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Wrox Press: Office integration

SharePoint 2007

Updated: December 11, 2008

Applies To: Office SharePoint Server 2007

 

Topic Last Modified: 2008-12-16

This book excerpt is from Beginning SharePoint 2007 Administration, Wrox Press, June 2007.

Buy this book

Beginning SharePoint 2007 Administration (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=136776) mainly focuses on administration of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. You will also learn how to customize Office SharePoint Server 2007 by creating templates and by using SharePoint Designer to enhance the look and feel of SharePoint sites. Microsoft MVP and author Göran Husman explores the differences between Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Windows SharePoint Services, helps you decide if you need only Windows SharePoint Services or if you should also implement Office SharePoint Server 2007, and much more.

Göran Husman is a true computer nerd who started his career as a computer programmer in 1978. After working as a C and Fortran developer for a medical university and later a large telecom company, he started his own consulting company in 1989. Due to market demands he soon switched his focus from UNIX to the Microsoft environment and from developing code to implementing large e-mail systems and building information systems. Göran has also been hired as a computer trainer since the beginning of 1980. In 1993 he became one of the first certified Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCT) in Sweden, and he has regularly conducted Microsoft courses ever since. He is also certified by Microsoft as a Microsoft Certified Professional (with the number 2888) and a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MSCE). His great engagement in e-mail systems awarded him status as Sweden’s first Microsoft Exchange Most Valuable Professional (MVP) by Microsoft. He switched his focus to Microsoft SharePoint in 2003, and in January 2006 Microsoft awarded him status as Sweden’s first SharePoint Portal Server MVP, which was renewed in January 2007. Göran has written a large amount of training material for the Swedish market over the years, and in 2001 his book, Exchange 2000 Server on Site, was released in the United States. In 2006 his book Beginning SharePoint Administration was released by Wrox. He is also frequently a speaker at conferences and seminars. Today Göran divides his time between consulting contracts, training, leading his company, Human Data, and from time to time writing books. Oh, and he is also the proud father of six great kids from the ages of 6 to 28, which may be his greatest achievement in life.

SharePoint 2007 is a great tool in itself; you can use it straight out of the box to build sites for an intranet, an extranet, public Internet sites, and team sites. It will help users find the information they need, quickly and easily. But the real magic comes when you integrate other products with SharePoint! There are lots of products that can use SharePoint’s document libraries directly for storing files and documents, but one product family really shines when it comes to SharePoint integration: MS Office, which most people associate with the typical desktop applications (MS Word, MS Excel, and so on). There are also a lot of other programs that have an excellent integration with SharePoint, especially MS Outlook, MS OneNote, and MS InfoPath. In fact, today it is hard to find any program from Microsoft that does not have some sort of integration with SharePoint 2007; it is safe to say that SharePoint is the central information database in a Microsoft-centric IT environment.

This chapter will tell you how this integration works, and what differentiates previous versions of MS Office from the current MS Office 2007 release. You will find a lot of examples and step-by-step instructions on how to use a number of applications together with SharePoint 2007. All of this information is valid for both WSS and MOSS, unless stated otherwise.

TipTip:
Entire books are devoted to each MS Office component, and more books are devoted to their integration. This chapter obviously can’t cover the breadth and depth of MS Office integration. Instead, the focus is on knowledge and techniques that can be useful with SharePoint administration. Specifically, we will focus on Outlook, InfoPath, and OneNote.

The most commonly used product family today, all categories included, is the MS Office product suite. It has been around for more than a decade, but today it is hard to find an organization running anything older than MS Office 2000. The fact is that this product suite works so well that a lot of organizations still use MS Office XP or 2003, while an increasingly number have upgraded to MS Office 2007. It should come as no surprise that MS Office 2007 has the best integration with SharePoint 2007, and this is by design! A lot of features in SharePoint 2007, such as workflows, simply need an Office version that is built to support that type of functionality; older Office versions will have limited, or no, support for a number of SharePoint 2007 features.

TipTip:
In Chapter 1 there is a table that compares the SharePoint functionality among different MS Office versions.

Do not expect to see any updates released for older MS Office versions that will extend their support for SharePoint 2007. Except for one thing (and this is not really a SharePoint feature): support for the new XML-based file format, introduced in MS Office 2007, through a free add-on named Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack (MOCP). It is important for SharePoint users, since it will allow users with older MS Office programs to work with documents created with MS Office 2007, also for documents stored in a SharePoint document library. To download this MOCP extension of MS Office XP and MS Office 2003, go to www.microsoft.com and search for Office Compatibility Pack, or use this link directly:

http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=77512

In order to better understand what you can do with these MS Office versions, you need to try some examples. Say that you have a SharePoint 2007 site named IT and that this site contains a document library named Info. To make it more interesting, this Info library has two extra columns: Product and Vendor. It also has been configured to force a checkout procedure, whenever a user needs to update a document. Finally, there is a workflow approval process defined, which will trigger every time a new document is created. In the detailed descriptions below, we assume that you want to use MS Word to work with documents.

So let’s start with MS Office 2000, and see how that works, according to the example above. This version of Office has a very limited integration with SharePoint 2007. Basically, all you can do is read, write, modify, and delete documents in a SharePoint library:

  • Create a document: The user must create the document in Office 2000, then save the document to the URL that points to the Info library in the IT site. It is not possible to use the New button for the Info library.

  • Modify a document: The user can open a document in the Info library, then modify it, and then save it back.

  • Using InfoPath Forms: There is no MS InfoPath (IP) application in Office 2000, so the only way to open and use IP forms is to configure SharePoint Forms Service to display these forms as web pages.

And that is about it. The conclusion is that a combination of MS Office 2000 and SharePoint 2007 is not the ideal solution. I strongly recommend that anyone using MS Office 2000 upgrade before implementing SharePoint 2007. And remember that Office 2000 is not supported by new service packs or hot fixes anymore. If you have this environment, do yourself a favor and upgrade to Office 2007, okay?

MS Office XP was released in 2002 and was also known as MS Office 2002. It has some small advantages over MS Office 2000, but not many. Let’s see what you can do in this example:

  • Create a document: You must create the document in Office XP, and then save the document to the URL that points to the Info library on the IT site. You can also use the New button on the Info library, which is a difference, compared to Office 2000.

  • Modify a document: You can open a document in the Info library, then modify it, and then save it back.

  • Using InfoPath Forms: There is no MS InfoPath (IP) application in Office XP, so the only way to open and use IP forms is to configure SharePoint Forms Service to display these forms as web pages.

End of story. The conclusion is once again, that a combination of MS Office XP and SharePoint 2007 is not an ideal solution. My recommendation is that anyone using MS Office XP should upgrade before implementing SharePoint 2007. So upgrade, please.

Now this is a much better option than any of the two previous Office versions discussed. It was released together with SharePoint 2003 in October 2003; thus, it has a lot of SharePoint functionality built in from start. So, let’s see what Office 2003 can do in this example:

  • Create a document: You can either use the New button in the Info library or create the new document in Office 2003, then save the document to the URL that points to the Info library in the IT site.

  • Modify a document: You can open a document in the Info library, then modify it, and then save it back.

  • MS Excel synchronization: With Office 2003, you can export a list from SharePoint to MS Excel 2003, modify its content, and then write the changes back to the SharePoint list.

  • MS Access synchronization: You can export a list or library, and display it as a table in MS Access 2003, and then create and print reports.

  • Using InfoPath Forms: With Office 2003 came the MS InfoPath 2003 client. It is able to open and allow the user to work with IP forms, using either the full IP client or the Forms Server web client. It is also possible to design and develop new IP forms with InfoPath 2003.

  • Document management: In Office 2003, you will find the Task Pane, a special information pane that displays SharePoint-related information directly in the Office 2003 client. For example, you can see and modify the custom columns in the Info library; you can also see the other documents in the same library as that document. There are also links for Check Out/Check In, version history, adding tasks, web links, and creating Document Workspaces in this Task Pane.

  • IRM Protection: With Office 2003, you can use the Information Rights Management (IRM) features to protect Office 2003 documents, and Outlook e-mails. The IRM is built upon the Rights Management Server (RMS), mentioned before in this chapter. Using IRM, the Office 2003 user can define advanced security settings for a document or an e-mail, such as prohibit printing, or forward of e-mail.

  • Policy templates: Office 2003 documents will follow any policy template defined in SharePoint 2007.

It is clear that Office 2003 is a much better client for a SharePoint 2007 environment. If basic SharePoint integration is all you need, then you will get it from Office 2003. But if you want to use all the new features in SharePoint 2007, such as Excel Services, Business Intelligence, RSS feeds, managing documents offline, and two-way synchronization of tasks, contacts, and calendar events, you will still need to upgrade to Office 2007. If this reason is not enough, then maybe this fact is what you need: The new user interface for MS Office 2007 clients is much easier to use compared to Office 2003, especially for users who see Office as just another set of tools they need to use in order to do their jobs — and we all know that they are about 80 percent of a typical organization.

This is the crown jewel when it comes to integration between Office clients and SharePoint 2007. It is specially designed with SharePoint 2007 in mind and is so much easier to use, even for features that were available for previous Office versions. The number of applications in the Office 2007 suite is also larger than before, and most, if not all of these can interact with SharePoint 2007 in one way or another. So let’s continue our example with the Info library, and the IT web site, to see what you can do with Office 2007:

  • Create a document: You can either use the New button in the Info library or create the new document directly in Office 2007, then save the document to the URL that points to the Info library in the IT site. To help users find the URL, Office 2007 offers several options: a) Use the Office button —> Publish —> Document Management Server, which lists SharePoint sites known to this user, or b) Use the File —> Save dialog box in Office 2007, which is enhanced with a new link called My SharePoint Sites that automatically discovers any sites that the SharePoint administrator publishes using Web services or by local registry entries on the client that are deployed by Group Policy Objects using the Active Directory service.

  • Modify a document: The user can open a document in the Info library, then modify it, and then save it back. In Office 2007, you can also make a local copy of documents in your new SharePoint Drafts folder. The next time you open a locally modified copy while online, Office 2007 will ask if you want to update the server copy with your updated version.

  • Excel Services: With Excel 2007, you can send a spreadsheet or a chart to the Excel Service in MOSS 2007. This allows you to publish Excel info, including formulas and the like, to other groups of people. They will be able to view and enter values but not make a copy of the spreadsheet itself. Thus, this is a very safe way to make advanced formulas and calculations available to others, without the risk that anyone can copy these formulas.

  • MS Access two-way synchronization: You can export a list or library, and display it as a table in MS Access 2003, and then print reports. If you modify the content, you can also write the changes back to the SharePoint list.

  • Using InfoPath forms: Use the MS InfoPath 2007 client to create forms, store them in forms libraries, or send them to the Forms Services in MOSS, or to fill in existing forms. InfoPath 2007 can also create customized versions of Document Information Panels in Office 2007 clients. The forms created by InfoPath 2007 can also be opened with a web browser.

