Taking SharePoint Server 2007 Files Offline – What are the options?


This blog post aims to compare how Outlook 2007, Groove 2007 and OneNote 2007 enable users to take files offline from SharePoint Server 2007. This is based on the Offline Working Strategy Guide which is available on Microsoft.com for free. This post is targeted at people who work offline and want to view, edit and update documents and/or list items stored in SharePoint without using a VPN.

Offline Working Functionality

The table below provides a succinct comparison of the offline working functionality Outlook 2007, Groove 2007 and OneNote 2007 provide:

Functionality

Groove 2007

OneNote 2007

Outlook 2007

Documents and Files:

Add and edit metadata

ü

û

ü

Document metadata can be modified offline if the appropriate client application, such as Word 2007, is installed. Any metadata changes will be synchronised with SharePoint 2007 along with the document.

 

Document metadata can be modified offline if the appropriate client application, such as Word 2007, is installed. Any metadata changes will be synchronised with SharePoint 2007 along with the document.

Add new files to SharePoint 2007

ü

OneNote files

ü

Files can be added to a SharePoint library, including document, form, picture, report and slide libraries, from within a Groove workspace.

OneNote files can be added to a folder within a SharePoint library, including document, form, picture and report libraries, from within OneNote.

Users can add items to a library via e-mail, if it is configured to receive incoming e-mail. This is supported on multiple libraries, including a document library, form library and picture library. For more information, see http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepointserver/HA100823071033.aspx.

Check-in and Check-out

ü

N/A

ü

Using the Groove SharePoint Files Tool, it is possible to check in and check out documents from a SharePoint document library.

Check-in or check-out is not required as OneNote seamlessly merges changes. If two people make changes to the same text container at the same time, OneNote displays an alert that synchronisation has failed and produces both versions for review.

Checking out a document from a SharePoint library makes it available in editing mode in Outlook. The document can be checked in from within Outlook if connection to SharePoint is established.

Library integration

ü

û

ü

 

SharePoint libraries, including document, form, picture, report and slide libraries can be synchronised with a Groove workspace. Updates can be sent to the library from within the workspace.

 

A synchronised copy of SharePoint libraries, including document, form, picture, report and libraries can be made available within Outlook.

Supported file types

All files

OneNote files

All files

 

Any file can be modified online and offline from within a workspace, provided the appropriate client application is installed.

Only OneNote files can be synchronised with a SharePoint library. However, other file types can be embedded within a OneNote file.

Any file can be modified online and offline from within Outlook, provided the appropriate client application is installed.

Versioning

ü

ü

ü

 

If version history is enabled on a SharePoint document library, it is possible to publish minor and major versions of a document from within a Groove/OneNote/Outlook.

Lists:

 

 

 

Calendar, Contacts, Discussion Board and Task List Integration

û

û

ü

 

 

 

A synchronised copy of all of these SharePoint lists can be made available within Outlook, allowing users to create, read and edit existing calendar entries when offline.

Social Computing:

 

 

 

Blog Integration

û

ü

ü

 

 

Blog posts can be composed in OneNote whilst offline and published to a SharePoint blog from within OneNote when back online. This also requires Word 2007 to be installed.

If incoming e-mail is configured on a SharePoint blog, users can add items to it via e-mail.

RSS Integration

û

û

ü

 

 

 

RSS feeds from SharePoint lists and libraries can be viewed in Outlook.

 

Technical Implementation and Constraints

The table below provides a succinct comparison of how each product delivers the Offline Working Functionality mentioned above:

Solution Component

Groove 2007

OneNote 2007

Outlook 2007

Automatic Synchronisation

ü

ü

ü

 

Updates are automatically synchronised to SharePoint according to a schedule. Network connectivity is required.

All changes are automatically synchronised to SharePoint when network connectivity is established.

Lists, such as a calendar, discussion, task and contacts list are automatically synchronised to SharePoint. However, documents cannot be automatically synchronised.

