Managing Documents and Emails in Office 365 with MacroView

Making SharePoint Document Numbering Work the Way Users Expect
February 25, 2016
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April 4, 2016
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MacroView DMF enables document management and email management solutions based on Office 365 that have impressive functionality and an intuitive user experience. These SharePoint Online solutions will satisfy the needs of many organizations for improved management of their documents and emails compared to shared drives and Outlook folders.

The comments about MacroView DMF also apply to products based on MacroView DMF, such as MacroView Message and MacroView Case and Matter.

In this blog post we’ll also explore the factors that you need to consider when deciding whether to use SharePoint Online or On Premises for your DM solution. These comments are formatted like this paragraph.

  This series of brief YouTube videos show MacroView DMF in action and illustrates the points made in this post.

 

Intuitive, Accurate Tree-View of Your SharePoint Online Document Store

To get started you define your Office 365 tenancy to MacroView DMF by entering its URL. The MacroView DMF software then automatically discovers and displays all the site collections within that tenancy for which you have permission – you do not need to define each site collection to MacroView DMF.  You can click to expand each site collection in much the same way as you click to expand a folder tree in Windows Explorer or Outlook. As you expand you will see the sub-sites, document libraries, document sets and folders that are nested within that site collection – only those for which you have permission.

When you click on a document library, document set or folder, MacroView DMF will display the default View – with the columns, filtering and sort ordering as defined in SharePoint. You can see all the views that have been defined in SharePoint. You will not see any files for which you do not have permission.

By clicking on the heading for a column you can sort the display in descending or ascending order of the values in that column. You can also filter by the values in a column. MacroView DMF displays a formatted preview when you click on most types of document or email. In short, MacroView DMF makes it easy to view the contents of any document library, document set or folder for which you have permission.

If your organization is using Personal Sites (My Sites) your Office 365 Tenant will have a One Drive for Business area. When you register that One Drive for Business area your MacroView DMF tree will show the site collections that correspond to the Personal Sites for your colleagues. You will see only those parts of each Personal Site for which you have permission, and many of those will be in a special color to indicate that you have read-only access. See Security and Permissions below.

ExplorerFileList

MacroView DMF Explorer displaying a document library in an Office 365 tenancy. Note the formatted preview of the selected PDF and the checked-out Excel workbook highlighted in pink.

In MacroView DMF 365 the expansion of the tree stops when you reach either the edge of the tree, or a break in permission inheritance. Obviously if your Document Store uses the same permissions for all levels in the tree, this will not be an issue.  However if it does contain permission breaks there may be some nodes deeper down for which you do have permission, but they will not be displayed for you.  If this is an important requirement you need to know that when it works with a SharePoint On-Premises environment, MacroView DMF will find and display ALL nodes for which you have permission, including those nested below one or more breaks in permission inheritance.

Group By views are supported by MacroView DMF when it runs against an On-Premises document store, but not yet supported when it runs with a SharePoint Online document store.

DocumentSetWithinFolderWithinLibrary

Viewing the contents of a document set within a folder, within a document library in Office 365.

Windows-style Right-Click Menus

When you right-click on the entry for a document or email in a file list MacroView DMF displays a comprehensive menu of options. Working with right-click menus is a familiar experience for any Windows user. The MacroView right-click menu has more options than the menu that appears when you right-click in the SharePoint web-browser UI.

The MacroView right-click menu provides options that you would see if you right-clicked in Windows Explorer (e.g. Open, Open With, Print, Cut, Copy, Delete, Rename, Properties, etc.) together with additional options that are enabled by SharePoint (Check Out, Check In, Discard Check Out, Version History) and potentially also some custom options (e.g. Workshare…).

The right-click menu is context sensitive – e.g. you will see an Open File Location option when you right-click on a search result or on the entry for a file in the Recent file list. This makes it very convenient to navigate to the area in SharePoint (document library, document set or folder) wherein a search result or recent file is located, so that you can see related files.

You also see a rich right-click menu when in the tree-view that MacroView DMF displays in the Browse or Favorites mode.

There are some right-click menu items that are only available when you are using MacroView with SharePoint On-Premises. Examples are Compliance and Audit (see Compliance and Audit, below). They cannot be enabled in a SharePoint Online store because they require features that are not able to be supported in that environment.

