Most SharePoint lists are "internal" to the SharePoint site. Users create and save items directly in the list on the site. Some SharePoint lists are "external". These lists, which retrieve data by using the Business Connectivity Services (BCS) capabilities of SharePoint and Office 2010, pull data directly from external systems, such as Line-of-Business systems or Web 2.0 services.
You can download and synchronize external lists in a SharePoint workspace just as you would for other types of SharePoint lists. In the content pane of SharePoint workspace, these lists are sorted under the heading "External Lists" when content is sorted by "Type".
This Help article describes how the behavior and features of external lists differ from other types of SharePoint lists in a SharePoint workspace.
Note the following requirements:
External lists must be hosted on SharePoint Server with Enterprise Client Access License.
Your system must have Microsoft .Net Framework 3.5 or higher.
Your Microsoft Office 2010 installation must have the "Business Connectivity Services" option enabled. This option, which appears under "Office Shared," is enabled by default. If you voluntarily disabled this option during installation, you can update your installation using the Add/Remove Programs in the Windows Control Panel. If you are unsure about whether you can enable this option, see your administrator.
Downloading external lists
While you are downloading an external list to a SharePoint workspace, you will see an additional installation dialog that is required to install the list. You will also see these prompts when selecting the “Sync Tool” command while using the external list in the SharePoint workspace.
If you select the Configure option in the Sync to Computer dialog box in order to review the available lists and libraries, external lists will appear in the Configure Settings dialog box with the following differences:
The Item and Last Modified fields will be empty. SharePoint Workspace is not able to provide an item count or last modified date for an external list because this data is not stored in SharePoint.
The Download drop-down menu is set to the Default view. If the selected external list contains multiple views, you can select a different view by selecting Selected Views from the drop-down menu, and then clicking the Edit button.
You may want to select a different view if the list contains a large amount of items, and you want to narrow the scope of the download.
Synchronizing external lists
Updates you save in an external list in a SharePoint workspace are immediately synchronized to the external system if you are online.
However, automatic synchronization between the SharePoint site and an external list in a SharePoint workspace occurs much less frequently than with other SharePoint lists, usually about every 180 minutes. If you want to make sure you have current data, including any possible structural changes to the list, you can initiate manual synchronizations as needed.
Searching for content in external lists in a SharePoint workspace
The SharePoint Workspace Search feature (powered by Windows Search 4.0) does not return results for content in external lists. However, you can use the Search This List feature available in each individual external list.
Sorting, grouping, or filtering items in external lists
You can click the drop-down arrows next to column headers in an external list to see the same sorting, grouping, and filtering options that are available for external lists on the SharePoint site.
Refreshing the local cache
Although rare, it is possible that other Microsoft Office applications may interact with the same data you use in an external list in a SharePoint workspace. Since SharePoint Workspace does not synchronize with other Microsoft Office applications, it then becomes possible that external list data may have been updated in another application, and be out of date in SharePoint Workspace.
To ensure that you are using the most up-to-date content, as compared to other Office applications, you can refresh the local cache: Click Sync and then click Refresh from Local Cache.
Note: The content in the external list is also updated every time you select the list in the workspace.
Resolving conflicts and errors in external lists
For information on resolving conflicts and errors in an external list, please see Resolving conflicts and errors in an external Lists tool.