Setting Up Files and Web Sites for Offline Access

Preparing network files and Web sites so they're easily accessible by mobile users.

By Brien M. Posey | Posted Dec 26, 2000
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So far in this series, I've explained how the various types of offline file caching work. In this article, I'll explain how to actually set up files for offline access. I'll then go on to explain how to make Web sites available offline as well.

Sharing Folders

Before you can make any folder available offline, you must first share it. To do so, open My Computer and navigate to the folder you want to make available offline. Next, right-click on the folder and select the Sharing command from the resulting context menu. When you do, you'll see the folder's properties sheet with the Sharing tab selected.

To share the folder, select the Share This Folder radio button and enter a share name. You can now make the folder available for offline use. To do so, click Caching on the folder's Sharing tab. You'll see the dialog box shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1
Figure 1: The Caching Settings dialog box allows you to make the selected folder available for offline use.

As you can see, the Caching Settings dialog box contains a drop-down list containing the various types of caching. You can select Automatic Caching, Manual Caching, or Automatic Caching for Programs. The dialog box also contains a brief description of each type of caching and what it's good for.

Manual Caching

If you set a folder to use Automatic Caching or Automatic Caching for Programs, then the caching process is... well, automatic. However, if you decide to manually cache a folder, the caching process requires some user intervention. Before a user can use a manually cached folder offline, he must go through a process called pinning.

Pinning is the process of selecting which files should be available offline. Once you manually cache a folder, any user who normally has access to the folder also has rights to pin the folder. However, you can modify the group policy so that only a select few individuals have pinning privileges.

To pin a folder, the user must be online. Once the user is logged in, he must navigate through the directory structure to the folder to which he needs offline access. After selecting the folder, the user must select File|Make Available Offline. Windows 2000 will then launch the Offline Files Wizard.

The wizard's initial screen simply gives an explanation of the wizard's purpose, and the user can click Next to move on. The next screen asks if the user wants to automatically synchronize the offline files when he logs on and off the computer. The user makes the selection using the check box provided and then clicks Next. The wizard's final screen gives the user a chance to see a periodic reminder that he isn't online. After the wizard completes, a dialog box asks whether the user wants to make the selected folder the only thing that's available offline, or if he would also like to include the contents of the folder's subfolders. After the user selects the appropriate radio button and clicks OK, the folder will be available offline.

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