TweetFollow Us on Twitter

New Tools for Collaboration:

Volume Number: 25
Issue Number: 07
Column Tag: New Tools for Collaboration

New Tools for Collaboration: Introducing Microsoft Document Connection

"SharePoint parity for Macs?," or, "What users need to know about Microsoft's newest collaboration tool."

by William Smith

Making working with SharePoint a little more seamless

Windows in a Windows world...

Microsoft products for Windows are made to work together - seamlessly.

Windows users can log in to workstations with their Active Directory credentials and from that point forward they have seamless access to internal resources such as SharePoint, Microsoft's workgroup collaboration server. When they open documents from SharePoint sites, they can edit and save them as if everything existed on their Desktops. No authentication and no switching between applications.

Life is good for Windows users in a Windows world.

Macs in a Windows world...

On the other hand, to be a Mac user in a Windows world can be challenging at best or downright aggravating at worst. To edit a SharePoint document, a Mac user must log in to the site, check out and download a document, edit it, use a browser to upload and check in the document and specify whether or not to save over the existing file. That's hardly the transparent and seamless experience that Windows users enjoy.

Life is not seamless for Mac users in a Windows world.

A new SharePoint client for Macs

Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU) has introduced a new application in Service Pack 2 (SP2) for Office 2008 for Mac called Microsoft Document Connection. Document Connection was first introduced as the Microsoft Office Document Collaboration Companion at Macworld 2009 and has since then undergone a name change and interface update during its private beta this past spring.

Document Connection offers Mac users a "more seamless" experience with SharePoint 2003 and 2007 sites as well as with Office Live Workspace, which means this tool isn't just for the enterprise but for school and home users of Office for Mac too. It is installed with the free Office 2008 for Mac SP2 update and is not available separately.

Why is "more seamless" in quotes? Although Document Connection does make working with SharePoint and Office Live Workspace easier, it's still a separate application that must be running to facilitate interaction with the servers. Compared to the old way of working with SharePoint, though, this is of little consequence and shouldn't discourage anyone from using it.

Using the Document Connection

The Creative Agency

Let's examine the features and details of Document Connection by putting it into use in a fictional group called the Creative Agency. The Creative Agency is the name for a team of designers, artists, production workers, copywriters and traffickers working within the Marketing department for a large enterprise.

This group of about 20 Mac users lives in a predominantly Windows environment. They not only provide creative content for marketing promotions and advertising campaigns, but they provide in-house services such as preparing presentations for Sales and Executives.

The Creative Agency has been instructed to handle most of their projects using SharePoint so that other departments can submit work and track progress. This has been painful for the Mac users since using SharePoint has been a very manual process for a lot of work. They have been working with SharePoint using Safari and Firefox on their G5s. The budget for new Intel Mac Pro workstations, which would allow them to at least access SharePoint in virtual Windows machines, keeps getting delayed.

Setting up Document Connection

Marty is a production artist within the Creative Agency. His role is to merge design layouts, art and copy into various electronic formats and make them ready for proofing or press. He and the rest of the group have been given an overview of the new Document Connection application in a one-hour staff meeting and now he's ready to set up his workspace and begin using the software, which was installed over the weekend.

He locates the Microsoft Document Connection.app application within the Microsoft Office 2008 folder in his Applications folder and double-clicks to open it.


Figure 1. Document Connection window

Without connecting to a SharePoint site or an Office Live Workspace site, Marty can do very little other than browse a few menus. Using the Add Location button, he enters the same URL into Document Connection that he would use to connect to the Creative Agency SharePoint site. He has three options to authenticate to his SharePoint server: Basic, Kerberos and NTLMv2. He chooses Kerberos from the Authentication drop-down menu because his Mac is bound to Active Directory and he can take advantage of single sign-on. Once logged in to his Mac, he will not have to continue entering his login credentials to connect to his SharePoint sites.

