Interested in using Microsoft SharePoint to store, find and share your Microsoft Outlook messages? Finding that the out-of-the-box integration of Outlook and SharePoint is awkward to use? SharePoint add-on software called MacroView Message may well be the answer. ( Download a PDF of the full article here )
Out-of-the-box Outlook / SharePoint Integration
There are a number of ways you can save an email message to SharePoint using the native facilities of Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft SharePoint. These include:
Save As from Outlook 2007 or Outlook 2010
Explorer View of a SharePoint document library
Connect to an Outlook discussion and save the message
Email-enable your SharePoint document libraries
Exchange Managed Folders
Unfortunately all of these approaches fall short in one way or another. Frustrations include difficulty of visualizing and navigating the SharePoint environment, attachments being split off and saved separately, poor naming of the saved message files, messages saved in EML format (with the result that they cannot be opened in Outlook) and custom metadata not being prompted for immediately as the message is saved.
Recognizing that better management of email communication is a key issue for many organizations, a number of vendors have developed add-on software that improves the out-of-the-box integration of Outlook and SharePoint. All of these add-ons let you drag-and-drop in Outlook to save an email message to nominated areas in SharePoint, in most cases with automatic capture of email attributes such as To, From, Subject etc.
MacroView Message and MacroView DMF
The Outlook / SharePoint integration provided by MacroView Message is the best-available in the market today. MacroView Message adds a new pane to your Microsoft Outlook environment that makes saving, viewing, finding and retrieving emails and their attachments in SharePoint intuitive and efficient. MacroView Message is the popular choice for organizations looking for a SharePoint-based email management solution that provides advanced functionality and good performance when working with large SharePoint document stores.
The same excellent Outlook integration is also available in MacroView DMF. In addition to Microsoft Outlook, MacroView DMF extends the integration with SharePoint with Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, Adobe Reader / Adobe Acrobat and Windows itself. MacroView DMF enables document management solutions based on SharePoint that are an ideal replacement for your File Shares and even a viable alternative to a traditional DM system.
The key email-handling features of MacroView Message are outlined below. All these features also apply to MacroView DMF.
Browse and Preview Files Stored in SharePoint
MacroView Message adds a new pane to your Outlook environment that displays an intuitive tree-view of all areas of the SharePoint document store for which you have permission. Once you register a SharePoint web application MacroView Message will display all its site collections, sites, libraries, folders and document sets that contain content for which you have permission. This includes the site collections that correspond to My Sites for yourself and your colleagues.
The tree-view extends to show any Metadata navigation that is defined for a Library. For Managed Metadata columns based on hierarchical term sets you can drill down to progressively refine filtering based on the value of that column – effectively creating ‘virtual folders’ of files based on their metadata values.
Clicking on a document library or folder displays the default View of that library in the right pane of Outlook. You can sort and filter any available View and see new / changed views immediately as they are defined in SharePoint. Sorting by Subject arranges the emails in a library by Conversation Topic – the same sort arrangement as in Outlook itself.
MacroView Message displays a formatted preview of emails and other types of file stored in SharePoint, direct from Outlook. You do not need to open an email with large attachments from SharePoint to see what is in the body of the message.
The MacroView Message tree-view enables rapid and efficient navigation of large SharePoint document environments. Favorites enable one-click navigation to frequently used libraries and folders. Your Favorites can be pushed out to you automatically and you can also subscribe to see your colleagues Favorites.
Clicking on a site in the MacroView Message tree-view displays the front page of that site in the right pane of Outlook. This facilitates access to Contacts, Events, Tasks and lists managed in SharePoint.
Drag and Drop Saving of Emails and Attachments
With MacroView Message you can drag and drop in Outlook to save an email (or multiple emails) to ANY document library or folder in SharePoint for which you have permission. You can also drag and drop to save one or multiple attachments.
The additional tree-view pane means that MacroView Message can provide an accurate display of even the largest SharePoint document store, without overloading the MAPI tree by attempting to represent a large SharePoint structure with a large number of extra folders in the Mail Folders pane of Outlook.
Automatic Capture of Email Metadata
As it saves an email to SharePoint, MacroView Message will automatically record email attributes – e.g. To, From, SentOn date/time, Attachment Count etc in like-named metadata columns. An easy way to ensure that these metadata columns are present is to base the document library on one of the library templates that ship with MacroView Message.
As you save emails and attachments MacroView Message will prompt for any custom metadata columns that it cannot set automatically. MacroView Message supports all SharePoint column types – including External Data (based on Business Connectivity Services). If you are saving multiple emails or attachments, MacroView Message lets you capture common metadata and have it recorded for all the files, rather than prompt you separately for the metadata to be applied to each file. Another time-saving feature is the ability to set Personal Default values for metadata columns that you use frequently.
As you save attachments, file system attributes (such as Created Date, Last Modified Date and Author) can also be recorded automatically. That overcomes one of the frustrations reported by folks who move their Files to SharePoint, which is that the Created Date becomes the date you loaded the file to SharePoint, and the original Created Date is lost.
Prevents Duplicate Copies of Emails
MacroView Message automatically names the MSG file that it creates to save an email so as to prevent other recipients from creating duplicate copies of that email in the same library or folder.
MacroView Message can be configured to automatically delete emails from their Outlook folder once they are saved successfully to SharePoint. Alternatively MacroView Message will create a copy of the email in SharePoint and place a tick in the Filed column in Outlook as a visible indicator that the email has already been saved to SharePoint.
