OneDrive for Business gets a new user experience

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The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that Microsoft have released an update to the web interface of OneDrive for Business. It now looks and functions in a very similar way to the personal consumer version of OneDrive.

OneDrive for Business look and feel.

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OneDrive consumer look and feel. (i’ve just redacted the names of my personal stuff, it doesn’t really have the blobs of colour all over it)

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To me this feels like a great improvement in the user experience, and probably a good view an Office Fabric use. Microsoft did say that OneDrive for Business was utilising the Office Fabric. One challenge with this unification will be helping your employees to understand the differences, how to identify the UI so they understand where they are. I can already see some tricky consulting conversations ahead with regards the obvious questions around helping an employee differentiate one from the other. We always have to remember those of us living and breathing Office365 24/7 are actually not a ‘typical’ employee Winking smile. The most obvious element is the ‘Office 365’ wording in the suitebar.

A tour of some of the features

Lets take a walk around the new features. While this isn’t an exhaustive list it should help get a footing.

View formats and options

We can switch between viewing formats with the following buttons in the action bar.

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Sort is fairly self explanatory and changes the sorting of the main view.

The little block icon next to it toggles the main view from details to icons.

Details view

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Icons view

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Document details

The ‘hover panel’ is no more. Personally i’m really glad to see the removal of the hover panel idea, it always felt clunky to me and was a really bad experience on a touch enabled device.

Selection of a document is now super easy even with a fingertip.

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You can see the action bar become contextual with the common action now available for that file.

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You can also invoked the menu from the item ‘…’ option as well.

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Opening the details panel now provides an in-depth view of the selected document. The file previewer for an Office Document shows the contents. If you select a folder you get the large folder preview icon and an item count for that folder.

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Return to the older UI style

Simply click the bottom left

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Which takes the view back to the older one.

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Help panel

The new ‘Help’ panel also lights up with new content for this interface. Access it by clicking the ‘?’ icon on the suitebar. This is something that you can encourage employees to click through when they enter an area of Office 365 they are less familiar with. Microsoft are starting to bring some more useful and engaging information in through this mechanism and I’d encourage organisations to begin to highlight this feature as a good way to aid learning.

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First item prompt.

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Second item shows a small animation in the panel.

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Third item prompt.

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Fourth item prompt.

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UserVoice

As you may be aware Microsoft like to hear from their consumer base about their changes and any ideas they might have via UserVoice. The specific OneDrive for Business is here: https://onedrive.uservoice.com/forums/262982-onedrive/category/86090-onedrive-for-business

Summing it all up

So these new user experience changes are great, one thing that struck me was no mention of them on the roadmap site http://success.office.com/en-us/roadmap.

Introducing AddIn365

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Office 365 presents an opportunity to meet more business objectives than ever before with an ever expanding set of services. However, out-dated attitudes and practices towards implementation of the Office 365 platform make it difficult for many organisations to realise this potential.

AddIn365 offer a fresh partner perspective on how clients can maximise the return on their investment in Office 365 with a context driven approach to add-in development. This new approach takes advantage of the great new services Office 365 provides and focuses on attaining a high level of employee adoption.

Office 365 presents a unique opportunity to move beyond a fragmented digital estate; it is a platform that brings together email, enterprise search, intranet, collaboration, enterprise social network and instant messenger. Furthermore, Office 365 natively provides the tools to link to other systems with ease via features such as the app launcher. Read more about the app launcher here.

Last year Microsoft released 400+ new features to the Office 365 platform. Many of these new features are complex and make light work of providing organisation’s insights that would have cost clients millions to develop in years gone by. Delve is just one example of this high quality engineering that comes as part and parcel of the Office 365 experience; it uses machine learning to understand who you are, who your network is and to suggest content that might be useful to you that you have not engaged directly with.

Organisations have recognised the opportunity that Office 365 presents in moving away from a disjointed collection of systems to a more integrated one. According to Radicati, growth of the Office 365 market share is expected to be 20% year on year for the next four years.

In order to take advantage of the great new services available with Office 365, organisations are turning to the market which tends to offer custom development or products in response to their business requirements, both of which present challenges.