  • Document Information Panel: All Office 2007 Pro Plus or Enterprise applications now have a new panel that displays and allows a user to modify document metadata. This replaces the Task Pane in Office 2003.The Document Information Panels are really InfoPath 2007 forms, which can be customized to meet a special need for a specific type of document. The Document Information Panel will also display information such as whether the document requires a checkout before editing, and any document policy that is applied to this document. (See Figure 7-1.)

    Figure 7-1

    Document Information Panel
  • Document management: By using the Office button in Office 2007 and selecting the Server option, a user can do several things, such as perform Check Out/In, view the version history, view workflow tasks, and open Document Management Information, which is similar to the Task Pane in Office 2003. That is, it displays a list of all users with access to a document, allows you to send an e-mail to specified users, creates tasks and links in the site hosting a document, and displays a list of other documents in the current document library.

  • Workflows: Office 2007 applications allow the user to start workflows defined for a document library. The user will also see that a document requires workflow actions.

  • IRM protection: With Office 2007, you can use the Information Rights Management (IRM) features to protect Office 2007 documents and Outlook e-mails. The IRM is built on the Rights Management Server (RMS), mentioned before in this chapter. Using IRM, the Office 2007 user can define advanced security settings for a document or an e-mail, such as prohibit printing or the forwarding of e-mail.

  • Policy templates: Office 2007 documents will follow any policy template defined in SharePoint 2007 for a library.

  • Slide library: You can publish individual PowerPoint 2007 slides to a slide library in SharePoint 2007, then you can pick exactly the slides you need from that library to create a new Power Point 2007 presentation. If the original slide is modified, PowerPoint 2007 will indicate that and allow you to update your presentation.

  • Web Content: With Word 2007, you can create, edit, and publish web content in SharePoint.

  • Wiki and Blog: Directly from Word 2007, you can create posts in wiki and blog sites, hosted by SharePoint 2007.

  • Comparing versions: Office 2007 has a great feature that allows you to compare document versions. For example, look at Figure 7-2; it shows how Word 2007 compares two document versions. Original Document and Revised Document are compared in the middle pane, Compared Document, and all changes are indicated by underlined text. In the left pane, all details about the modifications are listed.

  • Barcodes and labels: With MOSS policies, you can specify that printed copies of a document will contain automatically printed barcodes and text labels; this will only work with Office 2007 applications.

The list speaks for itself. An organization that invests in MOSS should also implement Office 2007. Even if you go for just WSS 3.0, Office 2007 is the best option. You will see a lot of examples, and Try It Out instructions in Chapter 9, on how to use these features in Office 2007.

Figure 7-2

List of available features

This section describes the overall picture of MS Office Server 2007 products. The objective here is to show you what new programs come with the latest generation of Microsoft Office products and to give you a good idea of the new features in SharePoint. Below is a list of the new or updated products that were officially released by early 2007:

  • MS Windows SharePoint Service 2007

  • MS Office SharePoint Server 2007

  • MS Word 2007

  • MS Excel 2007

  • MS PowerPoint 2007

  • MS Access 2007

  • MS Outlook 2007

  • MS Publisher 2007

  • MS InfoPath 2007

  • MS OneNote 2007

  • MS Project Server 2007

  • MS Office Project Portfolio Server 2007

  • MS SharePoint Designer 2007

  • MS Expression Web Designer 2007

  • MS Office Groove 2007

  • MS Visio 2007

  • MS Office Forms Server 2007

There were also several interesting products that were released at the end of 2005 that are totally compatible with the 2007 product line, such as MS SQL Server 2005, MS Dynamics CRM 3.0, MS Communicator, and MS Business Scorecard Manager. As you can see from this list, Microsoft has been very busy the last few years. Their challenge is not only to develop a new version but also to make it integrate with other products and especially SharePoint 2007. So, now it’s just up to us to learn all these products. But then again, how hard can it be, right?

One of Microsoft’s top priorities for this new version of SharePoint is performance. The goal is to offer even better performance than with SharePoint 2003, and all initial tests indicate that this is the case. As long as you follow the recommended guidelines for building a SharePoint farm (see Chapters 2 and 4), the performance of SharePoint 2007 will greatly surpass what you have today, and this is especially important for large organizations with large farms.

Due to the increased number of products, the number of different MS Office suites has grown to seven. When you want to upgrade to the new Office 2007 version, you have a lot of options to choose between. All of them can use either MS Office SharePoint Server 2007 or MS Windows SharePoint Services 3.0. However, only MS Office Enterprise, Ultimate, or Professional Pro will enable full integration with SharePoint 2007, since only these editions include MS InfoPath, which is necessary to display the new Document Information Panel for MS Office documents. The new features in SharePoint 2007 are integrated into the Office 2007 products, when appropriate, but you will still be able to use a web browser to take advantage of most of these features if you are running pre–Office 2007 applications.

 

Application MS Office Enterprise 2007 MS Office Ultimate MS Office Professional Pro MS Office Professional

Excel 2007

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Word 2007

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

PowerPoint 2007

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Outlook 2007

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Access 2007

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

InfoPath 2007

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Publisher 2007

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

OneNote

Yes

Yes

No

No

Groove 2007

Yes

Yes

No

No

Communicator 2007

Yes

No

Yes

No

The three first packages, MS Office Enterprise 2007, MS Office Ultimate 2007, and MS Office Professional Plus 2007, have extra functionality built in that will allow them to do more in a MOSS 2007 environment; these features are called Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Rights Management Service (RMS). These extra features will allow a user to publish a spreadsheet directly from MS Excel 2007 to the Excel Services in MOSS 2007. You can also apply special security permissions to a document using RMS, and then store it in a SharePoint document library, for example that this document can only be displayed but not printed or saved. These settings will still be active, even if someone is copying this document to another location or maybe sending it as an e-mail attachment. Using RMS, you can also use a client certificate to electronically sign a document; this information will follow the document wherever it may be stored. If anyone then modifies this document, the Office application will display a warning whenever the document is opened that the electronic signature is invalid, and therefore its content cannot be trusted. To get these RMS features, an administrator must first install the RMS server in your network.

TipTip:
For more information about RMS, check www.microsoft.com/rms. For more information about ECM, see Chapter 9.

Besides the four MS Office editions listed in the previous table, there are several other editions available:

  • Microsoft Office Small Business 2007

  • Microsoft Office Standard 2007

  • Microsoft Office Home 2007

  • Microsoft Office Student 2007

  • Microsoft Office Basic 2007

As noted earlier in this section, you won’t have the full functionality of integration with these products.

Now that you have examined the various Office versions and suites, it is time to move on to some practical and fun things that you can do with Office 2007, starting with Outlook.

In previous versions of SharePoint, Outlook was simply a handy tool for storing local copies of specific types of SharePoint lists, such as contacts, tasks, and calendar lists. It was great for offline access to these types of SharePoint lists, but it did not allow the user to update them locally and then replicate that modification back to the SharePoint server. But the new Outlook 2007 is very different. It is almost as if this version of Outlook is acting as a SharePoint client, besides being a mail client. It brings so many enhancements to SharePoint users, and for that reason, I recommend that even if, for some reason, you choose not to implement Office 2007, you implement Outlook 2007!

It is definitely possible to use MS Outlook 2003 with SharePoint 2007. However, it will not have all the new and exciting features that Outlook 2007 offers. Below is list of the standard features that Outlook 2003 offers:

  • Task lists: Outlook allows the user to download a copy of tasks lists for offline usage. These tasks are read-only and changes cannot be replicated back to the SharePoint server, not even with SharePoint 2007.

  • Contact lists: The same thing is true for contact lists. The user can download a read-only copy of a SharePoint contact list, but it cannot be changed in Outlook 2003.

  • Calendar lists: Again, same thing is true; you can only download a read-only copy of SharePoint’s calendar lists.

  • Alerts: With Outlook 2003 you can receive and use incoming alert messages sent by SharePoint. You can also view and manage all your alerts defined in SharePoint.

So, Outlook 2003 is good if you are happy with downloading SharePoint lists as read-only copies. But if you need two-way synchronization, then this Outlook version will not do.

The best Outlook edition available for SharePoint 2007 implementation is Outlook 2007. It has a number of new and exciting features that relate to SharePoint 2007. Note that with SharePoint 2003 you will not have these extra features, even with Outlook 2007! Below is a list of the features available when you combine Outlook 2007 and SharePoint 2007:

  • Task lists: With Outlook 2007, you get full two-way synchronization of task lists in SharePoint. You can view, add, and modify tasks in this list, just like any Outlook task list, and all changes will be replicated back to SharePoint. These tasks will also be displayed along with other Outlook tasks in Calendar view.

  • Contact lists: Another list type that can be replicated from Outlook 2007 to SharePoint 2007. Its content can be updated, including adding new contacts or deleting existing contacts. Any changes will be replicated back to SharePoint. Outlook will, by default, search for users also in these replicated SharePoint contact lists, when a user searches for recipient names.

  • Calendar lists: Use Outlook 2007 for two-way synchronization with Calendar lists in SharePoint. Any changes to this list in Outlook 2007 will be synchronized back to SharePoint within minutes. The copy of this calendar can also be used as an overlay on top of other Outlook calendars. You can also send HTML-formatted copies of replicated SharePoint calendars with this version of Outlook. See Figure 7-3, which shows a SharePoint calendar named SIS. The calendar has been converted to an HTML-formatted e-mail.

    Figure 7-3

    Calendar list converted to HTML-formatted e-mail
  • Alerts: With Outlook 2007, you can receive and use incoming alert messages sent by SharePoint.

  • InfoPath forms: Send forms created by InfoPath 2007 as e-mail. The recipient will see the form directly, and can fill in the form and then return it. These forms may then be stored in a SharePoint library.

  • Offline content: You can download a complete library with documents, images, or forms to an Outlook folder. These downloaded files can be viewed and edited offline. If a document is changed, it will also be stored in the user’s folder SharePoint Drafts, located in My Documents. The next time this computer goes online, and you open the local copy, SharePoint will ask if you want to upgrade the server copy, that is, the copy stored in the document library in SharePoint.

  • Send to: A new feature in all SharePoint 2007 libraries is that you can use Outlook to send a link to a document, image, or form. The recipient will open the document in read-only mode and can then choose to edit the document, if necessary. This is much smarter than sending complete copies of documents, since you will retain just one single copy of the document, and you will not “litter” your mailbox with large mail attachments.

  • Workflow integration: e-mails with instructions sent by workflows in SharePoint, for example Approve instructions, can be managed directly in Outlook 2007.

  • Record Management: You can forward copies of e-mail directly to SharePoint’s Record Management server, where these messages will be stored within a specific record. This requires MS Exchange 2007.

  • RSS reader: Outlook 2007 has built-in support for managing Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds. This can be used to display all new items in a SharePoint customer list or documents in a project document library. It can also be used to display information in any standard RSS source, such as news from Internet web sites, or virus warnings from antivirus vendors’ web sites.

