Tuesday 21 January 2014

Microsoft Office, SharePoint and Templates


There you were thinking I was going to blog about my ski trip, or something fun. I say "there you were" as if there is actually someone there. Anyway I digress.

I had to explain an interesting concept to a couple of colleagues today. It's something that I've noticed in every organisation I've worked at.

Microsoft has gone to great pains since at least 1995 and probably before, to segregate a document from a document template. The theory here is that you might create a document but if you want to re-use it you should save it as a template. Then every time you open the template, the office application be it Word or Excel or whatever knows to open a new document based on the template and prompt you to save it with a different name as a regular document.

How many times have you seen this? I bet it isn't very often.

And what does this have to do with SharePoint?

Well, we had a requirement that a user has to be able to click a link on a page and that it should allow them to create a new document which they save and email to another team (don't get me started on this, or I'll be ranting forever). But the user had uploaded a regular document and because we have Office Web Apps enabled by default, it just opened the document in Office Web Apps.

I was asked how we could get around this. Normally I'd want to set up content types and have the ability to create a new document within SharePoint, but that's not how the business process works at the moment and an InfoPath form is in development, so rather than change the business process twice I suggested they save the original document as a document template and upload it to the library.

And hey presto! It worked. When you click the link to the document template, it opens a new document in the local office application!

Enterprise content management may save trees, but if you can't see the wood for the trees when you implement it you are wasting a lot of effort!

Next time I will talk about something more interesting... honest guv'nor :)

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