Excellent Handling of Attachments
Incoming attachments are saved as part of the stored message and can also be saved separately. You can rename an attachment as you save it to SharePoint – e.g. so that an incoming attachment is stored as the latest version of an existing file with a different name. This is very useful in situations where you send a file to someone for their comments and they email it back with a diferent name.
You can easily retrieve files from SharePoint to insert as attachments or links in new messages – either by right-clicking that file in SharePoint and selecting Insert… or by selecting the file (or files) from search results (see below).
MacroView DMF also enables convenient saving to SharePoint of PDF attachments that have been opened in Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat
Searching based on Content and / or Metadata
MacroView Message facilitates searching based on metadata and / or content for email messages and other files stored in SharePoint, while you work in Outlook. You can click to see a formatted preview of search results and rapidly navigate to and display the document library wherein a search result file is located. You can also save and re-run your searches.
MacroView Message sends queries to the SharePoint Search Engine (or FAST Search if it is configured) - you do not need need to create additional search indexes. If FAST Search is deployed, MacroView Message also supports Refiners.
The Search Panels that ship with MacroView Message can readily be configured and extended to reflect the way metadata is used within your organization. You just need to edit an XML definition file that is stored centrally on the SharePoint farm.
Moving and Copying Emails and Attachments
MacroView Message support for moving and copying files stored in SharePoint is the best available in the market today. You can drag and drop to move or copy files from one SharePoint document library to another, even if the destination library is located in a different SharePoint site collection or web application. As it moves, MacroView Message retains existing Version History, reuses existing metadata and prompts for any metadata defined in that library that is not present on the file being moved.
Email-Enabled Document Libraries
By email enabling a SharePoint document libraries you are able to email directly into that library. Unfortunately the result is EML files that cannot be opened in Microsoft Outlook and attachments split off and saved separately so that it can be difficult to know what email they relate to.
MacroView Email Handler is an optional module for MacroView Message (and MacroView DMF) that overcomes a key frustration of using email-enabled document libraries for managing emails in SharePoint.
When MacroView Email Handler is deployed, emails that arrive in the library via its SMTP email address are automatically saved in the same way as emails that you drag and drop into that library from Outlook. The result is a MSG file that is named to prevent duplicates and can be opened in Outlook. MacroView Email Handler automatically records the attributes of the incoming email in like-named metadata columns (see ‘Automatic Capture of Email Metadata’, above).
Bulk Loading and Updating of Existing Emails
If you already have a large number of emails stored in SharePoint you might be wondering about how these would be impacted if you were to move to MacroView Message. The good news is that MacroView can supply the Standardizer utility, which streamlines the updating of existing email files so that they have the same format, naming and other metadata treatment as emails that you save with MacroView Message.
MacroView Standarizer can also update the structure of existing document libraries so that they have the metadata columns that MacroView Message can record automatically. Standardizer also streamlines deployment of Views to existing libraries – e.g. so that all libraries have a common Emails view.
MacroView Standardizer is popular with organizations that are migrating a large number of emails from Outlook folders – including Public Folders – to SharePoint. One way to handle such a migration is to save them via MacroView Message. A more efficient approach can be to bulk load the emails into SharePoint and then standardize their naming and metadata by using MacroView Standarizer.
When you offline in Outlook and working in Outlook Web Access you are still able to drag and drop email and attachments to the Outlook Folders that correspond to your Favorite document libraries and folders in SharePoint. You can also use Outlook Rules to automatically save copies of incoming and outgoing messages into those folders.When you are next Online and connected to the SharePoint server you can use the Upload Offline Emails feature of MacroView Message to complete the saving of emails in your Favorites folders.
If you are running Office 2010 Professional Plus, the right-click menu of MacroView Message will contain a Connect to SharePoint Workspace item. This streamlines the creation of a SharePoint Workspace so that multiple users, including those working offline, can collaborate on emails and associated attachment files.
Good Performance, even with the Largest SharePoint Environments
With MacroView Message the saving of emails and attachments is performed in the background, so that you can continue working in Outlook while a large multi-item save proceeds.
MacroView Message is designed to provide consistently good performance and efficient resource utilisation when saving to and navigating SharePoint document stores, including those with large, deeply-nested Site Collection / Site / Library/Folder trees and very large document volumes. A key to this good performance and volume capability is the custom web service that installs as part of MacroView Message.
Support for SharePoint and Outlook Versions
MacroView Message will support access to servers running SharePoint 2010. Your MacroView tree-view can display the Site Collection / Site / Library / Folder structure of multiple SharePoint Web Applications – running under SharePoint Server 2010, SharePoint Foundation 2010, MOSS 2007 or Windows SharePoint Services v3. Server-side components are installed by running a SharePoint Solution (WSP).
On client PCs, MacroView Message will run in Outlook 2010 or Outlook 2007. This means that you can stage your deployment of Office 2010 – you do not have to run Outlook 2010 to be able to have good integration with SharePoint 2010.
Client-side installation is via an MSI. There are extensive client-side configuration settings (e.g. whether you want emails deleted from Outlook after they are saved to SharePoint). These settings are all compatible with Group Policy, so you can rollout defaults or enforce certain settings as you see fit.
Download a PDF of the full article here