The list above is extensive, and to see how to use some of the most exciting features, you should try the step-by-step instructions in the Try It Out below. As always, it is easiest to explain how it works by using examples. The user Adam is working at the company Filobit; they recently deployed SharePoint 2007 and MS Office 2003 Professional Plus, which includes MS Outlook 2007 and MS InfoPath 2007. Adam uses the SharePoint site SIS a lot, since it contains the information he needs to do his work. Now and then, Adam is away from the office, so he will be off line, and therefore cut off from the SIS site. But by using the new offline feature in Outlook 2007, he will still be able to view both documents and images offline. The Try It Out shows how Adam does this.

Try It Out

Download SharePoint Libraries to Outlook
  1. Log on as Adam.

  2. Use Internet Explorer and open the SIS web site, in this example: http://srv1/SiteDirectory/SIS

  3. Open the Shared Documents library, by clicking on its list name in the Quick Launch bar.

  4. Click Actions —> Connect to Outlook. The first time you do this for a library, Outlook will display a dialog box that asks if you trust this source. Click Yes to continue. If you instead click Advanced, you can define things like the folder name in Outlook, a description, and if you want to follow the default synchronization schedule or not (See Figure 7-4).

  5. The list is now displayed in Outlook, under the top folder, SharePoint Lists (see Figure 7-5), and its content is listed. The currently selected document is also listed directly in the Preview Pane, thanks to the new Preview feature in Outlook 2007. To view any of these documents, just select it in the center pane.

    Figure 7-4

    SharePoint List with contents displayed

    Figure 7-5

    SharePoint List with contents displayed - preview

  6. The user Adam now has the information stored in his Outlook client. Later, when he is offline, he reads some of these documents and decides to update one of them. To do this, Adam double-clicks on the document and answers Open when asked if he wants to save, open, or cancel it.

  7. The document opens in Word 2007 in Read-only mode. At the top of the document is a statement that says Office Server Document. To modify this document, edit it offline, and save it to the server later, Adam clicks on the Edit Offline button next to that statement.

  8. A dialog box is displayed, informing Adam that a copy of this document will be stored in the SharePoint Drafts folder, which will be created if necessary in Adam’s My Document. Any modification Adam does to this document will be stored in that SharePoint Drafts folder. Adam clicks OK, and can now start editing this offline copy.

  9. When Adam is finished with his editing, he saves and closes Word 2007. The document on Adam’s local client is now different than the server copy.

  10. The next day, Adam comes to the office. When he gets online with his client, he opens this previously modified document, and then Outlook compares the local copy with the server copy in SharePoint. Since they are different, Outlook now displays a dialog box, asking if he wants to update the server copy (see Figure 7-6). If he clicks Update, all modified documents stored locally in Adam’s client will be copied up to the document library on the SharePoint server. Note that if the server copy has been changed during the time Adam has been offline, then Outlook will display another dialog box that informs him about this conflict (see Figure 7-7). If he answers Yes to the question Do you want to view and resolve the conflict in the Document Updates Pane now?, then Word 2007 will start and display the document, including a number of options on how to resolve this conflict (see Figure 7-8).

    Figure 7-6

    Update server dialog box

    Figure 7-7

    Server copy change notification dialog box

    Figure 7-8

    Word 2007 document - resolve conflict message

To summarize, Outlook 2007 allows the user to take information stored in SharePoint libraries offline. This information may also be edited offline and when the user goes online again, he or she will be offered the opportunity to update the server. If there is a conflict, Outlook 2007 will discover this and give the user several options on how to resolve this.

The offline functionality described above is excellent. But sometimes, you do not want to make a copy of a complete library, especially if it contains thousands of documents. This is where RSS comes in handy, since the information listed in a RSS folder is a short description plus a link to the documents in SharePoint, not the documents themselves. To open a document, just click the link. This requires that you be online and have access to the RSS source, the SharePoint library.

The story behind RSS is this: This XML-based protocol was first released in 1999 by Dan Libby of Netscape. At that time, RSS stood for Rich Site Summary. Its purpose was to create an easy way for a program to subscribe to updates from an information source, for example news headlines published by a news site, such as the Washington Post or CNN. The term used here is RSS feed readers (or aggregator), that is, the program that receives the information feed. The RSS release used today is version 2.0, released in 2002, and its abbreviation now stands for Really Simple Syndication. There are actually several versions of RSS available, but the most commonly used is RSS 2.0

Both MS Outlook 2007 and MS Internet Explorer 7.0 have built-in support for RSS 2.0 and can be used as feed readers for any web application that supports RSS 2.0 feeds. Many of the lists and libraries, including News pages, in SharePoint 2007 support RSS feeds, that is, an Outlook 2007 client can set up a RSS feed reader to any SharePoint list. The following steps describe how the user Adam will configure Outlook as a RSS feed reader of the document library Info in the SharePoint site Sales.

Try It Out

Use RSS to Display List Content in Outlook
  1. Log on as Adam.

  2. Open the web site that contains the document library you want to use as a RSS source; for example, http://srv1/sitedirectory/sales.

  3. Click on the Info document library. Its content will now be listed.

  4. Click Actions —> View RSS Feed. This will display a page with info about this RSS feed; that is the source, such as the URL to the feed, and the latest posts in this feed.

  5. Click the link subscribe to this RSS feed at the top of this page. If MS Outlook 2007 was not previously started, it will now start. Next, you will see a dialog box, saying Add this RSS Feed to Outlook? It will show the complete URL address; if you click the Advanced button, it will allow you to configure this RSS Feed, including parameters such as these (see Figure 7-9):

    1. Feed Name: The name for the folder in Outlook.

    2. Delivery Location: The location for the folder in Outlook. By default, all RSS feeds will be collected under the top folder, RSS Feeds.

    3. Downloads/Automatic download Enclosures for this feed: Check this box to have enclosures downloaded automatically to the RSS folder in Outlook. This setting will not affect RSS feeds of SharePoint libraries but may be interesting when the RSS feed is a news listing on the Internet.

    4. Download/Download the full article as an .html attachment to each item: Check this box if you want the complete posting downloaded to Outlook. If not, only a short description will be downloaded, which will be faster and require less disk space. Note that this setting is not in effect when the RSS feed is a SharePoint library list.

    5. Update Limit: This check box is set by default, which makes Outlook’s RSS feed reader follow the default download schedule, which is once every hour.

    6. Click OK when you are done with this configuration.

  6. Still in the dialog box Add this RSS Feed to Outlook, click Yes to create the feed in Outlook. Immediately, the feed reader will connect to the RSS feed and download all the posts available. In this example, Adam will now see all document names in his new RSS folder in Outlook but not the complete article. To view a document listed in this RSS feed, click View article. That will open the document property web page. To see the document, click its name in the Name field. You can also change RSS posts to include a link directly to the document, as described later in this chapter.

  7. When you are done with this RSS configuration, your web page will still show the RSS configuration link, as described in step 4. Click Back to return to the document library.

    Figure 7-9

    RSS configuration dialog box

You can change an existing RSS feed configuration in Outlook 2007 by opening the Tools menu, then selecting Account Settings. Open the RSS Feeds tab. It will list all existing RSS feeds, and here you can change any of these feeds by selecting them and clicking Change. This will bring up the same configuration dialog box as depicted in Figure 7-9. You can also delete an RSS feed by selecting it and clicking Remove. To create a new feed, click Add, and enter the URL to the RSS source. If you want to change the default folder location in Outlook, click Change Folder, then select another Outlook folder for the RSS feeds. You can also create a new database file that Outlook will use for storing all RSS feeds by clicking New Outlook Data File (see Figure 7-10).

TipTip:
When creating a new Outlook data file, you should choose the option Office Outlook Personal Folders File (.pst), due to its unlimited size, unless you want to use this PST file later in Outlook XP or earlier editions of Outlook.

All RSS feeds are stored in a local mail database, known as a Personal Store (PST) file. By default, Outlook will create one single PST file that will be used for all information retrieved from SharePoint, including offline synchronization of document libraries, task lists, and RSS feeds. The default size limit for this PST file is referred to as “unlimited,” but in reality it is limited to 16 TB (terabytes). The option you have when creating a new PST file is to use the older file format, which is limited to 2 GB. There is no reason to use that older file format, unless you need to copy this PST file to Outlook XP or an older version.

Figure 7-10

Create New Outlook Data File dialog box

There is a master configuration of RSS for the SharePoint farm, which controls if RSS is available or not. Open the Central Administration tool for SharePoint, switch to Application Management, and click Web application general settings in the SharePoint Web Application Management section. There, you will find RSS Settings, which by default will be enabled. If this setting is disabled, then no list or library will have an RSS configuration setting visible. Each site collection also has its RSS configuration, which controls if RSS is enabled or not in this site collection. Almost the same configuration page is also available for each individual site in that site collection, except that these configuration pages cannot control the overall RSS setting for the complete site collection. The following Try It Out contains the steps to configure RSS for a site collection.

Try It Out

Configure RSS Settings for a Site Collection
  1. Log on as Adam.

  2. Open the top site for a site collection; for example, http://srv1.

  3. Click Site Actions —> Site Settings —> Modify All Site Settings.

  4. Click the link RSS in the Site Administration. This will display the overall configuration settings for this site collection, plus the current top site (see Figure 7-11). Below are the settings available on this page:

    1. Allow RSS feeds in this site collection: The default is Yes. This setting will only be visible for the top site in this site collection!

    2. Allow RSS feeds in this site: The default is Yes.

    3. Copyright: This is an optional text field where you can enter a copyright statement that the RSS feed reader will see.

    4. Managing Editor: This is an optional text field where the name for the managing editor of RSS Feeds from this site is listed. The RSS feed reader will be allowed to view this information. The purpose with this field is to inform the RSS feed reader about whom to contact in case there are questions about this RSS.

    5. Web Master: Same as for the Managing Editor; this optional text field may be used to inform the RSS feed reader about who the responsible web master is for RSS feeds from this site.

    6. Time to Live: This is the preferred synchronization time in minutes for a RSS feed reader that uses any of the lists in this current site as a RSS Feed source. By default, this is set to 60 minutes.

    7. Click OK to save and close this configuration page.

      Figure 7-11

      Configuration settings for this site - example

Finally, each list and library has its own RSS configuration, which controls if RSS is enabled or not, and what information this RSS feed will send to the feed reader. This is actually the most interesting RSS configuration page, due to all the options it contains. Follow the steps in the Try It Out below to configure the RSS settings for a SharePoint list.

Try It Out

Configure RSS Settings for a SharePoint List
  1. Log on as a site owner, and open the site containing the list you want to configure; for example, http://srv1/SiteDirectory/Sales.

  2. Click on the list or library to be configured; for example, the document library named Info.

  3. Click Settings —> Document Library Settings —> RSS settings. This will open the RSS configuration page for the library (see Figure 7-12). There you will find these settings. Note that not all of these settings will be displayed for all types of feed readers; for example, the Outlook 2007 feed reader will not display the description, nor the image defined in Figure 7-12.

