By Cathy Dew
The MS Ignite conference is a week old and the blizzard of announcements can now be sorted into Wow, Excellent, Interesting and It’s About Time. We’ve provided an overview of the features we think you should be watching for as a final release and implementing over the next year.
Meta Data Features
Meta Data has been a key feature for documents and lists since their inception with SharePoint 2010. But they have always been of secondary importance for users even as Administrators and Site Owners try to stress their importance. Microsoft has 3 new features in the beta stage that will push the meta data collection to the front of the line.
Drag-and-drop has improved the ability for users to migrate the files on their PCs and file shares to SharePoint, but at the expense of collecting meta data. Now when a user drags a new file into a library they will be prompted to provide the required meta data.
Bulk Editing Enhancements
Related to the meta data prompts, you will now be able to select multiple items in a list or library and bulk edit their meta data properties. This is basically a quicker edit, where you can target just the related files you want to change.
With Word 2016 the Return of Meta Data Properties
When MS released Word 2016, one key feature they dropped from the new release was the ability to edit the SharePoint meta data from within the Word document. This is being returned to Word 2016.
New View: Files That Need Attention
Required meta data has never been “required” due to the ability to by-pass the meta data entry with drag-and-drop. So now we have all these documents floating around our libraries without the needed meta data. Microsoft will be releasing a new default view called “Files that need attention”, which will highlight all the files which are currently missing required meta data. In combination with the bulk editing enhancements, you should be able to find and fix missing meta data for all your list items and documents. Unfortunately, there still is no tool to find documents with the wrong meta data.
Stitching SharePoint, Office Groups, and MS Teams Site Together
The team collaboration tool options reached a high level of confusion when Microsoft unveiled their “Slack killer” application – MS Teams. It was YATCT (Yet Another Team Collaboration Tool) with very little direction from Microsoft as to how to use this new tool in conjunction with all the other services available. As MS Teams has pushed its way into the forefront of the team collaboration environment, Microsoft has started adding additional features that more tightly integrate it with Office 365 and SharePoint.
Pairing Groups and Sites with MS Teams
One of the biggest issues with MS Teams was it couldn’t be paired with existing Office 365 Groups nor SharePoint Team Sites. Microsoft is attempting to reconcile that with a few changes. When creating a new MS Team site, you will be able to select an existing SharePoint Team Site. In addition, you’ll be able to select an existing Office 365 Group – which may not have a team site associated with it – and build or assign one. This will allow you to bring your existing Share Point Team Sites into the Office 365 Groups and MS Teams future.
The immediate benefit from doing so is the instant availability of a shared mailbox, shared calendar and access to MS Planner. Also, you’ll get access to a set of new Modern UI web parts to build a new home page that helps with prompting your team’s tasks, events, and news.
SharePoint Pages & News
If you already have MS Teams and their associated SharePoint Team Sites, you’ll soon start seeing new connectors and hooks into your SharePoint Team Site. Like Wiki Pages, you’ll be able to add in SharePoint Pages as a tab in your MS Teams interface, as well as, add connectors for News and pull in the latest news and announcements that are published via your SharePoint Team Site. MS is building hooks into all the different systems so you don’t need to leave your MS Team site interface to access all the files, pages, and news available.
Custom Themes and Designs
Microsoft has been pushing developers to use their MS Office UI Fabric design tool kit to give your SharePoint customizations an integrated Office365 look and feel. They have now added the ability to utilize the Fabric Theme Generator which builds a reusable JSON object to hold your custom theme information, and add the custom theme to your SharePoint tenant space.
One nice option is you can now define default themes and limit your Site Collection Admins and Site Owners to just your approved Corporate Themes. Unfortunately, the new add / remove Theme options are only available via REST, PowerShell, and CSOM commands.
Custom Provisioning for Modern Team Sites
With Modern Team Sites and Office 365 Group Sites, the standard Patterns and Practices Site Provisioning options were not available because these sites were not part of the standard SharePoint environment. That is about to change. Microsoft will be releasing a new custom templating provisioning model that will allow you to apply themes, branding, and create default lists and libraries when you create the new site.
The pre-fabricated template model might not be as important in the future, for branding needs, due to another feature release coming called Hub Sites. More on that later.
Earlier this year Microsoft announced a new template option call Communication Site would be available by end of 2017. The idea of the Communications Site is offer your company a one stop site collection for the aggregation of your company wide information. It can also be used for departmental campaigns, internal product launches and as a dashboard for regular reporting and status updates. On key part of the Communication Site, like all Modern UI interfaces, is that it’s mobile ready / responsive right out of the box.
New Promotion and Build Features
Even before its full release, Microsoft is enhancing the Communication Site features. There are new Promote options to send the news article to the navigation, the SharePoint Home Site, mobile new tab, as well as, personal or group emails. Also on the email front, you have the ability to activate Digest Emails to send consolidated email updates. And my personal favorite – copy this page. No more building from scratch. You can select an existing page and clone it, saving you time rebuilding all the layout and design for the next article.
New and Updated Modern UI Web Parts
While many of these new Modern UI Web Parts are available for all modern style sites, Communication Sites will see the largest boost from their availability. New web parts are available for MS Planner, MS Forms and Twitter. Another big add is the ability to embed a targeted Group Calendar and a new File Viewer that supports more than 270 file types.
And for you design junkies, a new Spacer & Divider web part is available.
Updated web parts include: Yammer, People, Events, and Highlighted Content. These web parts have more layout and data display options that also play nicer with the Modern UI interface. But wait, there's more, the Rich Text Editor web part now supports building and editing tables.
One of the biggest announcements for SharePoint was the buzz around Hub Sites. One of the downsides of SharePoint and its site collection model is as you expand your SharePoint environment there is no way to provide a shared look & feel and navigation. Yes, you can make all the sites look the same, and give them the same managed navigation, but it’s not a truly shared relationship. That all changes with Hub Sites.
After you create a Hub Site, you assign Team and Communications Sites to the new Hub. The Hub Site then becomes the aggregator for information of all the related sites. And when you create new Team or Communication Sites you have the option of immediately assigning them to an existing Hub Site. So now you have a one stop shop of news, activities, events, for all sites that are related / assigned to the Hub Site.
Additionally, all the related sites pull their Navigation, Theme, and Logo from the Hub Site – ensuring a shared look and feel for all the joined sites. If you move a team site to a different Hub Site? The moved team site will inherit its new parent’s Navigation, Theme and Logo.
Lastly, when searching from a Hub Site the search is scoped to just the related sites and security trimmed for the user performing the search.
Tune in next week
There was too much from Ignite 2017 to post in one Article. We’ll go over the next set of exiting feature updates in our next post. In the meantime, you can check out the Ignite Panels and Breakouts:
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