Quick show of hands: How many of you have people in your
organizations that collaborate on documents using one of these methods:
- Users e-mail various versions of a document around to
one another, and make their specific changes.
- Everyone creates a small part of a document, and then
sends their part to one person that is responsible for compiling the final
- Use a “public” share to store a document and
everyone works on the document in that space.
If your users use any of these methods for document
collaboration, you’re likely very familiar with the shortcomings inherent
within. For example, as users e-mail documents around, besides the fact that huge
documents are taking unnecessary space in your mail store, you’re never sure
which version is the most recent. In situations in which a single user is
responsible for compiling a final document, the various parts may be seriously
inconsistent, leaving that poor user with the job of making the final document
look cohesive. Finally, using the “public folder” method introduces
the risk that unauthorized people will gain access to information, although
with appropriate access rights, this wouldn’t be a problem.
So, what do you do? Use a Windows SharePoint Services Document Workspace for document
collaboration. With its document sharing capability, check-out feature, access
controls and versioning controls, your users can collaborate on documents
ensuring security, consistency, and accessible document history.
For this article, I’m assuming that you have installed
Windows SharePoint Services included with Windows Server 2003 R2 and have
configured SSL for the site, as I have done in my lab. If you want to quickly
add SSL capability to your site and don’t want to get a real certificate or
build your own certificate authority, use the SelfSSL
tool included in the IIS
6.0 resource kit. In order to integrate Word with your new Windows Server
with SharePoint, you must have SSL configured, so don’t skip this step.
For my lab configuration, I am running the services on a
server in a domain named “example” in which I am also running
Exchange, which further enhances SharePoint’s
collaboration capabilities, as you will see in this article. Further, I’ve
added my SharePoint server to the Trusted Sites zone on my workstations. I have
also configured SharePoint to allow the creation of sites and workspaces by
users assigned to the Contributor and Web Designer roles. You can do this by
going to the Modify Site and Workspace Creation page (Home | Site Settings |
Configure Site and Workspace Creation) and selecting the checkboxes next to the
two Site Group roles indicated above. Click OK when you’re done. Now,
non-administrative users can create new sites. You’ll have to decide on your
own if you want to centralize site creation or allow your users to create new
|Allow these groups to create new sites.|
Before you get into the Word portion of this article, you
should also create some SharePoint users by going to Home | Site Settings |
Manage Users. On this screen, click Add Users. You can add local or domain
users. You also need to decide to which roles the new users will be assigned. Click
|Add a user by user name and assign the role.|
On the next screen, unless you’ve already provided the user’s
e-mail address or user name, you’ll be asked to provide this information. SharePoint
also allows you to optionally customize and send a welcome message to the new
user. Click Finish when you’re done.
|Provide the user’s e-mail address and, optionally, customize and send a
welcome message to the user.
That’s all I’m going to cover with regard to the server
configuration side of this process for now. I’ll get into the Word side of
things now and address other possible SharePoint tasks as we go along.
Document collaboration using Outlook
There are a number of ways you can collaborate with others
using SharePoint. The most common way that collaboration begins is by e-mailing
a document in Outlook to someone with whom you want to contribute to your work.
To use this method, after you save your document locally,
from Word, choose File | Send To | Mail Recipient (as Attachment). Outlook will
open up with a send message window with your document attached to the message. Now,
type in the e-mail address of the recipient and then click the Attachment
Options button. This opens the Attachment Options task pane in which you can
choose to create a SharePoint document workspace and share the document. In Figure D below, you can see what this
window looks like for a sample document that I created. Note the “https”
prefix in the “Create Document Workspace at” box. Once you have your
options selected, click the Send button.
|When you click Send, you document workspace is created and your partner
gets a message.
If the document workspace creation is successful, you’ll get
a message in your Outlook inbox indicating such. Otherwise, the message will
point you to the reason for the failure.
The message recipient gets the message you sent, indicating
that he can work on either the local or the shared copy of the document. I’ll
open up the recipient’s message and click on the link to the shared copy of the
document, which brings up the “Test3” document workspace, as shown
below in Figure E.
|The “Test3” document workspace.|
Note that the member list includes two users — both the
sender and the recipient. You can, of course, send the invitation message to
multiple recipients with each name showing up on the member list. Also note
that the name of the shared space takes on the name of the Word document that
was sent with your attachment. Using this method, you are not able to control
the name that SharePoint assigns to the shared workspace.