    1. Allow RSS feeds for this list: The default is Yes.

    2. Truncate multi-line text fields to 256 characters: Default is No.

    3. Title: Enter the default name for the RSS feed, to be used by the RSS feed reader.

    4. Description: Enter the description for the RSS feed.

    5. Image URL: Enter the URL for an image that the feed reader can choose to display or not.

    6. Include file enclosures for items in the feed: The default is No. An enclosure is a way to include links to multimedia content to an RSS feed, such as images, MP3 files, or a link to a document. For example, if you want the RSS feed posts of a document library to include a link directly to the document, then you should set this option to Yes.

    7. Link RSS items directly to their files: The default is No. This is another way to make the RSS posts contain links to the source document.

    8. Columns: Choose which columns are to be listed in the RSS posts, including any custom-made columns for this SharePoint list or library.

    9. Item Limit/Maximum items to include: This will set a limit for how many list items this RSS feed will send to its feed reader; the default is 25 items.

    10. Item Limit/Maximum days to include: This will set a limit for how old a list item can be; default is 7 days. Older items will not be sent to the feed reader, even if the total number of items does not exceed the maximum number of items to include.

  4. Click OK to save and close this configuration page.

    Figure 7-12

    RSS configuration page for the library

As you have seen, there are a lot of places to configure RSS settings. But how do you force an update instead of waiting for the default schedule for a particular RSS feed? The answer is that you do it the same way that you update anything else in MS Outlook. Press the F9 key. However, this alone will not work with RSS feeds, since the Update Limit setting is set by default on the RSS Advanced configuration page, as mentioned at the beginning of this RSS discussion. You may remember that SharePoint lists are, by default, configured to send updates to the RSS feed reader once every 60 minutes. Uncheck the Update Limit for this RSS feed in Outlook, and then press F9 to force an update.

It is hardly a secret that traditional meetings often are ineffective and sometimes just plain boring. Why is that? The main reasons are that the preparations for the meeting are bad, those involved in the actual meeting process have problems keeping to the time schedule, the attendees are not prepared, and there are always some members who forgot to bring their meeting invitation. And to make things worse, after the meeting, it can sometimes be hard to find out about decisions and information given out during the meeting. So, in effect, many attendees feel that many meetings are a waste of time.

How can this be improved? One solution is to use SharePoint to keep track of everything about the meetings. But some things, such as sending meeting invitations and keeping track of people’s calendars, are handled better by MS Outlook. Both the 2003 and 2007 versions of MS Outlook are fully integrated with SharePoint’s meeting functionality, and they are the preferred way of creating meeting invitations and workspaces at the same time. Your users don’t have to learn a completely new way of managing these meetings; everything they know about checking the Outlook calendar status for attendees and resources, managing invitations, and moving meetings, is exactly like it was before. However, there are some new features related to creating a common place to store all the meeting details. This place is known as a meeting workspace.

A meeting workspace is a common team site, built on a specific site template. It has a number of preconfigured lists for storing information such as the meeting agenda, decisions, a list of attendees, and a list of tasks. Just like any other team site, it can be modified to suit your needs for this particular meeting. You can also create a series of meeting workspaces that are connected to each other; this will make it very easy to go back to any previous meeting instance to view its details.

TipTip:
You can use a meeting workspace just as a place to store everything about a meeting, but the best way to use it is to display its content in real time during the meeting, using a video projector or a large monitor. This makes sure that everyone focuses on the same thing.
Another smart move is to enter the decisions and tasks in their lists, and take notes directly in SharePoint during the meeting. This way, all attendees who are still awake will see what is documented and can comment directly if something is wrong.

The following sections list the logical steps for using SharePoint’s meeting workspaces for managing meetings and using a video projector during the actual meeting. Later you will see the steps for doing this in MS Outlook and SharePoint. This is what you will need to work with meeting workspaces as described:

  • Windows SharePoint Services: MOSS will also do fine.

  • MS Outlook 2007 (or 2003): Earlier Outlook versions are not integrated with SharePoint.

  • MS Exchange Server 2007 (or 2003): To view calendars of the attendees and resources.

If you don’t have MS Outlook and MS Exchange, it is still possible to create meeting workspaces, but it is not anywhere near as easy and effective a process as if you have these programs.

In this example, you are the meeting organizer who needs to discuss a new project that will start next week. You have five project members, and all of them must participate in this first meeting:

  1. You create a meeting agenda, including an estimation of how much time each item will take and who will be responsible for it. The total estimated meeting time seems to be about 60 minutes.

  2. Using MS Outlook, you look for a time when all five project members seem to be available.

  3. Using MS Outlook, you also look for a conference room that is equipped with a video projector and a network connection and is available for this meeting.

  4. You create, but do not yet send, the meeting invitation to all project members, plus the conference room, which happens to be a resource mailbox in this case (but a public folder mailbox will also do fine).

  5. Still with the meeting invitation open, you create the meeting workspace in SharePoint.

  6. You add a description of the meeting and then send the invitation to the attendees and the resource mailbox.

  7. Using your calendar, you open the new meeting workspace and start adding the agenda items, the objective, and some documents that will be discussed during the meeting.

  8. All attendees except Bill accept the invitation. Because Bill must be there in order to make decisions, you reschedule this meeting using Outlook. A new invitation is sent out. There is no need to change or update the meeting workspace.

  9. Bill sends you an e-mail saying that he needs to add two items to the agenda. You tell him to use the link in his meeting invitation to open its workspace and add these items. Because Bill is an attendee, he is automatically granted the rights to write and update any list in this workspace.

  10. Everyone (including you) seems satisfied with the meeting preparations so far. Just relax and await the actual meeting.

It is time for the meeting. You take your laptop to the conference room and connect it to the network to make sure you can open the meeting workspace. Then, you connect your computer to the video projector. Everything is now ready for your meeting:

  1. When all attendees have arrived, you display the meeting workspace using the video projector. You give a quick overview of the meeting workspace so that everyone understands what is displayed.

  2. You point your mouse at the list of meeting objectives described on the workspace and tell the attendees what the meeting is all about.

  3. You point your mouse at the meeting agenda and show the attendees that each item has a title, a description, the name of the person responsible for each item, and finally how much time each item is supposed to take. Make sure that people understand that they must stick to the estimated time or the meeting will take longer than planned, which is something nobody wants.

  4. The first item on the agenda is to greet everyone, welcome them to this meeting, and explain what the meeting is about. You have just done that so you continue with the next item on that list.

  5. The next item is to discuss the project plan. Instead of handing out paper, you open the document that describes this plan: Everyone can see this document now, and you can all start discussing this plan.

  6. You all agree that Bill should be the project leader. This is entered in the Decision list in the meeting workspace.

  7. You go on with the next agenda item. Marina is given the task of ordering new software tools that will be needed during this project. This information is entered in the Task list on the workspace.

  8. Marielle comments on the number of project members. She thinks that it will be hard to meet the deadline with just five people. This comment is entered in a list normally used for announcements.

  9. For each item on the agenda, a number of decisions, delegated tasks, and comments are made; all of these are entered in their respective lists. When the meeting is over (on time because everyone tried to keep to the expected time slot for each agenda item), you will have full documentation of everything important that happened at the meeting.

  10. You end this meeting, reminding all attendees that they can go back to this workspace whenever they need to and read what was said and done.

Because a meeting normally results in a number of tasks that need to be accomplished in due time, it is interesting to revisit the workspace for some time after the actual meeting. SharePoint stores this information until you actively delete this workspace; if necessary you can reuse this information in later meetings. Following are some typical activities after a meeting:

  1. Marina wants to check some details about the task assigned to her, so she looks at her Outlook calendar to find the booking for that meeting, which contains the link to the meeting workspace.

  2. Because Bill is the project leader, he also wants to see the complete list of tasks and their due date to check if anybody is behind schedule.

  3. The manager for your department says he wants a copy of the meeting minutes. You open the meeting workspace and add the manager as a member of the Visitors SharePoint group, using the built-in feature of SharePoint to send an e-mail to the user who has been granted access to a site. You add some descriptive text in that e-mail and explain that you don’t use meeting minutes anymore but instead use SharePoint’s workspaces.

  4. Marielle wants to find out who the project members are today. She also uses her Outlook calendar and the link in the booking for this meeting to quickly access that meeting workspace and read its list of attendees.

  5. One important partner wants to view the details from this meeting. Because he does not have any user account on your network, you cannot ask him to open the workspace for this meeting. And because there are no meeting minutes, you have nothing to send him. Instead you start an MS Live Meeting session, sharing your web browser to display the workspace to this partner. This way, you also can be sure that this partner will not see anything other than what is required.

MS Outlook plays a very important role in managing meetings in SharePoint. It is used to send out invitations and to quickly open the meeting workspace before, during, and after the meeting. MS Outlook is also used to create the meeting workspace, although you can create this workspace from within SharePoint, just like any other team site. Remember that a workspace is just an ordinary team site but uses a special meeting site template.

TipTip:
Only MS Outlook 2007 and 2003 are integrated with SharePoint. Previous versions of Outlook cannot create a meeting workspace, nor can they see its properties.

In order to create a meeting workspace, the user needs to be assigned the Create Subsites right on the web site that is the parent of the workspace. All users who have a personal web site (My Site) can create meeting workspaces as subsites in their personal web site. By default, only owners of a site have this right. In other words, team sites you have created and personal sites are locations that you can use to create meeting workspaces. Regardless of where the meeting workspace is created, all users who are invited are automatically assigned the right to join that workspace, even if it is created in a personal workspace. Typically, a project manager (who uses a team site for his project information) will create all related meeting workspaces under that project team site, and other users who just need to create an ad hoc meeting workspace will use their own personal site.

TipTip:
After the workspace site is created, no more meeting workspace or other subsites can be created under that first meeting workspace site!

As you can see, Outlook has a lot of features that integrate with WSS 3.0 and MOSS 2007. As an administrator, you may want to control the behavior of this integration. All of these features are stored in the Windows registry settings. These settings can be controlled by the deployment tool that comes with the MS Office 2003 Resource Kit or by the Group Policy Objects (GPOs) in Active Directory.

TipTip:
Use the GPO templates Office12.adm and Outlk12.adm to control these SharePoint-related features. See http://tinyurl.com/y3buyq for the MS Office 2003 Resource Kit and more information about using these settings.

The following table lists the key registry entries; all of them are in the HKEY_CURRENT_USER \Microsoft\Office\12.0 key.

 

Key Value Type Description

Common\DWS

PollingInterval

DWORD

The number of minutes before checking for updates of Document Workspace (default 10, allowed values are 1–999).

Common\MailSettings

DisableSharingOptions

DWORD

1 = disable; 0 = enable: Shared Attachments option in Outlook messages.

Common\Security \Trusted Alert Sources

All

DWORD

0 = do not allow; 1 = allow: users to use Outlook to manage all SharePoint alerts (default = 0).

AllIntranet

DWORD

0 = disallow; 1 = allow: users to use Outlook to manage alerts from all SharePoint sites within Outlook (default = 0).

