SharePoint’s not just some nebulous replacement for file shares and your C:\ drive. It comes with a wide range of tools that can help you be more productive and efficient at your job and, if you’re lucky, reduce the frustration you may have with the day-to-day work of document creation, sharing, emailing, etc.
Now, my definition of “tool” may be a little different from yours. I see co-authoring as a tool of SharePoint, but I don’t really see document libraries as their own tool. Specific types of lists count as tools to me (calendars, task lists) but the generic custom lists doesn’t. Get what I mean?
Even if our definitions don’t match 100%, the major concepts here will. You’ve got a lot of things available to you that you may not realize from a cursory glance of SharePoint.
But they’re there. And they’re waiting for you to indulge. So go ahead, check them out. You’ll be glad you did.
Some SharePoint tool all stars
For a quick intro to the tools, here are a few of the big-picture ones that I use on a regular basis. That’s not to say I don’t regularly use the other ones, but if nothing else this will give you a taste of what’s available.
If you don’t know about alerts, get on that. Make SharePoint do the work of telling you when a file or folder has been changed. Why is this helpful? Have you ever found yourself checking in on an expense report to see whether your boss has finally signed off on it? No need with alerts: SharePoint will tell you when s/he’s finally gotten in there and autographed it so you can get your money!
Calendars give you a great way to keep track of people, places, and things. Need a way to reserve a conference room? Make a calendar for each of your rooms! Or maybe you have a company vehicle or special tool to call dibs on every so often? A calendar fixes that problem too. And most commonly, it’s a great way to track who’s in the office when. Connect it to Outlook and you’ve got the info at the tip of your fingers all the time.
SharePoint’s finally joined the game that Google Drive started years ago: the ability for multiple people to edit the same document at the same time. Microsoft calls it co-authoring. It’s pretty amazing, even if it does sometimes make your head spin. Now you don’t have to worry about when your colleague inevitably leaves that file open on Friday afternoon, just before you’re supposed to get it to your manager for approval. The biggest headache in the modern workplace was just averted. Congrats!
Almost anything you do in SharePoint can be done directly in Outlook. Need quick access to some files in a document library? No problem. Connect the library to Outlook, get live previews, and even see the file bolded when changes happen. Just like you got a new email! Same goes for discussion boards, calendars, and almost anything else you can think of doing in SharePoint. SharePoint ❤️ Outlook.
Want to see the progression of your most important file? With version history, you can see who’s edited your files, when, and what changes occurred between versions. Let’s say your boss made one too many changes to your spreadsheet and you just can’t stand it; go ahead and revert that change! Did your file get corrupted? Jump back to an old version and go from there. Or maybe you’re very picky about version numbers (v 1.0, v 2.0, etc.); version history’s great for that and will get you where you need to be.
So many more tools!
Don’t settle for this small selection of some of my favorites. Check out the whole list we’ve got going over on our Tools page. Read up on each one so you can get the most out of them. And be sure to share with your colleagues. I have a feeling they’d be pleasantly surprised to know how these work.
And most importantly, we don’t just list what the tools are and how they work, we also provide really useful, real-world examples for you as a jumping-off point. You’re welcome!
Swiss Army knife graphic above CC-BY 3.0 by Jeff Gerlach.