Tag Archives: Tony

Microsoft Teams for education replacing Microsoft Classroom Preview

Over the last few months, we have received lots of positive feedback about the new Microsoft Classroom Preview product. Today Microsoft announced in the Office 365 message centre that this would be replaced at the end of July 2017 with Microsoft Teams for Education.

Microsoft Teams for Education

No need to panic, MS Classroom functionality will still exist but in the Microsoft Teams app (from what we can see from the screenshots). You can still set assignments, create class notebooks, discuss, share files and quizzes but it will all be accessed through the Microsoft Teams interface rather than through the MS Classroom App. There is no news on the Microsoft Classroom mobile app for iOS and Android but hopefully this will be replaced so that students can still get notifications for new assignments and grades.

More details can be found on Microsoft’s site here.

You may have seen the following message in the Office 365 message centre, notifying you of the change.

On July 31, 2017, we’ll discontinue support for the Microsoft Classroom Preview, as we work to unify our classroom experiences in Microsoft Teams in Office 365 for Education. Since the Microsoft Classroom Preview released, we’ve been very thankful for schools’ feedback from around the world; which has helped us improve benefits and features of the service. Ultimately, we learned to keep it simple and put classroom resources all in one place. We listened and we’re bringing the best of the classroom features (e.g., Assignments and OneNote Class Notebook) to Microsoft Teams in Office 365 for Education.

How does this affect me?

– Microsoft Classroom Preview will continue with current functionality until July 31, 2017. – Teachers will not be able to create new notebooks or assignments after the July 31, 2017. – Current classes and associated content will continue to be available as Office 365 Groups. Teachers can access assignment resources, files, calendars, and conversations, through tools such as Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint Online. If necessary, they can copy Class Notebook content to their personal workspace (e.g. OneDrive for Business). – When the new class experiences become available in Teams, School Data Sync will start creating the new classes for Microsoft Teams. SDS will continue to sync existing Microsoft Classroom Preview classes through July 31, 2017.

What do I need to do to prepare for this change?

We apologise for any inconvenience resulting from this transition. We encourage you to try out Microsoft Teams, and get yourself familiar with the Teams experience. Please click Additional Information to learn more.

Saving Tweets to Excel using Microsoft Flow

Microsoft Flow is the new tool integrated with Office 365 which allows different services to interact. Such as social media providers like Twitter and Facebook or file sharing platforms like Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive, and many more services.

I wrote a blog post earlier this year about integrating machine learning tools and another post about syncing Google calendar data into SharePoint using Flow processes, but I thought I would get back to basics and provide a clear easy tutorial for Microsoft Flow newcomers.

In this example, I’m going to setup a Flow to put all the tweets made from the company (my) twitter account into an excel spreadsheet. This is a simple process but might be useful for keeping track of marketing or even leaving an audit trail of marketing activity by the social media owners within an organisation. The excel spreadsheet will sit in OneDrive for business but you can determine where you would like it stored.

To start, we are going to create a new excel spreadsheet with a table. In OneDrive for business, create a new excel spreadsheet called “tweets”.

Microsoft Excel Online

Add the following column headers:

  • Tweet Text
  • Location
  • Time

Select the column headers and in the insert menu, select “table”. This will make a new table in Excel which Flow can access to add rows.

Open Microsoft Flow. The Flow icon should be available in your Office 365 App Launcher if you have the licence enabled (alternatively you can just go to the website).

Search the templates for “Twitter”, and select the “Save tweets to an Excel file” template.

Microsoft Flow Templates

You will then be required to login to Twitter and Excel. When logging into Excel, make sure that you sign into OneDrive for Business with the correct account (otherwise you will get unauthorised access when trying to add rows). When both services are signed in, press continue.

Twitter trigger

In the twitter trigger, add the twitter account name to the search text box. This will fire off the process when that account tweets.

Excel action

In the insert row action, find the tweets excel spreadsheet in your OneDrive for Business by using the folder icon. The table will appear automatically under the Table name drop down. You can then select each column and add the appropriate tweet field.

