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SharePoint Online Gets Feature Boost, While MVPs Talk Migration

Microsoft has been sprucing up SharePoint Online, adding new features for end users and touting the need for organizations to migrate to "modern" SharePoint.

In a recent SharePoint developers talk, Vesa Juvonen, a principal program Manager at Microsoft, said that InfoPath, used for creating forms on SharePoint, and the "classic" SharePoint workflow will be going away. "Modern is the future" for SharePoint, he added. The first step for organizations using the older SharePoint technologies is to analyze their SharePoint use capabilities before replacing them. For that, he recommended using the SharePoint Modernization Scanner.

Microsoft is targeting the release of SharePoint Modernization Scanner version 2.6 by end of September, Juvonen said. Currently, the SharePoint Modernization Scanner only works with SharePoint Online implementations, he added. The Transformation Framework version 1.0.1909, for use on-premises, is expected to get released by Sept. 9 at the latest, Juvonen said.

The SharePoint Modernization Scanner, an open source tool, works using a user interface or the command line and generates files in comma-separated value format. It can scan all or just some components (such as InfoPath use in an environment). It has a Workflow View that shows SharePoint 2010 or SharePoint 2013 use in preparation for using Microsoft Flow. The scanner will deliver an upgradeability score. The tool is described in this Microsoft document, which includes a link to the executable file.

Cloud Migration Talk
Microsoft also this month held a chat with Martina Grom and Marc Anderson, who are SharePoint MVPs, about migrating to the "cloud"-based Office 365 and SharePoint Online services.

Grom said that tech people generally think that it'll be like any other migration where they'll have peace for about two or three years after the move. However, they may not be aware that they'll have to keep pace with Office 365 changes.

Anderson said that end users aren't bothered by the cloud move, but it's different for the technical people. A cloud move does make sense, though, when it's understood that Microsoft will be managing the hardware and software upgrades, he added.

As a consultant, Grom said she gets client talk about doing heavy customizations, but very often people love the modern design of the new SharePoint. She added that you're always on the safe side using the modern templates with SharePoint. Customizations typically get done when something is not available or the customer wants a select app, she added.

Anderson agreed, saying that "if you don't need to write code, don't write code." Just spend time on the code writing that makes the business more effective, he added.

The security topic came up. Grom said that she just shows the functionality of Microsoft 365 solutions, highlighting multifactor authentication and password resets, and how secure they are. Privacy is a concern in Europe that causes her more work, though, she added.

Anderson said that organizations need to specify their security requirements, and that worries about security are a different matter. Microsoft's security comes as an organizational expense, and it may be better than having a junior college graduate run things. He said he gets fewer questions than Grom about privacy.

New August SharePoint Online Additions
Microsoft is adding a few SharePoint Online capabilities this month, including page authoring and content management enhancements for Office 365 subscribers.

These improvements will be arriving for organizations that get Microsoft's so-called "targeted" Office 365 updates, which is a stage before "general availability" commercial release. The actual general availability release is expected to happen "soon," Microsoft indicated.

Page Authoring Additions
On the page authoring side, news and pages can now use a new Web Part for displaying recommended content. It draws from Office 365's Microsoft Graph organizational information to make its suggestions, Microsoft explained in its Aug. 12 announcement.

SharePoint end users are getting a new "Vertical Sections" Web Part page-layout design capability this month, which lets them format content into a single column. It works with any type of SharePoint page. Currently, Vertical Sections can only be created on the right side of a SharePoint page, with the content growing or shrinking based on "the length of content in non-vertical sections," according to Microsoft's documentation. This feature, released in Q3, is starting to show up for some SharePoint Online tenancies, as noted in this Microsoft Tech Community post.

Microsoft this month added the ability to drag and drop files, such as an image, from a desktop PC's File Explorer onto a SharePoint page. Users then have the option to save that file in the SharePoint document library.

Microsoft also added an Undo/Redo function when creating SharePoint pages. The changes will get fixed, though, after a SharePoint page is saved or published.

Microsoft also made it possible to extract the links to headings in pages using anchors. SharePoint automatically generates anchor URLs for headings down to third-level headings. Now users can get those links by hovering over the heading and clicking on the anchor symbol or right-clicking to save the link.

Content Management Additions
A Microsoft Aug, 15 announcement announced a few SharePoint Online content management additions that are coming to organizations getting targeted Office 365 releases.

Organizations using Microsoft Flow with SharePoint Online can now establish an automated "check-in and checkout" procedure for files stored in the SharePoint Library. This feature will be "available in the SharePoint connector" sometime this month, Microsoft's announcement indicated. It's maybe a reference to the "SharePoint Connector for Microsoft Flow," which is used to automate tasks. It was mentioned during May's SharePoint Conference keynote talk. The setup details, if needed, for this feature weren't described in Microsoft's announcement. The process for creating a flow for use with the SharePoint Library is generally described in this Microsoft document.

Another SharePoint Online workflow addition is a new "bulk approvals" process for documents awaiting approvals, which also got highlighted during the May SharePoint Conference. This feature appears to be integrated for SharePoint Online users. They simply select a bunch of files and right-click to open a pop-up menu, which has an "Approve/reject" option for all of the selected files. This bulk approvals feature is said to be "coming soon."

Lastly, the File Hover Card feature, which pops up and shows information when a user's mouse cursor hovers over a file, will be getting the ability to show "activity highlights" associated with the file. Activities might include user "edits, comments or @mentions," according to the announcement, which suggested that this feature had rolled out to "targeted release" for Office 365 subscribers last month.

The File Hover Card feature is said to only work when the files are stored in OneDrive for Business, according to a description last year by Nuno Silva, a MVP. With this feature, users are shown the details about who viewed or modified the file, along with the number of views the file got, plus some other file details, according to Silva.

File Hover Card is turned on by default, according to a description by Jasper Oosterveld, a Microsoft MVP. IT pros have the option to turn it off using Admin Center settings, he added.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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