For the curious Sys Admins: Document Connection stores its data in ~/Library/Microsoft/Office 2008/. Images and files are cached to "Document Connection.mdccache", a package-style folder that mirrors the SharePoint site folder hierarchy. Connection data, such as server addresses and file metadata, is stored in a "DocumentConnection.xml" file. Because this is not a .plist file, Document Connection cannot be managed using Managed Client for Mac OS X preferences (MCX).


Figure 2. Add Location for SharePoint

The Creative Agency site is set up in SharePoint to act as a portal to some sub-sites - Art, Copywriting, Design, Production and Traffic. Therefore it contains no document folders or lists on the main site. When Marty compares what he sees in Document Connection to the SharePoint site, he finds that a folder represents each sub-site.


Figure 3. Creative Agency SharePoint site in a web browser


Figure 4. Creative Agency SharePoint site in Document Connection

Just like the SharePoint site, Marty can start at the top level of the Creative Agency website, represented in the source list at the left of Document Connection, and begin drilling down into sub-sites, document libraries and folders to find what he needs. (The "users" icon on a folder denotes a sub-site, the "document" icon on a folder denotes a document library and folders are plain folders.) He will, however, have a frequent need to access some time sheet forms that are buried a couple of folders deep. These time sheets are being modified and updated all the time with new billing codes, so keeping copies of them on his Desktop isn't practical. Instead, he can navigate to the Time Sheets folder in the Production sub-site and drag these forms to his Favorites Files in the source list.


Figure 5. Favorite Files

Marty has another SharePoint location that he frequently accesses for style sheets. This is a folder of more than 200 template files and documents for formatting customer brochures and it is located under the Design sub-site of the Creative Agency website. Dragging all of these documents to his Favorite Files area would not be practical. Instead, he navigates to the Style Sheets folder in Document Connection and drags it under the SHAREPOINT header in the left-hand source list. This area, similar to the Favorite Files area, can be used for favorite folders as well as favorite sites. While he's at it, Marty goes ahead and adds a few more favorite folders to the SHAREPOINT sites list.


Figure 6. Favorite sites and folders

What Document Connection can and cannot do

Before going any further, let's talk about what Document Connection can and cannot do.

SharePoint offers many features such as file storage, calendars, discussions lists, task management and surveys. Document Connection is strictly for managing files. That includes documents and image files. It cannot connect to, read nor manipulate calendars, blogs, wikis and other site items that you can see through SharePoint in a web browser. Files only.

Document Connection also cannot create, edit nor delete document or image libraries. Instead, it can only interact with the contents of existing libraries. Again, files only.

Think of Document Connection as a SharePoint file browser. It is actually akin to a Windows-only SharePoint menu item called Explorer View, which provides navigation via a simple folder hierarchy and enables quick file uploads and downloads. While Document Connection does not offer a tree list view, it does offer a simpler view of shared libraries and folders that can be traversed using keyboard commands or the mouse.

Starting work

Now that Marty has set up his SharePoint connection and added some favorites for quick access to frequently visited areas, he's ready to start working. He has received instructions for a simple job to update a logo in a customer brochure.

First, he reviews the style sheet for the job. Style sheets are simple Microsoft Word documents containing font lists, logo placement instructions, approved colors and examples of acceptable style. The Design team maintains these style sheets whereas Marty is part of the Production team. He has read-only access to their files. Therefore, Marty selects the style sheet and clicks the Read button in the menu bar. Document Connection downloads the document to a temporary location on Marty's computer and opens the file in Microsoft Word. The file icon in Document Connection indicates the document is open for "Reading".


Figure 7. A file open for Reading

After viewing the document and simply closing the file, Document Connection automatically updates its status to reflect no activity.

Next, Marty needs to find a black & white logo for the brochure he's updating. Since he often has to modify logos he has added the Logos folder to his SHAREPOINT locations. He doesn't find a black & white version of the logo he needs but he does find a color file that he can quickly convert in Photoshop. This time, instead of double-clicking the file in Document Connection, he right-clicks the file and selects Save As... from the contextual menu.


