Thursday, November 20, 2008

How to Use SharePoint Discussion Boards in Outlook 2007

As you can imagine, we are heavy SharePoint users here at SharePoint Solutions. Much of the work we all do every day is done with SharePoint. Unlike our instructors, consultants, and developers, everyone isn't a SharePoint expert. Just like in your own organization, we have many Information Workers. Recently, we've been utilizing SharePoint Discussion Boards more. So I sent an email to our internal staff letting them know they may find these discussion boards easier to use if they connect them to Outlook 2007. In that email, I also included brief directions on how to do the most common tasks. Someone suggested that our blog readers might also be interested in those instructions, so here they are. Enjoy!
How to Connect a SharePoint Discussion Board to Outlook 2007
  1. While viewing a particular discussion board, click on Actions, Connect to Outlook.

  2. Depending on your operating system and how it is configured, you may receive a dialog warning that, "A website wants to open web content using a program on your computer." If you receive this dialog box, click the Allow button.

  3. In Outlook 2007, you will receive a dialog box asking you if want to, "Connect this SharePoint Discussion Board to Outlook?" Click the Yes button.

  4. If you have other SharePoint Discussion Boards you want to connect to Outlook 2007, you will need to repeat steps 1 through 3 for each of them. Each of your users will need to manually connect their discussion boards in this manner—I'm not aware of any way to push this out automatically for them.
How to Read SharePoint Discussion Board Messages with Outlook 2007
  1. After you have connected your SharePoint Discussion Boards to Outlook, you will notice they are now listed in the Mail section of your Outlook Navigation Pane in a folder named SharePoint Lists. Discussion Boards that have messages you haven't yet read will appear in a Bold typeface. This allows you to quickly see where there are items you need to read without having to go to the SharePoint site in a browser. In the example below, you can see that there are no unread messages in Sales Leads Discussion, but there are 4 unread messages in the Sales Training Discussion.

  2. When you click on the name of a particular discussion board in the Outlook Navigation Pane, you will view the message headers in a threaded view in Outlook's List Pane. Individual posts that you haven't read will appear in a Bold typeface in this list. Each conversation will be grouped together and replies will appear indented beneath the item that was replied to. In the screenshot below, you'll notice that everything has been read except for the two items by Gail and Ryan in the conversation on "Great Book: Tribes by Seth Godin." Ryan posted a reply to Gail's initial comment; therefore his reply is indented below it.

  3. Just like reading email, when you click on a particular item in the List Pane, you can read it in the Outlook Preview Pane. You can also double-click on the item in the List Pane to open it in its own window.

How to Reply to a SharePoint Discussion Board Message with Outlook 2007
  1. To reply to a post you are viewing in the Preview Pane, click on the Post Reply button in the Toolbar.

  2. If you have opened a post in its own window, you can reply clicking on the Post Reply button in the Ribbon.

  3. When you click on either of the Post Reply buttons in steps 1 or 2, a new window will open for you to type your message. When you are ready to post your reply to the server, click on the Post button. You will see your post in Outlook, and it will also be posted to the discussion boards in SharePoint as well. Note: To keep things clean and easier to read, I usually delete my signature and the copy of the text to which I am replying. I see no reason to clutter the space with this information. It's a personal choice though, and certainly up for debate, but let's not debate it here. :-)

How to Post a New Message to a SharePoint Discussion Board with Outlook 2007
  1. To create a new post (i.e. start a new conversation that is not a response to a previous discussion), in the Outlook Navigation Pane carefully select the discussion board to which you want to post. It is important that you select the correct discussion board first!
    Then click the New (New Post in this Folder) button in the toolbar.

  2. A new window will open where you can enter the subject for your new post and type the message body. When you are done, click the Post button.

The Next Level with SharePoint Discussion Board Messages in Outlook 2007
As with regular messages in Outlook you can do things like mark posts as read or unread. For the real power users, you can do much more such as create custom views that only show you posts you haven't read yet. Outlook 2007 puts you in full control of your SharePoint discussion board experience. Make it work the way the way that is most efficient and productive for you!


