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Shared Folders: Your Online Conference Room

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Doug Anderson

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Posted: 1 Jun 1999

Sure, e-mail has transformed business communication. You can now send messages to pretty much anyone on the planet. But as useful as sending and receiving e-mail is, e-mail is still entirely too limiting. I mean, you send a message, you sit around and wait for the reply, then you reply. And if you want other people included in the conversation, you have to forward stuff, attach stuff, blind and carbon copy stuff. What you really need is a place to meet and talk, a place to not only discuss stuff, but a place to put the stuff. Well, the future is now, and GroupWise Shared Folders constitute the online conference room you've been waiting for. While e-mail has come a long way, GroupWise has already taken it to the next level.

A shared folder is really just like any other folder you create in your Cabinet, except with a shared folder, it's like you're putting it in everyone else's Cabinet too. Then, everything you put in the folder in your Cabinet appears in the same folder in their Cabinets. And everything they put in the shared folder in their Cabinets appears in the folder in your Cabinet. Get it?

Here's an example: You work for a large company, but you're organized in small teams of about 10 people. Each team has a lead. You have e-mail, and you're always firing off messages about this project or that deadline, but to have a real discussion, you need to call a meeting, or worse, a conference call. Well, with GroupWise 5, you create a folder, call it Project X, and you share the folder with everyone in your group.

When you share the folder, everyone receives a message informing them of the honor, and a copy of the folder appears in their Cabinets. Now if you have a document you need feedback on, you just place it in the shared folder (make sure you grant everyone in the group rights to the document) and send a message asking for comments. Everyone in the group can open the document directly from the folder, and when someone has a comment, he or she can simply right-click the document reference in the folder, click Reply, and type the comment. The comments appear in order directly under the document. You can change the display of the folder so that any comments appear indented below and to the right of the item. Voila! You've got a discussion thread, and you didn't have to leave your desk.

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Sharing a Folder
Creating a place for co-workers to share documents, to collaborate on projects, to follow important online discussions, just to create more, dare we say it, synergy, sounds like a pretty daunting job. So what do you do if your boss thinks you're just the one to do it? Never fear, you are the one. In fact, with very little effort, you can look like a GroupWise guru. Here's what you do.

Create a folder in your GroupWise Cabinet. If you don't know how, see To Create a Folder in online Help. (Creating folders is very easy, honest).

Right-click the folder you just created, then click Sharing. This opens the Properties dialog box for the folder. The Sharing tab should be visible. Since you haven't shared the folder with anyone yet, all the lights are off (all the options are dimmed). Click Shared With to get things rolling.

You can add users to the Share list one at a time, or you can create a group in the Address Book, and share the folder with the entire group, all at once. If you've already got a group ready, simply type the name of the group in the Name box and click Add User. Notice how everyone in the group gets dumped into the Share list. If you don't have a group, it's almost as easy to type the users in one at a time. Click in the Name box, then start typing the name of the person you want to add. As you type, GroupWise searches the Address Book for the right name. When the name appears in the box, click Add User. Repeat for each user or group you want to share the folder with.

You can modify the rights for individual users right now if you want, but each user you add has Read and Add rights by default. Go to Understanding Shared Folder Rights for more info about assigning rights to users.

Click OK to move on, and the Shared Folder Notification dialog box appears. On the left it tells you who is being notified, and on the right you can see the subject of the message you are sending, and the text of the message. You can modify the subject and message any way you want to be more informative or just to jazz it up a little. Click OK to send the Shared Folder Notification on its way. Each person you've shared the folder with will get an e-mail message telling them you've shared a folder with them. If they accept it, a shared folder will appear in each of their Cabinets. Now anything you put in the folder, they can see. And anything they put in, you can see. You're connected.

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Understanding Shared Folder Rights
So you've shared a folder with your group and your boss thinks you're a genius. Just to get things rolling, you post a message about your organization's abysmal telecommuting policy. This is the way collaboration works. However, instead of a great discussion thread, soon you start getting angry messages from people telling you they can't add comments to the folder. What's wrong? Rights. Access Rights that is.

When you share a folder with a person or group, each person you share it with is automatically assigned a default set of rights to the folder. People are bugging you because you took away their right to free speech (you must have mistakenly deleted their Add rights). Folder rights go something like this:

By default, everyone you share a folder with has Read rights. This means users can open and read anything you put in the folder. Well, almost anything. You see, documents in GroupWise carry their own set of rights, independent of the rights granted by the folder. Even though users with Read rights to a folder can open any message, task, appointment, or note in a shared folder, they must be granted rights to documents separately by the owner of the document. In other words, documents placed in shared folders don't automatically adopt the rights of the shared folder they're placed in. The reason GroupWise works this way is not to annoy you. In an open collaborative environment like GroupWise, security is paramount. It may require an extra step or two to share documents, but the added security is worth it.

If users only had Read rights to a folder, they would be able to lurk and watch, but not participate. To truly collaborate, users are given Add rights by default so they can also place their own contributions in the folder for everyone to see.

When you give users Modify rights to a shared folder, they have the ability to not only add and open items in the folder, but to actually change the items. For example, if I post a comment, someone with Modify rights could open my comment and change it. (Remember, documents are different. Rights to documents must be granted independently of the folder.) If someone does change something, his or her name will appear in parentheses after the author's name in the Item List, just so everyone knows who did the changing. Just to be safe, you might want to be careful who you give Modify rights to.

Users with Delete rights in a shared folder are truly special. These users have the right to delete any item placed in a shared folder. (Once again, documents are a special case. Only the owner of a document can grant rights to it.) Usually, only the owner of a shared folder is granted Delete rights.

If you ever decide someone should lose some privileges or someone else needs more access, you can change a user's rights at any time. Just right-click the folder, then click Sharing to open the Properties dialog box for the folder. The Sharing tab should be open. Click any user in the Share list, then grant or rescind rights as you see fit. After all, it's your folder.

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More About Discussion Threads
Shared folders make the most sense when you change the display properties of a folder so that what's in the folder is organized like a conversation. That is to say, instead of viewing the items in a folder by date, or size, or something equally inane, you could view a folder by discussion thread so that ideas and arguments and comments can be followed like a discussion.

For example, if you need to get everyone's feedback on the new timeline for your group's latest project, you can post the timeline (in pretty much any format or file type) to the shared folder, and ask for comments. If you have changed the display properties of the folder to view by discussion thread, a comment on the timeline will appear below and to the right of the timeline reference. Comments on other people's comments appear below and to the right of the comment they discuss. In fact, it might look something like this:

To view the items in a folder by discussion thread, just click the Discussion Thread button on the toolbar. Or, you can change the default display for a folder. Right-click the folder, click Properties, click the Display tab, then click Discussion Thread in the View By drop-down list. Click OK. Now every time you open the folder, the items inside will appear as a discussion thread.

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What You Can Put in a Shared Folder
At first glance, shared folders seem like the perfect place to hold online discussions. Well, they are. But shared folders can be so much more. You can put in documents and ask for comments, you can post a controversial message and stir up an argument, or you can use the folder as a sort of public storage bin.

For example, suppose everyone in your organization needs to run a macro that your local macro guru created. Just put the macro in the shared folder. Or, if you want to make the latest marketing numbers available for your group, put a spreadsheet file in the folder. In fact, you can place pretty much any kind of file in a shared folder, from simple text files, to .EXE files, to .ZIP files. And GroupWise makes it simple. To put a file in a shared folder, just drag the file directly to the shared folder. GroupWise imports the document for you. (Remember, you need to give people rights to the document.) What could be easier? Well, and still be this useful.

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