Using Word Online to Create Documents in SharePoint Online

Last time, I showed how to create an initial SharePoint site using the online version of SharePoint. This week, I’ll show how you can easily add and use documents in your document library using the Office products included in Office 365.

If you remember, the home screen of the site included a web part in the lower right corner with the title Documents. This web part displays the contents of the Documents library from the current site which is initially empty. You could of course upload existing documents from your local computer folders by clicking the upload button and either entering the name of an individual document, using the Browse button to navigate to and select an existing document or if you have multiple files to upload, click the link: Upload files using Windows Explorer instead. This option lets you drag and drop files using Windows Explorer from different local folders into the SharePoint Shared Documents library of the current site.

However, the real interest part is what happens when you click the New button to create a new document.

A popup menu appears allowing you to create a document using any of the Office 365 tools which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. There is also a new option that lets you create an Excel Survey. While similar to surveys that you may have created previously in SharePoint, there are some difference. I will cover creating and using Excel Surveys in a future week. Let’s assume for now that I want to create a Word document.

When I click Word document, Word Online opens as shown in the figure below. Note that the number of ribbon tabs and the contents of the ribbons while similar to those found in your desktop version of Word are similar, there are not as many features in Word Online. For most document needs, you will find that the options provided in Word Online can get you through the creation of your documents. Similar reduced functionality exists for Excel workbooks, PowerPoint presentations, and OneNote notebooks using the online tools. I cannot comment on Microsoft’s intention of eventually duplicating all of the functionality of their desktop Office tools in the Online versions. One can only hope that being online will allow Microsoft to add new functionality as soon as it becomes available, not just in fixed interval releases that can be years apart. Perhaps in the long term, software versions as we currently know them will become a thing of the past as new functionality is added immediately.

In the above figure, I created a short document and I am now ready to save it. Being familiar with the desktop version of Word, my first though is to open the File menu and select Save As. However when I do this, I see the following screen which tells me that I can download a copy of the document to my local computer or I can create a PDF which I can also download to my local computer. Then the dialog asks me, “Where’s the Save button?” Where indeed? It then says that there is no save button because the document is automatically saved.

Where is it saved? Well, remember that I started from a web part that was displaying the contents of the Shared Documents library of my online SharePoint site. That is exactly where the document is saved.

You may have also noticed that I was not asked for a document filename. It fact, it is just called Document. Not very descriptive. I’ll get to what I should have done in a moment, but remember that every document has properties and that you can always edit those properties from within your document library.

Let’s first navigate to the Shared Documents library. A fast way to do this is to click the web part title: Documents on the Home page. Now the entire page is devoted to showing just the Shared Documents library contents. Note the three dots (ellipsis) to the right of the document name. I can click on these dots to open the dialog shown below. This dialog shows me a preview of the document’s contents along with some information about the document. Finally at the bottom of the dialog are some commands to allow you to edit the document, define permissions for the document, get notifications about changes to the document by following it, and another three dots for additional commands.

Opening this second ellipsis, I see a familiar popup menu with commands that include the ability to view and edit properties of the document. In this case, I want to edit the document’s properties to change its name.

The Edit Properties page only displays two user editable properties, the document name and the document title. The difference between these two properties is that the document Name is the physical filename of the property as it is saved in the document library. Generally I recommend that the name be short and that it does not include spaces since spaces in file names require special treatment in many applications. You can see that the name includes the suffix .docx indicating that the document is a Word document. You can store almost any kind of document in a library and the file’s suffix will appear here but cannot be changed. The second property is called Title and by default is blank. However, you can enter any descriptive text you want to use to identify the document. It does not have to be short. It can include blanks. It should be user friendly. When document libraries display their contents, you can display either the Name or the Title or both. In some cases, you may want to ‘hide’ the real filename which may not be user friendly anyway from the user and only display the more descriptive Title property.

Having changed the document’s name and added a title, I may want to modify what properties of the documents I show when the library contents are listed on my home page. I can do this by clicking the ellipsis immediately after the text: All Documents. This pops up the menu shown below which allows me to either modify the current view or create a new view of the library. Let’s modify the current view.

In the Edit View dialog, you can change which columns appear as well as the order in which those columns appear. In addition, you can filter and sort the contents of the library as well as define other display properties. This dialog includes options you may already be familiar with from working in the on premise version of Sharepoint.

For this example, I will click the Display box to the left of the column name Title to include it in the view and I will define it to be the third column displayed from the left, right after the document name, as shown in the following figure.

Now when I display the contents of the document library, both the name and the title of the document appears. Note however, this will have no effect on the properties displayed for documents on the home page’s Document web part. Why? Because the view used on the home page was different when that page was created. It is not automatically updated just because we updated the view in the Shared Documents library. Think of a cookie cutter. When you use a cookie cutter to cut out a dozen cookies and then bend the metal into a different shape, your new cookies will have the new shape, but the old cookies have the old shape. View definitions are the cookie cutter used to define the fields and other properties of a list displayed on the page at the time the list was added to the page. In a future blog, I will show that you can change the view on the home page to either match the current view definition in the library or even to create a new custom view that does not exist anywhere else.

Finally, what should I have done to name the document when I created it? Perhaps you did not notice the word: Document in the heading of the Word Online screen. Maybe you just thought that Word was trying to remind you that you were creating a document. Actually, that word, Document, in the middle of the header was really the default document name. If you hover over it, a tooltip style box appears telling you that you can click on it to perform a Rename File action.

Simply select the current filename and type in a new filename as shown below.

Since I performed this last action on a new document, my home screen now shows that I have two documents in my Documents library, one that I renamed by going through the properties and one that I renamed directly from within Word Online.

That’s all for this week. C’ya next time.






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