An offline folder file is simply a place to store information usually found on a network when a user's computer is not connected to the network. This offers advantages of being able to work independent of the network, yet still have a convenient way to change files on that network once connectivity is restored.
The offline folder file system offered in Windows XP and Windows 2000 is unique from the briefcase offered in earlier versions of Windows operating systems because it automates the process of adding, changing and deleting files once network connection is re-established. In the past, downloading and uploading files before and after being offline was a manual process. If the user forgot to do the task, it simply would not get accomplished.
To set up the offline folder file system in Windows XP, go to My Computer and then click "Folder Options" on the "Tools" menu. Find the "Offline Files" tab and click "Enable Offline Files." A number of other options are also available to the user, based on personal preference, including the option of synchronization upon logging on or off the network, or during both events.
Note that Windows will not allow creation of an offline folder file unless fast switching between users is disabled. To disable this feature, go to the control panel and find "User Accounts." Then select "Change the way users log on or off."
To make a file folder available offline, find the desired folder on the network drive and make sure it is a shared folder. Open it, and then on the "File" menu select the option "Make Available Offline." This will finish the creation of the offline file folder and allow access once you disconnect from the network, as long as the option was selected for synchronization when logging off.
Microsoft Outlook also offers an offline folder file feature for its users who are using a Microsoft exchange server e-mail account. Most home users have a POP3 account set up through their Internet service provider and therefore will not be able to access this feature. However, for those with an exchange server e-mail account, this provides a convenient way to manage e-mail offline.
In short, an offline folder file makes working with a network more convenient by allowing the user access to network files no matter what the situation is. Though remote network connections are becoming more common, there still could be times when they are not available for a variety of reasons. An offline folder file ensures work will not grind to a halt, even when the network does.