Colligo NewsMicrosoft Outlook 2007 Beta 1 Offline SharePoint Eval – Part 3

The same caveats apply to this post as the last ones on this subject.

I’ve already discussed how offline SharePoint doc libraries work in Outlook 2007 Beta 1. In this entry, I will deal specifically with the other supported list types and conclude with a look at how Outlook 2007 will treat synchronization conflicts. I will make one more post after this (in about a week) and do a wrap up of my overall impressions of offline SharePoint support in Outlook 2007 Beta 1.

Editing and Syncing Other Lists in Outlook 2007 Beta 1

As mentioned previously, Outlook 2007 allows users to take the following lists offline: Calendars, Contact Lists, Task Lists and Discussion Boards. Taking each of these lists offline is done in a similar way to a doc library, namely it is initiated from the SharePoint server. It’s the same in all cases, so I won’t discuss it further here.

Task Lists

Once a task list is downloaded into Outlook 2007, it appears as a new sub-folder under the SharePoint folder. If the user clicks on this sub-folder, task entries are shown in the center pane as with other list types. These tasks are also aggregated with other tasks from other Outlook task lists and displayed on the lower right hand pane. Tasks can be dragged out of the SharePoint offline folder and onto other task lists in Outlook. Items in the task list can be opened, edited and saved back into the list. Similarly, task items in other lists can be copied or moved into the SharePoint task lists. Task editing is performed with the task tool.

Syncing. I was able to sync changes made in Outlook back to the server, including adds, modifications and deletes, however in the beta there seemed to be a small issue syncing tasks assigned to other users back up to SharePoint the server. In this case, the task item that didn’t properly sync was moved to the “Local Failures” sub-folder mentioned in Part 2.

Discussions

Discussions can be sync’d down to Outlook and if the resulting offline SharePoint folder is selected, the items appear as a list in the center pane. Discussion items can be selected and opened with a special text editing tool. Once opened and viewed, the user can choose to reply to the discussion item which opens a new text tool. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to “post” (or save) replies as, like doc libraries, the discussion folder appears to be “read only”.

Copying a discussion item from Outlook onto the desktop was possible by right clicking and dragging. I then changed the desktop version of the item and successfully dragged it back into the offline SharePoint discussion list. However, when I tried to sync this back to Outlook, it was not sync’d up to the SharePoint server. The operation of discussions seems very similar to document libraries where new list items can be created in Outlook but are not sync’d back up to Sharepoint. Because I couldn’t save replies or sync new items to Outlook, I could not verify that sync of discussions work properly.

Calendars

When connecting to a SharePoint V2 or Office 2003 server, Outlook 2007 Beta 1 maintains the read-only access to Calendars. When synchronizing with SharePoint V3 and Office servers, full read/write access is available for connected Calendars. Once sync’d down to Outlook, SharePoint calendars are distinct lists and their entries are not aggregated with other calendars (like tasks are). Meetings can be dragged and dropped from one calendar into another, however. New meetings can be created in SharePoint calendars in Outlook and all changes sync’d both ways.

Contacts

When connecting to a SharePoint V2 or Office 2003 server, Outlook 2007 Beta 1 maintains the read-only access to Contacts. When synchronizing with SharePoint V3 and Office servers, full read/write access is available for connected Contact lists. SharePoint contact list entries that appear in Outlook can be copied onto other contact lists. Likewise, contacts from Outlook can be copied into SharePoint contact lists and sync’d back. This was tested and works well.

Conflict Resolution

Synchronization conflicts occur when an item is changed on the server and in Outlook in between synchronization cycles. For example, a conflict is created if the phone number field of a contact in Outlook is changed by a user when working offline at the same time another user changes the same field on the SharePoint site when working online. Conflict resolution is very important for collaborative team sites where users can edit documents or list items simultaneously offline and online.

When a synchronization conflict is flagged during a sync cycle, the user is notified in the send/receive dialogue after completion of the sync. During this process, the server version is copied onto the Outlook version and the server version remains unchanged. If the user opens the “conflicts” sub-folder under the SharePoint folder, the original Outlook version, with the users changes, is stored there. If the user decides that they would like the Outlook version, they must manually make the necessary changes to the Outlook version and then re-sync. I couldn’t find a way to do this automatically, but this may be improved in the final release.

That’s it for this post. I’m off for a well deserved much needed one week holiday to Mexico, so I will post my final comments on this topic when I return.

Adios,

Barry.

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