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Stratus Manual

Introduction

Stratus is a deployment of Microsoft Sharepoint, customized for debate, which provides an incredibly powerful platform to manage documents and team information in one centralized location, while simplifying and streamlining paperless debate. The underlying platform, Sharepoint, is Microsoft’s enterprise-grade collaboration software, and offers a flexible set of tools to create, share, and collaborate as a team.

Core features:

  • Coauthoring - simultaneous document editing with multiple authors, like Google Docs, but from Word. That gives you access to all the power of Word/Verbatim, with the convenience of working together as a team. Ever wished that two team members or a coach could prep a speech document or highlight a file simultaneously, without emailing or conflicted copies? Now it’s possible. Using a Sharepoint site like Stratus is the only way to enable these in-Word features.
  • File Storage - a centralized place to store all your team’s files, with customizable permissions. Make it easy for your whole team to access your files. Or, if you’d rather use another service like Dropbox for your files, you can still use Stratus as an on-demand location for coauthoring particular files.
  • Version Control - robust versioning for your files, so you can quickly revert changes or view differences, and stop emailing multiple versions of the same file. Tired of wondering if you have the most recent version of a file? Novice deleted half of your new research? No problem, version control to the rescue.
  • Team Management - manage all your team’s information in one place, with group calendars, assignment lists, file submissions, discussion boards, custom forms, etc.

Basic coauthoring is offered as a free service, or you can upgrade if you want private storage or access to additional features.

Quick Start

Once you’ve accessed your Stratus site, you can try coauthoring, and if you have a paid plan you can add users, store files, try version control, or manage your team.

To access your Stratus site, you’ll use an address like:
http://school.paperlessdebate.com

where school is replaced with your school’s name.

Or, you can request access to the free coauthoring site and full (read-only) demo site by using the form below or contacting us. Note that you’ll need a Microsoft Account to access the site. Requests are usually approved quickly, but may take up to 24 hours.

Enter your Microsoft Account email to request access:

Please leave this field empty.

Once your request has been approved, you’ll receive an email, and you can follow the instructions on the site to get started coauthoring:
http://stratus.paperlessdebate.com

You’ll also be given access to a (read-only) demo of a full Stratus site, with the basics for private storage and team management features enabled:
http://demo.paperlessdebate.com

Once you’re signed in, you can also access your site (and coauthor documents) using OneDrive for Business (Windows-only), or directly from within Word.

Confused by any of the Sharepoint lingo? Check the Glossary.

FAQ

Stratus

What are the system requirements to use Stratus?

The only requirement to access Stratus is a web browser, but certain features may have additional requirements.

Limited coauthoring is possible using the online Word “Web App,” but for the best experience, a full desktop version of Microsoft Word is recommended. Coauthoring requires Word 2010+ (PC) or Word 2011+ (Mac). Office 365 plans with a desktop component will work fine.

Offline sync for files stored on Stratus requires the “OneDrive for Business” sync client - not the “Next Gen” sync client. At the moment, this is only available for Windows, but Microsoft will be releasing a Mac version soon, and eventually will support Sharepoint sync in the “Next Gen” client as well. Note that this is distinct from the consumer “OneDrive” client.

What are the differences between Stratus plans?

Basic coauthoring is offered as a free service, which you can access on the public coauthoring site. When coauthoring on the public site, all files are publicly visible, and all files on the site are deleted each night.

By upgrading to a paid plan, you get private, permanent file storage.

The Individual plan comes with 1GB of storage in a private document “library.” If multiple people from the same school each have an individual plan, their storage quota will be pooled in the same library, up to 10GB per school.

The Team plan comes with a completely customizable private Stratus site, with 10GB of storage in unlimited libraries, up to 25 users, configurable permissions, and team management features.

The Deluxe plan comes with everything in the Team plan, plus unlimited storage and unlimited users.

Can I pay for Stratus with a Check/PO?

Absolutely. Just select “Check Payments” during the online checkout process, and send a check or money order to the address shown:
Ashtar Communications
2619 Summit Ridge Dr.
San Marcos, TX 78666

Your site will be set up and waiting for activation as soon as payment is received.

If you have additional billing questions, contact us.