AllTrusted

DWORD

0 = do not allow; 1 = allow: users to use Outlook to manage alerts from all intranets (default = 1).

Meetings\Profile

EntryUI

DWORD

1 = disable; 0 = enable: Meeting Workspaces button on Outlook meeting requests.

ServerUI

DWORD

2 = disable that user can enter values to server list. If so: publish default, disallow others.

MRUInternal

String

Set a limit of five servers available for Meeting Workspace sites. See more about this following this table.

Outlook\Preferences

DisallowSTS

DWORD

1 = disable; 0 = enable: the feature of linking SharePoint contacts and events lists with Outlook.

STSSyncInterval

DWORD

The number of minutes before the next update process for linked SharePoint contacts and events lists in Outlook (default is 20 minutes). Set any value between 1 and 1430.

SharePointTracking\Name#

Name

String

(# = 1-4) The display name of SharePoint site that will be listed in the “Select A Location list.”

URL

String

The URL of SharePoint site to be listed in the Select a Location list.

The settings for the key SharePointTracking\Name# and the values ServerUI and MRUInternal for the Meetings\Profile key control what options the user sees listed in the Select a location menu when creating the meeting workspace. The default is to show these sites:

  • My Site.

  • Sites listed in the MRUInternal value.

  • Up to five of the most recently used sites listed in the SharePointTracking\Name key.

  • Up to five of the most recently used sites. This list is built from cookies stored when users visit a site, where they have the Create Subsite right.

  • “Other,” which allows the user to enter any SharePoint URL.

TipTip:
You can create up to five SharePointTracking\Name# (#=0-4) entries to have these sites listed for the user when creating the meeting workspace.

The five default meeting workspace templates are listed in the following table.

 

TemplateName TemplateID

Basic Meeting Workspace

Mps#0

Blank Meeting Workspace

Mps#1

Decision Meeting Workspace

Mps#2

Social Meeting Workspace

Mps#3

Multipage Meeting Workspace

Mps#4

Just like any other WSS site, meeting workspaces are built on a site template. By default, there are five different meeting workspace templates:

  • Basic Meeting Workspace: Contains four lists: Agenda, Attendees, Objectives, and Document Library.

  • Blank Meeting Workspace: Contains no lists or Web Parts.

  • Decision Meeting Workspace: Contains these lists: Agenda, Objectives, Attendees, Document libraries, Tasks, and Decisions.

  • Social Meeting Workspace: Contains three tabs, or pages: Home, Discussions, and Photos. These three pages contain these lists: Attendees, Directions, Things to Bring, Discussions, and Picture Library. You can add new lists to any of these pages. You can also create new pages using the Modify This Workspace link.

  • Multipage Meeting Workspace: Contains three pages: Home, Page 1, and Page 2. The Home page contains the following lists on the Home page: Objectives, Attendees, and Agenda. The other pages are empty until you add one or more lists to them. You can also create new pages, using the Modify This Workspace link.

As with team sites’ workspaces, you can save any customized meeting workspace as a site template. This makes it available when creating new meeting workspaces in the same site collection. You may recall from previous discussions that a site collection is all the team sites created under a specific top-level team site, including the top-level site itself.

Creating a meeting workspace is very easy. This process is fully integrated with the Outlook process to send invitations to users. For example, say that you want to create a meeting workspace for yourself, Anna, and Axel. This workspace should use the basic workspace template and have the name Project ALPHA. Because you are the administrator for the IT team site, you will create it under that site. Use the steps in the Try It Out below to do this.

Try It Out

Create a Basic Meeting Workspace under IT
  1. Log on as an administrator for the IT team site.

  2. Start MS Outlook and pick a date and time for the meeting with Anna and Axel.

  3. On the Outlook Calendar page, choose New —> Meeting Request. Enter the attendees, subject, and location like this (see Figure 7-13):

    1. To: Anna Filippa; Axel Pettersson.

    2. Subject: Project ALPHA.

    3. Location: Room 302.

    4. Description: Welcome to our project meeting!

      Figure 7-13

      Create a Basic Meeting Workspace page
  4. Normally, you would now click Send, but not this time. Now, you create the meeting workspace! Click the Meeting Workspace button; this opens a new pane at the right of this window (see Figure 7-14).

    TipTip:
    If you don’t see the Meeting Workspace button, you are creating an appointment instead of a meeting request. Click the Invite Attendees button to change the type.

    Figure 7-14

    Meeting Workspace window
  5. The default setting is to create a meeting workspace using the Basic Meeting Workspace template in your personal My Site or the current site (if you are the owner of that site). All this is listed in this workspace pane at the right. If all these parameters are okay, click Create, to create the meeting workspace. If not, click the Change Settings link to open a new form, and you will be able to select another web site or enter a URL path. You will also be able to select another meeting site template in this form, if necessary. Note that if the OK button in this form is grayed out, either the selected site is not available or you do not have the permission to create a subsite. If this is the case, you must create the meeting workspace in another location, as described in the following steps:

    1. Pull down the Select a location menu, and choose any of the listed sites. If there are no sites in this menu, then choose Other and enter the URL to the site that will be the parent site for the new meeting workspace. Note that you must have permission to create a site on the location you have selected. For example, enter http://srv1/sitedirectory/sis and click OK.

    2. If this location is okay, you can now choose the workspace template and language pack. Note that in order to select another language, you must first install that WSS language pack, as described in Chapter 3. For example, select English and Basic Meeting Workspace.

    3. Click OK, then Create to create the new workspace. A progress bar is displayed at the top of the pane; this process takes 5–30 seconds, depending on your network. After the workspace is created, you can see that a link has been added in the description of the meeting invitation; its name is taken from the subject for this invitation. Note that the pane gives you some important tips: that all invited attendees will be able to access this site directly after receiving and accepting this meeting invitation. There is also a tip that next step is to open the workspace now, to create the agenda and start adding information to it (see Figure 7-15).

      Figure 7-15

      Open workspace and add information
  6. The invitation is ready, and the workspace and its link have been created. Click Send to send this invitation to all attendees. They will also see this link, and they will automatically be added as Members to this site. This gives them the right to add agenda items, documents, and tasks. However, they will not be able to add new members to the workspace site.

The meeting is now added to the Outlook calendar. If you double-click to open this meeting, it will display the link to this site in its description. You can also right-click this meeting and select View Meeting Workspace, as Figure 7-16 shows.

Figure 7-16

View Meeting Workspace

When you open the new workspace, it displays the four lists: Objectives, Attendees, Agenda, and Document Library. The next logical thing to do is to add information to this workspace, such as the objective and the agenda. Note that you do not need to add attendees, because this list is automatically populated based on the invited users for this meeting. The list also displays each user’s status regarding this invitation, for example Accepted, Declined, or No response so far.

Try It Out

Modifying a Meeting Workspace
  1. Adding an objective is very simple: Click Add new item under the Objectives list, and type in the objective for the meeting.

  2. Adding items to the agenda is also very simple. Click Add new item under the Agenda list, and enter the following values:

    1. Subject: Enter a short description for this agenda item.

    2. Owner: Enter who is responsible for this item.

    3. Time: Enter how much time this item will take.

    4. Notes: Enter a longer description of this item. Note that you can also attach a file to this item using the Attach File button on the headline.

    5. Click OK to save and close this form. You can now add the next agenda item the same way.

After doing this for a while, you might want a faster way of adding agenda items. The simplest way is to use the Datasheet view, which will display this list in a table view. To do that, follow these steps:

  1. On the start page for this workspace, click the Agenda link to open this list on its own page.

  2. Click the Actions —> Edit in Datasheet button.

  3. Enter the values for each item, as if this were an Excel spreadsheet. Note that the user must have Excel 2003 or later installed to have access to the Datasheet view.

  4. When done, click Actions —> Show in Standard View to see the list in the standard view.

That was an easier method, right? But there are still some things you can do to improve the management of the agenda. For example, you can summarize the total time for this meeting, and you can add a new column that you can use to indicate that an item is completed. Use the following steps to fix these features:

  1. Make sure that you still have the Agenda page open. Click Settings —> List Settings.

  2. To calculate the total time, you need to change the column type for the Time column. In the Columns section, click Time to open its settings. Note that it is defined as Single line of text. SharePoint cannot summarize text columns, so you must change this to a numeric type:

    1. Select Number instead and click OK. This displays a warning: Changing the type of this column may result in a loss of data. Are you sure that you want to change this field from Single line of text to Number? Click OK, and you are taken back to the previous page.

    2. Scroll down to the bottom of this page. Click the view All items (which is the default view for this agenda list). You can now see the configuration settings for this view. Scroll down until you see the Totals section. Expand this section, and change the Total setting for the Time column from None to Sum, using the menu.

    3. Why not change how the list of agenda items is displayed? Expand the Style section, and then select Shaded, then click OK at the bottom of the page. The view will now display the total time for the meeting with each second line shaded.

  3. The second feature, to create a check box for each item, is also accomplished using Settings —> List Settings. Scroll down to the Columns section again, and click Create column. Note that you can also do this by clicking Settings —> Create Column. Enter the following values:

    1. Column Name: Done.

    2. Column Type: Yes/No (check box).

    3. Default Value: No.

    4. Click OK to save and close.

    5. You want this check box at the beginning of each agenda item, so scroll down to the Views section, and click All Items again. In the Columns section, change the Position from Left setting for the Done column from 6 to 1 and click OK.

This enhanced list is now ready to be used. Note that the Done column is the first column on this list. Also note that the total sum for the Time column is displayed on top of the Time column (see Figure 7-17).

Figure 7-17

Edit the agenda page

The Done column is not that easy to use in the default view. It is much easier to switch to Datasheet view (Actions —> Edit in Datasheet), because you can simply check each item as it is completed. Compare Figure 7-18 to Figure 7-17.

Figure 7-18

Agenda page in Datasheet view

Because the Datasheet view is so much easier to see and modify items in, it is the recommended view to use when holding this meeting with the attendees. The smartest thing to do is to create a new view, based on the Datasheet view, and use that view on the start page for this meeting workspace. Use the steps in the following Try It Out to do that.

Try It Out

Create a Datasheet View for the Agenda List
  1. Log on as an administrator for the workspace site.

  2. Open the Agenda list on its own page.

  3. At the far end of the headline row is the View menu; click it and select Create View.

  4. Select Datasheet view, and enter the following values on the web form:

    1. View Name: Table View.

    2. First Sort by the column: ID.

    3. Totals section: change Time column from None to Sum.

    4. Click OK. The Agenda list is displayed, using the new view. Note that you have the new view listed under Views menu. Click Home at the upper left to open the start page for the workspace.

  5. The next step is to change the default view that the Agenda Web Part list is using: click the arrow to the right of the Agenda Web Part heading, and select Modify Shared Web Part. The configuration pane for the Web Part is displayed.

  6. Use the menu for the Selected View part; change it to the Table View (i.e., the name you supplied in step 4a.). You get a warning that this modification will break any Web Part connections, but this is fine for now. Click OK and then OK again. The new Agenda is displayed using the Datasheet view (see Figure 7-19).

