet Explorer integration. Below is an offline view; check-in-out, discard check-out etc, are all available by right-clicking on the files.


  • It's pretty neat and mirrors SharePoint libraries, tasks, calendars, etc, including InfoPath forms. What is cool and Outlook lacks somewhat is drag-and-drop support. You just create a new folder via the New dropdown, say call it E-mail, then drag and drop a bunch of e-mails into the folder, voila, you're done. it actually creates a Word document library with e-mail icons.


  • The rest of the interface is pretty easy: Just right-click on the grayed-out links to enable or disable being included in synchronization.


-- Rob Atkinson