I use Dropbox for storing files. Can I still use Stratus?

Yes! You can use Stratus for on-demand coauthoring, while using Dropbox (or any other cloud storage provider) for long-term storage.

For example, if you store all of your team’s files on Dropbox, you may still find that it’s useful to have access to coauthoring when preparing for a debate, or when working with a teammate in a different location, without needing to deal with email or conflicted copies. You can just upload the document you want to work on to Stratus, coauthor it with them, and then download the completed version to Dropbox to re-integrate with your files later. Or, store your files on Dropbox, but use Stratus for storing speech documents.

Alternately, you can just use Stratus for all your file storage needs, and take advantage of advanced features like version control.

Do I have to use Verbatim to use Stratus?

No. You can store any kind of file you want on Stratus, and can coauthor any Word .docx file, no matter what template you use.

But, Verbatim and Stratus work very well together - you can coauthor documents with all the power of your favorite Verbatim functions, and take advantage of Verbatim’s built-in Stratus features.

How do I add a new user to my site?

Just click the “Share” button in the upper right of your site, enter their email, and click “Share.” Note that they will need to have a Microsoft Account to accept your invitation.

If you want more control over your site’s permissions, you can go to the Gear icon - Site Settings - People & Groups.

Note that to add users to your site, you’ll need the Team or Deluxe plan. Individual plan users can be added to the same site to collaborate together by contacting support.

How do I access my files if I’m offline?

If you want access to your files while offline, you’ll need to take advantage of offline sync. The best option for this at the moment is OneDrive for Business, which is available as a free download from Microsoft. Note that you’ll need the “legacy” OneDrive for Business client, not the “Next Gen” version or the consumer “OneDrive” (not business), and that it’s currently only available for Windows. Mac users can try an offline sync program called Beckfish until Microsoft releases an update for Mac later in 2016.

Alternately, you can use a different cloud storage solution such as Dropbox for your file storage, and use Stratus for on-demand coauthoring whenever you’re online and want to simultaneously edit a document.

How do I add a subfolder to a document library?

After navigating to a document library (Like “Tub”), click the “Files” tab at the top of the page, and then click “New Folder” from the ribbon.

How do I upload multiple files?

Important note when uploading multiple files - Sharepoint prohibits files which have some “special characters” such as & or # in the name. If you try and drag and drop a large number of files onto your site without first checking for special characters, you’re likely to get upload/sync errors.

To avoid uploading files to your site one-by-one in a browser, you have a few options:

1) OneDrive for Business (recommended) - The easiest way to upload a large number of files to your site is to first sync the destination library with OneDrive for Business, and then drag the folder you want to upload to your local Sharepoint folder. OneDrive for Business will then take care of the upload for you.
stratus-sync-button

2) Open your site in Internet Explorer, and use the “Open With Explorer” button on the Library tab of the ribbon. This will open your site as a folder to quickly drag and drop files to.
stratus-open-with-explorer

3) Drag and Drop in browser – when viewing any document library in the browser, you can drag and drop multiple files (although not folders) into the browser to upload them.

I’m trying to coauthor, but the document says “read only”

Here are the most common issues when trying to coauthor a file:

1) Make sure you opened the file directly off Stratus, rather than accidentally downloading the file offline and opening a local copy. This happens with some browsers when clicking directly on the file name, rather than clicking the … button and then choosing “Open.”

2) Make sure all users have proper permissions to access the folder and file in question

3) Look for a yellow “Enable editing” button in Word when the file opens. You should also consider disabling “Protected View” in Word, which sometimes blocks files from coauthoring

4) Try opening directly from the browser, or copy the URL of the file and open directly from Word - you can get the direct URL to the file by clicking on the … button next to it in the browser.

5) Make sure the file is not inadvertently “checked out” and locked for editing.

6) Make sure all users are using Office 2010 or later, and that the file is a “.docx” not a “.doc” file

Word frequently prompts me for a password

This is usually resolved by making sure that you’re logged in to Office using the same Microsoft Account that you use on Stratus.

You may also want to try adding sharepoint.com to your Trusted Sites in Internet Explorer, and then selecting “Custom level” for the zone and selecting “Automatic logon with current user name and password.”