Communication with SharePoint

Direct/Indirect

Direct

Direct

 

One user at a time can connect a Groove workspace to a SharePoint document library and conduct direct communication. All other workspace members have indirect access via the shared Groove workspace.

Files stored in a SharePoint library connect with a folder stored on the user’s computer. OneNote manages changes between the two.

Files stored in a SharePoint list or library connect with a .pst file and a ‘checked out documents’ folder stored on the user’s computer. Outlook manages changes between the two.

File Synchronisation size

Whole file

Whole file

Whole file

 

A change to a file requires the whole file to be sent to SharePoint when synchronisation occurs.
Note, however, that peer-to-peer synchronisation between Groove workspace members requires only changes to be sent.

If a section of a OneNote file is changed locally, the whole section is sent to SharePoint when synchronisation occurs. However, unchanged sections of the same notebook are not sent to SharePoint.

If a file is modified in Outlook, the whole file is uploaded to SharePoint when synchronisation occurs.

Manual Synchronisation

ü

ü

ü

 

Updates can be manually sent to, or received from, a SharePoint site by a Groove workspace member who has synchronisation control. Network connectivity is required.

All changes can be manually synchronised to SharePoint when network connectivity is established.

All changes to a SharePoint list or library can be manually synchronised to Outlook when network connectivity is established.

Mobile device support

û

û

ü

 

 

 

Users can add items to a list or library via e-mail, if it is configured to receive incoming e-mail.

Recommended number of users

Two million per SharePoint Web site.

Between two and thirty in one Groove workspace.

Two million per SharePoint Web site.

 

Two million per SharePoint Web site.

 

Conclusion

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

Use Groove 2007 when you want to:

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

·         Easily add files to SharePoint

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

·         Store discussions/comments alongside offline files

Use OneNote 2007 when you want to:

·         Take audio, video, hand-written notes offline

Use Outlook 2007 when you:

·         Want to take SharePoint lists offline

·         Are more interested in being informed of changes to lists and libraries, rather than making changes (RSS feed integration).

·         Want to use a mobile phone to take files offline

It’s also worth mentioning Colligo Contributor, a client application that also allows users to take SharePoint files offline. The software comes in two flavours; (1) a desktop client, and (2) an add-in for Outlook. The desktop client, like Groove, enables two-way synchronisation from client to SharePoint. Additionally, it also supports views of lists and libraries whilst offline. The add-in for Outlook provides synchronisation with document libraries and allows users to drag and drop content between Outlook and SharePoint (amongst other features). Overall, Colligo offers some great additional features for offline working. The product isn’t free however, and for most users, Outlook, Groove and/or OneNote may provide all the offline features they need. For more info, see Colligo Contributor.

This article was published by

JamesKemp

James Kemp
SharePoint Architecture Consultant
Microsoft Consulting Services UK
James.Kemp@Microsoft.com

Click here to see my bio page

 

Comments (9)

  1. Michael says:

    Hello,

    great post. Just wanted to add the info about the disconnected options for SharePoint, which I blogged there http://msmvps.com/blogs/laflour/archive/2009/02/14/sharepoint-tip-11-do-you-know-difference-in-disconnected-solutions-for-sharepoint.aspx

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  5. Christophe says:

    My main concern with OneNote is versioning. How can I use OneNote on SharePoint, keep version history, and if needed roll back a previous version?

    Christophe

  6. Mark Bower says:

    mmm..this looks strangely familiar!  Hope life is treating you well James.

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  8. ukpoint says:

    Hi Christophe,

    You can enable versioning on the SharePoint document library and then publish your OneNote notebook to it. I have just tried this to confirm and it brings up version history as one would expect.

    To roll back the version history, I would restore the previous version of the notebook and then save it elsewhere. This should enable you to see the old version (which you can then do what you want with i.e. copy and paste into a new notebook or the existing notebook)…..

    Thanks,

    James (UK SharePoint Team)

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