Microsoft Outlook 2007 allows you to cache certain types of Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0 or Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 resources so they're available offline. To a lesser extent, SharePoint caching and synchronization is also available in Outlook 2003.
Outlook 2003 allows you to access resources such as contacts and calendars while offline. However, when working offline, cached SharePoint resources are treated as Read Only. Outlook 2003 doesn't offer offline access to SharePoint document libraries.
Synchronizing SharePoint resources with Outlook 2007
The exact method you should use to synchronize a SharePoint resource depends on its type. For example, if you want to synchronize a SharePoint document library, you would open Internet Explorer and navigate through the SharePoint site to the desired document library.
Choose Connect to Outlook from the Actions menu and SharePoint may verify that you want to perform this action. If you receive this prompt, click Yes.
Outlook will now open and a dialog box will ask if you want to connect the SharePoint document library to Outlook. Click Yes to establish a connection.
When you configure Outlook 2007 to cache items for offline use, messages, calendars, contacts, etc., are copied to an offline folder file (.OST file); however, SharePoint doesn't use this file.
When you establish synchronization between Outlook and SharePoint, Outlook will create a new .PST file called SharePoint Lists. This .PST file is located within the user's profile folder. You can't delete this file without breaking the synchronization, as it's directly involved in the process. This .PST file is tied to a user's individual Outlook profile and cannot be used by other Outlook profiles.
SharePoint synchronization doesn't occur in real time. Instead, Outlook performs a full synchronization when it launches and when you click the Send/Receive All button. At other times, Outlook performs partial syncs to refresh the information without the overhead of a full synchronization.
Outlook 2007 synchronizes the folder or list that you're currently working with when you click on a list or a library; when you create, modify or delete a SharePoint item through Outlook; or when you enable shared content.
Outlook 2007 and cached copy limitations
You should understand which resources are available to you as well as any limitations that exist when working with cached copies of these resources. Outlook 2007 allows you to work with cached copies of calendars, contacts, tasks and discussion boards as if you were online. You can create, modify or delete individual items within these resources offline; your changes will be synchronized the next time you connect to the SharePoint server.
Although Outlook 2007 provides improved SharePoint synchronization compared to Outlook 2003, there are limitations. Outlook 2007 doesn't let you synchronize SharePoint announcements, custom lists, surveys, database applications or similar types of resources.
You can synchronize SharePoint document libraries with Outlook 2007. But technically, individual documents within a synchronized library are treated as Read Only when you're working offline. However, it is possible to open a document, modify it and save the modifications to your SharePoint Drafts folder.
About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a five-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) 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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