What are the limitations on offline sync?

Sharepoint has some built-in limits you should be aware of:

1) Maximum of 20,000 total files synced at one time
2) Maximum of 5,000 files synced per document library

If you have a library that’s getting close to 5,000 files, it’s recommended you split it up into multiple libraries to make syncing easier and faster.

If you have more than 20,000 files, you’ll have to choose which libraries you want to actively sync. One option is to sync things like your backfiles folder once, then stop sync and keep the local copy on your computer. Then, only actively sync libraries like the current year’s files.

I’m getting a “sync error” in OneDrive for Business

First, right-click the OneDrive for Business icon in your notifications bar (in the lower left), and select “View Sync Problems” - follow the instructions there, which will normally resolve the issue.

Alternately, you can try un-syncing and then re-syncing the library.

For persistent sync errors, they’re almost always remedied by clearing your Office Document Cache.

First, make 100% sure you’ve stopped sync on all folders. This is to prevent accidentally deleting files on your site when you delete your local copies.

Then, you have two options:

1) Automatic method - use the “Nuke OneDrive” button in the Verbatim Settings. This usually works, but if not, try method 2.

2) Manually clear it. To do that:
a) Close all Office Programs
b) Ctrl+Alt+Del, Task Manager, and kill any leftover Office processes, including GROOVE.EXE and MSOSYNC.EXE
c) Go to c:\Users\\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office, and delete the entire contents of the following folders:
c:\Users\\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\Spw
c:\Users\\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\15.0
c:\Users\\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\16.0 (or 14.0), depending on your version of Office.

If you get file permission errors when deleting, then you missed killing a process.

Then, resync your folder.

I’m having trouble getting OneDrive for Business to sync

Here are a few troubleshooting steps you can try:

1) Run the Verbatim Setup Wizard - this makes several tweaks to your system which can have the side effect of also improving sync issues with OneDrive for Business.

2) Ensure the “WebClient” service is started and set to Automatic Startup by running the “Services” program in Windows.

3) Add sharepoint.com to your Internet Explorer “trusted sites” list, by going to Settings - Internet Options - Security - Trusted Sites.

4) Try logging in to your site in Internet Explorer, and checking the “Keep me logged in” box on the login page.

OneDrive for Business won’t sync and is stuck in a login loop.

This can occur when OneDrive for Business has the wrong cached credentials. The fix is usually to log in to your site using Internet Explorer, which will share it’s credentials with OneDrive for Business.

In your Windows Control Panel, open the “Credential Manager” - Under “Windows Credentials” find the section for “Generic Credentials” and remove any credentials that start with something like “MicrosoftOffice15_Data” or “MicrosoftOffice16_Data.”

Then, log in to your site via Internet Explorer, and make sure you click the “Keep me signed in” box on the login page. Then, try pressing the Sync button in the library again.

Help, I deleted something!

Don’t panic, click the link on the left for Recycle Bin! If you’re a site administrator, you also have access to a second-level recycle bin, accessible in the Site Settings.

How do I see more than 30 files at a time when viewing a folder in the browser?

It’s just the default setting for Document Libraries. To change this, you have to edit the “View” of the folder. While looking at the folder, click the “Modify View” button on the Library tab of the Ribbon. Scroll down to the “Item Limit” section, and insert a higher number for “Number of items to display.”

Coauthoring

“Coauthoring” refers to multiple people simultaneously editing the same Word document. This feature has many uses for debate - two partners can both work on the same speech document, a coach can help organize files before a round starts, or an entire team can pitch in before an elimination round and help highlight a file.

Once the file is stored on Stratus, all you need to do to coauthor is open the same file from two locations. You can open the file via the browser, from your synced OneDrive for Business folder, or even directly from in Word.

If using the browser, clicking directly on the filename may open the file for editing in “Word Online.” If you want to edit the file in your desktop version of Word instead, click the … next to the file and then click “Open” - that will launch Word for you.
stratus-open-file

Alternately, you can copy the URL and paste it in to Word’s “Open” box. If 2 or more people open the same file, you’ll be coauthoring!

