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UPDATE: SharePoint Online Getting Touch Improvements

Microsoft is improving the touch experience for SharePoint Online users.

New touch improvements for SkyDrive Pro and SharePoint Sites will be seen over "the next few weeks." The improvements are just for Office 365 business, education and government users of Microsoft's SharePoint Online service, according to Mark Kashman, a senior product manager for SharePoint, in a blog post on Tuesday. Organizations that have deployed SharePoint Server 2013 on premises aren't getting the rollout.

Microsoft is using a new term to describe the touch enhancements, calling them "Touch Design mobile pages." They provide an "app-like experience" for accessing documents and team sites using SharePoint Online, according to Kashman.

Users of the improved touch interface see a typical "Metro" or Windows Store apps interface on SkyDrive Pro or the My SharePoint portal. However, documents accessed from those solutions are represented in a tile-like fashion for easier touch access. The tile-like display of the documents is based on the new Touch Design interface that Kashman said was first rolled out in July with Outlook Web Apps for the Apple iPhone and iPad.

The Touch Design interface will deliver the new touch-based user experience across device sizes ranging from 11-inch screens to four-inch screens. The user experience across those screen sizes will be "exactly the same," according to Kashman.

The new touch improvements will just start working on devices when the new SharePoint Online update gets released in the coming weeks.

"The new Touch Design pages will load by default on most devices," Kashman wrote in the blog post. "If you're working on a Surface or other Windows tablet, Windows Phone, an iPhone or iPad, or an Android phone or tablet, when you land on SkyDrive Pro or Sites, the new Touch Design interface automatically appears."

The improvements are rolling out to SharePoint Online users, and it's not clear from Kashman's post if SharePoint Server 2013 users will get them, too. Microsoft has been carrying out more rapid release cycles for its products, which was announced earlier this year. Part of that effort involves a "cloud first" development approach. Possibly, this touch improvement rollout for SharePoint Online may be an example of what to expect from that engineering shift, with server improvements arriving later.

Microsoft has also promised the delivery of traditional service packs, along with the faster release cycle. However, no information was shared about whether the next service pack for SharePoint Server 2013 would include the new touch interface improvements or not.

Update: Microsoft announced on Wednesday that Service Pack 1 for Microsoft Office, Exchange Server and SharePoint Server are planned for arrival "early next year." SP1 will include updates to features, along with Windows 8.1 compatibility improvements and performance improvements. No other details were provided by the announcement.

SharePoint Server 2013 uses a different approach for mobile device content, called "Design Manager device channels." This device channels feature is designed to help optimize the content display for various mobile device sizes. It enables smartphones and tablets to access the same content through the same URL, while scaling touch targets for different screen sizes.

About the Author

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

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