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Microsoft Adding Office 365 Groups Improvements to SharePoint Online

Some new SharePoint Online and Office 365 Groups enhancements for end users are coming soon, Microsoft announced this week.

The highlights include a "deeper integration" of Team Sites with Office 365 Groups, plus Microsoft is expanding SharePoint Online's site collection limit to 25TB. Microsoft has already changed its "boundaries and limits" article to reflect the site collection expansion, which previously was at 1TB. However, organizations could start to see the 25TB boost beginning next week. The new 25TB site collection limit ultimately is "expected to be rolled out to all Office 365 customers worldwide within one month," per Microsoft's announcement.

As for the Team Sites integration with Office 365 Groups, that's expected to show up as early as next week for Office 365 "first release" testers. Mark Kashman, a Microsoft senior product manager on the SharePoint team, said in an Office 365 Network post that the improvements will bring "the full power of SharePoint to Office 365 Groups."

"New and existing groups will get modern team sites, which come with an updated Home page, the ability to pin items within the new Quick links web part, and to see what's going on in the site via the new Activity web part," Kashman explained in that post.

Microsoft's announcement explained that "SharePoint pages are built with web parts." End users can add things such as "documents, videos, images, site activities" and Yammer feeds to SharePoint Online pages using a toolbox. In addition, developers can make their own Web Parts, which will appear in the toolbox for use.

With this SharePoint Online update, Microsoft has a new "highlighted content" Web Part. Users set criteria for when content should appear in the Web Part. When that's done, content will "automatically and dynamically populate in that area of the page," Microsoft's announcement explained.

Modern Pages Improvements
SharePoint Online Team Sites already include modern Document Library improvements and modern List improvements that Microsoft announced this summer. What Microsoft is announcing this time is its so-called "modern pages" enhancements. By modern pages, Microsoft apparently is referring to improvements to SharePoint Online's Home Page, Quick Links and Activity options for end users.

The Home Page now lets users access "lists, libraries, pages, subsites and apps," as well as Outlook e-mail conversations. Microsoft is working on adding the ability to customize the modern Home Page as well, but it's promising not to alter the classic mode for organizations that have already customized their Home Page.

Microsoft added a Quick Links element in SharePoint Online that can be used to place content at the top of the Home Page. There's also a new Activity interface, which shows "recent actions on files, lists, pages and more," per the announcement.

There are also Publishing Page improvements coming next month. Those improvements weren't described. Microsoft defines a Publishing Page as Web pages created from templates. A Publishing Page is "a page that is created from a publishing page layout and stored in the Pages document library in the site or subsite."

Office 365 Groups Integration
Office 365 Groups and Team Sites are integrated with the new SharePoint Online improvements. The two features work together.

"The integration of groups and SharePoint team sites means that any time a new team site is created, a new group membership will be created as well," Microsoft's announcement explained.

A created Group not only will include a Team Site. It'll also get "a shared inbox, calendar, OneNote notebook, [and] a Planner for task management," Microsoft's announcement explained.

In addition, Office 365 Groups have support for modern Lists and modern Libraries. Right now, modern Lists have PowerApps and Microsoft Flow support. Microsoft plans to add those capabilities to modern Libraries "soon," according to its announcement. PowerApps are designed for organizations to create business solutions using templates and wizards, while Microsoft Flow is a workflow solution that lets users combine various services together.

Modern vs. Classic
Organizations with existing SharePoint Online Groups will get updated with these new "modern" additions when Microsoft has completed this latest SharePoint Online rollout, starting next month. However, Microsoft seems to be contemplating an option for organizations needing to stay with the classic interfaces.

"We are working to allow customers who use existing team sites to configure use of the modern home page or keep using the current classic home page for the foreseeable future," Microsoft explained in its announcement.

Microsoft had discussed this option between using the classic or modern interfaces back when it rolled out its modern Lists and modern Libraries improvements. Some organizations have customized their SharePoint Online sites, and so Microsoft promised that it wouldn't push down modern Lists and modern Libraries to those organizations if it would cause issues with customized sites.

Microsoft also indicated that it had no plans to remove the Lists classic mode. The Library classic mode would be supported "well in to 2017," Microsoft added.

About the Author

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

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