Anonymous said...

Very useful indeed.
Just that the title for second reply should be post.


Ricky Spears said...

Ali - Thanks! I've made the correction. People probably shouldn't trust me with copy and paste. :o)

Anonymous said...

Hi Ricky, does this work if you are using WSS 3.0? I don't see the Sync with Outlook withing Sharepoint. Assuming this is because we don't have MOSS?

Ricky Spears said...

Anonymous - I'm pretty sure this works with WSS. My guess is that you are using Forms Based Authentication and where that is configured in Central Administration, the option for "Enable Client Integration" is unchecked. There can be problems with Forms Based Authentication and Client Integration, so you may want to read the following article:

nsp said...

have a question about discussion board, but is not related with outlook client. (hope you can help)

Can we can delete the column at discussion board?

Step to repro the issue :

Remove the Body column (This is a pre-defined column upon creation of discussion board) - Error message received when editing the item in the discussion board.

One or more field types are not installed properly. Go to the list settings page to delete these fields.
Troubleshoot issues with Windows SharePoint Services.

Is it a known issue for removing the pre-defined column for Discussion Content Type?

Can we remove the Body column completed? if cannot why Microsoft not remove the delete button ?

Ben Vitale said...

Is there a good way to get alerts when a Post is created or updated on a SharePoint list that you have connected to Outlook? I would expect the type of alert like like when you get a new email message. It doesn't seem like there is a way to configure such a Rule for Post Items.

Unknown said...

Is it possible to move topics from one Discussion board to another?

Jeff Cate said...

Hi Ann,

You bring up one of the two most glaring missing features of SharePoint's discussion forums.

It is not possible to move a topic from one discussion to another.

Also, it is not possible to merge two topics (or threads) into one.

These two features have been standard in forum software for years, but Microsoft has never added them to SharePoint discussions since they were introduced in the 2003 version.

We can only hope that Microsoft will add them in the future or a partner will develop an add-on that provides this functionality.

lnardolillo said...

I like seeing my picture after I make a comment in the discussion board. However, my leadership does not share that viewpoint. Can the picture of the creater be hidden or removed from the discussion board entry?

Unknown said...

I manage a MOSS discussion board. When one of the participants deleted the discussions (his and others) from the integrated Outlook view, it deleted the discussions from MOSS. How can I stop the deletion occuring in MOSS?

Ben Vitale said...

@adh57, I suspect you could manage delete privileges somehow through Sharepoint.. but then they wouldn't be able to delete posts at all?

It's an important distinction in Outlook between deleting individual discussion threads or posts and disconnecting/deleting the whole discussion board from Outlook so you don't see it anymore. The latter does not affect the posts.

I wonder if its even possible to enable them to delete an Outlook copy of a post but not delete the "actual" post. Sorry, I know thats probably your question.. I would be interested in knowing the same..

Joelji said...

Could anyone find an answer to push the 'connect to outlook' to users in the organization.

Sam said...

Hi i am replying for my sharepoint forum through outlook but it replies more than 20 times and still contiue the same.. can anyone help me to stop that reply?

Sam said...

Hi all,

I am using outlook to give reply for my SharePoint forum. Unfortunately my reply is continuing as a series. how to stop that?

Ben Vitale said...

@Sam Victor

You can delete the discussion board completely from your Outlook, and then re-connect it. After that it should stop re-posting.

Unknown said...

I have a user that setup a RSS feed in Outlook 2007. He selected 'Mark All Read' and it sent out over 700 emails and made him the owner of the postings. He also happens to be owner of the site. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Ricky Spears said...

Todd - RSS feeds should be Read-Only. I can't see how anything done with an RSS feed would do something like this on the list. You may want to confirm that he hasn't actually connected the discussion board to Outlook and done something that way.

