In my previous article in this series, I showed you how to get started using SharePoint to collaborate with others on Word documents. In this article, I'll provide you with a more in-depth look at this method of document collaboration.
The Shared Workspace pane
You saw the Word Shared Workspace task pane in my previous article, and can see it again below in Figure A. This pane appears in Word when you select Tools | Shared Workspace, and provides you with a number of status indicators and enables you to make changes to your SharePoint space without having to use Internet Explorer to separately visit your space.
|The Word Shared Workspace pane|
Take note of the six icons across the top of the workspace. In order, these icons are:
- Status: Provides you with important information about the document in your shared workspace. For example, if you and another user have made conflicting changes to a document, you will get a message on this tab along with a way to correct the problem.
- Members: Shows you the other members of the workspace and gives you a way to add additional members as needed.
- Tasks: Allows you to track outstanding task items for the document workspace as well as add new tasks and assign them to other team members.
- Documents: A list of all of the documents present in the SharePoint workspace.
- Links: This tab gives you a way to share Internet resources that may be pertinent to the document topic with other team members.
- Document Information: Shows you information about your document, including the name of the creator and the person that most recently modified the document. You can also enable and view document version history from this tab.
You'll see these tabs in action throughout this article.
Adding documents to your workspace
When you are working collaboratively with your peers to develop a substantial product, you may not be able to stay confined to a single document. Therefore, SharePoint and Word give you the opportunity to add additional documents to the same workspace. For example, suppose you are consorting with your teammates to develop a budget and budget justification document for the upcoming fiscal year. You may have a separate justification document for each executive level. Further, you probably have one or more Excel budget spreadsheets. While I won’t be discussing Excel in this article, Excel workbooks can be added to your SharePoint workspace from within Excel itself using the same methods you learn here.
In the last article, I showed you how to add additional documents to your workspace by using the SharePoint Web site. In this article, I’ll show you how to add documents to your workspace using the Shared Workspace pane in Word.
To get started, click the Documents tab on the Shared Workspace pane.
|The Documents tab in the Shared Workspace pane.|
At the bottom of the window, look for the "Add new document" option and click it. This opens up a file dialog window in which you can find the file you want to add to the document workspace. Click the OK button once you find the right document.
|The Add New Document dialog box.|
When you’re done, the new document will appear in the documents list and Word will also let you know which document is currently open. As you can probably imagine, if you have a lot of documents in your workspace, things could get pretty confusing.
|The document list now shows both documents in the workspace.|
To make use of one of the other documents in the list, either right click the document’s name or, once you move your mouse over the file name and the drop down arrow appears, click the down arrow and select "Open in Microsoft Word".
Adding new folders to your workspace
The reason you have a physical file cabinet and that Windows lets your store files in folders is to make it easier to find what you’re looking for later on. SharePoint gives you the same flexibility. You can even add additional folders to a workspace from within Word by clicking the “Add new folder” option from the Documents tab. Up pops a small window asking you for the name of your new folder. Once you provide the name, it shows up on the Documents tab as shown in Figure E.
|The new folder shows up with the remainder of the documents.|
Enabling document versioning
Have you ever worked on a document and, late in the creation process, found that you need some information from an older version of the document that you’ve overwritten? With SharePoint’s versioning, these kinds of problems are a thing of the past. When you use versioning, each time you make changes to a document and then save those changes, SharePoint creates a separate copy of the document, thus providing you with a historical look at the whole document creation and modification process.
By default, versioning is disabled for your document workspace. To use versioning, you need to enable the feature. From the document workspace in Word, go to the Document Information tab and select the “Version history” option.
|The document information tab.|
When you click this option, Word shows you a list of the various editions of the document as shown in Figure G.
|Without versioning enabled, you see only the current edition.|
To enable versioning, click the option “Modify settings for document versions”. This opens a Web browser window with a configuration page that lets you change the settings for your document workspace stored on the SharePoint server. From this page, under Document Versions, change the selection to “Yes” – see Figure H. Click OK when you’re done.
|Enable document versioning.|
Now, after you make changes to your document and save it, a version is added to the version history. Note that a new version is not created every single time you hit the Save button. Only when you exit the document, open it back up, make changes and a new version will be created.
|There are three versions of the document now.|
Reverting to an earlier version
It's happened to me more times than I can remember -- I came back to a document that I had been working on and made changes that made the document worse. With versioning enabled, going back to an earlier (and maybe better!) version of a document is a piece of cake.
In Figure I above, note that I have selected the first version of the document, which enabled the buttons labeled Restore and Delete. To restore a selected version, click the Restore button. Word asks if you really want to replace the current document. Afterwards, Word presents you with the restored document, free of any misguided meddling.
Assigning a task
As the coordinator or leader for a particular effort, you may, at times, need to assign specific tasks to other members of the document collaboration team. From the Shared Workspace pane in Word, click the Tasks tab. To assign a new task, click the "Add new task" option at the bottom of the window.
|The Tasks pane.|
Clicking the “Add new task” option opens a new task window on which you specify a variety of details about the task you would like to assign. Include a title and description so the assignee knows what you expect. Speaking of which, the drop down box marked “Assigned to” contains a list of the people who are members of the document workspace. In Figure K, I’ve assigned a task to myself.
|Provide the details related to this task.|
During your collaborative efforts, you or your team members may run across Web links that provide useful information related to your project. Place these items in your SharePoint workspace by using the Links tab on the Shared Workspace pane.
To add a link, from the Links tab, click the “Add new link” option.
|The Links tab.|
At a minimum, you need to provide a URL and a description for the link being added. Optionally, you can also provide notes about the link.
|Type the URL and a description for the new link.|
The end result
I’ve made quite a few additions to the shared workspace in this article. So, what is the final outcome? You’ve seen all of the changes reflected in the various tabs in Word. Let’s take a quick look at the shared workspace itself.
|All of the changes are reflected on the shared workspace home page.|
Nice and neat
This shows you the power of the product, really. While my examples are very simplistic, imagine this multiplied. All of the information about your project is stored in one nice, neat place.