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How to Use SharePoint Team Services with Outlook 2013

Microsoft actually provides more than one method of using Outlook 2013 to collaborate with other people. SharePoint Team Services connects to Outlook and helps you collaborate. SharePoint is basically an online-based collaboration tool that helps you coordinate meetings, projects, and activities as well as share documents with other people.

But SharePoint can also set up folders in Outlook so you can see key information (such as documents, calendars, and tasks) from a SharePoint website, even when you’re not online. SharePoint provides some handy collaboration features that you could use with people outside your organization.

In most cases, you don’t have a choice about whether to use Microsoft Exchange or SharePoint Team Services; someone else (such as your system administrator) decides that for you. In fact, you may need to use both products; Outlook connects to Exchange and SharePoint at the same time with no problem.

Chances are, if you ever get involved with SharePoint Team Services, you’ll do so because someone asks you to join a shared team. If no one ever asks, you don’t need to think about it, and you can skip the following sections.

Join a SharePoint team

The first key to unlocking SharePoint is an e-mail that asks you to join a SharePoint team. The message is an ordinary e-mail that has your user name, password, and a link to the SharePoint site.

  1. Click the link.

    Your web browser opens to a site that’s devoted to the activities of the team you’ve been asked to join. Every SharePoint site looks different; click the links on the site to see what it has to offer.

  2. Log in with the name and password that are in the e-mail.

Link Outlook to SharePoint data

Certain parts of a SharePoint website can be tied into Outlook so that the information from the site automatically appears in Outlook. If you see an icon on the SharePoint website labeled Connect to Outlook, you can click that icon to send the information from that page straight to Outlook.

Access SharePoint data from Outlook

Microsoft Office is tightly integrated with SharePoint. If you’re granted the proper permissions, Outlook can access almost any information on the SharePoint site and keep versions of the documents stored on the SharePoint site in sync with the ones stored on your systems — and vice versa.

Information that SharePoint sends to Outlook shows up in its own set of SharePoint folders. If you click the Mail button in the Navigation bar, you see that SharePoint includes folders as part of the list. Click any SharePoint folder to see what’s inside.

These folders have shared documents, such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. When you select a document, a preview of it appears in the Reading pane — if you double-click a document, the document opens in its own application, such as Word.

If you have the correct permissions, you can edit the document offline and then send the updated document to the SharePoint site with your changes. You can’t typically add new items to SharePoint folders directly through Outlook, however. Instead, you normally add information to SharePoint through the respective Microsoft Office application (such as Word) or when logged in to the SharePoint site with your Web browser.

You can view shared SharePoint calendars and tasks in Outlook exactly the same way that you view Outlook calendars or tasks information. They appear in the same lists as your own calendars and tasks — you can even view shared calendars side by side with your own calendar. If you have the correct permissions, you can change the calendars and tasks, or create new entries.

So when are you most likely to run across SharePoint, and when will you use Exchange? Exchange is best suited for communicating, scheduling, and task setting among people who share the same e-mail system, while SharePoint is better suited for people who need to collaborate with shared documents and information — especially for those who don’t share the same e-mail system or company resources.

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