Custom development tends to be:

  • Very Sites (SharePoint) focused.
  • Bends towards developing capabilities rather than configuring what is already available. This means that organisations tend to face more cost and protracted timescales when trying to deploy Office 365 than they need to.
  • Employee adoption is a secondary consideration to development and is often glossed over altogether.

Organisations that go down the product route tend to suffer three challenges:

  • Adoption is still a problem; employees using the platform will never ‘learn’ what is available so only a portion of the product will be used.
  • Products tend to branch from the Office 365 platform; clients that have invested in off the shelf products end up on the vendor roadmap and inevitably fall behind what Office 365 natively has to offer because Office 365 is evolving at a faster pace. This limits the return on investment an organisation can get from Office 365.
  • Products also tend to be based primarily on the Sites (SharePoint) part of the platform and do not take advantage of the great new services – again limiting the return on investment an organisation can get from Office 365.

We have seen these product challenges materialise recently within the intranet space (not too long ago I counted more than 15 products). Microsoft plan to release Infopedia in early 2016 which will provide all the common requirements an organisation has of an intranet, as Chris O’Brien reports here. With a powerhouse of engineers behind it this Office 365 native intranet capability will quickly become superior to any off the shelf product or custom developed intranet in the market.

Organisations are faced with a conundrum; both custom code and many off the shelf products fail to maximise a return on what is already available in Office 365 and inherit the adoption challenge.

So, how should organisations approach rolling out Office 365, in order to take advantage of the platform’s great new services and take employees on the journey with them?

I took the decision recently to co-found AddIn365. AddIn365 is the first Microsoft partner globally to offer a range of mobile and tablet friendly Workforce Enablement add-ins, for Microsoft Office and Microsoft’s Office 365 platform.

The AddIn365 add-in approach is context driven; tailored to individual employee’s daily tasks to ensure a high level of adoption whilst making use of a cross section of Office 365’s new capabilities.

AddIn365 add-ins increase productivity around common daily tasks and in doing so improve the employee experience of work.

Our two launch add-ins are:

  • AddIn Work Hub for Office 365 which provides staff a fully personalised dashboard to facilitate individual and cross-functional coordination, whether that work is operational, customer facing or delivery orientated.
  • AddIn Document Builder which is a Microsoft Office app that enables the workforce to create high quality documents quickly, through the creation and reuse of assets.

AddIn Work Hub brings together Calendar, Outlook, Delve, Groups, SharePoint team sites, Stories and the Video Portal.

AddIn Document Builder makes the process of document creation fast and accurate in Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

My ethos behind the designs of these new products has been:

  1. Make Office 365 intuitive for staff to use by providing context-led technology, so staff want to use the platform to get their work done faster and to a higher standard.
  2. Help organisations to get even more return on their investment in the Office 365 platform by using the new services Microsoft make available to support usage of the whole platform and not just SharePoint.
  3. Keep organisations on the Office 365 roadmap with a configure over customise development approach.

I’m really excited about the AddIn365 project and will be posting further on how I have led our engineering team to produce these add-ins over the next few months.

In the meanwhile, I would encourage you to check out the AddIn365 website and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for regular updates.

Adding Custom Tiles to the Office 365 App Launcher

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Microsoft recently released a new feature so that as an Office 365 admin you can add tiles to the App Launcher.

 

Setting it up

Browse to the Admin dashboard for your tenant, from the left hand menu choose the ‘Company Profile’.

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From the ‘Company Profile’ page select ‘Custom Tiles’ from the left hand menu.

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The ‘Custom Tiles’ page is now displayed, and on very first load will be empty.

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Click the ‘Plus’ to create a new tile.

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You’ll notice that the information being requested is a lot simpler than the Azure AD application configuration. So in my opinion you may still want to opt for the Azure AD application root if you wanted to use groups/user assignment for the tile. This new Office 365 custom tile approach really only provides ‘add the icon’ style functionality. So in scenarios where you wanted to use a consistent name and icon for say a HR system where different regions had different urls/systems you’d still want to use the Azure AD root. Relying on this new Office 365 custom tile would need two tiles and both would show for everyone. As it stands today this feature is probably only useful for truly generic links such as the SharePoint root site collection (But why MS ignored that for so long has always baffled me).

