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How Office 2010 Backstage Connects You to SharePoint Document Metadata

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The new Backstage View in Office 2010 offers a greater degree of usefulness when working in SharePoint 2010 with its new collaboration, workflow, and metadata connections back to your SharePoint documents.

When Office 2007 first came out with the Office Button (or Orb) in the top-left corner of your Office applications, it unlocked a variety of different document options that you wouldn't find on the Ribbon interface or anywhere else.

Save options, Print options…and, quite important, literal Options for your application itself. Office 2010 takes this concept to the next level with the Backstage View.

Now, when you click your File button (which is no longer an orb; it is a simple half-tab in the top-left corner of your Office apps), it opens up a full-page grouping of features called OUT features.

OUT features, as described by the Microsoft Office product development group, relate to those options that aren't visually apparent. Essentially, those things you do to the whole file (save, print, protect, inspect, and so on), not just the content within it. For example, if you change a font, you see the results WYSIWYG style. If you save the document, or adjust the permissions or document properties of a document, you don't literally see this visually. And so these OUT features needed a place to reside (not on the Ribbon), and they have been placed in the Backstage View.

Where this comes into play with SharePoint is that document collaboration and sharing are essential to the modern Office user with all the context surrounding your documents and the metadata that is involved with a document. This has all been rolled into the Backstage View.

Now, when a person opens a document that is residing within a shared documents repository on SharePoint 2010 using Office 2010 (let's use Word 2010 as our example here), you can select the File button on the Info tab to see some of the more intense aspects of a document when residing within SharePoint. Through the Backstage View, you can now perform many of the tasks that you perform from within the browser.

If your document lives on a SharePoint site you may be using features like co-authoring, workflows, check out, or policy, and all this will be displayed to you in the Backstage View on the Info tab. For example, if there is a workflow task assigned to you, you will be clearly shown the task and the required action to take to complete the task.

Consider the screenshot provided by Microsoft in a recent meeting with the SharePoint Team. Here you can see that the Backstage View has a Manage Versions button (which you have without SharePoint as well, but when the document is residing within SharePoint you also have the ability to use the Check Out menu to ensure nobody else can work with it.

Now you can work on your document until you decide to check it back in, which you can do by clicking the File button again and clicking Check In, which is a new menu item due to your action to check the document out earlier.

As you can see in Figure 1, you can update all the document metadata through the Backstage as well. Metadata properties are an essential aspect of records and document management. We use the metadata for retention, for security, and for search capabilities.

Initially, when you click the File button, you will see some of the properties in the right column, but if you select the down arrow at the top (next to the word Properties) it will give you several options to choose from, including Show All Properties, so that you can see and edit them.

The changes you make to a document are saved when you save it and/or check it back in. There is a sync capability between Office and SharePoint so that SharePoint automatically reflects any changes made that it may be displaying (without a screen refresh necessary on the SharePoint site, I might add).

So the features that SharePoint might be tracking and displaying to visitors of the document library may include items such as when it was last modified and by whom. These items will automatically be updated on the SharePoint site. And any document properties that you configured that are also being displayed on the site will automatically be updated as well.

In Conclusion

I'll be honest; when I first saw the new Backstage View, I didn't like it. It felt like it was too intrusive, clouding up my whole screen. After some pondering and realizing that although the Office 2007 button didn't take up the whole view, you really didn't need to see the document behind it. Once you click that button, you are not hindered in any way in performing your OUT tasks just because you cannot see the underlying document.

Now that I see the full potential of the Backstage View when combined with SharePoint 2010. I am more willing to adjust. The last adjustment with 2007 came with learning a whole new ribbon, so I can certainly adapt to this, especially if it is for a good reason. I believe that having the ability to be connected to your SharePoint options and being able to adjust and update metadata easily is a good enough reason.

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