Save the Flow and check that it is enabled.

In twitter, send a tweet from your account.

Twitter tweet

The Flow will run every 60 seconds, you can check the runs by clicking on the “i” icon next to the Flow and then filtering by “Checks (no data)”. After a couple of minutes, your spreadsheet should be updated with the tweet data!

Excel populated with tweets from MS Flow

Integrating Google Calendar Data with SharePoint using Microsoft Flow

It can be time consuming to update multiple calendars. You can now setup custom flows using Microsoft Flow to copy and edit data between the two calendars.

Google Calendar to SharePoint

In the example below, I create a Microsoft Flow to detect when a new Google Calendar item is added and then create a new item in a SharePoint calendar.

First of all, open Microsoft Flow.

Microsoft Flow

Select “Create from blank” to open the flow editor

Search for the correct trigger by typing “Google” into the search box. You should see “Google Calendar – When an event is added to a calendar”. We will use this trigger to detect when a new item is added to the Google calendar.

Google Calendar trigger

When prompted, sign into your Google account and allow access to the calendar.

We are now going to add another step to the flow to add the items into our SharePoint calendar. Click “New Step” and then Add an action.

New flow step

Search for “SharePoint – Create item”, add the URL and list name. This should load up all the calendar new item fields.

Click in each field and select the output from the previous step (the google calendar data). You may wish to populate the Title, Start Time, End Time, Location and Description.

New SharePoint calendar item

Select “Create flow” when you are ready to publish the new task. It can take a few seconds for the task to run once the Google calendar item has been added. You can check the progress and status of the task from the Flow site.

There are other things to consider when setting this up such as all day events, recurrence, editing items and deleting items. However, you should be able to extend the logic in the flow to handle these data types. Below is a video guide going through the process.

Creating a picture library slideshow using jQuery Cycle2 and the SharePoint framework

In this post, I wanted to show how you can modify the SharePoint framework Hello World web part and add other custom JavaScript libraries to create a simple slideshow.



I’m going to start my tutorial after following these steps:

Setup SharePoint Tenant
Setup your machine
HelloWorld WebPart
HelloWorld, Talking to SharePoint

Once that is all working fine, you should have something that looks like this:


Note: In the solution below, I have removed some of the HTML rendered in the SolutionNameWebPart.ts file (optional):

this.domElement.innerHTML = `
<div class="${styles.solutionName}">
  <div class="${styles.container}">
    <div id="spListContainer" />

Pull in images from SharePoint picture library

Create a picture library in your SharePoint site called “Slideshow”. Upload a couple of images into this library for testing purposes.

Inside your project, open up SolutionNameWebPart.ts (found inside your WebPart folder). Change the REST API call so that the picture library item URLs are fetched. Currently the REST query (found in the _getListData function) is pulling list and library names, change it to:

this.context.pageContext.web.absoluteUrl + "/_api/web/lists/GetByTitle('slideshow')/Items?$select=EncodedAbsUrl"

This will return the picture library item URLs.

Add the EncodedAbsUrl as a string to the ISPList object:

export interface ISPList {
  Title: string;
  Id: string;
  EncodedAbsUrl: string;

In the “_renderList” function, change the item loop to this:

items.forEach((item: ISPList) => {
   html += `<img src="${item.EncodedAbsUrl}" alt="image" />`;

This will now use the EncodedAbsUrl as the image location. Running this using gulp serve should now show the images from the picture library. You may want to add in some mock data for local tests.


Making it responsive

The images are rendered at their actual size. Some CSS is required to make the images responsive. Add the class ${styles.cdbImage} to the image tag.

html += `<img src="${item.EncodedAbsUrl}" class="${styles.cdbImage}" alt="image" />`;

Open the SolutionName.module.scss file and add the following code inside the last brace.


Serve the files again and the images will now be responsive.


Adding jQuery and Cycle2

Download using Node Package Manager

When adding common JavaScript libraries to projects, Node Package Manager is an excellent tool to quickly bundle items. Run the following nodeJS package manager commands:

npm install jquery

npm install jquery-cycle-2

Two extra folders are now created under “node_modules”.

