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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!


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Tables and Spreadsheet improvements in OneNote 2013

OneNote is such a fantastic application, I could never understand why it lacked any power when it came to tables and calculations. While you could do some basic math in a table cell, there was no such thing as a cell reference when copying a formula, and formatting a cell, or group of cells was just problematic. Well, here comes OneNote 2013 and we now have a solution! A full bred representation of an Excel spreadsheet right within our OneNote notebook. And even tables get some polishing. 

So let’s see first what we can do with a table. Unlike earlier versions of OneNote you can now sort columns and format cells. 




You can create or import a live Excel spreadsheet. This means the full set of Excel features is now available to you within OneNote. When you create or import a spreadsheet in OneNote , the file is physically stored within the OneNote notebook. If you like, you can export or save the spreadsheet to another location. 
   

Creating a new spreadsheet within OneNote 2013 allows you to see a live version in OneNote and then activate a session within Excel to continue editing and using it’s powerful features. 




   The spreadsheet file is maintained within OneNote 2013 unless you choose to save or export it to another location. Exporting, in this case, means converting the spreadsheet to a PDF. This is similar to inserting a file into earlier versions of OneNote, with the exception that you now see a live version of the contents of the spreadsheet. Look what happens when you have two sheets in your Excel workbook! You can click on either sheet to begin editing within Excel.


Finally, here is an example of a spreadsheet within OneNote 2013 that has an embedded chart! 

 IDEA !: How about putting OneNote in a SharePoint Library with alerts set to changes in the file. How’s that for a dynamic update? 


More good news for OneNote 2010 users too! Even though you can’t create a new spreadsheet within the application, you can see the spreadsheet and edit it within the OneNote 2010 app.

 That’s it for now, but I hope you enjoy using the new table and spreadsheet features within OneNote 2013.. 

Blogging with OneNote 2013

We’re all about the blogging, right? As a matter of fact this blog post has been created using OneNote 2013. And if you are using OneNote 2010 you can still blog using this application! What makes OneNote so ideal for blogging? It is the perfect tool for assembling information from many sources, web -based, screen shots, data from other applications, all in one place. And then, simple drag and drop, and voila! You have a blog post. In fact, OneNote uses the functionality built in to MS Word 2013 and Word 2010 to enable this feature.
So what are the steps?

  1. Create Content
  2. In OneNote, on the menu bar, choose File | Send| Send to Blog
  3. A document containing your content will open in MS Word
  4. Publish!

So let’s take a look, shall we? For our demo we will see this very content which will be posted to our blog. Go to the File menu option and left click.
From the left hand menu choose Send.


At the bottom of the list is Send to Blog. Left click on this choice.


A MS Word document will open containing your blog post. Notice the top left-hand corner where the area labelled Blog contains several options for how you will publish this post. The first time you use this feature you will be required to set up an account that will communicate with your blog host. You can maintain several accounts each pointing to a different host. For example, I have accounts for WordPress, Blogger and SharePoint and I can choose where I want to post my content.



Let’s look at what the Manage Accounts choice will display.

You will need to configure the information for your blog. For example, if you choose to post to WordPress, the blog post URL will prepopulate with a placeholder in brackets (<>) to substitute your own blog URL. Since WordPress can handle images contained in my posts, under Picture Options I have chosen “My Blog Provider” as the picture provider. If your blog service handles images differently you can choose accordingly.


When your account is properly set up all you need to do is click on Publish to send your post to your configured blog!


After your post has been completed you can edit previous posts by clicking on “Open Existing”. If you have created categories for your posts, you can add those at this time as well.

Using OneNote to aggregate your information and then post to your blog can accelerate and improve your blogging experience!

PLEASE NOTE: Images used in your post must be flattened. If you use the drawing tools in OneNote to annotate your images they will not appear correctly in your post. I use SnagIt to mark up my images and flatten them so they appear correctly. You may have your own tool that you prefer,

Powerpoint 2010 Collaboration Tip

I have a problem when delivering some of my technical classes using our digital classroom solution. The whiteboard interface that hosts my PowerPoint slides does not offer the slick slide transitions in the original presentation and the “build” slides don’t work at all. Furthermore, when students are viewing the whiteboard they cannot simultaneously see any applications that I might share to view the demonstration.

Powerpoint 2010 may offer a solution. Using Powerpoint 2010 I can publish my presentation so that others can view using their browser. This means the full power of the digital classroom is still mine to control, including sharing any applications so that students can follow my demonstrations concerning what they are learning in the presentations. Since audio is already included within my classroom software, I can narrate my slides normally. If you don’t have this same setup, you can establish a conference call that will give you the same results.

Here’s How….

pp1

Step 1: Open Powerpoint 2010 and presentation file containing your slides. Click on the Slide Show tab and in the Start Slide Show panel, click on Broadcast Slide Show.

pp2

Step 2: On the next window you choose to Start Broadcast.

pp3

This not really a step, just the dialog box that shows you are connecting to the Broadcast service.

pp4

Step 3: Choose to either Copy Link or Send in Email. In each situation a URL is created that must be shared with other participants in your broadcast for this Powerpoint presentation.  After you have made this information available to others, choose to Start Slide Show to begin the broadcast. At this point, anyone with a connection to the web address you provided will be able to see your slide show.

pp5

As you can see from this final slide, you must click on the End Broadcast button if you choose to make any changes in your  Powerpoint presentation.

Enjoy your new freedom to share your Powerpoint presentation!

Windows 7 Side-by-side window views

Problem:

Had another occcassion today to compare two different drives (external USB) to clean up redundant data and reclaim limited space. Popping back and forth between two open windows partially covered on your screen is so “old school”. The same goes for having a single instance of Windows Explorer and trying to scroll up and down comparing contents. Enter the brave new era of Windows 7!

Solution:

Place your mouse in the header of your Windows Explorer, left-click and hold the button while you drag the window to the far left (or right) or your screen. When you see a “shadow” of your window appear behind your selected window, release the mouse and you will have a window occupying the left half of your screen. Repeat the same procedure on another open window, moving it to the opposite side of your screen. You will end up with a side-by-side view that will be easy to move between and compare data in both views.

You can do this to edit two separate word documents, spreadsheets, etc. Enjoy!
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