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SharePoint Workspace (SPW) 2010 Explained, Part 2 of 2 

Posted By:  Yung Chou
Publish Date: 4/5/2010

<Back to Part 1>

Recognizing “workspace” is a key concept for a user to become productive with SPW 2010, I want to focus on the three types of workspaces available in SPW 2010. They are:

  • SharePoint Workspace
  • Groove Workspace
  • Shared Folder 

Regarding software requirements, a SharePoint Workspace in SPW 2010 can synchronize only with a site running on Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, SharePoint Foundation 2010, or SharePoint Online servers. While a SharePoint Files Tool in Groove 2007 can synchronize with a SharePoint document library running on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, Windows SharePoint Services, and later.

SharePoint Workspace

clip_image002SharePoint Workspace in SPW 2010 is a new construct allowing a user who is also a SharePoint content owner to acquire a “local and personal” copy of selected libraries and lists of a SharePoint site. The user can work on the content locally and SPW 2010 will synchronize the changes automatically and on demand with those libraries and lists in the SharePoint site.

When there is connectivity, the changes made to the local copy of libraries and lists are automatically synchronized with the corresponding items in an associate SharePoint site. SPW 210 treats all local changes as high priority and initiates an immediate synchronization with SharePoint. When there is no connectivity, changes made in SharePoint workspaces are stored locally. The changes made offline are synchronized automatically the next time the user connects to the server.

The synchronization between a SharePoint Workspace and the associated libraries and lists of a SharePoint site is bi-directional. Consequently SPW 2010 introduces changes made in a SharePoint Workspace to SharePoint; SPW 2010 also brings in changes made directly in SharePoint by other authorized users to the SharePoint Workspace. The bi-directional synchronization is implied whenever data synchronization happens between a SharePoint Workspace and an associated libraries and lists of a SharePoint site. This two-way synchronization between a SharePoint Workspace and SharePoint is the vehicle to extend SharePoint content creation and some content management form SharePoint to desktop.

SPW 2010 is a response to the business needs of taking the content of a SharePoint site offline due to the increasing mobility in the work environment. Ultimately, a SharePoint Workspace is a “personal” copy of libraries and lists of a SharePoint site that a content owner chooses to take offline. The term, personal, here indicates a noticeable departure of work pattern in SPW 2010 from that in Groove 2007. The following explains.

The SharePoint Files Tool in Groove 2007 is a “tool” in a workspace and not a workspace by itself. A SharePoint Files Tool synchronizes with a target SharePoint document library. And the members of a Groove 2007 workspace where a SharePoint Files tool is added can by default access the content of this tool, i.e. a local copy of an intended SharePoint document library, unless the permissions of the tool are altered within the workspace. On the other hand, a SharePoint Workspace in SPW 2010 is not a tool in a workspace, but a workspace by itself, and has one and only one member, the user who creates the SharePoint Workspace. A user share the changes made in a SharePoint Workspace with other authorized SharePoint users by content synchronization with the corresponding items in a related SharePoint site.

In other words, a SharePoint Workspace is intended for the content owner to have anytime access and can (check out as needed and) work on the content without the need to maintain connectivity with SharePoint. A SharePoint Workspace is nevertheless NOT intended for sharing content; the sharing should still go through synchronization with SharePoint, i.e. via SharePoint infrastructure and security model. While in Groove 2007, it is a different concept: the workspace construct and its tools including SharePoint Files Tool are solely for sharing with workspace members. There are also other implications, like data encryption, that SPW 2010 users and those who are used to Groove should be aware of. The following is a table depicting the encryption in SPW 2010 as published in SPW team blog.


Another important distinction of SPW 2010 from Groove 2007 is that a SharePoint Workspace in one computer DOES NOT synchronize across multiple computers where the same SPW 2010 account is restored. A user will need to create a SharePoint Workspace on each computer, although the user’s SPW account is restored in each computer and the SharePoint Workspace in each computer synchronizes with the same libraries and lists of a SharePoint site. While in Groove 2007, a workspace is automatically synchronized to all computers in which the same user account is restored.

One obvious reason to create a SharePoint Workspace is to have offline access to SharePoint content. Additionally, many may prefer working in a SharePoint Workspace, instead of accessing and administering SharePoint content via a browser, because the tools in a SharePoint Workspace provides a quick and easy clip_image005navigation among libraries and lists, as compared with working directly on SharePoint sites using a Web browser. For example, changing the folder structure in a SharePoint Workspace is simple and very similar to the operations in Windows Explorer, while the same changes made directly in a SharePoint site using a browser interface will require some operational knowledge in SharePoint administration. Also one can switch among lists and libraries