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SharePoint Online Adding Site Swap and Other New Features

Microsoft recently announced some new capabilities coming to SharePoint Online subscribers, particularly those getting so-called "targeted" releases.

The additions were summed up in a couple of announcements. Microsoft described a new Site Swap capability for IT pros maintaining SharePoint Online tenancies, plus new features for end users, in a Tuesday announcement. Additionally, there are some new Web Parts available, as described in an August 28 announcement.

All of these updates either showed up last month for organizations getting targeted releases, or they'll be available sometime early this month. A targeted release is a feature update that gets dispensed to Office 365 subscribers before commercial release.

The Site Swap feature and new Web Parts are arriving on top of other items released in August for SharePoint Online users. For instance, page authoring and content management features also were released last month.

Site Swap Capability
Microsoft's Tuesday announcement included an interview with Wayne Ewington, a program manager on OneDrive and SharePoint team, which focused on Site Swap. It's a new PowerShell capability for SharePoint Online users that gets executed using the Invoke-SPOSiteSwap commandlet. Site Swap swaps out an organization's SharePoint Online root site. It might get used by organizations making the shift to so-called "modern" SharePoint Online pages, for instance. It'll archive the older swapped pages as part of the process.

Modern pages are based on using the SharePoint Framework. It involves a developer switch to client-side application development using lightweight Web developer tools, in contrast to the old .NET server-side app development approach. Modern pages also follow a more flattened intranet structure, with the relatively new Hub Sites page located at the top of the organizational hierarchy.

In that regard, there's a particular restriction on using Site Swap. Before executing a swap, "the source or target sites cannot be 'associated' with an Office 365 group or be connected to a SharePoint hub site," Microsoft's announcement warned. Those dependencies have to be remove first before running the commandlet.

Ewington explained that Site Swap allows SharePoint administrators to swap the location a SharePoint root site with another site via a PowerShell command. Microsoft creates a root site collection for SharePoint Online users (who are known as "tenants"). The root site is the entry point for the SharePoint Online tenant. However, it's been found that customers have sometimes "followed unrecommended guidance on deleting the root site," and then later wondered what went wrong. Site Swap is designed ease such matters.

"The Site Swap provides a safe and supported mechanism for replacing the root site with another site," Ewington explained.

It's possible that Office 365 tenants might not see Site Swap feature yet because Microsoft has been releasing it to tenants with about 1,000 seats first before broadening the release. That's a nontraditional release approach, but Microsoft adopted it to gauge how Site Swap might work across high-volume sites, Ewington explained.

New User Features in August
A bunch of other SharePoint Online and OneDrive features that rolled out in August were described in Microsoft's Tuesday announcement.

Microsoft now permits SharePoint Online site owners to associate a Team Site or Communication Site with a Hub Site. Such actions no longer require having administrator privileges.

Microsoft also broadened the ability for end users to elicit comments regarding non-Office files that get encountered using OneDrive and OneDrive on the Web, Microsoft's online storage client applications. For instance, users can comment on graphics files (.JPG and .PNG) or PDF document files using OneDrive on the Web.

OneDrive now has a "Popular Around Me" feature that shows the files that were shared with a particular user. Microsoft also now supports sharing individual slides in PowerPoint Online presentations, which gets done via a pop-up menu generated by right-clicking on a slide's thumbnail image.

There also were a couple of mobile app Office 365 enhancements mentioned. The Yammer Mobile App in August will have "a new launch experience that takes you right to your feed, not just your groups." It'll also support Live Event participation and Q&As. Sometime in the fall, Microsoft expects that Samsung Galaxy devices will be able to sync photos and videos to OneDrive storage, since "OneDrive will be natively integrated into the Samsung Gallery app."

New Web Parts in August
A few new Web Parts, plus updates to existing ones, were described as coming to targeted release SharePoint Online users as early as last month.

A new "Button" Web Part was released. The Button, which can be labeled with text, is used to direct users to additional content. A new "Call to Action" Web Part released in August lets users add text and a background image within a section, which is also used to direct users to other content. A new "World Clock" Web Part also was added.

Microsoft also now includes two links and a larger tile for its existing "Hero" Web Part, which is a default page item on Communication Sites. Those same modifications were added for the existing "News" Web Part, too. The second link apparently is there to help users share content via social media.

The existing "Highlighted Content" Web Part, which displays documents by "time or relevance," can now be customized. It's possible to use the CAML or KQL query languages for the purpose. Documents can be filtered based on "document types, authors or other custom metadata," Microsoft's announcement explained.

Dev Matters
Microsoft also this week talked about using the "recently published" Office 365 Command-Line Interface (CLI) version 2 for SharePoint development, which works across operating systems. CLI is still considered a viable tool over PowerShell at this point for SharePoint development, although there's still "no right or wrong" on the development tool of choice, according to the talk. The point was mentioned because there are still some PowerShell Core kinks being worked out, apparently.

More details about CLI version 2 are described by Waldek Mastykarz, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional and a product head at Rencore, in this blog post.

The talk also pointed to a Microsoft announcement last week indicating that new members of the Office 365 Developer Program can sign up for the E5 developer subscription, which is replacing the E3 one. In addition, this E5 subscription includes Enterprise Mobility plus Security (EMS) capabilities. Microsoft is planning to automatically upgrade existing E3 Developer Program subscribers in "coming months."

Additionally, Microsoft released updated "training packages" for developers trying to come to grips with the SharePoint Framework.

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