There's more than one way to collaborate and work with SharePoint 2010 (newssite), and Microsoft has SharePoint Workspace 2010 to prove it. Not sure what this Workspace thing is? Let's have a closer look.

If you were like most in 2006, then you had no clue what Office Groove was. You might still not have a clue as to what it is even now. I don’t blame you. The name ‘Groove’ was simply the result of a 2005 Microsoft purchase of Groove Networks, a collaborative product allowing multiple users to work on documents simultaneously.

It was incorporated into the next major release of Office as the on-the-fly Office collaboration and offline synchronization tool for SharePoint. I can’t tell you how many times a user asked me why they couldn’t manage their mp3s with Groove. The average user had no clue what Groove was, because the name couldn’t be farther from what the product actually did.

A Better Name, A Better Product

Although the product's goals have not changed, the name has been changed to more accurately identify it amongst the crowd of Office apps. SharePoint Workspace 2010 should now entice users to actually fire it up and make use of its capabilities.

We can all relate to what a workspace is, because it’s something critical to business productivity. You can’t work without one, but having one doesn’t always equal productivity. So how does SPW (SharePoint Workspace) measure up to its predecessor, Office Groove? First, let’s get our feet wet.

The Basics

For the Groove/SPW newbies, this product is, at its core, a non-web-based collaboration and synchronization tool. You’ll be able to quickly synchronize data for offline usage and collaborate on documents simultaneously with other users. The product aims to satisfy both road warriors and desktop power users alike.

There are three main objects that you can create with SPW, and they are:

  1. SharePoint Workspace -- A bi-directional synchronization of SharePoint 2010 content. You -- the content owner -- have access to this content on your local machine. This is not intended to be a sharing mechanism amongst users, but rather a local copy of SharePoint content for a particular user.
  2. Groove Workspace -- Peer-to-peer content collaboration amongst users regardless of boundary. Just as in Groove 2007, you can share content in a Groove Workspace with someone outside of the firm. So rather than syncing to SharePoint, these workspaces are synced to each member.
  3. Shared Folder -- This is simply a shared folder accessible to the Windows file system. It is accessible via the user account used during creation. The only change in SPW is that shared folders are now supported in a 64-bit OS.

As you can see below, all three of these objects can be created right from the SPW Launchbar.


(Editor's Note: SharePoint Workspace 2010 isn't the only cool new feature in SharePoint 2010, take a look at: 5 Cool Things in SharePoint 2010 That You May Not Know About.)

The New Moves

So maybe it's not a brand new product, but it has a number of new capabilities that make it much more useful than the old version:

  1. Sync entire sites -- Previously, Groove could only synchronize lists and libraries. With a couple of clicks, you can easily sync an entire site right from SharePoint. 

  2. The ribbon -- not much more to say here is there?
  3. Support for InfoPath forms -- Yes, this even works offline!

    InfoPath Integration
  4. Integration with Windows Search -- You can now search for files in your workspaces from within Windows, if you’re running Windows Search locally.
  5. Rich SharePoint client -- While Groove was mainly for creating ad-hoc workspaces and taking certain data offline, SPW expands into a fully functioning desktop application for SharePoint. Whether you are connected to the server or offline, you can use SPW to manage your SharePoint content. The familiarity of Windows Explorer makes this a compelling feature for many users.
  6. Drag and drop content -- You can now drag and drop right into the SPW content areas, so new content can be synced automatically to SharePoint.
  7. Check-in/Check-out

    Workspace Document Check In/Check Out
  8. Access/modify external data sources
  9. Launchbar -- It’s almost like an inbox and a status view for your workspaces. It will show you new content that you haven’t seen as well as who’s working in workspaces that you are a member of. 

Check out this quick video that demonstrates SPW's capabilities:


As there is with every product, there will be some limitations. First and foremost, you can only sync entire sites if you’re connecting to a SharePoint 2010 site. Also, Wikis, calendars and surveys cannot be synced to SPW: these are unsupported content types at the moment.

Features missing that were in Groove 2007 include: audio chat, the ability to change permission levels for member roles, Groove Form designer (was replaced by InfoPath) and the traffic indicator.

So what do you think? Is SharePoint Workspace a must have client tool for you? What's your favorite feature?