Welcome

Welcome to my [Share-Tip-On] blog; where we should lessen our assumption-mistakes by learning from the ones made by others. Our aim is to rearrange our approach to solving SharePoint related challenges therefore [Share-Tip-On] anagrammed from SharePoint; where we believe that prevention is better than cure.

Introduction

When reading some other blogs and responses quite a few people have been taken by surprise by how Microsoft omitted functionality in the relationship between their flagship SharePoint 2010 and the clients that connect to it, this discussion looks at a few of these challenges.

Tip-On… Microsoft SharePoint Workspace 2010

Here are some examples and cases where SharePoint Workspace 2010 would within reasonable expectation provide an out-of-the-box solution but not quite as one would expect it to –

Using a customer’s requirement as premise

Sales people are moving around visiting clients and new quotations are issued or existing quotations are amended. To save time on reconciling these changes an automated way should exist for that salesperson to edit and/or add quotations on the fly. However, some of these clients are in regions where there is little or no internet connectivity – so a way is needed to update/create these quotations without having to reconcile the changes manually afterwards.

A quotations document library is used and various salesmen from across various regions access it already. As each quotation is completed, an approval process is activated on each new or changed quotation. There is also a specific need to differentiate information such as “Quote Number”; “Client Name” and Region”.

As soon as any quotation is created or changed (when synchronized), a notification is sent to the sales director, requiring approval.

Theoretical solution

An already existing SharePoint 2010 environment exists and works. Each user has access and are given instructions to link his/her laptop to the information using the “Sync to SharePoint Workspace” option on SharePoint. Thereafter users can create new documents even when not online and make changes to existing documents while they are on the road via the SharePoint Workspace 2010 client.

Challenges presented by SharePoint 2010

This table lists a selection of possible approaches and how that approach leads to certain challenges in how a person would expect SharePoint 2010 to respond in such a scenario.

Expectation Challenges
Make a change to any metadata such as the quote number or the region from within the SharePoint 2010 Workspace client application. SharePoint Workspace 2010 is unable to provide functionality to edit metadata, it can only be viewed from within the client, this is how to do it –

  1. Right click on the document in the list and select Properties.
  2. A popup window titled “View Item [Read Only] is brought to the front. There is no way to edit this information from the client application.

Possible solution/workaround for editing metadata

When Online

Use the “Copy as Link” function accessed from either the context menu (right click) or the Home ribbon and paste the hyperlink into Microsoft Word/Excel directly (while online/connected) and edit the metadata using the document information panel from within Microsoft Word/Excel.

OR

Circumvent the client application and browse directly to the website.

When Offline – Unattainable, view only.

 

Create a new document (quotation) via SharePoint Workspace 2010 and save it. It is possible to create and save a new document to a document library using SharePoint Workspace 2010, however since it is not possible to specify/edit metadata from the client, the default value for any metadata is used instead.

  • Always specify a default value and make the field a required field.
  • Omitting a default value, leaves a document checked out on SharePoint and invisible to other users.
  • Be sure to specify as the top most option on a drop-down and as the default value for that field a value such as “#Still be defined”, this indicates that the owner had not yet returned to the document to select the correct values.
  • Create an alert on that document library for items changed in “this view” to have SharePoint 2010 send a reminder email to the user, with a link to edit the properties of that item. The owner then returns to the library at his/her leisure to specify the correct classifications.

What works?

Ironically, metadata in a document library wouldn’t seem to be much different from metadata in a list (which is metadata only). As we’ve already determined; it’s not possible to edit metadata of a document from SharePoint Workspace 2010 whether online or offline i.e. directly.

However standard lists responded as expected; exhaustive testing weren’t done to determine if issues existed when creating custom content types.

Any other surprizes?

  • SharePoint Workspace 2010 doesn’t connect to SharePoint 2007; more information here.
  • The URL SharePoint 2010 is located at, must be in the Trusted Sites or Intranet zone, if you don’t fix this – the Find option for the People Pickers won’t work (on lists); here is the error, Untrusted Site This action cannot be performed for untrusted sites. To use Find, you must add this site to the list of trusted sites for your Web browser.
  • External facing websites should always be securely browsed using https.

Summary and close-out

Expect surprises when assuming how software operates. SharePoint Workspace 2010 created a taste for having offline availability and most certainly addresses some requirements yet missing some important stuff. As a software solution provider, when your client needs to use their information in an offline state it is important that they are informed of these shortcomings that often affects the way they envisioned their requirements to be served. However, from experience if your client is informed at this point, the damage in making changes is much less than if these changes should be address at a later stage in the project. Always plan well, insight by implication means to have sight into everything that is needed to accomplish a specific goal.

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