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Exploring Outlook in SharePoint

From: SharePoint 2010 Getting Started

Video: Exploring Outlook in SharePoint

As one of the other classic Office applications, Outlook 2010 has a lot of functionality in it to work with SharePoint 2010. But there are several ways to use Outlook with SharePoint that you may not be expecting. To understand why we need to think of the things that Outlook is really good at. Well obviously, it's where you create and send e-mails, but apart from that, Outlook has always been good at keeping your calendar. It's always been good at keeping your contacts list, and task lists. And it's always had a good ability to work offline.

Exploring Outlook in SharePoint

As one of the other classic Office applications, Outlook 2010 has a lot of functionality in it to work with SharePoint 2010. But there are several ways to use Outlook with SharePoint that you may not be expecting. To understand why we need to think of the things that Outlook is really good at. Well obviously, it's where you create and send e-mails, but apart from that, Outlook has always been good at keeping your calendar. It's always been good at keeping your contacts list, and task lists. And it's always had a good ability to work offline.

What do I mean by that? Well, if you have Outlook installed on your laptop, you can connect to the network, download your e- mails and then disconnect. You can be sitting on the plane. You can be working on e-mails, looking at your calendar, looking at your task list without a permanent connection to the network. And that can actually come in handy. We will see how in just a minute. As with the other Office programs, when we're talking about hooking Outlook up to SharePoint, we really need to figure out which way around do we want to go? Are we going from Share Point to Outlook, or from Outlook to SharePoint? And it doesn't limit you.

You just have to figure out how do you start that conversation? Most of the time, you are actually going to start it from inside SharePoint. So let's say, for example, I'm on a SharePoint Team Site here, and I have got a Contacts list on the site called Useful Contacts. This is a very common list to have on a SharePoint site. It's a great thing to be able to share some useful e-mail addresses, useful numbers, whether there is two of them, in this case, or 20 of them. And I could share these between a team of people. But the deal is where do I send e-mails? I don't send the e-mails from SharePoint.

I send e-mail from Outlook. So what I'd like do is get this information into Outlook, and I can do that very easily. When I'm in this list, I can go out to my List tools section and click the List part of the Ribbon. And again, the difference here is I am wanting to do something with the list itself, not with an individual item. What we have here is the ability to Connect to Outlook. And there is an important word here is Connect, not export to Outlook but Connect to Outlook. I am going to click that. It's going to ask Are you sure? Yes I'm sure.

And it's going to even ask me that inside Outlook. Yes I am perfectly sure, and we how that information now available in Outlook. The great thing about this is that it's roundtrip. Let's say I know that there has been an update to Hedda's telephone number. While I can double-click that, I can come in here and change it to 3456, hit Save & Close and go back to SharePoint. I may need to refresh this page, but when I do that, I can see that the phone number here has been updated.

So it's completely roundtrip. Any change I make in SharePoint will push over to Outlook. Any change that I make in Outlook will push over to SharePoint. Now one thing to understand is that it's not replacing your contacts in Outlook with the contacts in SharePoint. It's adding to your contacts in Outlook. So you still actually have your own contacts list. And then what you have is another set of contacts, in this case, contacts from the Example Team Site. If I widen that a bit, we can see the full name of it.

That's the SharePoint site name, and that's the list name. So you could potentially have multiple contacts list synchronized inside SharePoint. So what else can we do? Well, if I go back over to my SharePoint Site, I am going to go into my Calendar here. Again, having a team calendar is pretty useful for having team-wide information about meetings, and deadlines, and milestones. But if you're a heavy Outlook user, you want to drive a lot of the stuff from your calendar in Outlook, and we can. We can connect this calendar to Outlook exactly the same way we connected our contacts list.

I go to the Calendar section of my Ribbon, Connect to Outlook. Yes I'm sure. And now we suddenly have two calendars. You might think what do you mean two calendars? Well, we don't want all our SharePoint calendar information to suddenly integrate with our personal calendar and vice-versa, because that might mean that your own personal information like Visit Dentist and Day Off and Oil Change pushes back to SharePoint. You don't want that to happen. So we do want to keep these calendars separate.

In the same way as having two contacts lists, we now have two calendars. We can just choose which one we actually look at. The default view is actually side-by- side as we're seeing here, but if you want to see a different kind of view, you can actually right-click one of the calendars and click Overlay. Then we see kind of a combined view where it shows me that the focus right now is on my personal calendar with my Visit Dentist, Day Off and Oil Change. But dimmed out behind the scenes is the Class Internal SharePoint Training, Proofs due to Printer, the Weekly Meeting and so on.

And I can just switch between these and switch which one has the focus. Again, like working with the contacts lists, this is actually roundtrip. If I looked at this Weekly Meeting and decided to double-click it, well it's a weekly meeting. It should be recurring. So I am going to hit the Recurrence on that, that this Recurs Weekly, every one week on Wednesday. Click OK. Hit Save & Close. I can see that's repeated over here. I switch back to SharePoint, refresh this page.

And I see that the Weekly Meeting now appears over here. Again, roundtrip, easy to edit in Outlook, easy to edit in SharePoint. The same thing can actually be done with our Task list. I don't have any tasks showing here, but if I wanted to connect it to a task list in Outlook, again I go to my List section on my Ribbon and Connect to Outlook. The last thing I am going to talk about with SharePoint and Outlook is sometimes unexpected. And it's what we can do with the Document Library. Well, usually when people start working with Document Libraries in SharePoint they think about Word documents and Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint files, and that's absolutely what you are going to do.

But there is something interesting we can do here too. If I go into my Document Library, any Document Library, and go to the Ribbon section, the Library part of the Ribbon, I also see the ability to Connect to Outlook. And the question is what does this actually mean? I am going to select that option. Are you sure? Yes I am sure. Now what it's going to do is something very interesting. Over here in my Mailbox section, a new section will be created called SharePoint Lists.

And I see a folder here saying Example Team Site - Shared Documents, meaning the name of the SharePoint site and the name of the library, and it downloads local copies into Outlook. What it's using here is the fact that Outlook has always been able to work offline. Outlook has always had the idea that we can download our e-mails, disconnect from the network and walk away. So we are using that feature of Outlook and kind of piggybacking on that and saying well we can actually download documents into Outlook, so that I can walk away from the network and have a local copies of these documents.

I can work on the documents offline or on a business trip, or on a plane. And when I reconnect to the network and open up Outlook, it will tell me I am going to try and resync your information back to the network. Is that okay? So it can be very useful as a quick way to have offline copies of your documents. Now just to let you know that the recommended way of doing this, if you do know you are going to work offline, is now we have something called SharePoint Workspace, which is very, very good at giving you offline copies of all your stuff, but know that you can do this in Outlook as well.

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SharePoint 2010 Getting Started

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