Figure 8. Save As... contextual menu

Marty could also drag the file to his Desktop or to a folder in the Finder. In this case, since his "Work in Progress" folder for this project wasn't in view, he decided to use the Save As... command to open a dialog window where he could navigate through his local folders.

Later, the new black & white logo is ready and Marty needs to place the image into an existing QuarkXPress document. That document is also located on SharePoint in the customer's folder. When he locates the XPress document, he simply double-clicks the file, which downloads the XPress document from the server and opens it in QuarkXPress. This time Document Connection displays the status of the file as "Editing".


Figure 9. A file open for Editing

About editing files

By allowing Document Connection to download a file for editing, you're also allowing it to handle the upload as well. This is where Document Connection shines. Document Connection will not only download a file but it will also open the file in your default application. This is something that Safari with SharePoint will no longer do automatically for security reasons. Also, uploading can be as easy as simply saving the document, clicking the Upload button in Document Connection or quitting the editing application.

Different documents will behave in different ways, though. Document Connection is part of the Office 2008 for Mac SP2 update and Excel, PowerPoint and Word have themselves been updated to work with it. They are Document Connection aware. These three applications will provide the most seamless user experience because they can signal Document Connection when you make changes and save a file.

While a document is open in any of these three Microsoft Office applications and when the Save button is clicked, the application will signal to Document Connection to upload changes to the SharePoint server immediately. Document Connection will indicate that it is uploading the file below the file name.


Figure 10. A file Uploading to SharePoint

Non-Office applications will require some additional effort to keep document updates on the server. The QuarkXPress document that Marty selected earlier through Document Connection will still open in QuarkXPress and Document Connection will reflect that the file is being edited. However, updating the server with changes in the document will require two steps instead of just one.

When changes to a non-Office document have been saved using the Save command, those changes are stored in the locally cached version of the document. The user must do one of two things to upload those changes to the server. He can return to Document Connection and click the Upload button to force an upload where he will have the choice to Upload Changes or Upload File. Upload Changes will keep the file open for further editing whereas Upload File will upload the changes and cancel the editing status in Document Connection. If the file is still open when Upload File has been selected, it will remain open but no further changes can be uploaded through Document Connection. Further changes will have to be made locally, saved to a new document and then uploaded via SharePoint or through Document Connection manually.

Document Connection is aware of the applications it has launched. Therefore, if a file is open for editing and then the application is quit, Document Connection is smart enough to automatically upload the latest saved changes to the SharePoint server.

Another SharePoint feature that Document Connection can utilize is Check Out and Check In. A file opened from Document Connection is automatically locked while it is being edited to prevent someone else from editing the same document at the same time. This is a short-term lock. Users can click the Check Out button when they want to put a long-term lock on a file. This is ideal for files that need extensive editing and may be in progress for several hours or several days.

Changes to documents will be saved locally to the machine until the user clicks the Check In button. During the Check In process Document Connection will prompt the user to enter comments about the changes to the document, which is similar to the behavior of checking in a document through SharePoint.


Figure 11. Comments during Check In

If the SharePoint owner has modified the View for that particular folder to display the Check In Comment column, then other users can see the comments uploaded through Document Connection.


Figure 12. SharePoint with Check In Comment column

With changes made to the document and a PDF proof uploaded to the SharePoint site, Marty finishes with a little trick he learned in his training. He selects the PDF in Document Connection and selects Copy from the Edit menu or just types Command + C. In his E-mail message to the Customer Service representative for this account, he now selects Paste from the Edit menu or just types Command + V. This pastes the full URL to the document into his message. To view the proof, his recipient just clicks on the hyperlink Marty has created for her.

Navigation

After a while, Marty has become familiar with Document Connection's capabilities and its limitations and he's comfortable using it in his production environment. Now, he wants to kick it up a notch. As a production artist, he's very keyboard savvy and prefers to use the mouse as little as possible or take advantage of shortcuts and contextual menus. This affords him an extra speed boost, which can be critical during peak production cycles. Document Connection has several ways to navigate its interface.

