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SharePoint Online Character Support Coming This Year

Microsoft is planning to activate the use of two additional characters this year in file and folder names for its SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business applications.

The characters that will be supported are the # and % symbols. They are somewhat tricky to use. For developers, the # character indicates the end of a string, while the % character indicates a space in a URL. Microsoft had warned developers about this change last month because it will eventually require them to use a new API. The aim of the change was to better express "the true developer intention of a URL," Microsoft had explained back then.

On Thursday, Microsoft laid out the timing details on how organizations using SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business will be affected by this change. It won't affect SharePoint Server deployments at customer sites as it just affects the online services. The character additions will be rolling out in "upcoming weeks," according to a blog post by Bill Baer, a SharePoint senior product marketing manager.

Timelines
For existing Office 365 tenancies, the characters will not be enabled by default until the second half of this year ("H2 2017"). However, if the # and % features aren't blocked before that time period arrives, then existing Office 365 tenancies will get them turned on by default at that time, according to Baer's post. Here's how Baer expressed that point:

"All existing Office 365 Tenants that have not opted into # and % support by H2 2017 will have # and % support enabled by default."

Later, in the FAQ portion of his post, Baer expressed a contradictory notion:

Q: Is support for # % enabled by default in my Office 365 Tenant?
A: No. Support for # % must be enabled by the Tenant Administrator, unless your tenant is created after the June timeframe, as noted above.

A request for clarification went unanswered at press time. Baer's post is also available at the Microsoft Tech Community, but comments seem to be turned off.

For new Office 365 tenancies, the # and % characters will be turned on by default if the tenancy was provisioned in June 2017 or thereafter.

Opt-Out Options
Organizations have opt-out options to avoid the # and % character activation. They have to invoke certain SharePoint Online PowerShell commands within specific timeframes to stop the new behavior from arriving. Here are those timeframes:

  • New Office 365 tenants have until "September 2017" to block activation
  • Existing Office 365 tenants have until "H2 2017" to block activation

The PowerShell commands, as described in Baer's post, have to be invoked by a SharePoint Online global administrator. In addition, the SharePoint Online Management Shell module needs to be installed.

Baer also cautioned that organizations should check to ensure that third-party software solutions are supporting "the new APIs necessary to support this change."

For those organizations wanting to get the character support earlier than Microsoft's rollout schedule, Baer described some PowerShell commands to make that happen.

The new # and % character support doesn't apply to Web objects and Site objects. It just applies to files and folders in document libraries, Baer clarified.

It seems that end users can't create file or folder names with these characters. Baer stated in the blog post that "while SharePoint lists and libraries can have # and % in their URLs, there are no plans to enable their use through the SharePoint user interface at this time."

About the Author

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

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