Better than Public Folders for Managing Outlook Emails

SharePoint Document generation automation
Smart Document Generation for Third Party Collaboration
March 8, 2021

Is your organization currently using Public Folders to manage emails?

Now that support for Public Folders has been deprecated are you looking for an alternative solution?

How would you like Outlook emails to be managed in your organization?

Requirements for Effective Email Management

In this blog post we list the requirements for effective management of emails and show an alternative approach that takes advantage of the capabilities of Microsoft 365, particularly SharePoint Online and Teams. The alternative approach uses software from MacroView to enhance the user experience when you are managing Outlook emails in SharePoint Online or Teams.

  1. Stored in a shared area, easily accessible to every user who needs to see them
  2. Drag and drop to save new Outlook emails, while I work in Outlook
  3. Find an email using its attributes and / or its content
  4. Easy to create the storage area for a new Customer or Project
  5. Possible to have emails filed (saved) automatically
  6. There should be only one copy of each email – duplicates should be prevented
  7. Plenty of capacity – over time we will need to store a very large number of emails
  8. All files relevant to a Customer or Project stored together – both emails and non-emails
  9. Able to navigate rapidly to the storage area for a particular Customer or Project
  10. It should be possible to prevent modification or deletion of the saved emails

Lets look at each of these requirements and compare how they are handled by Public Folders with how they are handled by the combination of MacroView + SharePoint Online or Teams.

 

1. Stored in a shared area, easily accessible to every user who needs to see them

Public Folders satisfy this requirement well. Public folders can be accessed from desktop Outlook, from OWA and from most Mail apps on mobile devices. Public Folders are much better than users storing emails in their own private Outlook folders.

SharePoint Online and Teams are also shared storage areas that can be accessed by every user who has the need – that’s users both inside and outside the organization. Users can interact with SharePoint Online and Teams areas from a web browser. If MacroView Message or MacroView DMF is installed a user can interact with SharePoint Online and Teams areas while they work in desktop Outlook.  The MacroView software automatically discovers all the SharePoint Online and Teams areas for which the user has permission and displays them in a MacroView pane that is located on the right of the Mail window in desktop Outlook.

 

2. Drag and drop to save new Outlook emails, while I work in Outlook

Public Folders satisfy this requirement well. A user in desktop Outlook can save an email by dragging and dropping it to a Public Folder displayed in the Mail Folders pane on the left of the Mail window. The action is the same as saving to a private folder.

A MacroView solution also satisfies this requirement well. MacroView Message and MacroView DMF users can also save an email by dragging and dropping it to an area displayed in the MacroView pane on the right of the Mail window. The area can be any document library, document set or folder for which they have permission. The only difference to saving to an Outlook folder (such as a Public Folder) is that the drag and drop is to the right or the Mail window, not the left.

 

3. Find an email using its attributes and / or its content

When you click on a Public Folder, you can view the attributes of the emails that have been stored in that Folder – e.g. the To, From, Subject, Received Time, etc. Using standard Outlook techniques you can adjust your view so that you see a different set of attributes. When you want to look across the Public Folder tree to find a particular email you can enter a word or phase in the Outlook Search box. You can search based on email attributes – e.g. from:fred to find emails with a Sender containing ‘fred’.

MacroView solutions more than match Public Folders on this requirement. When you click in the MacroView tree on an area that contains emails the Emails view can be selected automatically so that you can see the attributes of the emails, all of which are automatically recorded by the MacroView Message or MacroView DMF software as it saves the email to SharePoint or Teams.

You can switch the MacroView pane into Search mode and then use the Email Search type to find emails based on their attributes and / or their content. The search is performed by the SharePoint Online search engine, which will find an email based on a word or phrase contained in one of its attachments. You can see formatted previews of emails found by the search, open the emails back in Outlook so you can reply or forward and also be navigated to the SharePoint area where the search result is stored, so you can see all the other emails and documents that have been saved for the Customer or Project.

 

4. Easy to create the storage area for a new Customer or Project

A suitably-authorised user in desktop Outlook can easily create a new Public Folder, or a sub-folder in an existing Public Folder.

MacroView makes it just as easy to create a new SharePoint Online or Teams area to store emails for a Customer or Project. A MacroView Message or MacroView DMF user with appropriate permissions can right-click in the MacroView tree and create a new document library, document set or folder. The new document library will have the content type, metadata columns and views that enable automatic recording of attributes as emails are saved, together with intuitive viewing of those attributes. MacroView users with Contribute permission (i.e. most users) can right-click to create a new sub-folder in an existing library, document set or folder in SharePoint Online or Teams.

