Back in April I posted about the conflicting information on the web discussing the features in Groove 2007 for taking SharePoint offline. My intention was to post shortly afterward about my experiences with testing beta 1 of Groove 2007 to determine what was actually going to be released. In the interim, however, Microsoft released beta 2, so it makes sense to review the later version. As I stated before, the key question I am asking is: “Is Groove an offline client for SharePoint, meaning that it takes SharePoint site structure offline, or is it just for taking Sharepoint files offline and sharing them in a Groove workspace?”
First, the caveats: I’m the co-founder of Colligo, a company focused on supporting the collaboration needs of mobile teams. We’ve just released our Colligo for SharePoint product family, so while I will try to be unbiased, I am not a disinterested third party. I will be looking at the integration of Microsoft Groove 2007 Beta 2 with Microsoft SharePoint 2007. The capabilities of these products could change prior to release by Microsoft and since the documentation is understandably thin at this point, I may not completely understand how all the products function yet.
Groove 2007 Installation and Setup
Groove is a big application. The installer is a little over 200MB. Despite this, installation went quite smoothly. Once installed, it occupied about 700 MB on my hard drive. The reason for the large size is that it is much more than a tool for taking SharePoint offline. It employs a different collaboration paradigm than SharePoint. In Groove, workspaces are created using unique tools and then shared between clients or through Groove servers. In SharePoint, on the other hand, workspaces are created using SharePoint tools and then shared through SharePoint servers.
Getting documents out of SharePoint and in to Groove
After searching around a bit and eventually turning to the documentation, I discovered that Groove 2007 interfaces with SharePoint through a “SharePoint Files Tool” that is invoked in a workspace. When I selected this tool, I was presented with a dialog that says “Click the “Setup” button below to select a document library”. I tried entering the URL of some of my test sites, but quickly realized that Groove 2007 can only interface with SharePoint 2007, it is not backward compatible to SharePoint 2003.
Once I entered the URL of my 2007 test site, I was presented with a list of document libraries and subsites contained within it. None of the lists present on the site are available here – no standard lists such as contacts, events, announcements, tasks or issues and none of the custom lists. In fact, Groove 2007 does not support anything except SharePoint doc libraries – one library, folder or file per tool. To get multiple libraries from a site, I had to instantiate several files tools in the workspace. While they are an important component, doc libraries represent only a small portion of list types available in SharePoint.
For this evaluation I decided to focus on an InfoPath library, called “IEM Form Library”, contained on a SharePoint 2007 site. Since this is an Infopath form library, the column headings correspond to the fields in the InfoPath form template used to create the library on the server. The column values are metadata values that are used to organize the form library and view the completed forms as a list. On my SharePoint 2007 site, this library looks like this:
Once I selected this library to sync with, Groove quickly sync’d the files within it to my local hard drive and then populated the files tool. The downloaded forms library is presented in Groove as follows:
I noticed a difference between Groove and the original site – metadata used to organize the library is not shown in the Groove version. The original columns aren’t there, and they have been replaced by standard default columns. For large document libraries, this can make it difficult to organize and view the information like I can on a SharePoint site. In testing, I discovered that these same columns are shown for all doc libraries. Apparently Groove does not support custom metadata for any of its supported library types.
That’s it for this post. In my next I will look at how files are manipulated and synchronized in the SharePoint files tool in Groove 2007.