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Accessing SharePoint Data and Libraries

Once data has been added to your SharePoint Libraries and Lists, it would be convenient to access and manage this information using familiar tools that were used when data was local our hard drives or on a local network.

The following list summarizes several of the ways in which SharePoint data can be managed:

  1. Access the SharePoint library or list directly using your web browser
  2. Use Windows Explorer to open your library
  3. Place shortcut to your library in the Favorites area of Windows Explorer
  4. Use SkyDrive Pro (Office 2013) or SharePoint Workspace (Office 2010) to synchronize data to your local hard drive from the SharePoint library
  5. Use Outlook to synchronize data
  6. More…

All the screenshots that follow come from the recently updated Office 365/SharePoint site or from Office 2013. You already have access to the new SharePoint sites, but the Office 2013 update on your machines will be coming soon.

This is not intended to be a full training session, but an overview of several options for maintaining the contents of your SharePoint libraries.

Open in SharePoint Library

This is the most direct and simple method to see, retrieve and upload file objects to your library. Using a browser, you can choose to manage your library by uploading single or batch numbers of files to the library. Opening the file while using your browser will give you the choice to open using either the Web App or, if installed, a local desktop version of the same application. The desktop application is more fully functional and, in some cases at least, may be required to help you do your job completely. Data in the library can have other “meta” data associated with it. This meta data further describes your file that makes it easy and convenient in SharePoint to customize the views by which you can see and navigate large numbers of file objects in the library. Searching for data in your library is especially quick , returning large quantities of data almost instantly. However, you can only work with one item at a time from the returned list.

Open In Windows Explorer

With your SharePoint Library already open, you can choose to open it in Windows Explorer. With this option, selecting files to drag-and-drop for copying or moving into other file system folders or SharePoint libraries is a snap. Double-click on a file to open it up in its associated application. If you want to insert a file as an attachment into an email this is the most convenient way to do it. All data still resides only on the SharePoint site and library.

When you finish your work and close this window, there is no history of it having been opened to go back to the same library. So…… next……

Place Shortcut to your library in the Favorites area of Windows Explorer for repeated access

While your library is open in Windows Explorer, right-click on Favorites in the left-side navigation area of the Windows Explorer window. Choose, “Add current location to Favorites”. You will then notice a new reference to your library appear under the Favorites section so that you can repeatedly access the same library. Again, you can you drag-and-drop, or Cut and Paste to move data objects between libraries, your local system, and you can use familiar techniques to create sub-folders within the library if necessary. Once again, all file still only exist in the library unless you manually copy or move them elsewhere.

SkyDrive Pro/SharePoint Workspace

An alternative to the above is to synchronize your data between your local hard drive and the SharePoint library. This also means that data is available if you are not currently connected to a network. A SkyDrive app has been around for a while that does the same thing for home users or those people using a personal SkyDrive account. With SharePoint, these applications are referred to as SkyDrive Pro (Office 2013) or SharePoint Workspace (Office 2010). Initializing SkyDrive Pro is a simple matter of choosing it from the Start Menu on your local machine (under Office 2013). The application will ask you for the library you wish to synchronize and then continue to save local copies of the data to your hard drive. Or you can choose to synchronize directly from your opened library. You can choose as many libraries as you see fit to keep synchronized. As changes are made to the file either locally, or on the SharePoint library itself, those modifications are kept synchronized between the two locations. This technique then uses your local file system to index files and content to make searches complete quickly. Since the returned list of “hits” is local, you can multi-select to work on several files at the same time. While there is a difference between the two applications, SharePoint Workspace works to accomplish the same goal using Office 2010. Remember, data is now kept in both locations from a security vantage point and needs to be protected. Since this is synchronized data, not a backup or redundant copy, if you make and error within the file, that same error will be synchronized.

An easier option to sync your library is right within the library itself. After opening your chosen library you will see a menu on the top right similar to the image below. Choosing “Sync” will put a local copy of the contents of your library on your disk. In each case, the results of the synced library can be found under Favorites and the SharePoint shortcut, as illustrated below.

Connect to Outlook

Another option, with the library open in your browser, choose “Connect to Outlook”. With this option, your library can be viewed within your Outlook application and within OWA. Double-clicking on any document will open it up using the local desktop application. Using the special previewers built in to Outlook, documents can be viewed or read without even opening up the application. And since this information is cached locally on your machine, you can access it without being connected to any network.

More Options

Another option, called “Export to Excel” will create a spreadsheet with all the objects in your current library and additional fields of data that correspond to information such as Modification Date and Modified By. Clicking on the link in the first field in the spreadsheet will access the document via the network and its associated URL.

Have fun choosing your preferred options for accessing data in SharePoint. This mix ‘n match capability allows you to customize how you need to work with different kinds of data in your team site!


Deleting a SharePoint Library

Sometimes it happens that we need to trim old libraries and delete them from our SharePoint site. Sometimes we are just looking to reorganize our site. In any case, the following video will help you learn how to delete a SharePoint library…

Working with SharePoint Library

Working with libraries in SharePoint can be as easy as working with traditional file folders. The advantage to placing data in SharePoint is the extra metadata that can be associated with your document, and all the other library features, including alerts, search, RSS feeds and more that can make this information more easily accessible to your colleagues in a collaborative environment. One of the simplest choices is to open your library in a Windows Explorer window and move, open and add data from there. Here’s how…

First, you want to identify the library or libraries you work with most frequently. Go to SharePoint and open that library. At the top of the page you will see a bar that identifies Library Tools. Choose Library.

Now, on the Office Ribbon you will see a section that says, Connect & Export, and in this section choose Open with Explorer. That’s it! A window will open that lists your library files in a normal window and you can drag files into our out of this library as you might in any other file folder. You can create documents in the library (assuming you have permissions) using this same technique.

As an added bonus, using this technique you can attach files to your email if needed. With the library open in your Windows Explorer, right click on the file you wish to send and choose Send To and then Mail recipient.

To save you from constantly opening up this library in Windows Explorer, you can have the library appear in your Favorites menu in Windows Explorer. You can then choose to use this library as you would any other folder in your file system. In the same section as above you will see a choice for Connect to Office. Click on this and then Add to SharePoint Sites. Now this library can be found in your Windows Explorer under your Favorites section.

These tips should help you start using your SharePoint libraries easily and efficiently and remove any barriers to maintaining your documents on the network. There are other ways to synchronize your library to your local drive that we will cover in a future post.

Creating a SharePoint Library

Working with SharePoint libraries is an important skill for anyone managing a SharePoint site. This video help you understand the steps necessary to create a new library for your site.

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