If the file is successfully being coauthored, you will see a notification in your Word status bar.
stratus-coauthoring-authors

In Word 2016 (PC), changes to the document will be updated in real time. In older versions of Word, changes to the document are not committed until you click “Save” – at which point it will sync your copy with what’s on the server, including any saved changes made by others. Verbatim also includes a feature which will do this “save for updates” automatically whenever there are pending changes. See the Verbatim manual for more details.

Here’s an example of how coauthoring works. Suppose you are working on the same blank document on two different computers:

stratus-coauthoring-1a

stratus-coauthoring-1b

Each person makes edits to the file on their computer:

stratus-coauthoring-2a

stratus-coauthoring-2b

When each user clicks “Save” their changes are uploaded to the server, and any saved changes made by others are also downloaded – resulting in:

stratus-coauthoring-3a

stratus-coauthoring-3b

Word is smart enough to handle editing conflicts, and prevent people from typing over the top of each other.

File Storage

Stratus gives you a centralized place to store all your team’s files. Alternately, you can choose to store your files somewhere else (like Dropbox), and only use Stratus when you want to coauthor a particular file, like a speech document. Up to you!

However, choosing to store all your files on Stratus has several advantages - you’ll be able to easily coauthor any document, and you can take advantage of version control. Choosing how to organize your files and tubs on your site is obviously very subjective, and you should ultimately do what works best for you. The following are just a set of recommendations.

File Organization

If choosing to store your files on Stratus, the first thing to decide is whether you want your whole team to work from a common store of files in a “master tub” that everyone accesses, or whether you want each team to maintain their own separate copy of every file the team produces.
stratus-tub-options

The advantages of keeping just one copy of each file is that any work done by one person would instantly be available to everyone else. So if one person highlighted an obscure case neg before Round 2 and you debated the same case again with a different team in Round 3, the automatic sync would have already taken care of distributing the newest version of the file to everyone on the team without ever needing a jumpdrive. Similarly, if you assigned 5 team members to coauthor and highlight a files before an elim, the file would be instantly available to both of your teams in the Octas simultaneously.

The biggest concern people have with the “master tub” model is the possibility of someone messing up a file for everyone, for example doing a poor job with highlighting - but if version control is enabled, it can always be reverted to a previous state.

The downside to the master tub approach is that you might not want to share work all the time – you might prefer to use your own highlighting without needing to worry about version revision. Or, you might not trust people to avoid damage to the master tub. Or, you might want to encourage everyone to organize files themselves for greater familiarity.

Suggested Structure

If you have a Team site, it probably came preconfigured with folders (libraries, in Sharepoint parlance) for the following things:

Tub – This is designed to be the main storage area for the teams “master” tub of files from the current year, plus the most relevant and frequently used backfiles. This is also kept organizationally separate to make syncing a smaller number of files (important for performance reasons) easier.

Backfiles – This is designed to house backfiles from previous years or files that you don’t anticipate needing access to very often that would just clutter up the main tub. It is also split off from the main folder to help avoid built-in sync limits in OneDrive for Business.

Team Tubs – This is designed to have a folder for each two-person team where they can store anything they want – a complete copy of the master tub, their own reorganized versions of files, Speech documents from previous tournaments, etc.

Private Tubs – This is designed to have a folder for each individual team member to store anything they want – ongoing research assignments, personal blocks, lecture notes, etc.

Uploading Files

Important note when uploading multiple files - Sharepoint prohibits files which have some “special characters” such as & or # in the name. If you try and drag and drop a large number of files onto your site without first checking for special characters, you’re likely to get upload/sync errors.

For suggestions on the most efficient way to upload multiple files, see the FAQ.

Offline Sync

If you want to access files stored on Stratus while you’re offline, you’ll need to set up offline sync. The recommended method is to use OneDrive for Business, which is bundled with many versions of Office, or is available as a free download from Microsoft.

Unfortunately, the Mac version of OneDrive for Business doesn’t support syncing Sharepoint sites yet - it’s due to be added in late 2016. For now, Mac users should try a program called Beckfish.

