(14)Outlook Integration

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As well as creating certain meeting workspaces within SharePoint, you can also create them within Outlook. This has a number of benefits:

  • The site URL is actually embedded in the Outlook appointment, making it easy for attendees to navigate to the site (and eliminates the ‘I can’t find the document…’ excuse)
  • Everyone who is added as an attendee is automatically added to the site permissions as a contributor, so that they can upload and edit documents.

And another change has occurred between the 2007 and 2010 versions, this time within Outlook.

In Outlook 2007, when creating a new appointment in your calendar, if you clicked Invite Attendees you see a link within the ribbon (the new menu structure in Office 2007) to create a Meeting Workspace.

In Outlook 2010, the Meeting Workspace link is no longer actually enabled by default. And when it is enabled, it is a tiny icon up in the Quick Launch tray at the top of the page. To display it, you must first click the little arrow at the far right of the Quick Launch tray to open a dialogue box where you can choose what icons appear, including the Meeting Workspace icon.

But other than that, the functionality is the same. When you click the Meeting Workspace icon, a task pane appears on the left where you can configure options to create a Meeting Workspace, including location and template. The location list is populated with the 5 last visited sites. It may be empty the first time you use the feature and you will need to paste in the URL to a site. But after that, it will remember settings.  People who are added to the To list will be added to the Members group of the site, with Contribute permissions (can add/edit/delete documents by default). The subject link will also be used as the site title.  When you click Create, the site is provisioned and link is embedded in the body of the appointment.

A couple of key tips: Enter the attendee list and subject line in the appointment before you create the meeting workspace. And keep the subject line short or you will end up with a very ugly URL. Gotchas to be aware of – recurring meetings in Outlook that are linked to a SharePoint Meeting Workspace site. I’ve seen a few cases of orphaned meeting workspaces when a recurrence is cancelled in Outlook and then rearranged.

And there you have it. SharePoint can be a very useful tool for organizing meetings. But it can also be over-engineered or designed. Only use meeting workspaces when the need justifies them. In many cases, a simple document library is all that is required, with the benefit of metadata to tag and find documents. A simple rule of thumb – think twice about using meeting workspaces for meetings that occur more frequently than quarterly…