One of my early blog posts which dealt with Meeting Workspaces in WSS (Integrating SharePoint Meeting Workspaces with Outlook 2003: http://blogs.officezealot.com/legault/archive/2004/01/12/267.aspx) has generated quite a bit of feedback over the last two and a half years. This is one feature of SharePoint that has caused quite a few issues and generated a lot of confusion for many users. To that end, one pain point that I want to address is the creation of Meeting Workspaces (MWs).
Essentially, you have three ways to create a MW:
1. From the Create -> Sites and Workspaces link in the top toolbar in WSS
This method is fine if you don’t want to record a date and time for this meeting or manage your list of attendees in any automated fashion. Note that this doesn’t create a corresponding entry in the default Events list of the parent site.
2. By checking the Workspace checkbox when creating a new item in an Events list
This allows you to specify basic (or customized) metadata for an Event using the fields defined in the Events list. Recording the beginning and end dates/times for the meeting is of course one set of metadata. However, creating MWs from the Events list does not allow you to manage your list of attendees in any automated fashion. More on that in the next option…
3. By clicking the Meeting Workspace button on a new Meeting Request item created in Outlook 2003
I would recommend this approach for the vast majority of your MW needs (if you don’t have Outlook 2003 then my recommendations are not going to mean much to you anyway). However, the greatest single advantage to creating MWs from Outlook is the ability to manage your attendees. The people you choose to send your Meeting Request to will automatically be added to the Attendees list in the MW Site that gets created. Sure, if you created the MW from Step 1 or 2 you can always add an item in the Attendees list, but they will NOT receive a Meeting Request invitation via e-mail. Creating a MW from Outlook also has the advantage of passing the processed Meeting Requests back to the Attendees list in the MW. So when you get e-mails back in Outlook from the people you invited saying whether they accepted or declined the meeting, the Attendees list in the MW will get updated accordingly.
The only big caveat with creating a MW from Outlook is that a corresponding entry in the Events list stored in the parent WSS site of the MW is not automatically created. However, you can always create an item in the Events list manually and click the Workspace checkbox. The following page will allow you to link to an existing MW that you may have created before (either by Option 1 above, or from Outlook).
Here’s a big caveat though: if you link your new Events list item to an existing MW that was created in Outlook, the MW is converted to a meeting series. This causes a new bar to appear on the left-hand side of the MW which lists all the different dates associated with the meeting. This is usually not a bad thing, but even if the item you created in the Events list matches the date and time of the Outlook Meeting Request exactly, a second instance in the meeting series will be created that has the same date and time – and each meeting series page will have its own unique set of Document Libraries and Lists. This could be very, very confusing for a lot of users.
If you don’t want this “conversion” to happen, I’d recommend not using the option to link to an existing workspace and just add a URL field to the Events list that you can manually update to include the address of the MW for list items that require it.
Next up: How to create a Web Part that will automatically display a list of all Meeting Workspace sites underneath the current site, bypassing the need for an Events List to track them manually.