Microsoft Introduces Copilot in SharePoint and Other Coming Features

Microsoft on Tuesday announced multiple SharePoint, OneDrive, Stream and Lists improvements to come, along with the debut of "Copilot in SharePoint."

Microsoft's "kitchen-sink" approach to announcing multiple new SharePoint features was apparently timed with the Microsoft 365 Conference, which is ongoing this week. This article will just focus on some of this year's coming attractions, plus notable standouts, such as Copilot in SharePoint.

For the SharePoint features that were released this month, see this article by Mark Kashman, a senior product manager on the SharePoint team. Notably, Microsoft Loop, Microsoft's service that lets people collaborate across Microsoft 365 applications, is getting its own file suffix, namely ".loop."

Copilot in SharePoint Preview Coming by Year's End
Of the bundle of improvements, the artificial intelligence (AI)-enhanced Copilot in SharePoint perhaps took center stage. However, it's apparently not available yet. A preview of Copilot in SharePoint may arrive by year's end.

Copilot in SharePoint is another large language model-enabled AI solution that's built on Microsoft's so-called "Copilot System." The Copilot System refines a prompt and then uses Microsoft Graph data from an organization's Microsoft 365 data before presenting a solution to a user in natural language format.

Users of Copilot in SharePoint will only need to describe in words the kind of SharePoint Site or page that they will want to see. Here's how such AI assistance was described by Adam Harmetz, vice president of program management for Microsoft's collaborative apps and platforms, in this announcement:

If you can describe the site or page, Copilot in SharePoint will begin to create it for you, and then work with you to edit and refine it. And all within our existing commitments to data security and privacy in the enterprise.

Users will be able to access Copilot in SharePoint from the "new SharePoint Start page" when it becomes available. There was no "private preview" announcement, as might be expected.

SharePoint Features Coming in 2023
Coming in the "next few months" will be a new Stream SharePoint Web Part, which will show "single and multiple videos on SharePoint pages with inline playback," according to Microsoft's "enhanced video" announcement.

Coming in July will be simplified page sharing, which will let SharePoint users share "pages and news posts individually without having to share the entire site, just like other Microsoft 365 files," according to this Microsoft 365 Roadmap description. A News in Outlook feature, coming in July, will let users send SharePoint news posts as e-mails to Outlook. Microsoft also is planning to release a "new image editor" around that time that will have advanced image editing capabilities (shape cropping, color adjustments, filters and text overlays).

Coming in August will be Video Pages. This feature will let SharePoint and Microsoft Stream users create videos in pages via templates.

In the September to October time frame, Microsoft is planning to add a Content Pane for page authoring that will let users quickly find and add content from SharePoint Sites, with layout suggestions. Also coming in that timeframe will be a new SharePoint start page with templates for creating "websites, pages, news, and intranet content."

In December, Microsoft is planning to enable centralized branding for SharePoint Sites and pages, which Microsoft described as "a new Brand Center." Also, by year's end, the Copilot in SharePoint preview perhaps will get released.

The 2023 timeline for these SharePoint additions was illustrated in the following graphic (from Harmetz's announcement):

[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 1. Microsoft's timeline for coming SharePoint enhancements, including a new Copilot in SharePoint preview (source: May 2 Microsoft Tech Community post).

Some of the 2023 items on the above timeline are listed as roadmap items for 2024. For instance, in Jan. 2024, Microsoft expects to roll out Design Ideas for SharePoint pages which uses Microsoft Designer to offer "tailored section level design suggestions."

Also, in "early 2024" (March), Microsoft plans to add SharePoint pages and news coauthoring, which will offer design suggestions. "These coauthoring capabilities are powered by the Fluid framework, the same technology that enables real-time collaboration in Microsoft Loop," Harmetz explained.

OneDrive Features
The OneDrive cloud storage and Microsoft Stream video sharing services are part of the SharePoint family, and Microsoft this week highlighted some improvements.

Microsoft described releasing a "new OneDrive experience for work and school" users that delivers a "visual and functional upgrade" per this announcement. The new OneDrive gets a new home page that will surface recommended files via AI in a "For You" area. It'll also show recently shared content, as well as comments. The new OneDrive is said to be "now available," although its AI file recommendations capability will be "coming soon."

