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Microsoft Bringing SharePoint Online Page Enhancements This Month

Microsoft plans to deliver new page enhancements for SharePoint Online users by the end of February.

The page enhancements will give SharePoint Online users greater control over a page's title and description. Users also will be getting display improvements, with the ability to set page section background colors, plus the ability to customize page thumbnails, Microsoft announced earlier this month.

With regard to page titles, SharePoint Online users will have options for using "four layouts, two alignment choices, text badges above the title, the ability to change the displayed author, and show or hide the published date," the announcement indicated. Users will be able to customize page thumbnails using the Page Details pane, rather than just accepting an automatically generated thumbnail image, and they'll be able to modify the thumbnail's text description.

The section backgrounds capability coming this month will let users put site-theme colors into SharePoint page sections, or they can leave those sections blank. In a SharePoint podcast last week, Denise Trabona, a principal design manager at Microsoft, said that she was most excited about the section backgrounds addition, as it "helps your sites pop" and adds character and color to a page.

These features are already released for SharePoint Online tenancies getting "Targeted" test releases from Microsoft. They're expected to be at the production-use release stage by "the end of February 2019."

Microsoft also declared that it planned to remove the SharePoint feedback button "from the site footer of all SharePoint home and modern site pages" starting on Feb. 18, 2019. A link to Microsoft's SharePoint UserVoice forums will take its place, but Microsoft expects to add a new feedback mechanism in the navigation bar "in the coming months."

Microsoft also this month is removing the three static photos of group members from site headers. It's being done to deliver a simpler interface. Users can still click on the Members link to see group member names.

During the podcast, Trabona answered a question about whether all of this customization will be giving too much control to SharePoint Online end users. She said that the SharePoint design team is hoping to provide a lot of capabilities out of the box, but that SharePoint is still a platform, and so customers will continue to build on top of it. "We just try to provide great guidance," she added.

That guidance includes the SharePoint Look Book, which provides a visual breakdown of modern pages design elements to inspire users. The Look Book can be downloaded as a .PDF. Another resource is the SharePoint design resource site, which focuses on audience needs, Trabona indicated.

Team Sites Advice
To that end, Mark Kashman, a senior product manager on the SharePoint team, offered advice this week on how to construct SharePoint Online Team Sites in a blog post. He recommended connecting a Team Site to Office 365 groups as a way to provision a Team Site "in seconds." Users can add custom site themes and they can brand the Team Site. They can turn on external sharing for the site, but they'll have options on limiting the sharing.

An existing Team Site can also be connected to a new Office 365 group, which is one way "to modernize that site and provide additional group capabilities to all team members" and get access to "group-connected apps," Kashman explained. In addition, a group-connected SharePoint Team Site can be connected to the Microsoft Teams workspace collaboration solution using a "new Create a team button," he indicated.

It's also possible to associate a SharePoint Team Site with a Hub Site. A Hub Site is a top hierarchical element for SharePoint Online intranet users. Kashman also recommended supporting SharePoint Online Lists and Libraries using Microsoft Flow and PowerApps and leveraging mobile capabilities via the SharePoint Mobile App.

SharePoint Framework's Anniversary
In other SharePoint news this month, Feb. 23 was the second anniversary of the SharePoint Framework, Microsoft's developer model for building SharePoint extensions, according to a Twitter post by Vesa Juvonen, a senior program manager for the SharePoint developer ecosystem. The SharePoint Framework features the use of various open source tools for creating extensions. SPFX 1.8 will be coming "soon," Juvonen said in a Web presentation this week, although he joked about that word. He said that use of the SharePoint Framework has been growing at 340 percent, year over year.

Juvonen described a metadata tagging feature that happens at the code level for images in sites. SharePoint analyzes the photos automatically. Availability wasn't described, although it's apparently available in the English language. He also described some of the obscurities about Microsoft's naming schemes for SharePoint services. Also discussed were complaints about how SharePoint sites behave across multiple languages and time zones. No solution was promised, though.

Web Events
Microsoft this week is promoting its May SharePoint Conference 2019 event in advance by offering a series of webinars. The first one will start on Feb. 27 at 8:00 a.m. PST and will feature Kashman and SharePoint Experiences program manager Tejas Mehta on an overview of SharePoint, OneDrive and Microsoft Teams.

Other coming SharePoint webinars in the series will focus on employee engagement (March 6), business processes (March 13) and search (March 20). The sign-up to join these webinars can be found at this page.

About the Author

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

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