We”ve been playing around with the today and haven”t found anything too surprising yet. We”ve installed the new server and the client apps and, so far in testing, Outlook, Access and Groove seem to provide the same level of capabilities as Beta 2 for taking SharePoint offline, although there seem to be some improvements and changes. Once we”ve completed the testing I”ll put together evaluations and post them here as I did for the previous beta versions of Groove and Outlook.
In preparation, I did some searching on the web to see what others had been saying. I noticed an August 31st post by Eric Cherng where he described the need for offline access to SharePoint content:
So many times in the past I had to meet with a client in their office so the day before I would download all my documents stored in SharePoint one by one.
He went on to describe why it”s hard for many “road warriors” to deal with the server connectivity issues when they travel to customers and partners:
Extranet access is one possible way to avoid the need to download local copies, but you still have the problem of needing an internet connection. Being at the client site, sometimes IT security makes it a big pain to get internet access (ie. have to get permission, need to authorize the machine, dynamic or static ip, WEP/WPA key, …). There are so many other things you have to worry about, why deal with another issue?
Eric then provides a good overview of the features in Outlook 2007 for taking some of the SharePoint content-types offline. Upon first reading I thought he reported that Outlook 2007 can detect changes to offline document libraries and automatically upload them to the server. So I tested that capability right away. Nope, it was just my misreading of his post. He was referring to detection of changes to document libraries on the SharePoint server (which he says was a bit unreliable in the beta 2 version). In fact, Outlook 2007 still only supports one way sync of docs to the desktop. You must upload changed documents one-by-one using another Office application (such as Word or Excel). If it”s not an Office document, you are out of luck. Changes must be uploaded manually when back online.
I also noticed that he mentioned support for “wiki pages” – a library of .aspx pages that can link to wiki pages and other objects online. However it”s difficult to see how this offline implementation is useful for most users, since they would have to view and edit aspx code using an application like SharePoint designer (the old FrontPage). This is certainly not recommended for the average user. Support for offline wiki SITES would be useful, but Outlook 2007 doesn”t support that yet.
Eric went on to say that Outlook 2007 supports a subset of SharePoint content and that users can use MS Access to get some of the other types. I don”t want to give you the impression that he was negative about the Office 2007 capabilities (far from it), but as I mentioned in the last post, I believe the need to use several applications may be confusing to many users.
Great post, Eric!
By the way, if all you need is one way sync of SharePoint content to your laptop, you might want to check out Colligo Reader, which provides a more complete “read-only” SharePoint offline experience. Best of all, it”s free!