    Figure 7-19

    Datasheet view of the new Agenda

The meeting workspace is starting to look good, but some things are still missing. There is no place to add notes or comments from the meeting, and there is no way to store decisions and tasks created during this meeting. You fix this easily by following the steps in the Try It Out below.

Try It Out

Add Extra Features to the Meeting Workspace
  1. You can use any of several standard lists for taking notes (for example, Announcements and Discussions), or you can create your own list from scratch. In this example, you will use the Announcements list. Choose Site Actions —> Site Settings —> Site Libraries and Lists —> Create new content. Click on Announcements, then fill in this information:

    1. Name: Meeting Comments.

    2. Description: Comments from this meeting instance.

    3. Change items into series items: No.

    4. Click Create. The new list opens.

  2. Click Home to go back to the start page for this workspace. Note that the new list is automatically added to this page to make it easier to use.

This list is a very handy tool for taking notes and comments directly during the meeting. Another way is to write an MS Word file, but the advantage with the Meeting Comments list is that everyone can see these notes directly without the need to open a document.

The other feature that would be nice to have in this meeting workspace is a place to write down tasks assigned to users. This list does not exist, so you must first create it in the same way as you did the Meeting Comments; the difference is that you should select the list type Tasks instead of Announcements. The next step is to configure this list to send e-mail automatically to users assigned a task:

  1. Click on the Tasks name, to open this list.

  2. Click Settings —> Lists Settings, then click the Advanced Settings link.

  3. Set Send e-mail when ownership is assigned to Yes.

  4. Click OK to save and close. This list will now send e-mail to the user (or group) assigned a task in this list.

Another type of list that is common for meeting workspaces is Decisions. Create it in the same way you did the Task list, but select the list type Decisions instead. If you add many lists to the workspace, you may need to adjust their position on the page:

  1. Click on Home for the workspace.

  2. Click Site Actions —> Edit Page. This page opens in edit mode; this displays all existing Web Parts. Note that each Web Part is stored within a rectangular area, known as a Web Part zone. By default, there are three Web Part zones; Left, Middle, and Right.

  3. Locate the Decisions list Web Part. Using the mouse, drag it to the Web Part zone where you want to store it.

  4. Locate the Tasks list Web Part; drag it to a Web Part zone.

  5. To exit this mode, click Exit Edit Mode.

  6. Test these two new lists. Click Add new item for the Decision list and for the Tasks list. Make sure they that are listed on the start page for this workspace.

What do you say? Isn’t this a very easy, but at the same time powerful, way of organizing all types of information related to meetings, such as meeting comments, agenda, attendees, decisions, and tasks? By adding the lists you need and modifying their columns, you can control what and how information is entered in this workspace, thus making sure nobody forgets about adding important information. It sure beats the traditional meeting minutes!

Did you notice that all lists you add to the workspace are immediately displayed on the web page? Compare that to ordinary team sites, where you can choose to add these lists and libraries as links on the Quick Launch bar or not, then later add them as Web Parts to the web page. This choice is not available for workspaces, because they do not have the Quick Launch bar. So for more complex meetings, you may need more than one page for all your lists. This is a very easy task to accomplish with workspaces, but team sites do not have the same functionality. Another difference between workspaces and team sites is that you will automatically create a new list or library when adding list Web Parts in workspaces, whereas in team sites the same operation will create a copy of that list or library. This is demonstrated in the following example.

For example, say that you have a workspace for a project meeting with several lists on the Home page, and you also have a large document library. You discover that this library will make the Home page very long and hard to use, so you decide to create a second page on this workspace and move these documents there, using the steps in the following Try It Out.

Try It Out

Add a New Page to a Workspace
  1. Open the workspace Home page.

  2. Click Site Actions —> Add Pages. Now enter these values:

    1. Page Name: Add a short name for this page. It will be displayed next to Home. For example, Docs.

    2. Click Add to continue.

  3. The new page opens in edit mode, but the problem is that your document library is stored in the Home page and you want to move it to the second page. Because there is no easy method to move or copy a list or library from one page to another in a workspace, you must do it this way:

    1. Drag the Document Library Web Part to the place of your choice on this second page. Its name will be “Document Library1” because this is the second document library created on this workspace and the first was named “Document Library.” Remember that adding Web Parts in a workspace will create new libraries instead of copying them, so the new library must have a unique name. This is also clearly stated in the property pane as Create Lists. If the first document library had custom columns, you need to either re-create them in this new document library or create a template from the first library and create this new document library based on that template (if so, click Show All Lists under the Web Part list to see the new template). If you don’t do this, you will lose all custom columns when moving the documents to this new library.

    2. Click Exit Edit Mode to leave design mode.

    3. Go back to the Home page and click the title name for the document library. Pull down the View menu, and select the Explorer view. Click any existing document and press Ctrl+A and then Ctrl+C to copy all the documents.

    4. Go to the document library on the second page. Click its title name. Switch to the Explorer view. Point the mouse to any free space on that page, and right-click —> Paste to paste all files. What you have done now is to copy all the files to the new library.

    5. When you are absolutely sure that all the files have been copied to the new document library, go back to the Home page. Click the title of the document library. Choose Settings —> Document Library Settings —> Delete this document library —> OK to execute the delete instruction.

  4. Click Home to display this page. Make sure that the old document library is gone. Open the second page. All the files should be visible in this new library, including their custom columns.

TipTip:
You can also make a template of the original document library and include all documents, up to 500 MB in total.

You can move, rename, or delete a page, except for the Home page. To move a page, choose Site Actions —> Manage Pages. Note that you cannot move the Home page, nor can you move a page to the left of the Home page.

To change the name of an existing page, choose Site Actions —> Manage Page; SharePoint will now display the Order action. Click the black menu arrow to display a list with different options, as shown in Figure 7-20. Click Settings and enter the new name for the page.

Figure 7-20

Display a list with different options

Deleting the page also removes all its content. Because there is no way to undo this operation, make sure that you copy the page’s lists before you delete it! Use Manage Page and its menu as depicted in Figure 7-20. Then select Delete. This displays a list of all pages except Home. Select the page to be removed, and click the Delete button at the bottom to remove the page from the workspace. Click OK on the warning page.

It is very common to have a series of meetings. For each of these meetings, it is important to have easy access to the information from previous meetings. Using SharePoint’s meeting workspaces, this is a breeze. One of my customers complained that their project meetings were almost too complicated to perform, partly due to their constant need to go back to previous meetings to see things like who was responsible for a specific task or when a certain decision was made. After they started to use SharePoint’s meeting workspaces, they told me that all this was now much easier; in fact, their meetings were now both fewer and shorter.

The support for a series of meetings in SharePoint is a very strong feature! This can save you a lot of time and energy, compared to using traditional meeting minutes on paper. It makes it possible to go back and forth between the meeting dates and see everything that happened in them. You can even search all the meeting instances for a given text string. This is default with MOSS, but for WSS the SQL Server has to have the Full-Text Indexing feature activated.

After the first meeting workspace has been created as described previously, you can join, or link, new meeting instances to that first workspace. This creates a new page that looks like an individual workspace, but in fact it is a part of the first workspace, cleverly disguised behind smoke and mirrors. “Behind smoke and mirrors” might not be completely true; you will soon see that the workspace gets one enumerated folder for each meeting instance in this series to store the information from that meeting.

For example, say that the first project meeting you created in the previous example will be followed by a number of other meetings related to that project. Now you need to create the second meeting, and you must make sure to link it to the first meeting workspace instead of creating a completely new one. Follow the steps in the Try It Out below to do this.

Try It Out

Link to an Existing Meeting Workspace
  1. Use the Outlook calendar and create a meeting request (anytime after the first meeting will do fine). Enter the following settings:

    1. Enter all attendees as recipients of this meeting request. Don’t forget to add a room reservation on the same request, if needed.

    2. Enter a Subject for this meeting. This will be the instance name of this workspace.

    3. Click the Meeting Workspace button.

    4. Click “You can also link to an existing workspace,” located at the bottom of the right pane.

    5. Use the “Link to an existing workspace” pull-down menu in the “Select the workspace” section to select the previous meeting name (Project ALPHA). If you don’t see the meeting name, you may have the wrong team site selected. If so, change the site using “Select a location” at the top of this pane.

    6. Click OK and then the Link button to create the second meeting instance in this new series.

    7. Click Send to send this meeting request to all attendees.

  2. Right-click the meeting in the calendar, and select View Meeting Workspace to open the workspace. Note that it contains exactly the same lists, libraries, and layout as the first workspace. The reason for this is that it is the same workspace. However, all list content for each meeting instance is stored in a separate subfolder to allow each meeting instance to have its own content.

  3. Note that there are now two dates listed in the left pane. To view the content from the first meeting, click the date for that meeting. Using these dates, you can go back and forth to any meeting and view its content. As you later add more meetings to this series, the list of dates will grow.

The ability to link a series of meetings to the same workspace is a real time-saver. You can easily find any information about an earlier meeting just by clicking a meeting’s date. However, sometimes it would be great if the content from one list could be available in any meeting instance. For example, say that you have a list named “Tasks;” it contains a list of actions to be performed, each action’s due date, and the name of the person responsible for each action. Assume you have this list on a project meeting workspace; when performing each meeting, you want to see all actions remaining from earlier meetings. To do this, you need to change the list into a “series object,” as the next Try It Out describes.

Try It Out

Change a List into a Series Object
  1. Open the workspace.

  2. Click the name of the list to be converted to a series object (in this example, Tasks).

  3. Click Settings —> List Settings, then click Advanced Settings.

  4. Set Change items into series items to Yes.

  5. Click OK, and then click Home to open the start page for this workspace. Notice that the Task list name has the text (Series Items) added.

  6. Test your work by adding an item to the Tasks list. Click Add new item. Add anything you like and click OK. Then select any other meeting date; note that the Tasks list still contains the same items.

In other words, by making a list into “series items,” you make it one single list that is shared among all meetings in this series.

This works fine as it is, but sometimes you want to filter the list to prevent it from showing all items. For example, the Tasks list displays all actions, including the ones that have been completed. It would probably be more interesting to see only items that are not completed. This is easily solved by using a view that filters the Status column that the Tasks list contains in this example. The good news is that there already exists such a view for this list, named Active Tasks. You just have to use it as the default view for the Tasks Web Part:

  1. Click the arrow to the far right of the Tasks Web Part, and select Modify Shared Web Part.

  2. In the Selected View pull-down menu, select Active Tasks. Click OK to refresh the page, and click OK to save and close the Web Part configuration setting.

  3. Note that the Tasks list only shows items where Status is not equal to Completed.

Now you have a general idea of how to use lists and views for series of meetings. You have the tools for creating a very powerful and time-saving workspace for meetings.

Adding new meetings to an existing series is easy, but sometimes there is a need to change or manage these meetings. In the following table you get some tips about these situations.

