One of the major issues for authors with Documentum, Alfresco or Hadoop has always been checking in a document from a browser based interface. We have recently completed adding Office 365 integration to our High Performance Interface (HPI) to allow clients to checkin and checkout without requiring Office on their device. This post will share the approach as well as present a video of the capabilities.
Check-out and Check-in – What are the issues with a browser based approach?
Whether it was with Documentum’s Webtop, D2, xCP or Alfresco Share or even our HPI product, browser based solutions have always struggled with accessing files on the device. While launching a file during checkout is a simple, allowing the user to edit/change the content requires the file to be saved on the local PC’s disk. During checkin, the web browser has to be directed to where the file is located to begin the upload process for the new version. A couple of ways this has been accomplished.
- Normal Browser Upload – Sticking to web standards, the user would have to click an “Upload” button to pick out the file on their desktop. See a demonstration in our learning zone. We also provide the ability to drag and drop the file leveraging standard HTML5 file upload support. While this is the simplest approach and is easiest for IT to support, users don’t like having to save and would like a one click approach. Since webapps natively can’t access the file system (that would be a security breach), multiple other approaches have been offered by different solutions.
- Java Applet/Flash/ActiveX – Embedding a Java Applet in the browser (or Flash/ActiveX) allows the browser application to see the file system. The file is copied to a specific location to allow for one click check-in. While this approach works well in a demonstration, IT struggles as implementing client based tools and keeping Java/Flash/IE up to date is an issue. Also, given that users often want choice of browsers (Chrome, Safari, IE and Firefox), often the applet approach doesn’t work on different browsers. We have also seen clients struggle with having to keep around older legacy versions of Internet Explorer just to support some legacy application that needed that “magical” combination of browser plugins and versions. Lastly, the applet approach would often continuously prompt users to update Java on their machine. The industry has gotten away from Java in the browser as it has a terrible history of security holes, so many of our clients aren’t even installing Java on users’ PCs.
TSG has always pushed for the Normal Browser Upload as it is the easiest to support and only involves minimal time from the user check-in perspective. Also, we have seen issues with the Applet approach if the user copies the document to a new location or wants to check-in a document from another source.
Office 365 – What are the possibilities?
Office 365, like a Google Docs, allows for the document to be launched for Word editing in the browser, eliminating the need to have the document exist on the desktop or device. In this manner, HPI supports both a one click check-out (no need to save) as well as a one click check-in. See demo below:
Some unique benefits of this approach:
- Since the document remains in the Word/Excel/PowerPoint format, rendering remains unchanged. Users would not know the difference between those documents worked on in Office 365 or locally on the desktop.
- Leveraging Office 365, users can invite others to edit the document concurrently and collaborate on the document while it is checked out into their OneDrive.
- In the traditional approach, the document remains on the desktop when a document is checked in and has to be manually deleted by the user. When a document is checked in from Office 365, our integration deletes the document to prevent any confusion.
- Users can start using with their current Office documents now and have the option of either working on the document in the browser with Office 365 for connected editing or checking out the traditional manner to work on their desktop when they are offline.
Office 365 provides a quick and efficient manner to make small changes to Office documents without having to add a browser plugin, save a file or launch an application from the desktop. Consider adding this capability to your ECM system to enable your users to make quick changes to documents with less IT support.