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SharePoint Online Users Getting News Improvements This Month

Microsoft plans to roll out new capabilities for SharePoint Online users this month that will add greater control over how News articles appear in SharePoint sites, according to a Wednesday announcement.

The new capabilities will be available "by the end of March," but they'll be available at that time only for Office 365 tenancies that opt to receive so-called "targeted releases." A targeted release is something like a "preview" or an early release of a SharePoint Online software improvement.

When the software rollout becomes available, SharePoint Online users will be able to post News articles in a preferred order. In addition, it's going to be possible to designate News articles coming from some SharePoint sites as "authoritative sites." When that's done, such authoritative News articles will get "interleaved throughout all news posts displayed for users on SharePoint home in Office 365, or via the news tab in SharePoint mobile," explained Chris McNulty, a senior product marketing manager for SharePoint and Office 365.

The authoritative News articles will be distinguishable from other News articles in a feed because they'll have "a color block on the title," McNulty added.

One catch is that SharePoint Online site owners apparently won't be able to designate what's considered to be an authoritative site. Instead, Office 365 tenant administrators will have to carry out those tasks. Administrators can use certain PowerShell commandlets for the purpose. McNulty listed three of them in the announcement.

Microsoft also this month plans to make it easier for SharePoint Online users to become aware when News articles gets posted. They'll get notifications for the sites they follow or when coworkers post News articles to sites. At some point, Microsoft plans to enable such notifications via e-mail, too.

Lastly, McNulty mentioned that the SharePoint Online page-creation capability using templates, which was demonstrated last month, will be arriving at some point, although he didn't indicate when. When available, this feature will let site owners or SharePoint administrators create a page from a predesigned template or from an existing SharePoint page. Some of the template page-creation capabilities apparently are still at the "First Release program" preview stage, according to this Microsoft support document.

McNulty explained that Microsoft is planning to ship three basic predesigned templates, known as "Basic," "Text-Centric" and "Visual, with its initial SharePoint Online release.

About the Author

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

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