What is the Upload Center in Microsoft Office?

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If you’ve used Microsoft Office 2010 or the latest version, 2013, you may notice this orange circular icon with a white arrow pointing upwards in the systray (system tray) in the lower right corner of the screen. The systray area is officially called the Notification Area in Windows documentation, by the way.

If you see such an orange icon you’re probably seeing the Upload Center. The name may seem a bit esoteric in messaging (to the user) since it never really seems to be uploading anything. Non-technical folks (users) may complain “what is this thing”? What’s it do.

The answer is, it’s actually an “upload center” for something. But for what?

Answer: Interaction (saving or opening files) from a web server running WebDAV extensions. It’s not really an upload center like for uploading stuff to Facebook or multiple upload add-on for SharePoint in IE (ActiveX control). Just a control panel or console, if you will, for monitoring status of files saved to web sites running stuff like SharePoint or IIS/Apache. However, it does have options for resolving synchronization (sync) conflicts and saving a copy of a file that won’t upload.

What is WebDAV?

Answer: WebDAV is the authoring part of HTTP (1.1) protocol (for websites). Just having HTTP extensions on a web server won’t let you save to the site. Your site or web server hosting the site needs to have WebDAV installed on it for users to save documents to a web folder (subdirectory).

What about SharePoint? SharePoint from a technical and software analyst perspective is a web solution, not just a web server like Apache (UNIX or Linux)  or IIS (Windows). IBM also has something called QuickR that I believe used to be called QuickPlace. It’s kind of like SharePoint but kind of not. Written in different programming languages on different platforms, etc…,etc… I’m not even sure what it’s called now. Other companies have web solutions that they sell for customers to deploy (install) on their web server. Many are CMS (content management system) solutions that are sometimes referred to as document repositories. They do file versioning which is basically keeping copies of older versions of files and keeping track of said files for auditing and compliance.

How does this tie into Microsoft Office 2010 and 2013? Upload Center is just a GUI (graphical user interface) console app to monitor what’s really happening under the hood.

Office Document Cache: This is a folder stored on the local (your) computer’s hard drive. The location to which is exposed in the Settings button in Upload Center.

Efficient data transfer: Data is broken into tiny files containing data (chunks) enabling for more efficient uploads to web servers. The upload speed is always slower than the download speed. Check your DSL modem software, speed tester app, or contact your ISP for more info on upload speeds pertaining to ISPs.

Multi-user editing: Also called co-authoring to make it more user friendly (I guess). It’s what allows you to have multiple people edit your document in the cloud (the Internet) or local web store (WebDAV server on local network, or LAN). The save icon in the upper left gets this green sync, circular, cyclical, design on it.

So why do we have the Upload Center? Troubleshooting the three topics above mainly. For the purposes of this article, consider it a low level (tier 1-2) troubleshooting cube note (something printed out and posted in your cubical at work).

Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are the only apps impacted by this architecture, to my knowledge. Therefore, OneNote or Visio or Publisher, etc… use an older method of saving. I’m not sure what changed in 2013 but haven’t seen any *.one, *.vsd (Visio file) or *.pub files in the upload center just yet.

You can see what’s in the Upload Center by simply clicking on the word Pending Uploads. This will activate a drop down list. Change to Recently Uploaded [screenshot pending]. This will show you anything uploaded in the past few days. I think it’s actually 14, probably going off the Upload Center ‘Settings’.

The one thing it is not is some kind of upload or publishing app like you have on your phone or PC that can publish something like a photo to Facebook. The Upload Center doesn’t have anything to do with uploading anything from the Upload Center application itself. It’s simply a “monitor” or “message board” to tell you how things are going with uploads. If there’s nothing in the Pending Uploads view, then great. No news is good news. Also, the Upload Center messages also tie into the Office applications themselves: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. If there’s an upload failure you’ll get an Information Bar popup under the ribbon telling you there was an error. Clicking on that message (not the retry button) will bring you to the Backstage area (File menu in 2010/2013) showing you the same messaging that the Upload Center would show.

