Microsoft Launches Preview of Office 365 'Boards' Feature

A new content tagging feature called "boards" will begin rolling out in preview form this week for select Microsoft Office 365 subscribers.

The feature will be available first to the early test group of Office 365 subscribers (known as "first release" users) over "the next few days," according to Microsoft's announcement, with general availability expected sometime in "early 2015."

The boards feature supplements Microsoft's Windows 8-based Delve social networking and information discovery application that Microsoft began rolling out to its Office 365 subscribers back in September. Delve is designed to help individuals in an organization discover information and files via a card-like user interface. Delve's purported virtue is that information can be discovered quickly in an organization without the user having to know the source location.

The boards feature enhances Delve's functionality by allowing users to tag and label content under specific category names. Users can create the category name for the content (which Microsoft calls "a board") or they can select from a list of existing board names to tag the content, making it easier to find (see image).

[Click on image for larger view.] Screen capture of the new boards Office 365 feature, showing a list of boards on the left. Source: Microsoft video.

The boards feature for Office 365 sounds a lot like the old Tags and Notes feature that Microsoft deprecated from SharePoint Online back in September. Tags and Notes was a method of assigning metadata, or key words, to content to make that content easier to find. Microsoft's announcement of the boards feature, though, didn't make that association, and the UI design is different.

Delve itself is a new Office addition (formerly code-named "Oslo") that uses a new Office Graph information fabric technology to link content associated with siloed Microsoft apps. For instance, Delve pulls together data from Exchange Online e-mails, SharePoint Online content and the Yammer social networking service. Microsoft also has plans to expand Delve's scope to find content associated with OneNote and Lync (to be called "Skype for Business" this year). Behind the scenes, Delve relies on the FAST enterprise search technology that Microsoft acquired in 2008.

Like Delve, the boards feature only allows access to content that the user has permission to view. IT pros control the content access permissions via Active Directory.

The boards feature eventually will be capable of tagging any content accessible by Delve, such as documents, Web pages and videos. Right now, the boards preview mostly pulls from SharePoint Online (including OneDrive for Business) and the Office 365 Video portal, but Microsoft plans to add tagging capabilities to the boards feature for e-mails attachments and Yammer feeds "in the coming months," according to its announcement. Another contemplated capability is the ability to leverage SharePoint metadata.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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