 

5. Possible to have emails filed (saved) automatically

Public Folder users can arrange for an email to be saved automatically to a Public Folder by placing the email address of the Public Folder in the CC or BCC of that email. This will work for subsequent emails in the conversation provided that the recipients remember to Reply All – otherwise the user will need to Forward the email to the Public Folder, which does not retain the original Sender details.

MacroView automatic files emails as they are sent and received by recognizing filing tags (sometimes called ‘luggage tags’) in the subject of those emails. If MacroView Corporate Email Filing is configured, saving an email by drag and drop (see above) will cause the filing tag that corresponds to the save location to be appended to the Subject of the newly-saved email. All subsequent emails in that conversation will then be saved automatically to that same SharePoint Online or Teams area as they are received and sent, providing that the person replying does not remove the filing tag from the subject. If this does happen, the filing tag is easily re-inserted by dragging and dropping the email – original Sender details are recorded correctly.

MacroView Corporate Email Filing is designed to minimize ongoing administration effort and to eliminate the need for individual users to create and maintain their own email filing rules.

 

6. There should be only one copy of each email – duplicates should be prevented

Public Folders do not score well on this requirement. If multiple recipients save the same email to the same Public Folder there will be multiple copies of that email in the Public Folder.

A MacroView solution prevents duplicate copies of an email, regardless of how any recipients attempt to save that email to the same area in SharePoint Online or Teams. MacroView does this by the way it automatically names the EML (or MSG) file that it creates as it saves an email.

 

7. Plenty of capacity – over time we will need to store a very large number of emails

Public Folders in on-premises Exchange scored well on this one, but Public Folders in Exchange Online are limited to 100GB, which is well below the capacity that a lot of organizations need.

SharePoint Online has a very large potential capacity – Microsoft state that each Site Collection can be up to 25 TB. MacroView solutions do not change in any way how emails and other files are stored in SharePoint Online (or Teams) which means that MacroView solutions have excellent capacity.

 

8. All files relevant to a Customer or Project stored together – both emails and non-emails

While Public Folders are typically used to store emails, they can also store non-emails. A user can drag and drop attachments to a Public Folder, and you can save non-emails to a Public Folder by dragging and dropping from a folder in Windows. However direct saves to a Public Folder from applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc are not possible.

SharePoint Online is able to store all types of file, which means that all the emails and non-emails relevant to a Customer or Project can be stored together. Views are a convenient way to ‘slice and dice’ – e.g. to see only the emails – and to see different metadata for different types of file. A document library provisioned with the MacroView Document and Email Management solution will have an Emails view that filters to show only emails and displays the To, From, Subject and Received Time attributes of those emails (those attributes are recorded automatically by the MacroView software as it saves an email).

 

9. Able to navigate rapidly to the storage area for a particular Customer or Project

If there are a large number of Public Folders it can be quite difficult to navigate quickly to the specific Public Folder that you want to save into or view.

MacroView solutions enable very convenient and rapid navigation to a particular storage area in SharePoint Online or Teams, even when there are thousands of such areas. A MacroView user can right-click anywhere in the MacroView tree display and choose Search Site Tree. This command uses the SharePoint Online Search engine to quickly find and display the areas whose titles or names contain a nominated word or phrase. When the user selects an area from the list of search results and clicks OK, MacroView software auto-navigates the user to that area, even if it is deeply nested in the SharePoint tree.

 

10. It should be possible to prevent modification or deletion of the saved emails

If your Public Folders are hosted in Exchange Online you can take advantage of the Label mechanism of Microsoft 365 so that emails in a closed Project are labelled as Records and so prevented from deletion or modification for a defined period of time – e.g. 5 years from the date they were last modified. This sort of record management is not supported for Public Folders hosted in on-premises Exchange.

The Microsoft 365 Label mechanism can also protect files stored in SharePoint Online or Teams. The MacroView software respects these labels and whatever deletion or modification prevention they define. Users of MacroView solutions can also benefit from custom right-click commands – e.g. an Archive Project command which applies record retention labels to all the files (emails and non-emails) stored in the area for the Project in SharePoint Online or Teams.

Overall Rating

Migrating from Public Folders to SharePoint Online or Teams

In addition to providing a great user experience for on-going management of emails in SharePoint Online or Teams MacroView software is also available to assist with the bulk migration of Public Folders to SharePoint Online or Teams. This video in the MacroView channel on YouTube shows the MacroView Migration tool being used to automatically replicate a tree of Public Folders to a corresponding tree of folders in a SharePoint Online document library. The emails contained in the Public Folders are migrated with their attributes recorded as metadata and with duplicates removed.

For More Information

Contact MacroView.