Just before setting the tile information we need to make sure we have the logo somewhere, I always use Lego mini figures in this tenant so I uploaded a new picture to the assets library of the root site collection.

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Once I have an image somewhere (it could have been located anywhere including externally from the tenant) I can enter the information to create the tile.

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The new tile is now listed. Note that you can also edit and remove the tile from this screen.

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Browse to your ‘MyApps’ page.

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There you can see our newly created tile. From here the employee can decided to pin it the App Launcher.

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They can also view details about the app.

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We can see the new tile in the App Launcher.

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So this is a neat new feature which will satisfy the common request to have a tile for the Intranet home page. While MS could hopefully go further in the future to allow employee and group assignment like the Azure AD apps.

Office 365 Unified API session from Microsoft Recoder 2015

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About the event

Recoder 2015 was a free one-day conference for application developers and IT professionals who wanted to get the fast track on Office 365.

My session

Intro to Office 365 Unified API

Over recent years Microsoft has been busy resetting the traditional developer landscape and in this session Wes will be introducing you to the exciting new Office 365 Unified API model and helping you to understand the APIs architecture and what choices or decisions you need to consider when approaching a development project in today’s Microsoft world.

Here are the slides that I presented during my session.

This was part of the introduction sessions so was super high level. During the short live demo I used the following API Explorer site.

https://graphexplorer2.azurewebsites.net/

This site allows you to prod and try out all the code snippets from the deck. When you first log in you will be asked to trust the app to all your Office 365 services. Then you can begin to call the various endpoints via the REST syntax.

Speaking at Microsoft Recoder 2015

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About the event

Recoder 2015 is a free one-day conference for application developers and IT professionals who want to get the fast track on Office 365. Discover how you can work smarter now, and get ready for the big innovations that are on the horizon.

Office 365 has become Microsoft’s fastest growing multi-billion dollar business, with hundreds of millions of users. At Recoder 2015 you will learn how you can build on this success – tapping into the secrets of the O365 APIs. There are very exciting times ahead, as Microsoft transforms the popular O365 productivity suite into an open platform running on all of the major operating systems, including Windows, Apple iOS and Google Android.

Recoder 2015 offers a fascinating day, whether you are an app developer looking to incorporate O365 functionality in your own apps, a developer creating full applications for O365, or an IT Pro responsible for the deployment and management of O365 applications.

See the UK’s first Live Demo of SharePoint Server 2016

In the morning you’ll gain new insights from some exciting keynote speakers including Steve Smith from Combined Knowledge (demoing SharePoint 2016 for the very first time in the UK) and Simon Hill from Wazoku, who will be sharing their views on the future of productivity and collaboration rooted in the reality of today. The afternoon is dedicated to breakout sessions tailored to IT Pro’s who deploy and manage the apps, plus Introductory and Deep Dive technical workshops for Developers, delivered by some of the industry’s most respected MVPs including Chris O’Brien, Spencer Harbar, Waldek Mastykarz and myself.

My session

Intro to Office 365 Unified API

Over recent years Microsoft has been busy resetting the traditional developer landscape and in this session Wes will be introducing you to the exciting new Office 365 Unified API model and helping you to understand the APIs architecture and what choices or decisions you need to consider when approaching a development project in today’s Microsoft world.

Registration

It’s free to attend, but registration is mandatory.

You can register at http://aka.ms/Recoder2015

We have capacity for 300 and we are expecting a sell-out.

SUGUK Yammer Deep Dive presentation

On Thursday April 30th SUGUK held a London session where I presented a session on Yammer deep dive.