OneDrive for Business has a few built-in limitations on offline sync that you should keep in mind. These don’t affect most users, but might come into play if you have a very large number of files. OneDrive for Business will only sync 20,000 files total, and only 5,000 in any single library. Because of this, it is strongly recommended you only sync folders you’re likely to actively work with, such as the main Tub, and NOT sync things like your backfiles folder, which would also decrease sync performance.

Note that OneDrive for Business is different than the consumer “OneDrive” sync service, and that you will need the regular OneDrive for Business client, not the “Next Gen” client. If you’re unsure which version you have, you can check this page from Microsoft.

If you already have OneDrive for Business installed, you’ll want to make sure it’s up to date.

Once you have OneDrive for Business installed, all you need to do to sync a local copy of a library is to press the “Sync” button on the library in your browser:
stratus-sync-button

Version Control

Each time you update/save a file on Stratus, the server will automatically create a version history that allows you to roll back the file to any previous version. That way, there’s no risk of accidentally overwriting or deleting past work – but you always have the most up to date version of the file. This is a great way to guard against someone doing inadvertent damage to shared files, while streamlining your workflow. As a practical example, instead of producing a new “Econ Updates – [Tournament]” file for every tournament, you would instead just have a single “Econ Updates” file that was constantly being updated. If you needed to go back to the old cards, you could always revert versions – but otherwise you wouldn’t have to keep track of 15 different files over the course of the year.

By default, version control is only enabled for your main “Tub” folder, because it takes a lot of resources and space to maintain the archive of each file. It would be an unnecessary waste of your quota to turn on version control for every single file on your site, especially for files that you rarely if ever edit (like backfiles) or for files that you plan to edit constantly, and don’t need a version saved each time.

Version control can be turned on for any library on your site. To do so, navigate to the library in your browser, and select “Library Settings” from the ribbon:
stratus-library-settings

Then, select “Versioning settings” from the General Settings:
stratus-general-settings

This will take you to a page that will let you configure the version settings for the folder you selected. The options are fairly self-explanatory – it is recommended that you only use “major version” to avoid too much clutter from exceedingly minor edits, and that you set a limit (say 25 or 50) on the number of “major versions” of a file to keep – that will make it easier to find a previous version while keeping the archive at a manageable level.

Once enabled, viewing a file’s version history can be accessed both through the browser, or through Word.

In the browser, if you click the ellipsis (…) menu next to a file twice, you have the option of looking at the “Version History.” You can access the same information by checking the box next to a file and selecting “Version History” from the ribbon.

stratus-version-history-1

stratus-version-history-2

Either button will bring up the list of changes made in the document, along with the modification date and which user modified it. The dropdown menu on any date will give you the option to view or rollback the file to that version.

If you’re working with the file directly from the server, you can also access the version history from directly within Word, which also gives you more extensive options for comparing the edits made between two versions.

In Word, click on the “File” menu, then the “Manage Versions” button. Selecting one of the “Compare” options will open that version in a separate window, as well as bring up a “Reviewing” pane to compare specific differences between the two versions.

Team Management

Stratus has an array of customizable tools for helping teams share information and collaborate. Your site has been set up out of the box with a few suggestions for how you might want to use these, but you are limited only by your imagination:

Announcements – Pretty self-explanatory, works well to display in a “Web Part” on your home page.

Calendar – Can be used for keeping track of individual team members schedules (to schedule practice debates between classes, for example), team events and meetings, as a tournament calendar, etc.

Contact List – Centralizes all team contact information in one place.

Assignment List – For, well, assignments.

Team Discussions – Provides a bulletin-board style discussion forum for any team-related conversations.​

You can also add an unlimited number of “Custom Lists” to your site - if there’s data you currently track in a spreadsheet, there’s a way to do it in Stratus instead.

Permissions

With a Team plan, you have complete control over the permissions for your site. Unique permissions can be set for every single item on the site, from whole sites down to individual files.

To start, you’ll need to add users to your site - the easiest way is to click the “Share” button in the upper right of your site:
stratus-share-button

Enter one or more email addresses (separated by a ;), and then click “Share”:
stratus-share

This will automatically send an email invitation. The user will need to accept the invitation using a Microsoft account, and will then be added to the “Members” user group automatically, which by default will give them “Edit” access to the whole site. You can see the list of pending access requests by going to the Gear Icon - Site Settings and click “Access requests and invitations.”

