21.4. Setting Up a Review Chain
So far, you've learned how Excel's commenting and reviewing features let you collaborate on a document with multiple people. But that still leaves the matter of actually getting your worksheet files to all the people you want to work with. True, you can send your workbook just as you would any other file. For example, you can attach the workbook file to an email, burn it to a CD, or copy it to a network drive that others can access. All these techniques work perfectly well, as thousands of Excel fans will attest.
But if you're really in the Excel zone and don't want to emerge from the comforting regularity of your worksheet grid, Excel's Send To feature can help you email your workbook without breaking stride. The only requirement is that you need a modern email program that supports the MAPI (Messaging Application Programming Interface) standard. Supported email applications include Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Outlook Express, and Microsoft Exchange Client. If you're a fan of Web-based email like Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail, you might not have an email application installed on your computer and configured correctly, which means you won't be able to use Send To.
In the next few sections, you'll learn how to use the Send To feature to send your workbook in an email and even route a workbook through a long list of reviewers, one after the other.
Here are two ways you can use Excel to send a workbook by email:
You can send a workbook file as an attachment, in which case the file travels along with an ordinary email message.
You can send a worksheet in the body of an email. In this case, Excel automatically converts the worksheet data to HTML (the format that's used to create Web pages) or plain text (depending on the settings in your email program). This approach is similar to copying a section of your worksheet and pasting it directly into the body of an email message.
Sending the full workbook file as an attachment is best if you want the recipient to be able to edit the workbook or use other Excel tools like charting. This scheme also ensures that you don't lose any information or formatting. On the other hand, pasting your worksheet data directly into an email message is the best avenue if your recipient doesn't have Excel.
If you want to send your email as an attachment, select File Send To Mail Recipient (as Attachment). Excel launches your email program and opens a new message with your workbook file attached, as shown in Figure 21-11.
If you want to send your worksheet data in the body of an email message, select File Send To Mail Recipient. When you do so, Excel temporarily transforms itself by adding a special email header to its window just above your worksheet data (see Figure 21-12).
Excel also offers some email related tools to help you coordinate Excel files you're having other people review. For example, if you're sending a workbook that you want someone to review using Excel's change tracking tools, use the File Send To Mail Recipient (for Review) command. When you do so, Excel checks to make sure your workbook has change tracking on (and if it doesn't, Excel turns on change tracking and prompts you to the save the workbook). Excel then opens a new mail message, attaches the workbook, and automatically adds the text "Please review the attached document" to the body of the email.
The neat part happens when the recipient opens the workbook. At this point, your recipient's copy of Excel recognizes that the workbook has been sent out for review and automatically opens the Reviewing toolbar. (Excel 2000 and later support the reviewing feature. However, only Excel 2002 and Excel 2003 include the handy buttons on the reviewing toolbar for sending workbooks through email.) After the recipient has made all his changes or left some useful comments, she can send the workbook back by clicking the "Reply with Changes" button on the Reviewing toolbar. Excel then opens a new email message, attaches the modified workbook, fills in the original sender's email address, and adds a short message (which you can edit), explaining that the workbook has been reviewed.
Finally, when you open the revised workbook, Excel recognizes that it's a copy of the original workbook and asks you if you want to merge all the changes into the original copy. If you choose Yes, Excel opens the original document and performs the merge process described on Section 21.3.6. If you've moved or renamed the original workbook since you sent it out for review, Excel shows a message explaining that it can't find the file and lets you browse for it.
Overall, this automated review process doesn't accomplish anything you couldn't do on your own. But it streamlines the whole process quite nicely .
So far, you've learned how you can easily send a workbook to a reviewer by email. In the previous scenario, the reviewer sends the workbook back to you as soon as the revision is complete. However, in some cases, you want to route a document from one person to another in a review chain . When one reviewer finishes reviewing the document, the workbook needs to travel to the next reviewer, and so on, until the last reviewer weighs in and returns the final product your way.
Once again, there's no reason you can't do this routine by hand, using all the ordinary features of your email application and explaining the reviewing chain to each reviewer. However, Excel can simplify your life quite a bit by letting you create a routing slip that lists each reviewer's email address and the order that the reviewers should receive the workbook. In other words, you define the reviewing chain with your routing slip, and then Excel takes on the responsibility of making sure the workbook travels from person to person in the right order.
To set up a routing slip, follow these steps:
Choose File Send To Routing Recipient.
The Routing Slip dialog box appears.
Click the Address button.
The Address Book dialog box appears with the list of all the email addresses in your email program's address book.
Find the first reviewer you want use in your address list, and double-click it.
When you double-click a reviewer, the email information is added to the Message Recipients list on the right side of the window (see Figure 21-13).
Return to step 3 to add the next reviewer to your list. When you're finished adding all the reviewers you want, click OK and continue with step 5.
When you click OK, Excel returns to the Routing Slip dialog box (see Figure 21-14).
Fill in the Subject and Message text boxes with the subject and message you want to use for the email message.
Typically, the subject line should indicate the file name or describe the workbook briefly . You can add more details to the message, like how detailed a review you're looking for and the deadline when you'll like all the reviewing completed.
Click Add Slip.
Excel attaches the routing slip to your workbook and closes the Routing Slip dialog box. However, the workbook hasn't been sent to anyone yet.
When you're ready to send your workbook out for review, you have several choices:
Send it to the next recipient in the list . To take this action, select File Send To Next Routing Recipient. This choice is ideal, because it ensures that everyone sees the workbook in order. When the last recipient uses this command, the workbook comes back to you with the sum total of all the changes.
Send it to a specific reviewer . Occasionally, you might need to override the review order you've set up. For example, a reviewer might need to send the workbook back up the review chain to get more information about an earlier modification. To take this action, select File Send To Other Routing Recipient. When the Routing Slip dialog box appears, select one of the recipients in the list, and click Route.
Send it to everyone . If deadlines are really tight, you might need to abandon the review chain completely and send the workbook to every reviewer at once. To take this step, select File Send To Other Routing Recipient. When the Routing Slip dialog box appears, select the "All at once" option at the bottom of the dialog box, and click Route. When the revisions are complete, each reviewer will send you a separate copy containing their proposed changes. You can combine these changes using the workbook merging feature described in the Section 21.3.6 on Section 21.3.6.
| POWER USERS' CLINIC |
SharePoint Server and Windows 2003
Email isn't the only way to route your workbook to other people. There are dozens of other options, including networks, Web sites, sneakernet, and more.
One of the most interesting choices is SharePoint Server, a feature that is built into Microsoft's Windows 2003 Server operating system. Using SharePoint, you can create team Web sites where people can share Office documents, have discussions about their documents, and collaborate. Best of all, you can assign different permissions to different people, ensuring that only the right people can make changes or review sensitive data.
SharePoint is outside the scope of this book, but you can learn more from a dedicated book like Microsoft SharePoint: Building Office 2003 Solutions , by Scot P. Hillier (Apress, 2004).