Setting Up Files and Web Sites for Offline Access

By Brien M. Posey | Dec 26, 2000 | Print this Page
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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.

Caching Web Pages

As I mentioned earlier, you can also make Web sites available for offline use. For example, you might like to take a copy of your company's Web site with you when you go on business trips. To make a page available offline, you must first add it to your favorites. To do so, go to the desired page and select Add To Favorites from Internet Explorer's Favorites menu.

Next, return to the Favorites menu and right-click on the Web site you've just added. Select Make Available Offline from the resulting context menu. At this point, you'll see the Offline Favorite Wizard.

Begin by clicking Next to get through the wizard's introduction screen. Next, you'll see a screen similar to the one shown in Figure 2. By default, the wizard makes only a single page of the Web site available for offline use. However, you can make the entire site available offline, if you wish.

Figure 2
Figure 2: You can make a Web site available for offline viewing.

To do so, click Yes to make the page's links valid. You can then use the dialog box's counter to tell Internet Explorer how many layers deep you want to make available offline. If you make enough layers available offline, you can download an entire Web site. Be careful about doing that, though--some Web sites are huge, and trying to download the entire thing can cause you to run low on hard disk space.

Click Next to continue. The next screen informs you that you can update the page any time you're online by selecting Tools|Synchronize. However, you can also use this screen to establish an automatic synchronization schedule.

After deciding on your synchronization schedule, click Next. The wizard's final screen asks if the Web site requires a password, and gives you the opportunity to supply one. When you complete the process, Internet Explorer will begin downloading the page for offline use.

Conclusion

In this series, I've explained that mobile users sometimes need access to network resources and Web sites when no network or dial up connection is available. In answer to this problem, Windows 2000 offers several ways to make files, folders, programs, and Web sites available for offline use through caching. In my discussion, I've explained the pros and cons to each type of offline caching, as well as the setup procedures for each. //

Brien M. Posey is an MCSE who works as a freelance writer. His past experience includes working as the director of information systems for a national chain of health care facilities and as a network engineer for the Department of Defense. Because of the extremely high volume of e-mail that Brien receives, it's impossible for him to respond to every message, although he does read them all.