Better with Office – Workspaces

Continuing this series of blog posts, I’m going to talk about document workspaces. The idea behind these is that sometimes a document needs multiple people working together on it. A document workspace is a site in SharePoint that can be used for collaboration. The standard template for this site includes a document library, discussion board, list of users, task list and a few more features to make it easier to work together. The normal method to create a document workspace would be to go through SharePoint’s menus and select create and then choose the appropriate template. But that’s not the only way.

When you’re using an Office program, for Excel Word or Excel, you can go to the main menu, go down to Publish and then choose Create Document Workspace from the options. This will open up a new area to the right of the document (but you can move it) to enter a name for this workspace and select the URL. All you need for this is to know the address of a SharePoint deployment where you have permission to create sites. You may be prompted to save the document, but that’s all it takes to create the site.



The workspace information will be displayed on the right hand side of the document. This contains five tabs: status, members, tasks, documents and links. These items are synchronised between the document and the SharePoint site. Initially, the status will have one item in it and will display the whether or not the document is synchronised with the version on the workspace. This is because you have a local copy of the document open. This status tab will allow you to make sure that the local copy and the version on the server are the same, even when other people are editing it.



The member tab displays information about the people who have been added as users of the SharePoint site. If you have a Microsoft Unified Communications solution, you will see presence icons so you know whether they are available, busy, offline and so on. Initially, this tab will just list yourself. You can click on the “add new members...” link to, unsurprisingly, add new members. This opens up a little window that you use to type in usernames or email addresses. You then choose what level of permissions to give to those users. Do you want them to be able to edit content or just view it or to have control over the site?



The task list allows you to assign work to the various members of the site. You can create new tasks, set alerts and see what workflow tasks are ongoing. Clicking the “alert me” link will open up the appropriate SharePoint page to enter choices about the type of changes you want to be alerted to. The adding tasks and viewing workflow tasks options both open up new windows within the Office program to complete the actions.

The documents tab shows all the documents that are stored in the SharePoint document library and gives you the ability to organise them, add new documents and set alerts. You can’t create new documents from here, but you can upload existing files to the workspace by clicking on the add option. For the documents in the library, you can view status, open files, delete the file and set alerts.

The final tab is links. This simply allows you to view the links that are stored in the site’s links list and add some new ones from within Office.

So you get access to all these SharePoint collaboration features from inside Office. You can create a site, add users, add documents, work together, share tasks and more, without ever opening up SharePoint. This means that people who are already familiar with Office get to work in an environment they know, but still get the benefits of the rich features SharePoint can offer.

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