SharePoint 2019 'Big Bets' Include InfoPath and PowerApps Support
- By Kurt Mackie
- October 04, 2017
A few hints about what to expect from the next major release of Microsoft's SharePoint Server product emerged this week.
Until now, Microsoft has not shared much about SharePoint Server 2019, except that a preview is expected to arrive in mid-2018, along with perpetual-license versions of Office, plus Exchange Server 2019 and Skype for Business Server 2019 previews. Those details were somewhat obliquely announced last week by Jared Spataro, general manager for Office.
The Exchange Team this week confirmed that there will be an Exchange Server 2019 product. The Skype for Business team hasn't piped up about the coming new server product so far.
The big news is that the Microsoft Teams client will be replacing the Skype for Business client, although the Skype for Business Online service and Skype for Business Server products will be continuing. The Skype for Business team this week mentioned a few nomenclature changes, as well. For instance, PSTN Conferencing is now called "Audio Conferencing" and is available now in Microsoft Teams at the public preview level. In addition, Microsoft now uses the "Audio Conferencing and Communications Credits" name in place of "PSTN Conferencing and PSTN Consumption." The old "Cloud PBX" term is now called "Phone System." Microsoft also now permits user voicemail preferences to be set via the Skype for Business settings portal.
While Microsoft has offered few details so far about SharePoint Server 2019, it listed its "big bets" about what to expect in a Tuesday blog post, as follows:
- Next-Gen Sync Client support
- Modern UX throughout the product
- Flow/PowerApps integration
- Other SharePoint Online innovations
Organizations can sign up for coming server previews to get more information.
In its Ignite announcements last week, Microsoft mostly described SharePoint Online, with scant mention of the SharePoint Server 2019 product. Some of the SharePoint team, including Jeff Teper, Microsoft corporate vice president for Office, OneDrive and SharePoint, is scheduled to speak in May at the SharePoint Conference North America, where possibly more details may get explained.
SharePoint Server 2019 Tidbits
Other publicly known details about SharePoint Server 2019 come from a few Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs), rather than from Microsoft itself.
Microsoft MVP Roger Haueter offered us some notions about SharePoint Server 2019 in this blog post. He indicated that InfoPath, Microsoft's venerable (but deprecated) tool for creating forms, will still be supported for use with SharePoint Server 2019.
Microsoft has said that the current version of InfoPath, namely InfoPath 2013, will be the last version of the product. InfoPath 2013's end of extended support date was pushed out to July 14, 2026 to ensure compatibility with the SharePoint Server 2016 product.
Hub Sites, a feature that draws together content from Communication Sites and Team Sites that was newly announced at Ignite, won't be supported by SharePoint Server 2019, although Team News and Communications Sites will be supported, according to Haueter.
SharePoint Server 2019 will have support for PowerApps, according to Haueter. Microsoft has typically described PowerApps and Microsoft Flow as its successor products to InfoPath and SharePoint Designer. PowerApps are for developers, offering wizards and templates for creating Web and mobile apps, while Microsoft Flow is a service mashup tool for orchestrating workflows.
Haueter also indicated that SharePoint Server 2016 won't have support for Microsoft's next-generation OneDrive Sync Client, a curious and unexplained tidbit.
The idea that InfoPath will live on as a tool for SharePoint Server 2019 also was affirmed by Vlad Catrinescu, a Microsoft MVP and president of vNext Solutions, in an Oct. 2 Crow Canyon Software talk, which is available on demand here. Catrinescu said that while not much is known about SharePoint Server 2019, "we know for sure that InfoPath will be back."
He also suggested that PowerApps could be used with SharePoint Server 2019 on premises in a hybrid scenario. He was hopeful about getting support for "modern experiences" in SharePoint Server 2019 used on premises, such as the use of modern Team Sites, Communication Sites and possibly the new Sync Client, which he said "actually syncs" compared with the old Sync Client.
Catrinescu was somewhat more optimistic about the new Sync Client than Haueter. He said that the new Sync Client is currently not available for on-premises SharePoint, but it might be something seen for SharePoint Server 2019.
Like Haueter, Catrinescu indicated that it was his understanding that the new Hub Sites feature would not be available for SharePoint Server 2019.
As for SharePoint Designer, Catrinescu speculated that it might hang around like InfoPath and possibly be even more integrated in SharePoint Server 2019. That was his "gut feeling" rather than knowledge, but he suggested that more might be known around the time of the SharePoint Conference North America in May. SharePoint Designer 2013, the current version, is also a deprecated product, but Microsoft currently will support it until July 14, 2026.
While Microsoft had announced a new SharePoint Migration Tool at Ignite, Catrinescu described it as "really basic," adding that he has played with the preview. It's a great start, he said, but for now the SharePoint Migration Tool only supports SharePoint Server 2013 and file shares. It does not support moving SharePoint Lists, but only supports moving SharePoint Libraries. Moreover, the SharePoint Migration Tool will not automatically create the migration target for you, so users will have to create a SharePoint Online library. The tool is just for smaller companies with file shares that don't have any metadata and that want to move them to SharePoint Online. For now, it only supports documents (not folders). He added that "I don't think migration partners have anything to worry about now."
Microsoft recently published documentation here explaining how the SharePoint Migration Tool works.
The new SharePoint Online Admin Center is a lot more modern, showing service health, a message center and active sites, Catrinescu said. He noted that the new portal shows Office 365 groups and Modern Team Sites as well. He explained that before, for Office 365, PowerShell had to be used to see SharePoint site collections.
Teper described Ignite SharePoint highlights in this recently published Microsoft Mechanics video. He emphasized improvements with the general Office 365 sharing experience, making it easier to share from SharePoint and OneDrive. He also highlighted the "Files on Demand" feature, which reduces bandwidth issues when accessing files in the OneDrive cloud storage service. The Files on Demand feature will be supported with the Oct. 17 Fall Creators Update version of Windows 10, he noted.
The new Office 365 sharing capability lets organizations share content with external users, without making them open a Microsoft account beforehand.
"We introduced this week a secure external sharing capability so that you don't have to get an account as an outside user," Teper said in the video. "You get a one-time passcode you can use."
The new Office 365 sharing capability is the same experience across Windows, Mac and Web versions of OneDrive and SharePoint, Teper added.
Teper also explained a little more about how Microsoft thinks about its various collaboration products. He described Microsoft Teams as something for use in the "inner loop" of communications by organizations, while Yammer can be thought of as something for use in the "outer loop."
Another interesting idea mentioned by Teper in the video is that SharePoint Designer isn't really needed to do layouts anymore in SharePoint pages. It's possible to just customize them using WebParts.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.