Exchange Server 2010 : Outlook Integration (part 1) - Integration Overview

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Even though web-based technologies are very popular, the power and richness are still not up to par with Windows desktop applications. Performance, ease of use, and offline access to data are some of the reasons why desktop applications are still going strong. In fact, SharePoint is often referred to as Office Server to make clear its important relationship with the Office client applications, such as Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook.

How many people do you know say that they "live in Outlook"? It's no surprise. Email is the lifeblood for most organizations, and while SharePoint might be a better repository for some forms of email correspondence, people are wedded to their Outlook client. Fortunately, one of the many aspects where Outlook excels as a universal tool is by integrating with SharePoint. Outlook integration as described in this section is fully supported on both Windows SharePoint Services and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server.

1. Integration Overview

As you'll see, Outlook is a rich client to SharePoint in managing a number of content forms. When working with Outlook and SharePoint, you will mostly be connecting to SharePoint lists and libraries. Outlook will then cache a local copy of the list or library into a local PST file. If you are using Outlook 2007, you have full read and write operations. SharePoint integration with Outlook 2003 is less capable and will be covered at the end of this section.

Connecting from Outlook to any list or library involves the same initial steps. The first step is to access the SharePoint list or library from the browser. From the Actions menu, select the Connect To Outlook option, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Connecting a list to Outlook

At this point, Outlook should start if it is not running already. Inside Outlook, you will receive a prompt asking you to confirm the operation (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Confirming the connection

This prompt is given to prevent websites from establishing rogue or unwanted connections in Outlook. You must select Yes to connect to the list or library. Selecting Advanced allows you to change the folder name and description you see in Outlook. The default folder name is the name of the SharePoint website followed by the name of the list or library. For example, if your SharePoint website is named Team Site and your list is named Calendar, the default name in Outlook is "Team Site - Calendar."

To disconnect from any list or library, you can right-click the name in the navigation panel and select Delete. Doing so does not delete the list or library from SharePoint; it only deletes the Outlook connection. You will lose any changes made in Outlook that haven't been sent up to SharePoint.

You can also see all your connected lists and libraries by selecting Tools Account Settings, and then clicking the SharePoint Lists tab. From this screen, you can also edit or remove connections.

The first time you connect to any SharePoint list or library from Outlook, a new local PST file is created in your mail profile. This file is named SharePoint Lists.pst, and it's where all SharePoint-connected lists and libraries are locally cached.

Permissions that you have in SharePoint will carry over to Outlook. For example, if you only have read permissions to a tasks list, you will not be able to create new tasks in this list from Outlook.

The rest of this section will walk through how to work with many list and library types from Outlook. You'll start by learning how to manage calendars and create meeting workspace sites in SharePoint. You'll then see how to manage contacts, tasks, alerts, and document libraries.

Using Microsoft Access

Microsoft Access can also be used as a client when working with SharePoint lists and libraries. It supports many list types that Outlook does not, such as custom lists, but it does not offer the rich offline editing that Outlook does.
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