Using the Up and Down arrow keys, Marty can move up and down through the items in the file list on the right. Using Command + ≠ and Command + ø, he can move up and down the folder hierarchy just like he can with the Finder.

Between the toolbar at the top of the Document Connection window and the file list below is a navigation bar with a breadcrumb trail that shows Marty his location within the SharePoint site at all times. Clicking anywhere within that breadcrumb trail will take him directly to a folder or site. If he decides that he wants to add one of these breadcrumbs to his SHAREPOINT list for quicker access, all he has to do is drag it from the breadcrumb trail into the source list.


Figure 13. Breadcrumb trail in the navigation bar

To the left of this breadcrumb trail are Forward and Backward buttons that are similar to those in the Finder and with similar keyboard commands. Using Command + ] or Command + [, Marty can navigate through his history of locations. This is akin to using the Forward and Backward arrows in a web browser too.

Document Connection makes use of a couple of contextual menus too. Marty uses his Adobe Acrobat application to view most of his PDFs in SharePoint because he needs to either add hyperlinks or apply a password before sending out a document to a client. Sometimes, though, Marty just wants to view the PDF and he finds that the Preview application is much faster to load. He can right-click or Control-click the PDF in Document Connection, select either Edit With... or Open Read-Only With... and then select Preview from the list of available options.


Figure 14. File list contextual menu

Again, Document Connection is limited and Marty often still needs to refer to the SharePoint website in his web browser. The second contextual menu, which Marty uses a lot, takes him directly to the site or folder he has selected under SHAREPOINT in the source list. He just needs to right-click or Control-click the site or folder and select Open in Browser... to open his default browser to that location.


Figure 15. Site and folder list contextual menu

The best shortcut that Marty has found, however, is the ability to upload or download multiple documents at once. His Windows counterparts have enjoyed being able to use the Explorer View menu item in SharePoint to copy many files to the server or to their Desktops and now he's finally able to do this as well. All Marty has to do is open a documents folder in Document Connection and drag one or more files from his computer into the window to upload his files. He can download multiple files by dragging them from Document Connection window to his computer.


Figure 16. Multiple simultaneous uploads

A similar method applies if Marty wants to edit, check out or check in multiple files. To edit multiple files he can choose all of them in the Document Connection window and select Edit from the File menu. This is especially handy if he needs to make quick changes to many files at once. Remember, if he's using an application outside of Office for Mac then he can edit and save but none of his changes will be uploaded until he either clicks the Upload button in Document Connection or quits his editing application.

Quitting time

So, by the end of the day, Marty's work is done. He's made his edits, uploaded his files and he's ready to go home. He starts quitting his applications before shutting down his machine, but when he tries to quit Document Connection he receives a message telling him that he still has files open.


Figure 17. Files open for editing

Uh oh, which files? Marty has worked in two-dozen folders all day and whatever is open could be anywhere on the SharePoint server. For the first time, he notices the Drafts item in the source list on the left and selects it. Sure enough, he sees an image file that is part of a large group of files he was editing earlier. He had minimized it into his Dock and had forgotten about it.


Figure 18. Drafts

A quick double-click on the file in Document Connection restores the image file to view and Marty saves his work to the server. The second time he is able to quit Document Connection.

What would have happened if Marty had quit Document Connection while the file was still open? One of its features is that it will preserve the status or file state between launches. If Marty had decided to wait until tomorrow morning to make the final edits then he could still click the Quit button and quit his editing application too. The next day he would be able to launch Document Connection, look in the Drafts list and re-open his document. Document Connection would still upload his file just as if he had opened it from the SharePoint server a few minutes earlier.

What lies ahead?

Send feedback

The MacBU has released very little about its next version of Office for Mac after Office 2008, therefore public thoughts about future plans for Document Connection are just speculation. Will it continue to be an additional tool bundled with Office for Mac like Remote Desktop Connection and Messenger? Or will its functionality possibly be incorporated into a later version of the product like the Open XML File Converters for Office 2004? How seamless will MacBU make working with SharePoint in the future?

