SPTechCon: Joshua Haebets on ‘Accommodating the Mobile Workforce with SharePoint 2010’

Sharing its dedicated URL on Friday morning at SPTechCon, Joshua Haebets pointed out at the beginning of his Accommodating the Mobile Workforce with SharePoint 2010 session that his presentation would be "broadcasting online, using Windows Live to broadcast, so anyone, anywhere can watch it online."  Joshua explained that the live broadcast of the presentation was made possible via the Office Web Apps, which allow users to view and edit Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote documents directly in the browser, noting that "If someone has a license for Office, they have a license for Office Web Apps. 

Joshua said, and later demonstrated, that the Office Web Apps integrate tightly with SharePoint.  Addressing the topic of document compatibility, Joshua said that almost all file types are present and accounted for, but the few unsupported exceptions include: IBM protected documents, spreadsheets that depend on DDE, and view-only support for documents with tracked changes.

Joshua then provided a brief overview of the architecture behind viewing and editing each type of Office Web App's documents in SharePoint, including a mention of the autosave feature, noting that "There is no Save button in Office Web Apps."  Joshua pointed out a few things to consider:  "Where are the services going to run?"; "Will document libraries default to Office Web Apps?"; and "How will you publish PowerPoint broadcasts to the Internet?"

Joshua explained that Office Web Apps are turned on at the site collection-level, and that the settings include the option to choose to Open Documents in Client Applications by Default.  As well, Joshua said that co-authoring is available in the Excel and OneNote Office Web Apps, and that Office Web Apps are supported on: IE 7 & 8, Firefox 3.5, Safari 4, and that "Service Pack 1 will introduce Chrome."

Shifting into demo mode, Joshua demonstrated the editing, co-authoring, and autosaving of a OneNote document which he had opened from SharePoint.  He then provided a similar demo with Word, showing and telling that you can only co-author in the client (as with PowerPoint), and not in the Office Web Apps.  With his Excel demo, Joshua pointed out the Where's the Save Button? button in the Ribbon, and the corresponding help file which explains the autosave feature.  Joshua also provided a short PowerPoint demo, viewing and editing a document, and explained that you can use the Office Web Apps on mobile devices, at Internet kiosks, etc.

Moving on to address SharePoint Workspace (formerly Groove), Joshua pointed out that it's available as part of the Office 2010 Professional edition.  Explaining that "It's the client for SharePoint," allowing for the "offlining" of documents which reside in SharePoint, Workspace connects to SharePoint "the same way your users do" (i.e., respecting your firewall), and that "You can drag and drop a file into Workspace and it will be uploaded into your SharePoint site."  Joshua also said that when you're online and "a change is made to a document in SharePoint Workspace, only the change is sent back up the pipe, not the entire document." 

Following an overview of the sync model, including some sync capacity limitations of SharePoint Workspace (including: 30,000 items for lists, and headers-only mode with more than 1,800 documents), Joshua said that, "In the future, there  are some parts being addressed in Service Pack 1, coming in just a few weeks … and I know that document limit is going to be increased."  Regarding sync frequency, Joshua said that if SharePoint is overloaded, it will "back off" and return to sync later.  Joshua showed that the sync status is clearly shown via a status bar progress dialog which shows the date and time of the last sync, and error states (if applicable).  Sync limitations include a limit of 30,000 items in a list, and 500 documents, and by default, there is a limit of 2,000 SharePoint documents that can be taken offline. Joshua explained that the only way to raise that limit is via a change to regedit, and he provides the PowerShell scripts necessary to make the change in his blog post, External List limits with SharePoint Workspace and Outlook.

Joshua said that, within SharePoint Workspace, document libraries provide full check-in/check-out capability, version control, full metadata, there's a notification when other users are editing a file, and there is a Save to Workspace shortcut in Office that "makes it as easy as saving to a file share."  As for what doesn't sync with Workspace, the list essentially amounts to anything that's not in a list or library.

Shifting back into demo mode, Joshua proceeded to demonstrate "some of the many features within SharePoint Workspace."  He began by taking a site offline, showing the option to Sync to SharePoint Workspace in the Ribbon, as well as on a single list in SharePoint (if you only want to sync one list rather than an entire site), and demonstrated co-authoring of a Word document.  Joshua also explained that when you're online, every time you open a document, SharePoint Workspace will check to see if there's a newer version (that has fallen between the 10-minute default autosave) and will grab that one for you if yes.  If you're offline, the local version of the document will be used.   Joshua explained that "all that magic happens through the Office Document Cache … which saves locally, and in the background it pushes the changes back up to SharePoint."

Joshua's next demo was the customization of a list form in InfoPath, inserting a new field, changing the font color, then opening the form in SharePoint and adding a new item to the list.  Next, after successfully pulling the list down to SharePoint Workspace, Joshua demonstrated that it was now synched with the list on SharePoint.

Joshua's final demo involved "Taking data from external systems offline using SharePoint Workspace."  In SharePoint Designer, in order to take customer contacts data from a SQL Server offline, this involved choosing Table view, associating Operations that users would have access to with the data, and saving the model.  Using the Create Lists & Form button in the Ribbon created the external list in SharePoint as an external content type.  Opening the list in SharePoint, Joshua then explained the Sync to SharePoint Workspace process, noting that this external list functionality is only available in the Enterprise edition (along with BCS Web Parts). 

In conclusion, Joshua confirmed that, completing the mobile experience, Office Web Apps are available on your mobile devices as well, as is the offline solution provided by SharePoint Workspace.


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