The Top 10 Favorite Document Management Features of SharePoint 2013 – Not Possible with Traditional Windows Folders
This blog highlights 10 brilliant features of Microsoft SharePoint designed to help users easily create, manage, share and collaborate on documents.
1. Share Documents Inside of Your Organization
Does this sound painfully familiar? You email your coworkers a document for review, they add feedback and send back their edits. With three or four different documents you now have to manually consolidate all comments and changes. Sounds like a barren and banal task.
There is a much smarter way of handling document reviews and changes. With a Microsoft SharePoint site, you can save your Word file (or any file really) directly to your SharePoint document library, then use the built-in Share commands to let your coworkers read and edit the file. No more file piles, but just one copy with everyone's feedback. In addition, SharePoint comes with versioning allowing you to keep track of edits and editors and with easy to manage permission settings you can control exactly what files your coworkers have permission to.
2. Share Documents Outside of Your Organization
If your organization performs work that involves sharing document with vendors or customers, you may want to use the external sharing features of SharePoint to share content with people outside of your organization (external sharing is only available with SharePoint Online). External user can be someone outside your organization who can access your SharePoint Online sites and documents, but they do not need to have a license for your SharePoint Online or Office 365 subscription.
Three ways you can share documents externally:
- Share an entire site by inviting external users to sign in to your site using their Microsoft accounts.
- Share individual documents by inviting external users to sign in to your site using their Microsoft accounts.
- Share a guest link that allows external users to view individual documents on your site anonymously.
SharePoint allows you to implement security at four levels: site collections, sub sites, document libraries and item level. Site collection is the security boundary in SharePoint and everything under it inherits those permissions by default. SharePoint uses security trimming features, which means that end users don’t see content they don’t have access to. Search results are security trimmed as well.
Versioning features in SharePoint help you get rid of multiple copies of the same document. With versioning, there will always only be one file and you will always have access to all previous versions in the version history (if enabled). The version history contains information about when an item or file was changed and who changed it. In the document libraries the version history may also contain comments that people made about their changes. Libraries can track both major versions, such as adding a new section to a document, and minor versions, such as fixing a typo.
SharePoint makes it easy for multiple people to work on the same document at the same time, which is not possible with traditional folder-based documents. Using either Office for Mac, Office Web Apps or Office desktop, anyone on your team will be able to work on the same document simultaneously instead of having to wait for the document to become available (no checking in/out is necessary).
A typical frustration with traditional Windows folders is the rapidly growing number of folders and nested folders. Over time, as several people store, update and move documents and folders, locating a single files can easily become a daunting task.
Leveraging the metadata functionality available in SharePoint you can easily design a consistent metadata structure for document libraries to increase the usability of stored content.
7. Metadata Sorting & Filtering
While windows folders do provide sorting and filtering on pre-defined columns you cannot modify or set custom preferences. In contrast, Microsoft SharePoint allows you to define custom metadata properties and offers rich functionality for sorting and filtering your documents based on their metadata.
Although Windows allows users to search for documents, its search functionality is not as rich as the out-of-the-box SharePoint Search capabilities. With SharePoint Search you can easily locate documents based on search queries and refine and modify the search output through metadata.
Without having to open the actual search results page, users can quickly identify and access information through a wealth of short cuts and intuitive links. For example:
- Users can hover the pointer over a search result to preview the document content in the hover panel to the right of the result.
- Users can quickly distinguish search results based on file type. For example, Microsoft Office documents display the application icon in front of the title of the search result. When searching for people, the result output will show the user’s profile picture and the Skype for Business (previously Lync) availability next to the profile picture.
SharePoint Search helps users quickly return to important sites and documents by storing and displaying recent searches and recently viewed documents.
With SharePoint, users can have multiple views on the same set of documents – a feature not possible in Windows file folders. For end users, visiting a view is just like visiting a web page. Administrators can define public views which are accessible to all authenticated users and private views accessible to select users only.
10. Offline Access
Imagine a situation where you have to complete a work document and your company’s shared drive is down. This seems to be a common problem with file shares. But with OneDrive for Business, you always have access to your files from anywhere. OneDrive makes is easy to access, find and manage your work files while offline. You can create new documents or make changes to existing ones. All changes will be synced automatically to SharePoint as soon as you go online.
I hope this blog has pointed out some of the many advantages of using Microsoft SharePoint for document management and team collaboration.
Feel free to contact FMT Consultants for more information about Microsoft SharePoint.
Abdur Raheem, Senior SharePoint Consultant