As a first-generation SharePoint tool for the Mac, Document Connection has a lot of room for improvement. While it's leaps and bounds beyond using the Level 2 SharePoint web interface provided to Safari and Firefox clients, it still needs picture previews, better integration with non-Office applications and support for the additional information that we can only view in SharePoint itself.

Life can be good for Mac users too in a Windows world. Most of Office for Mac's applications have Send Feedback tool under the Help menu to send suggestions or make requests to the MacBU. Use it to help make Document Connection a better tool. MacBU will be all ears.


William Smith is a technical analyst supporting Macs in a Windows world in the Twin Cities, a six-year Microsoft MVP and is co-founder of the Entourage Help Blog http://blog.entourage.mvps.org. He can be reached at bill@talkingmoose.net.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Apple Pro Video Formats 2.0.1 - Updates...
Apple Pro Video Formats brings updates to Apple's professional-level codes for Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, and Compressor 4. Version 2.0.1: Support for the following professional video codecs Apple... Read more
Maya 2015 - Professional 3D modeling and...
Maya is an award-winning software and powerful, integrated 3D modeling, animation, visual effects, and rendering solution. Because Maya is based on an open architecture, all your work can be scripted... Read more
EtreCheck 2.2 - For troubleshooting your...
EtreCheck is a simple little app to display the important details of your system configuration and allow you to copy that information to the Clipboard. It is meant to be used with Apple Support... Read more
OmniOutliner Pro 4.2 - Pro version of th...
OmniOutliner Pro is a flexible program for creating, collecting, and organizing information. Give your creativity a kick start by using an application that's actually designed to help you think. It's... Read more
VLC Media Player 2.2.1 - Popular multime...
VLC Media Player is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, MP3, OGG, ...) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It... Read more
Nisus Writer Pro 2.1.1 - Multilingual wo...
Nisus Writer Pro is a powerful multilingual word processor, similar to its entry level products, but brings new features such as table of contents, indexing, bookmarks, widow and orphan control,... Read more
Tinderbox 6.2.0 - Store and organize you...
Tinderbox is a personal content management assistant. It stores your notes, ideas, and plans. It can help you organize and understand them. And Tinderbox helps you share ideas through Web journals... Read more
OmniOutliner 4.2 - Organize your ideas,...
OmniOutliner is a flexible program for creating, collecting, and organizing information. Give your creativity a kick start by using an application that's actually designed to help you think. It's... Read more
calibre 2.25.0 - Complete e-library mana...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital librarian... Read more
Things 2.5.4 - Elegant personal task man...
Things is a task management solution that helps to organize your tasks in an elegant and intuitive way. Things combines powerful features with simplicity through the use of tags and its intelligent... Read more