The new OneDrive also will be getting new "People view" and "Meetings view" features to organize files based on collaborations with other people, which will be available sometime "later this year." It'll also be possible later this year to mark file "Favorites" and Microsoft is promising a simpler file sharing capability as well. The ability to specify colors for OneDrive folders also will be coming, too. These sorts of OneDrive improvements will be available in Microsoft Teams, too, by "the end of the year."

Other new OneDrive features to come will include filtering files by type (PDF, JPEG, etc.) plus an "Open in App" capability that will let users open and edit non-Office files in the OneDrive desktop app, "such as .PDFs, .JPEGs, and MP4s." Microsoft indicated that "Open in App will become available later this year in OneDrive & SharePoint web and Microsoft Teams."

Microsoft also will bring an "Available When Offline" capability to the new OneDrive, which will let users "go offline and continue working on files in your browser, with changes syncing automatically to OneDrive once you are back online." This offline feature doesn't require saving a file in the desktop client first, as is presently the case. The expected arrival of the Available When Offline capability wasn't specified.

Stream Features
Microsoft described coming Stream features in this announcement.

In addition to the coming Stream SharePoint Web Part, Microsoft will be enhancing its Stream Web App. The Stream Web App will be able to create transcripts that can be shared with videos "across Microsoft 365 on Yammer, Viva or SharePoint pages." Users of the Stream Web App will be able to choose where to store videos and they'll be able to "favorite" a video. These new Stream Web App capabilities are expected to "be available by June."

Video creators using Stream will be getting custom backdrops, and the ability to add "text, filters, stickers and inking." They'll get a teleprompter to help maintain eye-level views in videos. Microsoft is promising smoother video playback with "fewer buffering pauses." The arrival timeline for these improvements wasn't described.

An automatic transcript generation capability in Stream is expected to "launch later this year." In June, Microsoft will show pictures of people in transcripts, not just their initials. Also at that time, it'll be possible for Stream users to download a transcript in .DOCX format (Microsoft Word). In May, captions in videos will be movable.

Last, but not least, Microsoft threw a bone to IT departments trying to move content from so-called "classic" Stream to Stream on SharePoint. IT departments currently face a coming classic Stream upload block in Aug. 2023, with classic Stream getting "retired" by Microsoft on Feb. 15, 2024, as announced by Microsoft back in January. On June 1, Microsoft is planning to update its migration tool to let IT pros "scan all Stream (Classic) content and then apply filters to choose which videos to migrate," which will help organizations with the triage aspects of a move.

Lists Features
Microsoft also described Lists feature improvement that will be "coming later this year" in this announcement.

Lists in the browser, progressive Web app and in Microsoft Teams will "load in half the time," the announcement promised. Also, Lists users will be able to see the presence images of collaborators, a feature that's "coming to all Lists this summer." Microsoft also will let users do filtering and grouping using icons via a "Group By" button.

Lists users will be able to create custom views via "tabs at the top of the screen." They can also clear these filters by closing the pill-like icons that indicate a custom view. Microsoft eased the editing capability in Lists and made it easier to add a "Ratings column." It's also easier to add images to columns in Lists via a drag-and-drop capability.

The Lists Calendar view now has a Week layout, and Microsoft now bases the date and time columns in the Calendar on a machine's regional settings. Microsoft is also working to improve the "conditional formatting capabilities of calendars."

It's possible to "create and manage multiple forms for the same list," which will work for internal and external users. Microsoft also made it easer to share forms.

Lists "custom templates" can be used by organizations wanting to standardize on "schema, views, formatting, and automations." Microsoft also indicated that "organizational templates" will be coming soon. It'll be possible to "package Microsoft Power Automate flows directly inside their custom organizational templates," a capability that's expected to appear "later this summer."

Microsoft is adding Microsoft account support for Lists. It'll be available for iOS apps "by the end of May" and will be available for Android apps "by the end of June." The iOS app users will be getting the ability to "view and edit comments" at some point, too.


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