Right-ClickMenu365FileLIst

Right-click menu for a file in an Office 365 document library. Note Compliance and Audit options not available.

Comprehensive Metadata Support

The ability to record additional metadata for documents as they are stored, and to use that metadata when searching for documents is a key element of any document management solution.  MacroView DMF provides very good support for metadata in both SharePoint Online and SharePoint On-Premises.  This support includes an intuitive Windows-style user interface for capturing and editing metadata.

ProfilingDialog365TermSet

Profiling (metadata capture) dialog of MacroView DMF. Note sub-dialog allowing user to pick value for a Managed metadata column based on a hierarchical term set defined in Office 365.

MacroView DMF also supports and Metadata Navigation that has been defined for a document library in a SharePoint Online document store (and also in an On-Premises document store).  This allows efficient ‘slicing and dicing’ of the documents in a library, based on their metadata values.

When it is used with a SharePoint Online document store MacroView DMF supports all types of metadata except External. It supports default values for metadata columns defined at document library level, but not at folder or document set level. Both these capabilities are available if you are using MacroView DMF with a SharePoint On-Premises document store. Key Filters based on metadata columns are another capability that is supported for On-Premises but not yet for Online document stores.

Unique Document Numbering

The ability to assign a unique Document ID to documents as they are stored and to be able to find a document based on its unique ID is a central requirement of a serious DM solution.

SharePoint comes with a Unique Document Numbering Provider that generates a unique Document ID for documents. This Provider is available in both SharePoint Online and SharePoint On-Premises. The structure of the unique Document ID is:

  • Prefix that identifies the Site Collection where the document was first stored.
  • Number that identifies the List (i.e. document library) where the document was first stored.
  • Number that identifies the Item in that List where the document was first stored.

An example unique Document ID from a SharePoint Online implementation is shown in the screen shot below:

  • D663EWH4ERRW-840560921-3

You can easily embed the unique Document ID in a link to a document. Even if the document is moved from where it was first stored, the resulting link will still work correctly, providing a SharePoint search crawl has been run to update the search index to record the document ID in its new storage location.

UniqueDocIdWordDocuments

Unique Document IDs displayed in the Word Documents view of an Office 365 document library.

If you are running with an On-Premises document store, you can use an optional module of MacroView DMF called MacroView UDN.  This module replaces the OOB SharePoint Unique Numbering Provider with a new provider that numbers documents sequentially across the whole document store (rather than within each Site Collection) and provides more control over the formatting of the generated unique Document IDs.  MacroView UDN also automatically displays the unique Document ID and other key reference details (such as current Version number) in Microsoft Office documents as they are opened from and saved to a SharePoint On-Premises document store. See Making SharePoint Document Numbering Work The Way Users Expect.

Versioning

The ability to manage multiple versions of a document is another key requirement for a document management solution, In a Windows file share environment this is often accommodated by using multiple file names (RequirementsV1.docx, RequirementsV2.docx, etc.) but it should be possible to retain multiple versions and revert to an earlier version where all versions have the same file name.

SharePoint Online allows both Majors Only and Major and Minor (Draft) versioning to be defined for a document library and MacroView DMF supports this.  ‘Require Checkout’ can also be defined for a SharePoint Online document library (i.e. documents cannot be opened from the library for editing unless they are checked out).  MacroView DMF supports this and goes further with its default action of performing an automatic check out as documents are opened for editing (i.e. MacroView DMF removes the need for the user to perform the check-out).

Library365WithVersioning

Document Library with Versioning defined in Office 365 SharePoint Online

When it is running against a SharePoint On-Premises document store MacroView DMF can be extended with an optional module called MacroView AOI. If MacroView AOI is active, as you close a document that you have opened from SharePoint and edited in Word or Excel you will be presented with the following dialog. This dialog conveniently and intuitively provides all the version control options that make sense (and is very similar to the dialog that you would see if you were using a traditional DM system).  The dialog is also displayed as you Save As to SharePoint. This dialog significantly improves the user experience compared to the native integration of Word and Excel with SharePoint. Unfortunately MacroView AOI is not currently supported for us with SharePoint Online.

VersionControl

Dialog displayed on Close and Save As to SharePoint when MacroView AOI is active. Note familiar options for version control.