Install TypeScript definitions

In order to use these libraries in TypeScript, a definition file is required for IntelliSense and compilation. jQuery can be added via the TypeScript definition tool in the nodeJS command line:

tsd install jquery –save

jQuery Cycle2 is not available via this command line but can be downloaded from here:

Github jQuery TypeScript

Download it and add it to a new folder called jquerycycle under the “typings” folder. The typings folder contains all the TypeScript definition files. jQuery has automatically been added here. However we need to manually add the Cycle2 definition.

In the root of the typings folder, open the file named tsd.d.ts. This file controls all the definitions which are used in the project. jQuery has already been added, manually add a new line for jQuery Cycle2.

/// <reference path="jquery/jquery.d.ts" />
/// <reference path="jquerycycle/jquery.cycle.d.ts" />

Add libraries to project

Open the config.json file (under the config folder) in the project. This lists all the external references. jQuery and Cycle2 need to be added here so they can be used in the project. In the “externals” section, add:

 "jquery": "node_modules/jquery/dist/jquery.js",
 "jquery-cycle": "node_modules/jquery-cycle-2/src/jquery.cycle.all.js"

The libraries can now be included in the project. Go back to the solutionNameWebPart.ts file and add:

import * as myjQuery from 'jquery';

The object myjQuery should be a unique name for your project to avoid conflicts. jQuery cycle is added using require as it has a dependency on jQuery.

At the end of the _renderList function in the web part class, add the following code to initialise the slideshow:

myjQuery( document ).ready(function() {

Refreshing the page, should now give you a responsive slideshow.


How to setup a class in Microsoft Classroom

In the video below, I go through the simple steps of setting up a class in Microsoft Classroom. It’s straightforward but does require teachers to manually setup and keep class membership up-to-date. Third party integration to MIS databases will be available soon in the UK (hopefully). In the meantime you can use a similar assignment system called Teacher Dashboard which has the option of syncing AD and Office 365 groups.

Microsoft Classroom is a great out-of-the-box product but doesn’t allow much customisation so you may want to think about some custom class and subject sites as part of your portal. Please feel free to contact us for a demo of these at Cloud Design Box.

Adding SharePoint Online navigation from XML using PowerShell CSOM

The following PowerShell scripts were created to enable me to deploy a custom navigation across multiple site collections. You can use managed metadata navigation as mentioned in my previous post. Unfortunately this method doesn’t allow the user to reuse managed metadata navigation across multiple site collections (no idea why, I thought that was one of the advantages of managed metadata navigation!).

So a new and clean way of doing this is to use the CSOM for PowerShell. The code below deletes every navigation node using the first function and then adds each item added to an XML file. A strength of using this method is it can be manipulated to add additional logic for adding links to particular site collections depending on the variables in the XML file. Hope you find this useful.

For SharePoint design, workflows, automation, training and support please visit my SharePoint consultancy site www.clouddesignbox.co.uk. We offer education and business SharePoint solutions and services.

Deleting all navigation nodes using CSOM PowerShell

It’s fairly straightforward to enumerate nodes in an array, in this example I’m deleting all the top navigation menu nodes in a SharePoint site. This is how I would normally loop through the top navigation menu:

$topNav = $context.Web.Navigation.TopNavigationBar;
foreach ($topNavItem in $topNav)
	Write-Host $topNavItem.Title

However if I want to loop through the menu and delete all the nodes, the above function errors as the array has changed each time it loops, the method below works but doesn’t catch all the menu items.

for ($ii = 0; $ii -lt $topNodes.Count; $ii++)
	Write-Host $topNodes[$ii].Title 

As we are enumerating the nodes, we are removing nodes from the start and changing the position of the other nodes in the array. As the loop continues to run, it can skip positions of some of the nodes.

A solution which works better is looping through the array backwards. As you loop through the array backwards, it doesn’t change the position of items still in the array.

for ($ii = $topNodes.Count - 1; $ii -ge 0; $ii--)
	Write-Host $topNodes[$ii].Title 

Hope you may find this useful, it can be difficult to find why the loop misses some random items and hopefully looping backwards will avoid any issues like this.