For more control over the permissions on your site, go to Gear Icon - Site Settings - Site Permissions. There are three preconfigured “groups” - Members, Owners, and Visitors, with differing levels of permissions for the whole site.​ You can modify these however you like.

You can also see permissions for an individual item, like the Tub library. Navigate to the library, and then click the “Library” tab on the top. Click the “Shared With” button, and then the link for Advanced.
stratus-stop-inheriting

If you want to configure separate permissions for an individual library, you first need to “Stop Inheriting Permissions” from the ribbon, to allow manual configuration of that library’s permissions. You can then add, remove, or edit permissions for any group or user.

You can also configure users into groups however you would like. Go to Gear Icon - Site Settings - People and Groups. That will take you to an interface with options to create new groups, see/modify the members of a group, etc…

Customizing Stratus

With a Team plan, you have complete control over your Stratus site, and you can change the appearance and functionality to better fit your team’s needs. Here are just a few ideas for tweaking your site:

Change the Logo - If you’d like your team’s logo to appea​r in the header of the site, click the Gear Icon - Site settings - Title, description, and logo.

Customize the Homepage - just select “Edit” in the upper right corner, which will bring up a set of editing tools on the ribbon. Editing your page with these tools is very similar to using Word - make sure you click “Save” when you’re done editing. You can also insert a “Web Part” into the page to display content from other parts of your site, for example to display announcements or pictures on the homepage.

​Color Scheme - Gear Icon – Change the Look will give you a set of color and theme options to apply to your site.

Change the Menus - Click the “Edit Links” button on either the Top Navigation bar or the “Quick Links” on the left to change what appears in your menus.

Add Features - You can easily add additional document libraries or team management features by going to Gear Icon - Add an App, which will give you a list of the different kinds of apps you can add:
stratus-add-app

Create a Subsite - If you need separate areas for different parts of your team, for example Policy and LD, you can add a separate “subsite” with all the same features as the main site by going to Gear Icon - Site Contents, and clicking “New Subsite” at the bottom of the page.

Configure Alerts - On almost any item on the site, you can use the “Alert Me” button on the ribbon to configure custom alerts, which will let you receive an email when things on your site change. For example, you can create an alert on a folder to be emailed any time someone submits a file.

Advanced Customization - If you’re a site administrator, going to Gear Icon - Site Settings will bring up a host of additional options for customizing your site. In addition, you can use the ribbon to customize how any individual library or list appears and behaves.

Glossary

Sharepoint has some weird names for stuff. Let’s demystify some lingo:

Site – this is the basic unit of Sharepoint. A site is a set of web pages and content, like folders of Word documents, or lists of information. If you have the Team or Deluxe plan, your Stratus site comes out of the box with one main “site,” but you can create as many “subsites” as you want.

Site Collection – A grouping of “Sites” – Your Stratus site is actually a “Site Collection” which allows you to create as many sub-sites as you want. For example, you could have a separate “site” for Policy, for LD, and for Public Forum.

Library – This is a “folder” of content, like files. Libraries can be of different kinds, like a “Document Library” or a “Picture Library.” They can also contain as many sub-folders as you like.

List – This is a grouping of information, arranged in columns and entries, like a spreadsheet. It can then be displayed in a variety of formats. Sharepoint thinks of almost everything as a “list” – Contact Lists, Calendars, Inventories, etc…

Sharepoint vs OneDrive for Business – “Sharepoint” refers to the underlying software which powers Stratus. OneDrive for Business is a desktop client program that connects to the Sharepoint server and creates an offline “sync” folder for your site.

OneDrive for Business vs OneDrive – “OneDrive for Business” is a free offline sync client for Sharepoint. “OneDrive” is the generic name for Microsoft’s consumer cloud storage service. OneDrive for Business comes bundled with some versions of Office, and is also available as a free download. It comes in a “legacy” version (necessary for connecting to Stratus), and a “next-gen” version, which ironically has removed features and does not work with Sharepoint yet. There is also a Mac version of OneDrive for Business, but it also does not yet include support for syncing Sharepoint libraries.