SharePoint Online Modern Document Libraries Arriving This Month

Microsoft is starting to deliver its "modern document libraries" user experience improvements in SharePoint Online to its Office 365 commercial subscribers, which is happening as early as this month.

These improvements promise to simplify user access, making the appearance more like that of Microsoft's OneDrive for Business user interface. Modern document libraries represent a "huge win" for improving SharePoint and OneDrive access, noted Christian Buckley, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional and SharePoint expert, in this article. It marks SharePoint as becoming more "user friendly," instead of having a somewhat "ugly" interface, he suggested. The improvements in modern document libraries will make it easier for users to sort and filter content, edit metadata, and pin important content to the top of the document library, he noted.

Modern Document Library Improvements
Microsoft stripped out the "ribbon" menu from the modern document library, replacing it with a so-called "command bar." The command bar is contextual, showing options depending on what the user is doing.

Here are some of the user experience improvements that will be arriving this month for SharePoint Online users, according to Microsoft's announcement this week:

  • Ability to copy files and create new folders for them "on the fly"
  • Ability to add links to files in other libraries, which avoids file duplication
  • Ability to personalize file views on the main page without going to an admin screen, as well as the ability to save these customized views
  • Ability to edit metadata from the information panel directly
  • Ability to see document previews and have access to the document metadata, such as who shared a file
  • Responsive design, easing access on mobile devices

Microsoft also explained that its Office 365 Groups feature will be getting a link to modern libraries this month. It will show up as "a single link to the group's conversation, from which users can navigate to calendar and member management."

Many of these document library interface improvements are illustrated in this Microsoft support document.

Warning About Customizations
Organizations may have customized document library access in SharePoint. While the new modern document libraries capabilities will become the default user experience this month for SharePoint Online users, Microsoft claims there are options for organizations that have gone down the customization route. IT departments will get "full control of using classic or modern looks at the tenant, site collection and library level," Microsoft's announcement promised:

When we bring modern document libraries into production later in June, it will become the new default for all libraries in most cases. However, we will add the tenant and administrative controls in advance of the actual library rollout, so if you choose to opt out, you can do so before users start seeing the new experience. We also included customization detection, so if we see certain features and customizations that don't work in the modern experience, we automatically drop back to classic mode.

The classic interface will continue to be available to Office 365 subscribers "well into 2017," Microsoft promised.

Microsoft also warned IT pros that some SharePoint Online "CustomActions" settings won't work well. Organizations should opt for the classic user interface in the following cases, according to a Q&A in Microsoft's announcement:

CustomActions that deploy script, JSLinks and additional web parts on the page are currently not supported. Environments that require these unsupported features should continue using classic mode for the time being.

Another warning for organizations concerns the use of older Internet Explorer browsers with SharePoint Online, such as IE 8 and IE 9. If the use of those browsers is important, then organizations should stick with the classic user experience, Microsoft suggested.

Future Efforts
Microsoft plans to deliver the new modern document library experience to organizations using the newly released SharePoint Server 2016 product, too. However, it isn't saying when that capability will arrive.

In addition, Microsoft also plans to add future support for organizations wanting to customize the modern document library experience. No details were provided on when that might happen, though. For the time being, if an organization wants custom library pages, then they should stick with the classic approach, Microsoft's announcement advised.

About the Author

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


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