Really it’s just a notification app that “pushes” information. No different than my Lexmark application that I install along with my all-in-one printer. The only difference is that the Upload Center can’t be or shouldn’t be closed (in the background). Not a good idea to try to kill the process with Task Manager.

What you can do is turn off the notifications. You can either do that in Upload Center settings or just right-click the Upload Center (orange) icon and click the checked boxes to toggle the settings. Not hard.

OneNote and SharePoint Workspace (singular, not the plural form: workspace(s)) have a similar method but it’s built into their core code so you shouldn’t see *.one files in the Upload Center. I’m not sure if SharePoint Workspace cached (offline copies of) files show up in Upload Center though. It’s been a while since 2010 beta but I don’t think they do.

The best thing I like about the Upload Center is that it is something useful once you learn what it is and what it’s for.

Benefits

  • Check status of file uploads from Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (core Office apps) documents uploaded to cloud storage (http(s)) or local web server.
  • Resolve issues with (said) files even when the Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) are not running. Even save copy of them to local hard drive to ensure you have local backup copy.
  • Clear the Office Document Cache, found in Settings in the Upload Center window. The cache is stored in the user profile, each user login on the computer has it’s own stored in %userprofile%. You can hit that from Windows Explorer or the Run window. It should be in Local folder. You need have hidden files showing in Folder Options to view in Windows Explorer (file system viewer).
  • Notify you if a file failed to upload and why. It also integrates with the Office app (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) to message you when you’re in the app. But the Upload Center is useful or special because you don’t need the app (e.g. Word) open. It may try again after the app is closed and fail. So it’s a good thing to know. Especially when others may be editing the document. Now or later when you’re away from your computer or mobile device.

What to do if someone comes to you with an issue with Upload Center:

  • If they ask what it is, use this post as a guide to help explain it to them.
  • Are they using SharePoint or just WebDAV on a web server like IIS or Apache? SharePoint has it’s own WebDAV implementation. Good to know because they’ll get more integration and the co-authoring if SharePoint 2010 (or higher) or SkyDrive/Office 365 subscriptions with SharePoint Online. I’m not %100 if all online offerings have co-authoring though.
  • Search Bing.com and Office.com for Upload Center for the latest documentation.
  • If they are getting an error uploading did they change anything?
  • If not, toggle the Automatically detect settings
  • If someone is scared of loosing their work, they can save a copy temporarily and backup to USB as a workaround. From the Upload Center interface, they can switch the view from Pending Uploads to All Cached Files.
  • If someone can’t find the Upload Center and it’s missing from the Notification Area (systray) on Windows 7 they can click the Start button and type upload, they should find it. It’s in either the Program Files or Program Files (x86) folder on their computer, provided they didn’t customize the install path. In Windows 8 you can just do Start+Q. That’s the Start key (on the keyboard) followed by the Q key. Then type upload and click it. Upload Center is installed with all Office suites (or standalone applications) as a “shared” or “Office Tool” component by default.

I’ll likely be blogging more about how to use the upload center or examples (screenshots) of network issues. Ping me if you have examples.

So can Office open files from an Apache server or one of those other servers? Yes, Office applications can in fact open a file over HTTP or HTTPS from a third party (web) server such as Apache. Actually Office isn’t an app, it’s just a suite of apps (applications) that Microsoft bundles for distribution to resellers and (online) software distributors.

The other fact is that you can save back to that third party server provided you can connect, authenticate, and the server has the WebDAV extensions installed. I’m not too experienced with Apache but an administrator of the web server in a particular case would most likely be able to install them if you needed to. But that’s not always the cause of problems that arise saving or opening from web servers. I’ve written a TechNet Wiki article that goes more in depth on troubleshooting web servers interacting with Office client applications. Search for something like TechNet Wiki office save open troubleshooting and you should find it.

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