Unknown said...

I've noticed that if a post is edited after I have downloaded it to outlook, the message does not get updated. No update occurs even though I have clicked Send/Receive.

Are downloaded posts not meant to be updated?

Squeezebox86 said...

Is there a way to save an offline copy of a sharepoint discussion allowing one to have a archive version of the discussion while allowing one to remove the discussion from the sharepoint site?

Tim MacDonald said...

After receiving an email alert when a message is posted on the discussion board, I click on "Connect to this discussion board". I get prompted to enter my login credentials, which I do ... over and over ...

There are other discussion boards in our environment that I've been able to connect to without a problem.

What does this imply? Is there some configuration setting that must be altered allowing one to connect this discussion board to outlook?

Tim MacDonald said...

Via an email message, I am able to connect to most discussion boards in my company's sharepoint environment. However, I am not able to connect to one in particular. I am continuing prompted to enter my login credentials! I am able to get to this discussion board via the web, so I am perplexed!

Utsav said...

How do i get an alert, similar to a new mail arriving in Inbox, whenever someone replies on the Discussion Board?

Ricky Spears said...

Utsav - Click on Actions > Alert Me and select the options you want there. Easy Peasy!

Ricky Spears said...

Tim - That sounds strange. There are 3 posts on this blog about how to stop SharePoint from asking you to log in. Have you tried all of those suggestions?

Tim MacDonald said...

Ricky - yes, I have reviewed the previous posts, and I believe the issue I am raising is different.

I am trying to connect to the discussion board to Outlook. It's a really handy feature, and it works with other discussion boards I participate in.

However, here's what I experienced: when I try to connect Outlook to a particular discussion board, I am prompted for login credentials. As a test, I had the site admin add me as having full control. When she did that: presto! I suddenly was able to connect it to outlook! However, when she returned my site permission level back to "member", I once again was not able to connect it to Outlook.

So, I suspect it has to do with permissions, but I don't know what SPECIFIC permission attribute it is choking on ... any ideas???

Thank you!


Ricky Spears said...

Tim - I haven't ran across this before. However, you've done an excellent thing with your troubleshooting and I would say you're right that if it doesn't prompt you with full control, but it does with regular contribute permissions, then it's probably a permission-related thing.

Without actually looking at it with you and checking out things on the server (which we could do via a Web Consultation with you and your SharePoint Server admin), the best idea I have is this: there is a Permission called "Use Client Integration Features". You may want to have make sure that hasn't been removed from this Permission Level. I just removed it on a sandbox server and got a couple extra prompts to log in, so I THINK that may be it, but I'm not certain. It's worth checking out though.

Unknown said...

Very visual post ..
thanks for those red circles on pictures, it reduces reading time drastically.

Unknown said...


Is it possible to "clean up" the Outlook discussion forum from old posts
- without removing the posts from Sharepoint database
- and without reloading old post at the next synchronisation ?


Vivek said...

Hi Ricky, good job,

Could you please help me with this, on Sharepoint 2007 in team discussions list, how can I disable reply option to a group of people?

Abhishek Agarwal said...

i dont have "connect to outlook" under "actions", may be a access permission problem?

Using Outlook 2007, I successfully received an alert from SharePoint for additions or modifications. This alert has a "Connect to this discussion board" button at the upper left of the message. When I select this button, an immediate Outlook Send/Receive Error is displayed: Task "SharePoint' reported error (0x800401F3): 'Unknown Error 0x800401F3' The Discussion Board shows up in the Outlook folder view under SharePoint Lists. However it is empty. Could this be a access permission problem? No? I think new users may get into this problem in future.

Any suggestions please??

Juley said...

Is there a way I can setup or send an alert to my team members so they do not have to get onto sharepoint and connect?

John said...

I'm having a problem with my signature being added to a post even after I deleted it before I sent it. It also over-writes the text of my post at the end where it inserts the sig. Any suggestions? Thank you, John