What’s new with SharePoint? Microsoft’s Future of SharePoint event round-up

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Today Microsoft hosted a Future of SharePoint event, sharing publically for the first time what the SharePoint roadmap has to offer in 2016 and beyond.

It did not disappoint. The event placed SharePoint and OneDrive’s soon-to-be-released simple user experience and rich mobile capability front and centre of Microsoft’s Office 365 offering. Another point of emphasis was the huge leap Microsoft have in empowering employees to be more productive, with significant investments having been made in the document lifecycle experience.

What does this mean for Office 365 customers? Let’s take a closer look.

Improving SharePoint Online’s user experience

There has been a proliferation of intranet-in-a-box products built on SharePoint Online over the past 5 years that aimed to make the SharePoint Online experience more intuitive to employees. Their popularity in the market did not go un-noticed by Microsoft, who have listened and responded to customer demand, with heavy investment being made in SharePoint as a “mobile and intelligent intranet,” as Adam Harmetz, Principal Group Program Manager at Microsoft, informed us today. In 2016 some fantastic new Graph powered enhancements will be introduced to deliver a personalised intranet experience to employees, including a recent activity capability and a recommended sites tool, driven by the actions of those you work with day to day. Team sites will also enjoy a series of updates, in my opinion, making them virtually feature complete from a collaboration standpoint. Favourites, KPI monitors, members, files and spotlights will make up the core team site offering before the year is out.

Microsoft have taken the bold step to reintroduce the SharePoint name into the Office 365 experience and will be swapping out the ‘Sites’ tile for a ‘SharePoint’ tile which comes through to your home experience. This modern and responsive user experience puts all the important sites and groups at your fingertips across your organisation.

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Team sites have a huge overhaul and now provide a crisp and mobile ready experience. Your team can now highlight news, documents and announcement updates right on the home page experience.

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Within these Team sites pages gain the beautiful canvas editing experience from the Delve blogs. This will help teams share those important contextual articles about their work and outputs.

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The improvements to SharePoint Online’s user experience has been supported with a new SharePoint mobile app experience which delivers an “intranet in your pocket” experience.

SharePoint app users will have on-the-go access to their sites and portals, files, search and people discovery as well as their work stored and managed in SharePoint. What’s more, the new app will also leverage office graph to highlight sites, content and people that are most relevant to the individual.

The SharePoint mobile app comes first to iOS, followed by versions for Windows and Android in the second half of 2016.

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Empowering employees to be more productive

Document collaboration has long been the cornerstone use case for SharePoint Online and One Drive for Business. Microsoft are upgrading this experience so that when employees need to bring in files from OneDrive for Business or publish files between document libraries, users can click Move to or Copy to move or copy files to other locations across Office 365, without generating unnecessary versions of the same files. As such, moving a document from One Drive that you may have been working on in isolation, to a team site for wider consumption, will become a quick and easy process.

The Future of SharePoint paradigm series

I’ve been aware of the roadmap announced today for SharePoint Online for a number of months as I was lucky enough to be invited to attended the Developer Kitchen in Redmond at the start of February to play with some of the new tech talked about today. This has kept my company, AddIn365, ahead  in developing products for Office 365 that deliver value over and above what the platform has to offer and the direction of travel for services like SharePoint Online we heard about today. Today’s announcements will exert some much needed pressure on the wider Microsoft SharePoint eco-system to bring harder working value-add solutions to market.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be publishing articles on three key areas:

Mobile

How the Microsoft mobile offering has transformed the use cases for SharePoint, OneDrive and Office 365 for organisations.

User Experience

Exploring the implications for organisations of the new UI and experiences being pushed into service.

SharePoint Framework

A personal favourite, we’ll explore the implications for design, build and tech approaches in readiness for it’s release later this year. Whispers…. TypeScript and Framework wars enter the SharePoint dev conscious (React against AngularJS)

The full Microsoft roundup

For the full details check out the Microsoft blogs:

Vision & Overview Blog

The Future of SharePoint – https://blogs.office.com/2016/05/04/the-future-of-sharepoint

SharePoint Server GA & Feature Packs

SharePoint Server 2016—your foundation for the future – https://blogs.office.com/2016/05/04/sharepoint-server-2016-your-foundation-for-the-future/

SharePoint mobile app, SharePoint home, team sites, Microsoft Flow & PowerApps integration

SharePoint—the mobile and intelligent intranet – https://blogs.office.com/2016/05/04/sharepoint-the-mobile-and-intelligent-intranet/

SharePoint Framework

The SharePoint Framework—an open and connected platform – https://blogs.office.com/2016/05/04/the-sharepoint-framework-an-open-and-connected-platform/

It’s great to see that Microsoft are being pro-active in claiming the intranet space as part of their SharePoint Online offering. This will add a lot of value to the Office 365 service for subscribing organisations and will provide one more reason to those thinking about a move to Office 365, for doing so. The new user experiences, fantastic new SharePoint app and enhancements to the document experience fill some feature gaps and benefit from being both simple and intuitive.