How to stop using custom master pages when branding SharePoint

With the rise of Office 365 and SharePoint online, the ancient practice of using a custom master page to brand a SharePoint site is coming to an end. SharePoint online has many incremental changes, bug fixes and improvements to the Seattle master page meaning that if you have taken a copy of this Master Page to apply your branding, you could be missing out on the constant evolution of SharePoint online.

Custom Master Pages can still be used but Microsoft recommend against this now. The good news is that we can make exactly the same branding changes without having to use a custom master page.

I will briefly mention that you can create themes for SharePoint very quickly using Microsoft’s free tool which can be downloaded from here. Great for quick colour palettes and background images but not great if you want a responsive or more custom design.

Custom master pages (for branding purposes) tended to have a small number of adjustments such as:

  • Custom HTML (maybe for a menu container)
  • Links to CSS files (for responsive styling and branding)
  • Links to JavaScript files (for use of jQuery and additional libraries)

Link to custom CSS file

A link to a custom CSS file is recommended for advanced branding changes. This won’t affect any improvements to the default Seattle master page however you may need to update the CSS from time to time to reflect any interface changes. The alternative CSS link can be set via the GUI on a publishing site or by CSOM on any site.

As a designer, you will be aware that you can’t do everything in CSS such as placeholders for menus or other interactive content or run JavaScript.

Inject JavaScript

JavaScript and HTML plays a big role in most branding exercises. It could be DOM manipulation, a responsive menu, sliding effects or responsive background slideshows and JavaScript tends to be a requirement on most projects. Luckily there is some more good news, JavaScript can be added to a site without editing the Master Page by adding custom actions.

You should already be storing JavaScript in external files (in the Style Library) rather than embedding on the master page. So the only change is to inject these JavaScript files rather than reference them on the MasterPage. This can be done via CSOM (I use the PowerShell method).

#Run all of your lines to load the context of the site collection

#add custom js injection action
$customJSAction = $site.UsercustomJSActions.Add();
$customJSAction.Location = “ScriptLink”;
#reference to JS file
$customJSAction.ScriptSrc = “~SiteCollection/Style Library/JS Display Templates/test.js”;
#load it last
$customJSAction.Sequence = 1000;
#make the changes

You can use the same objects to remove all the custom actions and list them. You can find out more information and the C# examples here.


Although this is a different way of thinking about branding, in the long run, it’s cleaner and more reusable than custom master pages. Your customers will have a better experience in Office 365 but even CSS and DOM manipulation may need updating as SharePoint evolves.

Some really useful examples and more detailed explanations can be found on Vesa Juvonen’s Ignite talk. In Vesa’s example he uses Visual Studio and Apps to deploy the CSS and JS.

In the video at the top of the post, I quickly go through the process of setting alternative CSS and JavaScript custom actions.

Using the SharePoint recycle bin

I’m often asked about restoring deleted documents, where the recycle bins are and how long they are kept there for. Hope this post will be of use to some of you.

SharePoint’s powerful document management features provide the end user and administrator ways of recovering deleted items. Items can be deleted accidentally (sometimes without the end user even knowing). Luckily we can go into SharePoint and recover the document before it is lost forever.

Two stage recovery

When a document is first deleted, it goes into the end user recycle bin on the site. The user deleting the item has several days (93 days by default in SharePoint Online) to recover the item themselves.

After that period (or if the item is deleted from the site recycle bin) it then goes into the second-stage recycle bin. The second-stage recycle bin is only accessible by the site collection administrator. There is then another 93 days to recover the item before it is deleted forever! Items in the second-stage recycle bin don’t count towards your site collection quota but items will automatically be deleted if you exceed 200% of your site collection quota (which is unlikely if you make sure your site collection has 1TB of storage).

I’ve created the video below to explain the recovery process from both recycle bins. A great way to find those missing documents which were accidentally deleted by the end user.

More information can be found here on the Microsoft website.