Tutorial

Previewing SharePoint document libraries in Microsoft Outlook

Microsoft Outlook's reading pane allows users to preview SharePoint document libraries without having to open them or check them out. This can be a big timesaver when viewing Microsoft Word documents or PowerPoint presentations. But Outlook's reading pane doesn't work with all document types. Find out how to view documents using Outlook's reading pane and learn what happens when you try to view an unsupported document type in this tip from Microsoft Exchange Server expert Brien Posey.

When you click on a document in SharePoint, Microsoft Outlook displays it in a reading pane. Users don't need to check out the document or open it as a read-only copy. For example, a Microsoft Word document appears in its native form within the reading pane (Figure 1). Clicking on a document displays it in the reading pane almost instantaneously.

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Figure 1. Outlook displays a Microsoft Word document in the reading pane. (Click on image for enlarged view.)

While being able to display a Microsoft Word document in SharePoint is useful, organizations need to view many other document types as well. Outlook can handle multiple document types.

If I select a PowerPoint presentation, for example, Outlook allows me to scroll through each individual presentation slide within the reading pane (Figure 2). The SharePoint Web interface, on the other hand, does not allow this type of document previewing.


Figure 2. Outlook displays an entire PowerPoint presentation in the reading pane. (Click on image for enlarged view.)

Previewing unsupported documents in Outlook

Using Outlook's preview pane can be useful, but it raises a few questions. What types of documents does Outlook's preview pane support? What happens if you try to preview an unsupported document type?

More on Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint:
Third-part tool moves Outlook attachments to SharePoint

Integrate Exchange 2007 and SharePoint 2007

How to access SharePoint sites through Microsoft Outlook

You can visit Microsoft Outlook's Trust Center to see which types of documents you can preview. To view the Trust Center, click on the Tools menu and select the Trust Center option.

When the Trust Center opens, click on Attachment Handling and then click on Attachment and Document Previewers. Outlook will then display all of the file types that can preview (Figure 3). You can also disable file types by deselecting the corresponding check box.


Figure 3. View Outlook's Trust Center to see which file types it can preview. (Click on image for enlarged view.)

If you choose to view an unsupported file type, the preview pane will inform you that the file cannot be previewed because there is no previewer installed for it (Figure 4). There is, however, a link that you can click to browse for additional previewers online.


Figure 4. Microsoft Outlook cannot natively preview all document types. (Click on image for enlarged view.)

Click on the link to visit a Web page that lists which previewers are natively included with Outlook 2007. The site allows you to download a free .XPS document previewer. You must go through the Office Marketplace to get third-party previewers.

About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a five-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional award for his work with Exchange Server, Windows Server, Internet Information Services (IIS), and File Systems and Storage. Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, Brien has written for Microsoft, TechTarget, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal website at www.brienposey.com.

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This was first published in April 2009

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