Efficient Navigation of an Office 365 Document Store

A real strength of MacroView DMF is the way it makes it easier to work with a large SharePoint document store – i.e. a  document store whose tree contains a large number of ‘nodes’ – whether they be Site Collections, Sites, Document Libraries, Document Sets of Folders. A really useful command in this regard is Search Site Tree. This command uses the power of the SharePoint search engine to rapidly find nodes whose titles / names contain some characters that you specify, then navigates you automatically to the node that you select from the search results. The search uses an index, so it stays quick no matter how many nodes are in your document store and the navigation works regardless of how deeply nested the destination node is, or how far away that selected node is from where you were previously located.

SearchSiteTree365

Search Site Tree command being used to find and locate to a node in an Office 365 document store whose name / title contains the word ‘compliance’.

You can also use Favorites and Recents to help you rapidly navigate to the area where you want to work. These techniques are particularly helpful when there are a large number of nodes in your SharePoint Online document store.

If MacroView DMF is being used with a SharePoint On-Premises document store you can take advantage of the Push Favorites mechanism. This mechanism automatically create Favorites for a user by using custom logic – e.g. to create Favorite sites corresponding to all the Project associated with the current user in a Line-Of-Business system. Push Favorites requires that logic to be installed on the SharePoint server, so it cannot be available in a SharePoint Online environment. 

MacroView DMF also provides a number of Filter commands that help you to drill down quickly to a particular sub-node – e.g. Filter Site Collections helps you to drill down to a particular Site Collection; similarly Filter Sites and Libraries and Filter Folders.

Running in a SharePoint Online environment has some impacts on the operation of these Filtering commands.  The ‘Nodes to Block Show All’ configuration setting is ignored and filtering a large number of libraries and sub-sites can be slower. The reason for both these differences to a SharePoint On-Premises environment is that the filtering in a SharePoint Online environment cannot be done at the server – all the nodes are retrieved down to the client PC.

Outlook Integration – Saving Emails and Attachments

Emails are a critically important type of document, which is why so many organizations are looking for to use SharePoint to improve the way their emails are managed, compared to using private folders in Outlook. MacroView DMF 365 (and its subset MacroView Message 365) provide excellent support for managing emails in SharePoint Online. These MacroView products also provide excellent support for managing attachments – in both incoming and outgoing emails. The following screen shots show the results of saving an email by dragging it from the Outlook InBox and dropping it on the node for a SharePoint Online document library displayed in a MacroView pane in Browse mode in Outlook 2013.

OutlookInBoxSavedEmail

Outlook 2013 Inbox after an email has been saved to SharePoint by dragging and dropping. Note Saved to SharePoint indicator and tracking tag appended to the copy of the email that remains in the InBox.

SavedEmailIn365DocLib

Viewing the newly saved email in the destination document library. Note the automatically captured metadata and the formatted preview.

MacroView DMF provides good support for bulk-filing emails in SharePoint.  When you select multiple emails (say in your InBox) and drag and drop to a node in the MacroView pane, you can click the Close button so that MacroView performs the bulk save in the background, and you can go on working in Outlook while the save proceeds. These bulk-saves and other bulk operations will be somewhat slower when MacroView DMF is running against SharePoint Online, compared to against a SharePoint On-Premises environment, because the processing load cannot be shared between the client PC and the SharePoint server.

Vendors of ‘traditional’ DM systems know that users spend a lot of time in Outlook, so they are looking to be able to handle a wide variety of document management activity while they work in Outlook – and not just saving and finding emails. A good example is searching for a Word document or PDF that they want to attach to an outgoing email, or perhaps review and edit prior to sending. MacroView DMF scores very well against this requirement to allow Outlook to be used as the DM desktop.

When it is running with a SharePoint On-Premises document store MacroView DMF can be extended with an optional module called MacroView Predictive Email Filing. As its name suggests, MacroView PEF can suggest locations where you might want to save an incoming or outgoing email (based on where other emails from the sane sender or to the same recipient have previously been saved).  MacroView PEF can also use tracking tags appended to the subject of emails to enable subsequent emails in the same conversation to be saved with either minimal or even zero effort, depending on configuration.

Searching for Documents

The ability to search for documents is one of the key capabilities that a document management solution should provide over and above a file management system.  In other words improved search is one of the main justifications from moving to SharePoint from Windows file shares.

