Final Review: The Lowdown on Office 2007

Should you upgrade to the latest version of Microsoft Office?

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Sharing with Office applications

The power of SharePoint comes not only from its simplicity in setup but its interaction with Office applications. For example, Excel 2007 offers the ability to render a spreadsheet in HTML and then permits others to view only the parts of a spreadsheet you want them to see via their Web browser. That's a useful feature, but pair Excel with SharePoint and you can create a worksheet that is shared on a SharePoint site (using the Excel Web Access Web Part) and which can be viewed or edited (your choice) by visitors. An example is shown in the right column of Figure 20.

There are interrelationships galore. Information stored in a SharePoint site can be taken off-line using Outlook folders. You can share OneNote notebooks via a SharePoint site, and OneNote's optical character recognition search is then shared with SharePoint (the feature lets you search for text within an image, among other capabilities).

We created our first site in about 10 minutes, added a few Web parts in another five minutes, then rearranged the Web Parts we had added just as easily. By checking a few options, you can add a team calendar (shown in Figure 23); with a few more mouse clicks, visitors can add it to their list of available calendars in Outlook 2007 and then view team and personal appointments in Outlook's new multicalendar view.

Changes made to the team calendar from the SharePoint site are automatically updated in Outlook 2007; changes made to the team calendar in Outlook get synched back with SharePoint.

Share an Outlook calendar with SharePoint

Share an Outlook calendar with SharePoint

(Click image to see larger view)

Once it was set up, we added a new document library for sharing PowerPoint slides. These slide libraries provide a two-way connection between shared content and your application. You can build a PowerPoint presentation and select which slides to add to the library or create a presentation and easily incorporate slides from these libraries (see Figure 24) into your current slide set. If you wish, you can ask SharePoint to notify you when a shared slide changes (when a logo or company motto changes, for example), and you'll be prompted to update your slides the next time you open the presentation.

Any member of the team can be permitted to contribute files to these libraries. These shared libraries, which can store any document type, have an additional benefit: They come with automated check-in/checkout and versioning functionality. SharePoint also enables permissions-based control so you can manage who can access, view and make changes to documents stored on the server. All Office applications add a new "Publish" feature that provides links to the available SharePoint sites.

Share an Outlook calendar with SharePoint

Use slides from a SharePoint library in your PowerPoint presentation (Click image to see larger view)

Users can take advantage of SharePoint's power and simplicity by creating their own "My Site." Not only do they get the same tools as a SharePoint administrator, but they can build and manage their own sites with the same tools. The "Publish" option from within the Office suite puts saving a file to your own My Site document library just a couple of mouse clicks away.

Managing workflow

Another SharePoint feature lets you attach a document to a workflow, so it will be routed from worker to worker following the rules you define. This makes it possible to route a PowerPoint presentation or Excel worksheet through an approval process so each team member can be part of a formal approval process and must sign off on a document. The Workflow Designer lets you specify each step, the conditions to look for, and the actions to take (send an e-mail, update a list item, and so on).

If your organization needs records management, new features let you incorporate repository features -- setting up a vault to ensure records are protected from modification or deletion and building policy-based document retention and destruction schedules is straightforward.

A checked-out document (denoted by a small icon with an arrow) cannot be changed until it is checked in, of course, but just using SharePoint shared libraries (be it a full site or a simple Document Workspace) may solve one common IT problem: controlling the proliferation of a single file running amok -- multiplying as duplicate files on every team member's desk and making it impossible to track who has the latest copy. From within Office applications a new "Publish to Office SharePoint Server 2007" option lets you post a single copy of a document to a central location so team members are always working with the most up-to-date document. (Additions or changes to the library can also trigger e-mail notification, either immediately or in daily or weekly summaries.)

If you can't remember where you have a document, the new Search Center lets you find whatever you need anywhere on the SharePoint site, including looking into the content of shared documents. It can highlight the term you are looking for within the results, collapse duplicate results and offer "Did you mean...?" alternative spellings. You can set an alert so that any new or changed content matching your query triggers an e-mail message.

Don't confuse SharePoint with a wiki. While both are designed to share documents and (to some extent) manage workflows, and both can be viewed in a browser, SharePoint has tight integration with Office applications, can notify you when content changes, can integrate multiple calendars (and sync them with Outlook) and allows that content to be almost seamlessly incorporated into your own documents.

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