 

Situation Comment Solution

You, the meeting organizer, delete an existing meeting request in Outlook that has an associated workspace.

This will make the specific meeting instance in the workspace an orphan. Its data remains in SharePoint, but there is no connection to Outlook. Note that Outlook 2007 (but not 2003) will open the meeting invitation, and mark it as “Canceled.” It will also offer the user to send out an e-mail about this meeting being canceled.

Open the workspace. There is a red exclamation mark next to the orphaned meeting date. Click this exclamation mark, and it displays a menu (see Figure 7-21). You can select the option to Move the workspace’s data to another existing meeting instance (overwriting any of its content, so make an empty workspace first; see Figures 7-22 and 7-23); to Keep (data remains in the workspace, but no Outlook appointment is associated); or to Delete (this instance of the workspace and all its data is removed).

You want to remove one meeting instance from a series of meetings.

For example, say that you planned one meeting, but it was canceled, and you don’t want to move it.

Use the previous technique: Delete the meeting request in Outlook. Open the workspace and its date will have the red exclamation mark. Use its menu to delete the workspace.

Instead of deleting the meeting appointment in Outlook, you can also open its properties and click the Remove button in the Meeting Workspace pane.

You want to connect one meeting instance to a new date.

Say that you have an existing meeting instance with lots of data and that you want to associate it with a new meeting request and a new date.

1. Go to the original meeting request in Outlook. Delete it or remove its workspace link (as described earlier).

2. Create a new meeting request in Outlook. Join the workspace for this series of meetings, but do not add any information to that workspace instance.

3. Open the workspace. Use the menu next to the red exclamation mark for the old meeting date you initially deleted. Select Move and select the new date you just created. This will move all existing information to the new meeting date.

Figure 7-21

Workspace menu

Figure 7-22

Move Workspace data - options

Figure 7-23

Overwrite existing Workspace - options

The procedures described in the preceding sections work very well for internal users who have access to your SharePoint environment and have been invited using Outlook’s meeting requests. But sometimes you need to allow other users to view the meeting workspace. This section describes the options you have to handle these situations.

Sometimes there will be people in your organization who aren’t invited to your meetings but who need to access the meeting workspace. The typical example is a manager who wants to know what you do in these meetings. Before you started using meeting workspaces in SharePoint, he got a copy of the meeting minutes. But now, because you don’t have these anymore (and frankly, you don’t miss them), you must provide him with this information in another way. The easiest way is to add this manager to the list of users with access to this workspace site; making the manager a member of the Visitors SharePoint group is sufficient to enable him to view and copy all the content of this workspace.

TipTip:
When you have a series of meetings all invited users have Members access (Contributor permissions) to all meeting instances, regardless of when they were invited! There is no way to limit access to just one meeting because the series is sharing the same workspace and, therefore, the same list of users. The same is true when you add additional users; they also have access to all meeting instances. But you can set a unique right for any user to a specific list, or library, using its security settings in Settings —> Document Library Settings —> Permissions for this document library. You can also set a specific security setting for an individual list item or document, by using its quick menu option: Manage Permissions.

To add an extra user to an existing meeting workspace without making him or her a meeting attendee, follow the steps in the Try It Out below.

Try It Out

Grant Extra Users Access to the Workspace
  1. Open the workspace as an administrator.

  2. Click Site Actions —> Site Settings.

  3. Click the People and Groups link.

  4. Click the New —> Add Users button.

  5. Enter the name of the new user to be granted access to this meeting. Grant the user the rights needed (for example, member of the Visitors SharePoint group), enter a message that will be sent to this user and click OK. The user will then get an e-mail with the link to the workspace and a description of the granted permissions.

Another solution would be to manually create meeting minutes from the data in the workspace. One way of making this task easier would be to export the Agenda and Decisions lists to Excel and copy that information into the meeting minutes.

TipTip:
I have not seen any tool that does this automatically, although it may be possible using MS SQL 2005 Reporting Services.

Another common request is to allow people outside your organization access to the information stored in the meeting workspace. The problem here is that these users do not have access to anything inside your network, because they don’t have a network user account. Following are some options to handle this situation:

  • Create a user account: If you make this external person a member of your network, you could grant him or her access the same way as any internal user, as in the previous example about the manager. This solution will be of interest if this a recurring request.

  • Create meeting minutes manually: Again, as the previous section discussed, you can manually create a document with the meeting minutes. This is acceptable for a one-time request with a limited amount of data in the workspace.

  • Use MS Office Live Meeting: This program is designed to allow anyone with an Internet connection to see and participate in any meeting, not only SharePoint’s meeting workspaces. One way of using this program is to invite the external user ahead of time to join the Live Meeting. You can also allow a user who has not previously been invited to the Live Meeting session to simply join it at the time it starts by displaying the workspace on the MS Live Meeting panel and sending the user this URL link in an e-mail. Either way, you can give this user real-time access to the meeting and allow him or her to participate and discuss matters like any attendee of this meeting.

The last option may also be of interest for internal users, when they need to attend meetings while working from home or from an Internet café when on vacation.

TipTip:
For more information about MS Office Live Meeting, visit http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=45802.

Another really exciting application that also integrates with SharePoint is MS OneNote. This is a program for taking notes in a very informal structure, much like when you scribble with a pen and paper. In fact, OneNote is great on any computer, but it is fantastic when used on a Tablet-PC-based laptop, since that will allow you to use a pen to write your notes, including drawings, directly on the screen (see Figure 7-24).

MS OneNote was first released in October 2003, together with the MS Office 2003 suite. At that time, it had some integration features with SharePoint 2003 (i.e., SPS 2003 and WSS 2.0). This integration is enhanced in MS OneNote 2007, and with SharePoint 2007. For example, now you can use OneNote to share a notebook with other OneNote users in real time, by storing the notebook in SharePoint. This is very handy if you are using OneNote to take meeting minutes, and you want the other meeting participants to see, and even change, your notes in real time during the meeting.

Figure 7-24

Microsoft OneNote example

MS OneNote 2007 organizes all its information in one or more notebooks, corresponding to a paper-based notebook. Instead of just using it for your own purposes, you can share a notebook with other OneNote users, so they can see your notes directly, and you can also grant these users permission to add information to your notebook. You could use this for things like:

  • Meeting minutes

  • Project discussions

  • Collecting raw information

  • Brainstorming meetings

By default, OneNote will store these notebooks on the local file system — My Documents —> My Notebook. To make these notebooks available to others you could store them in a SharePoint library. Besides controlling the access to these notebooks, you can also store extra information about the notebook, such as a project number or the meeting name. Since SharePoint 2007 enables a version history for all types of lists and libraries, this could also be used for the notebooks created by OneNote, thus making it possible to view and even revert to a previous version, if necessary. Also other features of SharePoint lists and libraries, such as being an RSS feed, are available for these notebooks. This is an excellent way to make sure that other users know that the notebook has been changed.

To make it easy to configure OneNote to share a notebook, there is a wizard that guides you through these steps, as described in the Try It Out below.

Try It Out

Share a OneNote Notebook with SharePoint
  1. Log on as a user with permission to create a SharePoint library.

  2. On the OneNote menu bar, click the Share menu, then select Create Shared Notebook, or click the File menu, then select New —> Notebook. This will start a wizard that will guide you through the sharing process.

  3. In the New Notebook Wizard you can enter several settings:

    1. Name: Enter a name for this notebook, for example Meeting Minutes.

    2. Color: Select a color for the notebook icon.

    3. From Template: Select a OneNote template, such as Work Notebook.

    4. Click Next to continue this wizard.

  4. On the page Who will use this notebook? select Multiple people will share the notebook, then the sub-option: On a server (which is the default setting). Then click Next.

  5. On the page Confirm notebook location, in the Path field enter the URL to the SharePoint site containing the library to be used for saving the OneNote notebook. You can also use the Browse button to locate the site.

  6. You will now see all available libraries for the site. Select the one where the shared notebook will be stored, for example Shared Documents, then click the Select button.

  7. On the Confirm notebook location page, verify that the URL points to the correct library. By default, the wizard will create an e-mail with a link to this location that you can send to the users you want to share this notebook with. Click Create to continue. Note that this process may take several minutes to complete. When it is done, the wizard will open a prepopulated e-mail with the links to this shared notebook. Send this e-mail to all users that you want to share this notebook with.

  8. The notebook is now shared. The other users will receive an e-mail that contains the link to the notebook. If they click on the link, their OneNote will start, and connect to that shared notebook. Or the user can start OneNote, click File —> Open —> Notebook, then enter the URL to the shared notebook manually, and after a short period, the notebook will be displayed, ready to use.

The access to a shared notebook is controlled by the SharePoint permissions set for the document library, and its notebook folder. Make sure that the permissions granted to the shared notebook are correct. There is no other protection, such as a password, and this is not necessary since SharePoint 2007 provides you will all the detailed security settings you will need for this purpose.

TipTip:
A change will take a few minutes before it will show up on the other users’ OneNote. You can force this replication by right-clicking on the shared notebook icon, and selecting Sync this Notebook Now.

Another favorite application is MS InfoPath, which was released for the first time in October 2003, along with MS Office 2003. It still looks very much the same in its new version, InfoPath 2007, but under the hood several important things has changed. The main purpose of this application is to create electronic forms, such as expense reports, time cards, vacation forms, and so on. One important new feature in InfoPath 2007 is its ability to create web forms that can be used by SharePoint 2007 and Office 2007; for example, workflow forms and the Document Information Panel displayed by Office 2007 applications, such as Word and Excel 2007. Another very important difference is that SharePoint 2007 can display InfoPath forms as HTML web forms, thus removing the requirement that a user who wants to fill in a form must have MS InfoPath locally installed. This was probably one of the main reasons that InfoPath 2003 was not implemented by customers, although it was great product.

An important characteristic of MS InfoPath is its file format: it is completely based on the Extensible Markup Language (XML) standard, which makes the form and its content readable by other applications. SharePoint is one such application. When you save an InfoPath file in a SharePoint library some, or possibly all, of its content will be displayed as columns, so you do not need to open the form to see what’s in it. For example, say that you have a time card form that employees use to enter their weekly working hours. Instead of opening each form file to see its content, some of its content is now displayed automatically as columns (see Figure 7-25).

Figure 7-25

InfoPath Form content displayed in columns

To make this happen, the designer of the InfoPath form must publish the form to SharePoint in a special type of library, called a Forms Library, that stores XML-based documents. When publishing the form, the designer will also decide what information from the form that will be displayed as a column in the library. The beauty of having content displayed as columns is that you can create views for the library, which organize the information in many ways. For example, say that the manager for a team wants to see the time cards organized per employee, while the people in the human resources department want to see them organized by week. And while you are at it, why not make the view summarize the working hours. This way, there is no need to copy these figures to an Excel spreadsheet and create a report from that. The next figure, Figure 7-26, shows you such a view calculating the total hours per week. For example, you can see that for the week of 11/2/2006 there are two time cards and that the total hours for this week is 112, the total regular hours are 78, and total overtime hours are 34.

