Introduction to incoming e-mail

You can integrate incoming e-mail capability into your sites. This new feature enables teams to aggregate e-mail messages within lists and libraries without the extra step of opening the site and uploading the content that was sent in e-mail. This is possible because most list and library types can be assigned a unique e-mail address. Site members can add the e-mail addresses of these lists in the To or Cc box of their e-mail client application when they send e-mail, or they can send e-mail to a distribution list that contains the e-mail addresses of these lists as well as the e-mail addresses of other site members.

A Farm administrator can enable e-mail support in Central Administration at the Farm level. After incoming e-mail is enabled in Central Administration, you can enable and configure e-mail support for the following types of lists and libraries in your sites: document libraries, picture libraries, form libraries, announcements lists, calendar lists, blogs, and discussion boards. Anyone with permissions to create a list can choose an e-mail address for the list when creating the list in an e-mail-enabled site. Note that you cannot add content to lists in Meeting Workspace sites by sending e-mail.

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Real world examples of incoming e-mail

Teams can use incoming e-mail to communicate more effectively and efficiently. Here are some examples of how teams can use incoming e-mail with a site to streamline and improve their communications:

Archive the team e-mail    After joining a new team, a site member opens the site and sees the latest discussions containing both direct posts from members and content that was sent to the discussion board from an e-mail client. The site member also can identify the most important issues and tasks for the team and follow related links in the discussions to get the full story behind all important issues.

When a site member replies to an e-mail message and includes the e-mail address of the list in the reply, the reply is archived to the discussion board and associated with the original e-mail message that was archived. This enables site members who view this archived information in the site to associate the information that is related to a particular e-mail thread.

Create a community     The site owner creates a new distribution list for the bike rider community at a company. A user navigates to the company home site and clicks the link for the community. The user clicks through a short wizard that requests a name for the distribution list, a description for the SharePoint community site, and a list of initial members of the community. Then the user is sent to the new community site.

Create a central information exchange     A site member navigates to the community section of the company home portal site and uses the search feature to ask a question. A search result appears in less than one second for the bike rider community. The site member clicks the link provided in the response and is taken to the home page of the community site. A list of frequently asked questions there contains a list of bike shops. Because none of the bike shops listed are nearby, the site member sends an e-mail message to the community about local bike shops. A member of the community responds with information about a good bike shop that is in the local area.

Receive or offer technical support     The site member goes to the home site, finds the directory listing for technical support, and clicks the link to create a new e-mail message. After sending the message, the site member receives a tracking number that can be used to monitor the status of the technical support request. The site member is automatically subscribed to the technical support request, so he or she can be alerted any time the status of the request changes. The site member receives a quick response because the request is immediately routed to the right personnel, based on the information that was provided in the form. Note that custom code is required to fully implement this scenario. Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 does not provide automatic tracking numbers or message routing based on information in a form.

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New site creation walkthrough

All new subsites that are created in an e-mail-enabled site collection are automatically e-mail-enabled also. If you choose to use an existing group during site creation, the distribution list for the parent site (if available) will be associated with the new site.

 Note   Distribution lists are available only if the SharePoint Directory Management Service is enabled in Central Administration.

If you choose to create a new group during site creation rather than use an existing group, Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 performs the following actions:

  • If the SharePoint Directory Management Service is enabled in Central Administration, you have the option to create an e-mail distribution list and specify the e-mail address for the new list.
  • All site members who you add to the new group are included in a group called "Members" in the team site. If the SharePoint Directory Management Service is enabled in Central Administration, these site members are automatically added to a distribution list that is kept in sync with the "Members" group, so that changes made in one place are automatically synchronized in the other.
  • If the SharePoint Directory Management Service is enabled in Central Administration, the team site's discussion board and calendar will be e-mail-enabled and automatically assigned e-mail addresses. These e-mail addresses will be automatically added to the team distribution list.

 Note   By default, the e-mail addresses for these two lists will be of the following form: GroupAddress.discussions and GroupAddress.calendar.

When you include e-mail addresses for the discussion board and calendar in the distribution list, all e-mail and meeting invitations that are sent to this distribution list will be archived in the team site.

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About e-mail handlers

Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 uses e-mail handlers to route incoming e-mail from virtually any e-mail client to a list in your SharePoint site. Each e-mail-enabled list is associated with a unique e-mail address, and each e-mail handler is associated with a particular list type.

Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 provides a built-in e-mail handler for the following types of lists: discussion boards, announcements, calendars, document libraries, picture libraries, form libraries, and blog posts. When you enable e-mail support for one of these list types, the e-mail handlers provided by Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 are used by default. E-mail handlers parse incoming e-mail messages, perform field mapping of the messages, and, depending upon the configuration settings, archive the messages and attachments in the list that is associated with the e-mail address to which the messages were sent.

The following fields are mapped from an e-mail message to a list: E-Mail Sender, E-Mail To, E-Mail Cc, E-Mail Subject, Body of the message, and attachments.

 Note   If you don't like the way the built-in e-mail handlers perform the field mapping, you can use a custom e-mail handler instead of the default ones. To do this, a developer must write the custom e-mail handler, and the server administrator must deploy it as an event handler.

When enabling and configuring e-mail support for a list, a site owner can choose several options. For example, you can choose whether the original e-mail message will be archived as an .eml file, whether attachments will be archived, and whether meeting invitations will be archived in the list that you are configuring. The options that are available vary by list type.

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Security considerations

When configuring the e-mail security settings on a particular list or library, you can choose to allow only users who can write to the list or any user to archive e-mail to the list. Archiving e-mail from all senders allows everyone (including unauthenticated users) to write to your list or library. Because of the potential security risk, you should give this option careful consideration.

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Routing e-mail through another server

Although the incoming e-mail server address is configured in Central Administration, it may be helpful to know whether the incoming e-mail is being routed through another e-mail server or being sent directly to your server running Windows SharePoint Services 3.0. If you are unsure, talk to your central administrator.

The primary advantages of routing e-mail through another e-mail server, such as Microsoft Exchange Server, are:

User authentication    The Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) service cannot authenticate the user who sends e-mail to your site, but Exchange Server can. The server administrator can use Central Administration to choose whether to accept e-mail only from authenticated users only if the e-mail is sent through Exchange Server.

Spam filtering    Some e-mail servers, such as Exchange Server, provide spam filtering to eliminate unsolicited commercial e-mail before it is forwarded to its destination, in this case, the server running Windows SharePoint Services 3.0. Another technique that may reduce spam is to allow only members of the team site to archive e-mail in lists on which you have granted them write permissions.

Virus protection    Some servers provide virus protection for e-mail routed through them.

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Applies to:
SharePoint Server 2007, Windows SharePoint Services 3.0