Office 365 SuiteBar becomes responsive

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Quick heads up about some SuiteBar improvements which are worth knowing about.

Microsoft have recently update the Office 365 SuiteBar. As you can see in the image below the Application Launcher got a new visual which resembles the Windows 10 Start experience. You can now resize the tiles as well as drag and drop them into a desired order. The tiles can be small like my Twitter and TinyPng or massive wide ones like my Delve.

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Overall the SuiteBar has now become a responsive experience. It changes and adapts depending on the screen width and this removes the need for any clever work around.

Examples:

SuiteBar at a full 1920 width

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SuiteBar a little smaller. Notice how the Application Launcher jumps to the right now.

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Between the sizes above their seems to be a tiny glitch in about a ten pixel range where extra buttons appear.

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The new buttons don’t do anything at this point though.

Finally we get down into the smaller mobile sizes.

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I hope you found this update useful and it gives you chance to remove any customisations you might have made for the responsive SuiteBar.

Working with all your OneNote notebooks in Office 365

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OneNote is one of my favourite Microsoft products. The digital notebook has been my number one application for years now. With such a great cross-device scenario and combining it with a Surface Pro 3 it really does become a masterful tool. I’ve used it for everything from technical research, note taking in meetings and workshops and even hooked up to a projector with the Surface as a mobile whiteboard.

While I was giving a team an overview of OneNote last week a simple question was posed.

“How do you find all your notebooks in Office 365?”

One the desktop/device top

In the Office 2016 version your opened notebooks can be found listed in the Notebooks listing top left. Like the screen shot below.

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This lists the Notebooks I’ve opened and sync’d with the OneNote application.

If you’re using the Windows 10 universal app then you get the same concept from he hamburger menu.

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I personally keep a different set of notebooks sync’d between the applications. Mainly keeping the bulk in the full application and those I use on the go in the Windows App version. In Edge (Microsoft’s latest IE replacement) you can snip the page into OneNote directly. I have one notebook i use for these snippets so that’s one i sync.

So the conclusion in the desktop and device world is that you can find them if you knew of/accessed them before and opened them. There is no true ‘discovery’ that’s super obvious to an employee.

Office 365

So what’s the story in Office 365?

OneNote is listed in the App Launcher and the main Office 365 portal page by default. The Office portal looks like this.

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The App Launcher looks like this (I’ve ordered my tiles differently to default)

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And this is where life become super cool!!!

When you clicked this icon a few months ago you jumped into the OneDrive for Business notebook by default. Well now we get a splash screen with all the notebooks I have access to. VERY COOL Open-mouthed smile

This is how it looks.

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Now there are some interesting things to notice about this.

  • It is listing all my notebooks, from OneDrive for Business and my Office 365 Unified Groups and team sites. Which is giving my entire notebook estate.
  • The url is actually pointing out to the consumer services at this point. In this example it was https://www.onenote.com/notebooks?auth=2# more on that later in the article.

Clicking into a notebook takes you into the WOPI/Office Online version as you are used too. We’re now back inside our tenant by url.

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Things get even better for us…. You’ll see the splash screen now moves the ‘Quality’ notebook up the order as we’ve recently interacted with it.

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One final thing, when you’re in a notebook you can still quickly skip to another by clicking the ‘Notebooks’ link in the left hand panel. This launches the splash screen again.

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OneNote.com

Now it’s interesting to see the consumer services and the Office 365 service getting some crossover, we know it’s coming as the API is already ‘unified’ to interact with both.

When you visit www.onenote.com you can log in with either Microsoft Account or your Work account and the app will work out what to show you.

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Signing in with your Office 365 work account gives us the already familar splash listing.

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If we log in with our Microsoft Account we get our personal notebooks (from OneDrive normally).

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Wrapping it up

So hopefully this has shown some of the new updates to the OneNote experience that can be shared across the organisation. It also reinforces the value of the web application versions of the Office clients.

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.