Lifeline... (Games)
Lifeline... 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: Lifeline is a playable, branching story of survival against all odds. Using your iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch, you will help... | Read more »
Pandemic: The Board Game Has Gone Univer...
Don't let the virus win! Now you can download Pandemic: The Board Game, by F2Z Digital Media, for all of your iOS devices. The app is based on the fantastic board game by Z-man games. As employees of the CDC, you and your friends will have to work... | Read more »
Get Ready to Read Bloomberg Business on...
Fans of Bloomberg Business will soon be able to get all their news on the Apple Watch. The app lets you get the top headlines on your main screen and bookmark stories to read later. Using the motion detection in the Apple Watch, the headlines are... | Read more »
Watch This Homerun is Batting for the Ap...
Eyes Wide Games' Watch This Homerun is purportedly the first sports game coming to the Apple Watch, where you'll be up to bat as the pitcher tries to out-manuever you with fastballs, curveballs, and changeups. Using one-touch controls you can try to... | Read more »
Field Trip Can Take You on a Guided Tour...
Field Trip, by Google’s Niantic Labs, is an exploration app that gives you details about the awesome places you can discover wherever you find yourself. The app can show you local history, delicious restraunts, the best places to shop, and places to... | Read more »
Watch Your Six - SPY_WATCH is Infiltrati...
SPY_WATCH, by Bossa Studios, is a new game designed for the Apple Watch. Runmor has it your spy agency has fallen out of favor. To save it, you'll need to train-up a spy and send them on missions to earn you a stunningly suspicious reputation and... | Read more »
Both Halo: Spartan Assault and Halo: Spa...
Halo: Spartan Assault and Halo: Spartan Strike, by Microsoft, have officially landed on the App Store. Spartan Assault pits you against the Covenant with missions geared to tell the story of the origin of Spartan Ops. In Spartan Strike you'll delve... | Read more »
The Apple Watch Could Revolutionize the...
It’s not here yet but there’s that developing sneaky feeling that the Apple Watch, despite its price tag and low battery life, might yet change quite a lot about how we conduct our lives. While I don’t think it’s going to be an overnight... | Read more »
Mad Skills Motocross 2 Version 2.0 is He...
Mad Skills Motocross 2 fans got some good news this week as Turborilla has given the game its biggest update yet. Now you'll have access to Versus mode where you can compete against your friends in timed challenges. Turborilla has implemented a... | Read more »
Kids Can Practice Healthy Living With Gr...
Bobaka is releasing a new interactive book called Green Riding Hood  in May. The app teaches kids about yoga and organic style of life through mini-games and a fun take on the classic Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Sale! 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros for up to $...
 MacMall has 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $255 off MSRP. Shipping is free: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1794.99 save $205 - 15″ 2.5GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $2244.99 save $255 Adorama... Read more
New 2015 MacBook Airs on sale for up to $75 o...
Save up to $75 on the purchase of a new 2015 13″ or 11″ 1.6GHz MacBook Air at the following resellers. Shipping is free with each model: 11" 128GB MSRP $899 11" 256GB... Read more
Clearance 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros availab...
B&H Photo has leftover 2014 13″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $250 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.6GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro: $1129... Read more
Clearance 2014 MacBook Airs available startin...
B&H Photo has clearance 2014 MacBook Airs available for up to $200 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 11″ 128GB MacBook Air: $729 $170 off original MSRP... Read more
16GB iPad mini 3 on sale for $349, save $50
B&H Photo has the 16GB iPad mini 3 WiFi on sale for $349 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
Mac minis on sale for up to $75 off, starting...
MacMall has Mac minis on sale for up to $75 off MSRP including free shipping. Their prices are the lowest available for these models from any reseller: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $459.99 $40 off - 2.6GHz Mac... Read more
Taichi Temple First Tai Chi Motion Sensor App...
Zhen Wu LLC has announced the official launch of Taichi Temple 1.0, the first motion sensor app for Tai Chi, offering a revolutionary new way to de-compress, relax and exercise all at the same time.... Read more
CleanExit – Erase your Hard Drive Quickly, Se...
CleanExit works on both Macs and PCs, securely and permanently deleting all files from any type of hard drive, flash-based drive or camera media card making the files permanently unrecoverable.... Read more
250 iPhone 6 Tips eBook Released for $1.99
Bournemouth, UK based iOS Guides has released 250 iPhone 6 Tips, a new eBook available in the iBookstore that reveals a wealth of tips and tutorials for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Priced at $1.99,... Read more
TigerText Introduces First Secure Enterprise...
TigerText, a provider of secure, real-time messaging for the enterprise, has announced the launch of TigerText for the Apple Watch. TigerText for the Apple Watch enables users to securely send and... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
DevOps Software Engineer - *Apple* Pay, iOS...
**Job Summary** Imagine what you could do here. At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring Read more
*Apple* Pay - Site Reliability Engineer - Ap...
**Job Summary** Imagine what you could do here. At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring Read more
Sr. Technical Services Consultant, *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple Professional Services (APS) has an opening for a senior technical position that contributes to Apple 's efforts for strategic and transactional Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.