 

Yammer deep dive

Many organisations are considering leveraging Yammer as their Enterprise Social Network (ESN). Office 365 has already taken some steps to integrate the Yammer capabilities by replacing the SharePoint newsfeed and introducing the document conversations. The reality is that these integrations are only the tip of the iceberg with regards the integrations you can achieve with Yammer.
This demo centric session covers in detail the integration options and the steps that a developer or architect can take to bring Yammer into use for a scenario.
We’ll walkthrough:

  • Learn how the Yammer Embed can bring conversations into SharePoint article pages.
  • How to post information into your Yammer network from other systems using OpenGraph.
  • Learn how to use the REST API to discover groups, messages, topics, users and perform advanced searches against the network.
  • Take a look at the cutting edge Azure Logic App and Yammer connector

 

SharePoint Evolutions 2015 presentations

April 20th – 22nd 2015 saw London play host to SharePoint Evolutions conference. It was a great event organised with so many quality speakers and companies in attendance. It was a privilege to be invited to speak again. This year I had two sessions as you can see below.

 

Introducing App Launcher

Delivered by: Wes Hackett

Audience: Office 365, Information Worker, Developer
A new feature of Office 365 is the ‘app launcher’ and ‘my apps’ features. These new features provide a new style of navigation experience where all your apps are available from the Office 365 suite bar and the ability for a user to pin their preferred apps. This session introduces the features and the extensibility approaches to have your own apps interact with it.

 

Yammer development deep dive

Delivered by: Wes Hackett

Audience: Office 365, Developer
Many organisations are considering leveraging Yammer as their Enterprise Social Network (ESN). Office 365 has already taken some steps to integrate the Yammer capabilities by replacing the SharePoint newsfeed and introducing the document conversations. The reality is that these integrations are only the tip of the iceberg with regards the integrations you can achieve with Yammer.
This demo centric session covers in detail the integration options and the steps that a developer or architect can take to bring Yammer into use for a scenario.
We’ll walkthrough:

  • Learn how the Yammer Embed can bring conversations into SharePoint article pages.
  • How to post information into your Yammer network from other systems using OpenGraph.
  • Learn how to use the REST API to discover groups, messages, topics, users and perform advanced searches against the network.
  • Take a look at the cutting edge Azure Logic App and Yammer connector

 

If you were an attendee you can also watch the DVD of the sessions.

Installing Office 2016 Preview from your tenant

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Microsoft announced the Office 2016 Preview Public Preview today during the Ignite Keynote.

You can install the Office 2016 Preview from your Office 365 tenant.

Browse to your Office 365 Settings from the context menu on the Suitebar like the screenshot below.

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From your Office 365 settings page choose ‘Software’

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Your software page will load, it lists all the machines you have installed Office on.

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Scroll down to the foot of the page.

If you have your tenant enabled for ‘First Release’ Office 2016 installation will be listed.

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Select your language and then click ‘Install’.

After about 5-10 minutes Office 2016 Preview is installed.

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NOTE: Office 2016 Preview is not being supported, so you are trying this at your own risk.

Office Online UI updates

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There have been some subtle changes to the Office Online user experience in the past week or so. Office Online are the office applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, they render a web based version which allows you to edit and read content directly within the browser.

The image below shows the reading view of a Word document. Note how the application bar now has a new layout and different options

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The link back to the document library location is now within the grey area rather than on the header bar. In the image below you can see the library title ‘operations’.

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The other options now appear on the right-hand end. As you can see from the image below some of the common options are now available without opening the file.

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The ‘Edit Document’ menu provides us the links to edit online or in the desktop application.

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The ‘Print’ menu item prints off the document as a PDF

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The ‘Share’ menu item launches the Sharing dialog.

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The ‘Comments’ menu item opens up the commenting functionality.

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The ‘…’ menu brings up some other useful features.

The ‘Find’ menu brings up an in-document search box. Personally I’d like to see this as one of the primary options as it is a training challenge to educate people that it exists.

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Other options allow for the in place translation using the ‘Translate’ menu option. The ‘Download’ does exactly as you’d expect and downloads the file, as does ‘Download as PDF’.

The final option which is worth mentioning is the ‘Embed’ option. As you can see from the image below it has some pretty neat features.

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We can set the dimensions and some of the interactions available such as enabling print and the start page.

While they sneaked in under the radar these changes have made Office Online even more capable within Office 365.