Figure 7-26

InfoPath Form time card example

To create an InfoPath form, you need the MS InfoPath rich client; you cannot design a form using the web client. You can start from an empty form and add the field controls you need. Or, you can start from a form template that is similar to what you want to do and then customize that template. Let’s do another example. Your boss tells you that she needs a very basic form where employees can enter their vacation periods. She also says that she will need a report that shows when employees will be away from the office. Oh, and she wants this by the end of this day. So what do you do? The steps listed in the Try It Out below illustrate one way of doing this.

Try It Out

Create a InfoPath Form
  1. Log on with a user account that has permission to create libraries in the site where you want to store the forms.

  2. Start InfoPath 2007. It will start by displaying a dialog window named Getting Started. See Figure 7-27. Here, you have several options: you can open an existing form (click the existing form name under Open a form), you can start a form from scratch (Click Design a Form Template), or you can start from a template (click Customize a Sample and select any of the samples in the center pane, or click Form Templates on Office Online, which will display a large number of publically available form templates stored at Microsoft’s web site). In this example you will create this form from scratch, so click Design a Form Template, then select Blank and click OK.

    Figure 7-27

    Design a Form template - blank
  3. An empty form window is displayed; at the right you have a Task Pane, displaying Design Tasks. The links in this pane allow you to do a number of things:

    • Layout: Use this link to create tables and regions in the form, which you will use later for storing controls (see below).

    • Controls: This is a toolbox with many different types of controls, such as simple text fields, date fields, and numeric fields, but also more advanced controls for uploading documents to the form, displaying a picture, and creating a hyperlink.

    • Data Source: This is a list of all the data sources for the form, including its field controls. Use this view to quickly get a list of all the data fields and sources.

    • Views: Use this link when you need to create more than one view of a form. For example, the users who fill in the form will see a limited part of the form, whereas the user who manages this form will see everything.

    • Design Checker: Click this link to run a test of your form. If there is any problem, the design checker will tell you what it is.

    • Publish Form Template: This will start the wizard that will help you publish the form, for example, to a SharePoint library.

  4. Your vacation form should contain the following types of information: the name of the employee, the start date for the vacation, and the end date, (yes, it’s a very simple form). You already have the empty form, so let’s start the design:

    1. Click Table with Title in the Task Pane, and a headline table will be displayed on the form. Click where it says Click to add a title, and enter the text Vacation Request. Then click where it says Click to add form content and enter the text Enter the dates for your vacation. By now you should have a nice headline in your form.

    2. The next step is to create the table where you will store your text and date controls. Note that this step is just here because it will be easier to get a nice layout. If you want, you can add controls to any part of the form page, not just to a table! First, click anywhere under the headline table to place the cursor there. Press the Enter key once, to get a new line. Now click Three Column Table in the Task Pane. A one-row table with three columns is displayed on the form. Right-click in the first column, then select Table Properties. Switch to the Row tab, and select Automatically set row height, then click OK.

    3. Click in the first column: Enter the text Name. In the second column, enter Start Date, and in the third column, enter End Date. Then press the Tab key, and a new row will be created.

    4. It is time to add the field controls. On the Task Pane, click the black arrow to display its menu, then select Controls. Place the cursor in the first column of the second row. Then click on the control Text Box in the Task Pane. Place the cursor in the second column and click Date Picker, then place the cursor in the third column and click the Date Picker again.

    5. To make it easier for you later to understand what controls do, give them a descriptive name: Right-click on the text control (second row, first column), then select Text Box Properties, and change the Field name to User_name. Repeat this for the other two controls, and name them Start_Date and End_Date, respectively.

  5. The form is now complete. The next step is to save it: Click File —> Save, and click OK if you get a dialog box telling you that you must publish this form before it can be used by others. Enter a folder location, and a name, for example Vacation Request, and click Save.

  6. It’s time to publish this form to a SharePoint library. Before you do this, you should think about where to create this new library. In this example, you will save it in a library named Vacations, stored in the site http://srv1/sitedirectory/sis.

    1. Click on the menu File —> Publish, and a dialog box will be displayed (see Figure 7-28).

      Figure 7-28

      Publish InfoPath Form to a server
    2. Make sure that the option To a SharePoint server with or without InfoPath Forms Services is selected, then click Next.

    3. Enter the URL to the SharePoint site where the new library will be created, http://srv1/sitedirectory/sis, and click Next.

    4. A new dialog box is displayed. Select Document Library and click Next.

    5. Make sure that the option Create a new document library is selected, and click Next.

    6. Next you will enter a name for this new library; in this example, it is called Vacations. You can also enter a description. When you’re ready, click Next.

    7. The next page is where you define what form content you want displayed as library controls. Click Add, select User_Name, and click OK. Then add Start_Date and End_Date in the same way. You should now see three column names listed. Click Next to continue.

    8. You are now almost finished. Click Publish to create the library, and associate the new form with it. The final page in this Publishing Wizard gives you an option to send an e-mail to users you want to have a direct link to this library. You can also choose to open the library directly. Check this last option, and click Close. The new library is displayed.

  7. Finally, let’s test the new form. Click New, and InfoPath will open the form (see Figure 7-29). Enter a name, plus select a start and end date, then save the form as Form1, and close InfoPath. The new file is now listed in the library, and the columns display the values you set in the form.

    Figure 7-29

    New InfoPath Form listed in library

Let’s have some fun: Add three more vacation forms to the library, for three other users, but with vacation dates near the first one. You can now test another type of view that is interesting for this type of information, based on dates. The boss, in this example above, wanted a report that showed her when employees have requested vacations. This is easily done by creating a graphical view of the list, based on a Calendar view, or a Gantt schema. Follow the steps in the Try It Out below to create the Calendar view.

Try It Out

Present Forms Data in a Calendar View
  1. Open the Vacation library (make sure to log on as a user with permission to create views).

  2. Click View: All Documents in the upper right, to display the View menu.

  3. Select Create View. On the next page, Choose a view format, select Calendar View.

  4. On the Create Calendar View: Vacations page, you will define the new view by entering these values (accept the other default values):

    1. Name: Enter a name for the view; for example, Calendar Overview.

    2. Begin: Use the menu and select Start Date.

    3. End: Select End Date from the menu.

    4. Month View Title: Select User Name from the menu.

    5. Weekly View Title: Select User Name.

    6. Daily View Title: Select User Name.

    7. Then click OK to save and close the new View.

  5. The new weekly view should be displayed, and it should look similar to Figure 7-30.

    Figure 7-30

    Calendar view - weekly

Another way to present this vacation form data is to use a Gantt schema, which normally is used to present project activities, but is also excellent for this task, since it gives a better overview than the Calendar view:

Try It Out

Present Forms Data in a Gantt View
  1. Open the Vacation library.

  2. Click View: All Documents in the upper right, to display the View menu.

  3. Select Create View. On the next page: Choose a view format, select Gantt View.

  4. On the Create View: Vacations page, enter these values (accept the other default values):

    1. Name: Enter the name Gantt Overview.

    2. Title: Use the menu and select User Name.

    3. Start Date: Select Start Date from the menu.

    4. Due Date: Select End Date from the menu.

    5. Click OK.

  5. The same form data as used before is now presented in a Gantt view. It is clearly a better view, and I think your boss will be happy with this. (See Figure 7-31).

    Figure 7-31

    Calendar view - Gantt view

If you want to display the form as an HTML web form, you must also have the Office Forms Service 2007, which comes with MOSS 2007 Enterprise Edition. This module can also be purchased separately as an add-on to the MOSS 2007 Standard Edition. This forms service will convert an InfoPath form into HTML, when requested to do so. The great advantage of this is that users do not need to have a local MS InfoPath rich client installed. They just use their web browser to open and fill in the form.

If the Forms Service is properly configured (see more details about this in Chapter 8), you can configure the Forms library to automatically display all new and existing forms as HTML web forms; just follow the steps in the Try It Out below.

Try It Out

Display Forms as HTML Web Forms
  1. Open the Vacation library.

  2. Click Settings —> Form Library Settings, then click Advanced Settings.

  3. Set the option Display as a Web page in the Opening browser-enabled documents section. Next click OK, then open the library again.

  4. Now try it out. Click New, and the form is displayed as a web page.

There are a lot more Microsoft applications that work closely with SharePoint 2007, but they deserve their own book, so I will only mention them briefly here:

  • MS Office PerformancePoint Server 2007: This is the new version of MS Business Scorecard Manager. Its objective is to offer a platform for building web sites that displays information related to Business Intelligence, such as business scorecards, analytics, and planning. This product runs on top of SharePoint 2007 and can be integrated with the other SharePoint web pages. For more information about this product, see http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=91701.

  • MS Office Project 2007: This is a suite of programs that helps users with anything from very simple projects to planning extremely large and complex projects. This product also utilizes SharePoint as its foundation for storing data. For more information about this product, see http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=83083.

  • MS Office Visio 2007: This is the perfect tool for creating drawings and flowcharts to visualize complex processes, systems, or information systems. You can create flowcharts that are displayed on a SharePoint page; for example, to visualize a process. The user then clicks on the process step to be performed, and the correct site, library or list opens. For more information about this product, see http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=37763.

I hope this chapter has convinced you that SharePoint is not just another nice application; it is the application that Microsoft is using to make almost all of its products work together in a very smooth and seamless way.

In this chapter, you learned that:

  • There are a large number of MS Office 2007 editions — make sure to use the right one.

  • Only these editions will have the full integration with SharePoint 2007: Office Professional Plus 2007, Office Enterprise 2007, and Office Ultimate 2007.

  • With MS Office 2000 and Office XP/2002, you will not have any integration with SharePoint 2007, although you can open and save files in document libraries.

  • With MS Office 2003, you will have a good integration with SharePoint 2007, but still there are things you cannot do, such as starting workflows, reading the Document Property Panel, and easily comparing document versions, among other things.

  • The perfect companion for SharePoint 2007 is MS Office 2007 — especially the Professional Pro, Enterprise, and Ultimate Editions.

  • MS Outlook 2007 has a lot of integration features for use with SharePoint, such as offline storage of documents, two-way synchronization of tasks, a calendar, and contact lists.

  • RSS feed is a new way of keeping track of changes in SharePoint lists and libraries — but only Outlook 2007 has this functionality built in.

  • MS Outlook 2003 and 2007, together with SharePoint 2007, are the ultimate tools for optimizing meeting procedures.

  • Use the Group Policy Templates Office12.adm and Outlk12.adm to configure Outlook and meeting workspaces from a central location.

  • MS OneNote is a fantastic tool for taking notes — It can be shared in real time with other OneNote users by storing its notebook file on the SharePoint server.

  • Use MS InfoPath to create any type of form, from the simplest to the extremely advanced that includes code and connects to external data sources. Save these forms to a SharePoint library, and you can expose their content as columns.

  • There are also a number of other Microsoft applications that directly integrate, or even rely, on SharePoint 2007.

In the next chapter, you will learn more about advanced SharePoint 2007 configurations.

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