Microsoft has come a long way on its mission to enable working from anywhere on a range of devices. In this article we take a look at how these new capabilities make it much quicker and easier for a knowledge worker to collaborate on a new proposal document. We’ll also see how software from MacroView works seamlessly with the Microsoft stack to further streamline the user experience.

I’m on the train on my way to the office. Today I have a meeting with a customer to go through a proposal for a potential project. Might get a head start by checking my emails, which I do using the Mail app on my trusty Android smart phone. There are emails from a number of existing customers – It is nice to know that these emails are all being filed automatically in our Portal, which is powered by a SharePoint on-premises Server. The automatic filing is done by the MacroView DMF software which is running in my Windows desktop, back in the office. I have defined email filing rules to DMF that cause a copy of each email to be saved in a document library that corresponds to its Sender and Subject.

I use the Mail app on my Android phone to send replies to some of the emails. Thanks to the way the mail app syncs to the Sent Mails folder in my Outlook environment, these outgoing emails are also auto-filed to the relevant library in the on-premises SharePoint server. This auto-filing-as-I-go approach is way better that having to spend Friday afternoons working in Outlook to save emails manually!  

As expected, one of the emails is from Jane, the customer that I will be meeting later today. It’s about the potential project, which has the cool code-name “Project X”. Jane mentions that she has uploaded a requirements specification document to the site that I have created in Office 365 SharePoint Online to facilitate collaboration between our two organisations on this project. I jump to the OneDrive app on my Android phone and click on the Documents library in that SharePoint Online site. There is the specification document. I click to preview it.

At my desk in the office now, so I jump into Microsoft Outlook. If I had to say which Windows app I spend most time in front of, the answer would be Outlook. I suspect that this would be true for most of us ‘knowledge workers’.

Whenever I want to see or work with the emails and other documents that are stored in SharePoint, or save new ones, I use the MacroView pane which is located on the right of my Outlook window. Outlook folders on the left in the Mail Folders pane, SharePoint sites, libraries and folders on the right in the MacroView pane.

I switch the MacroView pane into Favourites mode so I have one-click access to the areas in SharePoint that I use frequently. You can add your own Favourites, but the system automatically creates Favourites for me that correspond to the areas that I am following. By clicking on Favourite locations I see the emails that got filed automatically when I was using my Android mail app in the train this morning, and also the requirements specification for Project X.

Now here comes a confession: I’m a big fan of mobile devices, but when I need to create a large, complex document, I prefer to do so using Microsoft Word running on a Windows desktop. Which is exactly what I did to create the proposal for Project X.

Another confession – when I am drafting a document I often ‘borrow’ some content from a previously created document. I mean, why re-invest the wheel? It can be a real challenge to find the right previous document, but that’s where the Search mode of MacroView DMF comes in very handy. MacroView DMF doesn’t just surface in Outlook – you can also utilise it while you are working in Word, Excel or PowerPoint – even in Adobe Reader or Acrobat. The Search mode of DMF lets you search for documents based on their content and / or their metadata – without needing to leave Word. It’s much more convenient and intuitive than having to jump out into the SharePoint web browser UI when you need to search for a document. A few keystrokes later I had the previous document that would be providing some great stuff for inclusion in my Project X proposal.

These days organisations are very conscious of risk. My organisation much prefers that we use standard, approved content in our proposals, rather that typing up that content from scratch. So I hit the Insert, Clause button in Word to bring up MacroView ClauseBank, which displays a menu of available re-usable content items. Things like product and service descriptions, policy statements and performance statistics, even logos and other graphics – all nicely categorised and previewable. A few minutes later I had chosen and inserted the appropriate content items, confident that they were up-to-date and formatted in line with our corporate style standards.

I love using ClauseBank, because it’s easy and it makes me look good! If you do happen to draft some great new prose, you can easily load it to ClauseBank as proposed new content. That way your colleagues get to benefit from your good work.

The Project X proposal document was now drafted, so I used DMF to save it to the SharePoint Online library – the same one where Jane stored the requirements specification. Jane will receive an automatic email to alert her that there is a new document available for her.

Before I leave the office I save a PDF that contains my Sales Report to the Portal. That should keep the boss and the rest of my team happy.

At Jane’s office now, so that we can work together to finalise the proposal document. I’m using the Word app on my new iPad Air. When I go to Recent documents, I see all the documents that I have worked on recently that are stored in any SharePoint location – including the SharePoint Online collaboration space for Project X. Its quite uncanny how the Word app knows about and lets you  documents even though you have never previously used them in the Word app.

The next thing that happened makes so much sense that you have to wonder why it’s only really been possible for the last couple of years. I’m talking about co-authoring a Word document. That’s right, Jane had the proposal document open in Word 2013 on her desktop, I opened the same document in the Word app on my iPad Air and then we both edited it at the same time. Every time we clicked Save we could each see the changes that the other person had made, nicely highlighted in green. This is real-time collaboration and it enables very speedy finalisation of a document.

Home nice and early so I decided to take a quick look at the finalised document. To do this I used the family MacBook in Evolution mode so that I could run MacroView DMF. One of the great things about DMF is that you can register a SharePoint document store using its https: address – this lets me view and navigate the large number of site collections, sites and libraries in the firm’s on-premises SharePoint document store. In the same DMF tree I can also see the Office 365 SharePoint Online tenancy that we use to create collaboration spaces, such as the one for Project X. I’ll be making make great use of these features tomorrow when I am telecommuting from my home office.

Ever wanted to know whether anyone has opened a document that you have stored in a SharePoint library? I did just this by using the Recents mode of MacroView DMF. The Sales report PDF that I stored in the Portal is right there at the top of the list. I right-click on the new Sales report and choose the Audit option. This retrieves all the activity in respect of the document from the SharePoint Audit Log and displays it on screen in a grid format that you can copy to the clipboard. OK I can see that the boss has opened my report. If I didn’t have right-click, Audit I guess I would have to get a developer to create some sort of report to run across the Audit Logs – there are so many entries that browsing for activity on a specific file would NOT be feasible.

Looking back on the day it’s clear that Microsoft has made great progress on their quest to enable ‘from-anywhere’ access to documents on a variety of devices, and that MacroView DMF makes things even better, particularly when you are working in Office applications on a Windows desktop.

For more information contact MacroView Solutions.