I’m going to go over other methods for creating document
workspaces before I get into updating documents that have already been added to
Word’s collaboration features
You don’t have to use Outlook to send a document to get
started with document collaboration. Using tools built right into Word, you can
create document workspaces on your SharePoint server. Before I get too deep
into Word’s collaboration features, there is one important point to make: As
with the Outlook collaboration method, you need to initially save a local copy
of your document after which you can add it to a document workspace on your
SharePoint server. Afterwards, when you close and reopen the document, Word
will check if your local copy is the latest version and will update it
accordingly. SharePoint handles document editing conflicts by asking you which
version you want to keep.
There is a key difference in the way that Outlook and Word
handle the creation of the document workspace. In Outlook, the document
workspace takes on the name of the document itself. When you create a document
workspace through Word, you can specify the name of the document workspace
while your document itself retains its name inside the workspace.
Word’s collaboration features are accessed through Word’s
Share Workspace task pane accessed at Tools | Shared Workspace. Figure F shows you what the Shared
Workspace task pane looks like when you initially open it.
|Word’s Shared Workspace task pane.|
To create a new document workspace from within Word and save
your document to the new workspace:
- Save your document.
- Go to Tools | Shared Workspace.
- In the Shared Workspace task pane, provide a name for
the document workspace.
- In the Shared Workspace, type the path to your
- Click the Create button.
Once your workspace is created, the Shared Workspace task
pane changes a little, reflecting the name of the new workspace, and lists the
members of the space. Note that there are six tabs in the Shared Workspace
pane, with the second from the left highlighted in Figure G. I’ll explain the purpose of all six tabs in the next
article in this series.
|The Members tab allows you to add people to your project.|
Add members to your project
In the tab shown in Figure
G, note the “Add new members” link. You can probably guess that
the purpose of this link is to add other people to your project, as you would
if you sent these same people an e-mail message in Outlook with your document
attached. Upon clicking this button, Word opens the Add New Members dialog box
on which you can add users by either e-mail address or user name. Figure H shows you this window while Figure I shows you the information
verification window. Click Finish when you’re done.
|Type in the user names or e-mail addresses of the users you wish to invite
to your project.
|In this example, all of the fields were present in Active Directory, so I
don’t have to provide any more information.
After clicking Finish, Word offers to send an e-mail
invitation to these new members.
|Would you like to send a message to these users?|
Visiting the link shown in the message shows the user the
new document workspace. The sample workspace I created above is shown in Figure K.
|The “Testing Stuff” workspace contains a document named “This
is a test” and has three members.
Add documents to your project
Not every project consists of a single document. Using Word,
you can add multiple documents to a single workspace. To accomplish this:
- Save the second document locally.
- Browse to your shared workspace (i.e. visit http://yourserver/name-of-your-space).
- Click the “Add a new document” link.
- On the Upload Document window, browse to find your
- On the Upload Document window, click the Save and Close
|Browse to find the file you want to add to the repository.|
|When you’re done, the file shows up in the Shared Documents section of your
You can also add new documents to the workspace from within
Word. I will go over this method for adding new files to the workspace in my
Editing shared documents — the basics
I’m not going to get into a significant explanation of how
documents are manipulated in the shared workspace (I’ll do this in my next
article and also explain features such as versioning). However, I will show you
what happens when you edit a document in the repository.
To do this, I’ve logged into another machine as “auser”, one of the users I assigned to my new document
workspace. A document can be opened just by clicking its name in the Shared
Documents list you saw in Figure M. From
here, you can make any necessary changes to the document. Upon saving the
changes, however, you will always get a “Save As” dialog box with the
default save location being the document workspace on your SharePoint server.
|The Save As dialog box when editing a SharePoint-hosted
After you save your changes, the “Modified By”
column in the Shared Documents list changes to reflect the name of the person
that last modified the document.
This article explained the basic steps to document
collaboration using Word and SharePoint. In the next article in this series, I
will go over more advanced items, and expand on some of the items I briefly
introduced in this article.