About SharePoint Files Tool

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SharePoint Files Tool provides the following benefits to organizations storing file content in SharePoint document libraries:

  • Access to file content for selected people outside of the enterprise. The SharePoint Files tool provides a convenient and efficient way to collaborate with people who are outside the corporate firewall. Additionally, the SharePoint Files tool provides a central working environment for teams that are widely dispersed geographically.

  • Offline access to file content. The SharePoint Files tool provides mobile workers, or those who have limited Internet access, with an environment in which they can access, view, and update file content while offline.

  • SharePoint Files tool users can enjoy its rich application features, in addition to features in other workspace tools.

Note the following additional details and recommendations about using a SharePoint Files tool to interact with files stored in a SharePoint document library:

  • The SharePoint Files tool can map only to document libraries in Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 or later. An error displays if you attempt to map to a document library in an earlier version of Windows SharePoint Services.

  • It is recommended to have versioning enabled on SharePoint sites from which you take files into a SharePoint Files tool. Versioning helps minimize the risk of data loss that might occasionally occur because of synchronization errors or conflicts.

  • SharePoint document libraries contain metadata that is not supported or maintained in the SharePoint Files tool.

  • The SharePoint Files tool does not recognize views in SharePoint document libraries. As a result, a SharePoint Files tool may contain more documents than what appears in the document library where certain files are filtered out by views.

How data is synchronized in a SharePoint Files tool

Data is synchronized in a SharePoint Files tool in the following ways:

  • Data is synchronized among workspace members the same way as in a Groove Files Tool: online workspace members send and receive updates as they are saved to the workspace.

  • Updates are sent to or received from the SharePoint site automatically according to a schedule, or manually when the workspace member who has synchronization control initiates a synchronization.

About the synchronizer task in a SharePoint Files tool

A workspace containing a SharePoint Files tool must include at least one member who has all of the following credentials:

  • Access to the desired document library on a selected SharePoint site.

  • The required SharePoint permissions for sending and receiving updates on the SharePoint site.

    The minimum permissions for the synchronizer, given standard SharePoint permissions, is "Owner" with the "Contribute" option enabled. For SharePoint sites that have custom permissions, the synchronizer must have permissions enabled for adding, editing, and deleting items.

  • The required permissions for synchronizing with the SharePoint site. By default, all members except for Guests have permission to synchronize with the SharePoint document library, or to request synchronization control for the tool from the current synchronizer.

    Note: Although a workspace member with the Participant role can usually act as the synchronizer, this role usually does not include permission to delete any file. As a result, a synchronizer whose role is Participant may see synchronization warnings about failed file deletions when they initiate a synchronization.

A member who has the required permissions on both the SharePoint site and in the SharePoint Files tool can take on the responsibility of the "synchronizer": that is, the person who either periodically initiates synchronization between the SharePoint Files tool and the SharePoint site, or who enables the SharePoint Files tool for automatic, scheduled synchronization. In order to accomplish synchronization, the synchronizer must be online and have access to the SharePoint site.

Only one workspace member can be the synchronizer for the SharePoint Files tool. Other members who have the required permission can request taking over the synchronizer task. The member who is currently the synchronizer can then opt to relinquish this role, or decline the request, and retain the responsibility. The synchronizer cannot initiate passing the synchronizer task to another member; the task responsibility must be requested by another member.

If the current synchronizer loses their permission to own this task (for example, if the synchronizer's workspace role is downgraded, or if the synchronizer stops being a member of the workspace), synchronization control is automatically passed on to another eligible workspace member. If there are no workspace members who have the required permissions at this time, the SharePoint Files tool can no longer be synchronized with the SharePoint site and it reverts to standard Files tool functionality.

The name of the current synchronizer displays in the status bar above the tool tab:

Name of the current synchronizer

The status bar informs the synchronizer when there are unsynchronized changes in the tool. When the synchronizer clicks Synchronize Now..., a Preview Synchronization window displays showing all pending updates as well as file conflicts. The synchronizer can take steps to resolve conflicts before proceeding with synchronization.

The current synchronizer should only honor a request for passing the synchronizer task to another member who has access to the SharePoint site and the required permissions on the SharePoint site.

In some circumstances, the synchronizer task should be passed to another member. For example, if the synchronizer will be unable to start a synchronization for a long period of time (perhaps because of a vacation), he or she should tell another workspace member who has the requisite credentials to send a request to become synchronizer. Alternatively, the synchronizer could enable automatic synchronization on a schedule. But this strategy may be risky because it presumes that the synchronizer's computer will be able to run and stay online the entire time.

In the status bar, all workspace members see the name of the current synchronizer and can point at the accompanying folder link icon to display a message box that contains the SharePoint site URL. Workspace members who have the required credentials can click the folder link icon to open a Web browser and go to the SharePoint site, or click Go To SharePoint on the Edit menu.

The status bar also reports for all members the date and time of the last synchronization. All members can click the Calendar icon to see information about the synchronization schedule.

The synchronizer can start several activities by selecting options in the status bar, including synchronizing, changing scheduling options, and resolving synchronization errors.

Options for initiating synchronization

The synchronizer has two options for initiating a synchronization:

  • Manual synchronization. With this option, the SharePoint Files tool and SharePoint site are synchronized only when the synchronizer chooses to start a synchronization.

  • Scheduled synchronization. With this option, the synchronizer sets a specific time interval for automatic synchronization.

    Note: Depending on factors such as the load of current network traffic, scheduled synchronizations may sometimes be postponed by the server until the next scheduled time.

About performing SharePoint source control tasks

Only the synchronizer can do the following SharePoint source control tasks with files in a SharePoint Files tool:

  • Check out files. Checking out a file places a lock on the file on the SharePoint site, thus preventing users with direct access to the file on the SharePoint site from updating it while it is simultaneously being updated in SharePoint Workspace.

    Note: Checking out a file fetches the most up-to-date version of the file from the SharePoint document library, unless the current version of the file in the SharePoint Files tool has unsynchronized changes. In other words, if you edit the file in SharePoint Workspace and then do the check out, you will not overwrite the edited version of the file with the original copy from the SharePoint library.

  • Check in files. Checking in a file from the SharePoint Files tool updates the file on the SharePoint site and removes the checkout lock.

  • Cancel a checkout. Canceling a checkout simply removes the lock from the file on the SharePoint site and makes it available for editing.

About duplicating or archiving workspaces that contain a SharePoint Files tool

You can duplicate workspaces that contain a SharePoint Files tool, or save them as archive or template files. However, note that the SharePoint Files tool in the duplicated workspace, or in new workspaces you create from the archive or template files, will not retain its connection to a SharePoint document library, and will have its functions reduced to that of a standard Files tool.

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