Exchange Server 2010 : Outlook Integration (part 7) - Document Library Integration

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7. Document Library Integration

While Outlook works best when working with lists, there are some benefits to connecting Outlook to a document library. Document libraries allow users to store files (Word, Excel, PDF, etc.) in SharePoint. As with lists, libraries support check-in, check-out, versioning, and security controls. In addition to just storing a file, libraries also allow metadata to be attached to it. This then yields greater organization, classification, and searching for the files stored.

Figure 23 shows a SharePoint document library that has been populated with a number of documents, along with some corresponding metadata.

Figure 23. SharePoint document library

You connect a document library into SharePoint the same way as with all the lists we have covered. This is how the same document library is displayed after being connected to Outlook (Figure 24).

Figure24. Document library connected to Outlook

If you are using folders in your connected document library, these will also be shown within Outlook. You'll also notice that you have a preview pane on the right for easily reading many Office file formats, including pictures. Document libraries that are connected from Outlook can be found in your SharePoint Lists container. By default, this is located underneath your mail folders in the navigation pane.

All the documents in the library are automatically downloaded and stored in your SharePoint Lists.pst file. This may be good or bad. It's convenient since all content is now available in an offline state; however, for large libraries, the total size of the content may take a long time to download and will cause the PST file to balloon in size. In general, you don't want to be connecting to large document libraries this way.

After downloading all content in the library, you have the option of removing offline copies of large files, which would help decrease the size of your PST file. To do this, just right-click any document in Outlook and select Remove Offline Copy. Figure 25 shows how the list looks after performing this task on two files.

Figure 25. Documents taken offline

You do have the ability to edit downloaded files, but Outlook will neither check out nor check in the file for you. If you open a document from Outlook, it will store a separate editable copy in your SharePoint Drafts folder (inside your My Documents folder). To update the file back on the server, you must open the document again while online. Only then will the file be uploaded to SharePoint.

Using Microsoft Groove

If you are in need of a more complete offline solution for managing your document libraries, consider using Microsoft Office Groove. It is much better at synching document libraries and allows you to automatically upload all documents back into SharePoint in one operation.

8. Outlook 2003 Integration

As you might expect, Outlook 2003 does not deliver the same number of features as you have with Outlook 2007. The primary difference with Outlook 2003 is that your connected lists are entirely read-only. That is, you only have a one-way sync from SharePoint into Outlook.

The other major difference is that Outlook 2003 does not allow you to connect to the variety of list and library types. Unfortunately, you are limited to calendars and contacts only.

With these and other limitations in other Office applications, organizations that are investing in SharePoint are strongly encouraged to upgrade their Office clients to the newer release.

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