SharePoint 2010 : Office 2010 Client Applications (part 2) - Documents and Data Caching

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7/6/2013 7:53:33 PM

3. Documents and Data Caching

Office 2010 offers several different ways to handle document and data caching. Choosing the tool that is right for you will depend on what you need to do.

3.1 Documents

When working with documents, your primary tools are

  • SharePoint Workspace

  • Office Upload Center

  • Outlook 2010

  • Windows Explorer

SharePoint Workspace

SharePoint Workspace is the tool to use for those SharePoint sites that you frequently use and those where you want to make sure that you always have the latest copy of the site content synchronized and available—even when you are not connected to the corporate network. My Site and team collaboration sites are two examples of sites that are well-suited to use SPW to keep content up-to-date.

Office Upload Center

What if you only occasionally browse SharePoint sites and have a challenge remembering what sites you’ve checked out files from and have pending check-ins? Or maybe you’re in a remote location and have a low bandwidth connection? Good news. Office 2010 now includes a new client application named the Office Upload Center. Now by just visiting the Office Upload Center you can see what documents you have most recently opened from SharePoint, manage your locally cached copies, and review and check-in documents (see Figure 8).

Figure 8. The Office Upload Center is a central location for caching all SharePoint files and providing a consolidated view of all files checked out and pending upload back to SharePoint

You can also customize how the Office Upload Center works and how you get notified of changes that are pending or failed to upload and the amount of disk space allocated to the file cache (see Figure 9).

Figure 9. The Office Upload Center provides a variety of settings that you can set, including how much disk space to use for caching files, whether to show notifications, and whether files that are cached offline by the SharePoint Workspace should be displayed in this application

Using the Office Upload Center is the default option in Office 2010 for caching Office files on your PC. It is not required. If you want to change Office to instead use a “local server drafts folder” on your computer and have this work as it did in Office 2007, you can change that option under the Offline Editing Options for Document Management Server Files setting within the Save options in any Office client product (see Figure 10).

Figure 10. Setting Office 2010 to use Office Document Cache or local server drafts location

Outlook 2010

As in Office 2007, Outlook 2010 also offers you the ability to take documents offline. We typically discourage the use of this feature for a few reasons. First, Outlook document synchronization with SharePoint is read-only. Second, do you really want your e-mail client to be synchronizing documents as well as what it already does around your e-mails, tasks, calendars, RSS feeds, and so on? Finally, it appears that Microsoft is starting to move away from Outlook as a rich offline client for SharePoint. The roadmap appears to be that Outlook will focus on being the client for Exchange Server while SharePoint Workspace is evolving into the client for SharePoint server. There will continue to be exceptions to this general rule considering that it does make a lot of sense to have your team calendars, tasks, and contacts from SharePoint integrated in Outlook. This is described further in the following section.

Windows Explorer

Use Windows Explorer to quickly move files between SharePoint and other file systems (such as a network fileshare or your local PC storage) if you are not concerned about applying new SharePoint metadata (inbound transfer) or preserving existing SharePoint metadata (outbound transfer). If you use Windows Explorer to perform an initial upload of files, you can use the SharePoint interface or edit in datasheet function to apply metadata. If, however, you use this function to reupload documents, you may overwrite your metadata. Furthermore, documents stored down to local and shared drives do retain their document property metadata but not SharePoint-specific metadata.

SharePoint Workspace and the Office Upload Center offer richer capabilities than Windows Explorer for working with SharePoint files offline. In addition, for Office-based documents, the new Backstage feature (described further later in this chapter) provides extensive capabilities for working with SharePoint while authoring the documents, which makes it easier for people to perform tasks such as tag documents with metadata, view other authors, and interact with workflows.

3.2 Other Considerations: Synchronization of Office Document Changes and Branch Cache

Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 have made significant improvements under the covers in terms of how document changes are managed and synchronized between the server and your offline copy. For these scenarios, only the changes are synchronized between your PC and the server when updates are made. For example, take a scenario where you have a copy of a Word document on your PC that is 5MB and has been opened from SharePoint 2010. When someone adds a new table and saves the changes to SharePoint, the next time you open the file from the server, only what has changed will be sent to your PC. This is a major improvement, and it improves end-user performance and minimizes network traffic and impact.

Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 added a new capability known as Windows Branch Office Cache. If you have enabled this in your environment, SharePoint 2010 can take advantage of this. Branch Cache aids geographically distributed offices in how they access SharePoint documents over a Wide Area Network (WAN). With Branch Cache, the first time a person in a remote office accesses a file from the remote SharePoint server, a cached copy of that file gets stored on a server located in the remote (branch) office. Subsequent requests for that document within the office get fulfilled from the local branch copy of the file, saving what is often a slower call over the WAN. Branch Cache and SharePoint work together to manage changes and to make sure that security continues to be enforced so that only people authorized in SharePoint can access a certain version of the document.

3.3 Data

Like documents, Office 2010 offers you a number of choices on how to work with taking your data offline. These choices include

  • SharePoint Workspace

  • Outlook

  • Access

  • Excel

SharePoint Workspace

SPW is typically going to be your first choice for working with most SharePoint data. Why? It is the only Office client that allows you to bring most standard and custom lists offline while also allowing you to work with document libraries in the same workspace. SharePoint Workspace also integrates with InfoPath forms, so you can add more structure and data validation around the information that you are capturing. As described earlier, using the integrated Business Connectivity Services (BCS) you now have the ability to work offline with your linked data that ties SharePoint to back-end systems (such as CRM, ERP systems or custom databases based on SQL Server, Oracle, and so on) and be able to perform create, read, update, and delete operations on that data.


As noted earlier, unfortunately there are a few areas that SharePoint Workspace does not yet integrate with SharePoint. The most obvious one is calendars. In this release, Outlook remains your only real option for easily taking a SharePoint calendar offline (see Figure 11). One benefit of doing this in Outlook is that you can then easily compare, overlay, and update both your personal and shared calendar in the same client tool.

Figure 11. Outlook continues to be the best tool for taking a calendar offline from SharePoint and having read/write access. To take a calendar offline, select the Connect to Outlook option from the Calendar tab in the Calendar Tools section within the SharePoint ribbon.

Access and Excel

Both of these applications continue to offer the ability to work with SharePoint offline (see Figure 12). Typically, the cases where you want to consider either tool are for specific point solutions and scenarios. For example, maybe you want to quickly integrate and join SharePoint data with other data sources so you can run some complex queries and reports. In this case, Access is likely your best choice. What if you want to take your SharePoint list data into a rich client where you can do advanced graphing and charting, or add conditional formatting and maybe a pivot table to slice and dice all of that data? Excel is probably the tool you want to use here.

Figure 12. The ability to take list data offline in Excel, Access, and other Office clients can be located in the Connect and Export section of the List Tools command group within the SharePoint ribbon

3.4 Recommendations

Office and SharePoint 2010 offer a few different choices for working with documents and data. In summary:

  • SharePoint Workspace should be used for sites that you use often, such as collaborative team sites or your My Site, or those sites that you need to have offline access to your SharePoint lists and documents.

  • Use the Office Upload Center as a one-stop shop for information and usage for all of the SharePoint files that you have viewed and checked out—regardless of which site the files originated from. This is especially useful for those sites that you access infrequently.

  • Outlook should only be used for working with SharePoint team data that intersects with your personal information management. Calendars are one example. Tasks, contacts, and discussion boards make sense in some scenarios. In general, using Outlook to synchronize document libraries is strongly discouraged.

  • Windows Explorer should be used as a last resort if you find that working through SharePoint Workspace, the Office Upload Center, or via the browser is not appropriate for a specific document management scenario.

  • Branch Cache in Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 is an option for helping to speed up SharePoint file access for remote branch offices.

  • Excel and Access are great solutions for creating composite mash-up applications, rich data reporting, and integration with the server-side capabilities provided by Excel Services and Access Services.

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