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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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