SharePoint Online provides a search capability, and MacroView DMF adds value by allowing end-users to access that search capability conveniently and intuitively. Specifically MacroView DMF allows the user to search for documents based on their key word content while the user works in familiar desktop applications such as Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Adobe Reader / Acrobat, and also from MacroView DMF Explorer. Compared to using the OOB SharePoint browser UI, this significantly improves the user experience when you want to search SharePoint for a document that you want to include in an outgoing email as an attachment or link. See How Users Really Want to Search SharePoint for Documents.

KeywordSearch365

Searching in Microsoft Word for documents stored in an Office 365 tenancy that contain the word ‘CIO’.

When it running against a SharePoint On-Premises document store, MacroView DMF provides more flexibility is how you can specify your search criteria (e.g. to find ‘My Documents’ and to search for emails based on their To, Subject and Sent On date, etc) and also the capability for an organization to define their own types of searches (e.g. a Matter Documents Search or Underwriting Search that lets staff within a particular department perform searches based on metadata attributes that are specific to that department).  This is a priority area for development in MacroView DMF, such that by mid 2016 the out-of-the-box Search against a SharePoint Online environment should match the OOB capabilities against a SharePoint On-Premises environment.

Security and Permissions

When it is running with SharePoint Online MacroView DMF fully respects any permissions that have been defined in SharePoint – you will not see any documents (or document sets or folders) for which you do not have permission.  Areas of the document store for which you have read-only permission are shown in a lighter color.  Any files that have unique permissions applying to them are displayed with a special overlay (the same as in the SharePoint browser UI).

MacroView DMF will highlight (using user defined colors) files for which access is restricted for the following reasons:

  • Checked Out
  • Legal Hold applied
  • Declared as a Record

When it is running with a SharePoint On-Premises document store MacroView DMF can be extended with an optional module called MacroView Enhanced Document Security. If MacroView EDS is active, you will see a Private check box will be displayed at the bottom left of the profiling (metadata capture) dialog. Even if you have only Contribute role, you can click the Private button to adjust the permissions to the document so that only you have access to the document – permissions for all other non-Administrator users are remove By clicking the adjacent Manage Permissions button you can provide access (up to your own level of access) to selected other users and groups of users. The same ability is available for document sets and folders.  This ability for non-administrator users to easily adjust permissions is something that you find in traditional DM systems and can be a real value-add over the OOB SharePoint UI.

Audit and Compliance

When it is running with a SharePoint On-Premises document store MacroView DMF provides Audit and Compliance right-click menu options, provided that the relevant SharePoint features are activated. Right-click, Audit displays entries from the SharePoint Audit Log in respect of the selected document. Right-click, Compliance allows you to apply and remove Legal Holds and to declare the selected document as a Record. These two right-click menu options are currently not able to be supported for documents stored in SharePoint Online.

Integration with Line-Of-Business Systems

The Protocol Handler mechanism of MacroView DMF enables a simple but highly effective technique for integrating a line of business system with a SharePoint document store.  While working in the line-of-business system – e.g. with the record for a Client or Project – a user can click on a hyperlink with a suitable display text e.g.  Documents and Emails.  The Protocol Handler mechanism then gives focus to the MacroView DMF Explorer application and automatically navigates to the SharePoint Online document library, document set or folder wherein the documents and emails for the Client or Project are stored. The result is that whenever they want to work with documents and emails users can do so using the familiar and intuitive MacroView UI.

This MacroView Protocol Handler technique also works with SharePoint On-Premises. See Integrating Your Line Of Business System with MacroView DMF.

Support for Microsoft Matter Center

Microsoft has created Matter Center to showcase how Office 365 and other Microsoft technologies can be used to store and collaborate on the documents and emails that relate to Matters for a legal department or law firm.

A Matter Center site and its document libraries and folders appear nicely in the tree-view of an Office 365 tenancy that is displayed by MacroView DMF.  MacroView DMF also provides an excellent user experience when you drag and drop to save Outlook emails to Matter Center. See Save Outlook Emails to Matter Center With Zero Prompting.

Further Information

This YouTube video contains many clips of MacroView DMF in action to illustrate the above points.

For further information about how combining MacroView DMF with Office 365 SharePoint Online enables effective document and email management solutions see the MacroView website or contact MacroView Solutions.