Category Archives: Business

What users want from SharePoint news articles

Releasing organisational and team communication via SharePoint news articles is a powerful way to connect with colleagues. News articles in SharePoint appear aggregated on the SharePoint home page and get pushed out to the mobile app via notification. They render great in both experiences.

I’ve had several users ask for enhancements for SharePoint news, we always try to direct people to the SharePoint user voice page so they can share their thoughts with the community and Microsoft. The most popular requests I have had are:

  • Target news stories at groups of people
  • Add news from external sources
  • Option to unpublish and delete news stories

Some good news below, some of these are resolved now or in the new year. Unpublish and delete news stories is still not available (from an intuitive interface – you can go to site pages via site contents). You can vote for it here

Many users have reported that they are happy with the editing interface. Using the same intuitive page editing experience as standard SharePoint pages, news articles are easy to adopt in any organisation.

SharePoint News Story

In addition to creating news pages, users can now share links to external news stories. SharePoint intelligently extracts images and text from the external source, all the end user needs to do is provide a link to the external article.

SharePoint news options

Sharing external news will make users aware of an external article without the creator having to manually recreate or copy and paste the story.

News Link

Did you know that you can now save news articles to read later? I’ve not had this request from any end-users but seems useful if you find an article that is interesting, but you are in a rush. This can be done via the mobile app by clicking the bookmark icon or from the SharePoint home page.

Save SharePoint News Articles

There are some exciting updates coming to SharePoint news in 2019. When I speak to people, I often get asked about targeting news stories to groups of people. My response is that the news article should be added to a SharePoint site which only the correct users have access to. This is a bit of a workaround but not for long! Audience targeting based on groups or individuals is coming early next year to make news even more powerful. It will help owners target news while having a central repository for news.

News comments have not been particularly useful as users often don’t return to see new comments. This is set to improve too over the coming months. Users will be able to use @ to mention other people in the organisation. With intelligent auto-complete, it will really be easy to mention other people and get them involved in the conversation. Mentions will automatically trigger notifications or reminder emails, meaning that comments are not missed again.

We will provide some video tutorials as soon as the new functionality is available!

If you have your own ideas to improve SharePoint news, we would like to hear from you. Comment below and add your ideas to the SharePoint user voice page. With your feedback, Microsoft can see what end-users really want.

ESPC: SharePoint Team Sites and Microsoft Teams Working Together

The future role of SharePoint with the advent of Teams has been on my mind for over a year now. Teams is built on top of SharePoint but is an application rather than a website. Teams has chat and collaboration, but SharePoint has news and is interconnected with related sites through Hub sites in sometimes a more intuitive interface. Teams is gaining more user adoption with its modern way of creating an efficient workplace. The governance and admin controls are on their way for Teams too. Which should you use? Do you have to make a choice?

As a SharePoint and Teams provider, it has been hard to determine if Teams was there to replace SharePoint or that it would work side-by-side with SharePoint. My initial thoughts were that SharePoint would be the organisation intranet (communication sites), a place to go for company-wide communication and resources. Microsoft Teams or SharePoint Team sites were great for small-medium team collaboration.

At the European SharePoint, Office 365 and Azure conference 2018 in Copenhagen, Jeff Teper (Corporate Vice President – Office 365) explained the vision for SharePoint and Teams.

Jeff Teper Corporate Vice President - Office 365

The vision Microsoft have is that SharePoint Team sites and MS Teams live side-by-side. In fact, they should be the same collaboration areas but accessed through different mediums. Eventually everything in SharePoint should be surfaced in Teams. Recently Microsoft have released an option to create a Microsoft Team from a SharePoint Team site, this even adds a cool link to open the Team.

The release of SharePoint Framework (SPFx) web parts for Teams supports moving towards this goal, surfacing the same functionality for both platforms (just in a different shell). It also works the other way around, Microsoft Team SharePoint Team sites (the site behind the Team!), can be added to SharePoint Hub sites just like any other SharePoint site so news and events can be aggregated. When planning site architecture, we can now imagine that whatever site or team is planned in either SharePoint or Teams, both could be accessed with either application.

There are still going to be instances where one is preferred over the other. In some scenarios, Office 365 groups with owners and members might not be the preferred access model for SharePoint intranet sites but there is a valid option for these sites – modern communication sites. Microsoft mentioned that they will be closing the gap on differences between communication and team sites and that one day you should be able to convert one to another. This again would help organisations on a long journey moving to a modern team-based flat structure.

More exciting updates to come….

How to create a custom theme in PowerApps (workaround)

PowerApps is a great tool at building complex business applications using logic and no code. Microsoft provide several themes out-of-the-box to give your app a consistent look and feel. There is no option to create a custom theme (please release this functionality Microsoft)!

PowerApps Themes

As a workaround, we can use some logic to have a single place to update the colours, fonts, etc. However, please note that there are some steps to set this up and its time consuming but once you have done this, it’s much easier to play around with the theme rather than editing every element individually.

To make our theme easy to update, we are going to create a new screen which will be used for defining our design. Create a new screen called “Theme”.

PowerApps Themes

PowerApps Themes

On this new screen, we are going to add the elements that we want to style. We only need one instance of font-size, primary colour and secondary colour.

To start with, I’m going to add a button on the theme screen. I’m going to give the button my own custom colour as a background colour.

PowerApps Themes

In my theme, I’m going to rename my button to “ThemedButton” to make it easier to reference.

PowerApps Themes

In every other screen in our app (and every new screen we make), we are going to set the properties of the objects to reference our theme screen element colours, sizes, etc.

In my Edit Screen, I’m going to select the “RectQuickActionBar” and select the “Fill” option. Rather than add a colour here in the formula bar, I’m going to reference our primary colour (used in the button on the theme screen). To do this, we enter:

Fill=ThemedButton.Fill

PowerApps Themes

You can use this method to reference font size (ThemedButton.Size), font colour (ThemedButton.Color), etc.

Once you have setup all the properties, you can now change your styles in a single place by editing your theme screen.

It’s a very long-winded way to create a custom theme but might save you a lot of time changing colours when your manager asks for a different shade of blue across the whole app! I’m pretty sure custom themes will be on the Microsoft PowerApps roadmap soon, so you won’t have this problem!

If you need help with PowerApps, SharePoint or anything else Office 365 related, you can contact us at Cloud Design Box.