Why can Frontline Workers not add a Teams meeting to their meetings?

The other day I received a comment on my post “Some quirks of the F3 license“. The commenter’s Frontline Worker F3 colleagues do not have the option to “Add online meeting to all meetings”. Apparently the option is not visible in the Outlook web app.

Enter a new Microsoft365 detective: Teams Thorne*. Will he become as famous as SharePoint Holmes, you think?

Let’s find out! Here’s what Teams Thorne did to see if he could find out if this was user-, admin, or license-related.

1. Is it a user thing?

Teams Thorne has a Small Business License, which, like the F3 license, is 100% online. He opened Outlook (on the web, obviously), and first checked what the normal behaviour of his Calendar was with regards to organizing meetings. He created a new event.
The “Teams meeting” was visible, but not checked. But as soon as he added a person to the invitees, the box got checked.

The Teams meeting checkbox is automatically checked when you add another person to your meeting.

He then looked at how things were after disabling it in his settings.
In Outlook or Calendar, click the Gear Wheel > View all Outlook settings > Calendar > Events and Invitations. The option to add an online meeting was indeed checked, so he unchecked it and waited for some time.

When this box is unchecked, you do not automatically add a Teams Meeting. You do it manually.

He went back to his Calendar, created a new event and noticed that the box did not get checked when he invited someone. But he could enable the Teams Meeting manually by clicking on the button.

With the setting disabled, you can still add a Teams meeting, but you have to check the box yourself.

This did not match the issue described. Teams Thorne had the option to add an online meeting to all meetings, so there must be something that disables that button entirely. In any case, this did not appear to be an incorrect user setting.

2. Is it an admin thing?

The next thing to investigate was the Teams Admin Center. Perhaps there is a setting that prevents that button from loading?

Teams Thorne opened the Admin center and headed to the Teams Admin Center > Meetings. The Meeting Settings did not give any indication, but the Meeting Policies looked promising. He opened the Global (Org-wide Default) policy and looked at the options available. Hmmm, there was permission given for the Outlook Add-In, could that be the thing that made the connection between Teams and Outlook?

The Meetings > Meeting Policies menu items contains a setting for an Outlook add-in. Is that a clue?

He disabled the Outlook add-in, logged off and waited some time for the new policies to “settle”. It now looked like this:

The Outlook add-in has been disabled.

The next day, he opened his Calendar and started creating a Meeting. Hey, that Teams box was not there!

There is no “Teams Meeting” option to the right.

He went back to his Outlook settings and noticed that he could not check that box, apparently because there was no provider mentioned.

As there is no meeting provider mentioned, it is impossible to activate this setting.

So, it looks as if you need the Outlook add-in in Teams to have that option.

But…in the Global Policy, which is the Default for everyone who is not in another policy, it is enabled. I hope that organizations will not edit their Global Policy unless they have a very good reason. I can not imagine why you would want to disable adding a Teams meeting to all meetings – you do not HAVE to meet with Teams, but it is pretty convenient to have it just in case something goes wrong with your face-to-face meeting.

3. Is it a policy thing?

Teams Thorne had never tinkered with the Meeting Policies, in fact this was the first time he ever looked at them. So he concluded that the option to use the Outlook add-in is standard. But perhaps there was a special policy for Frontline Workers?

He went through the Teams Admin Center to see if there was anything else that could shed some light on whether this might be different for other groups. Hey, there was a Policy Packages menu item – could that help? He saw a number of policies, including a Frontline Worker Policy:

In the Meetings > Policy Packages there are a number of policies for different roles.

Upon clicking the Frontline Worker Policy Package, it showed a number of options:

The different policies for Frontline Workers

When he opened the Meeting Policies he noticed the following settings. The items were the same as the Global (default) policy, but a lot of things are OFF, including the Outlook add-in.

The Outlook add-in has been turned off for Frontline workers.

But when he compared it to, for instance, a Higher Education Student, or a Healthcare Clinical Worker, you see that the Outlook add-in is available for them.

In other roles, such as the Higher Education Student shown here, the Outlook add-in is enabled.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to make changes to the Policy Packages, unless you have a Teams Premium or Advanced Communications license.


So, there is a number of things that we have found out.

  1. Your colleagues need to have the Outlook add-in in order to be able to add a Teams meeting to a meeting they schedule.
  2. The Outlook add-in is enabled in the Global (Organization-wide default) policy and is therefore available for all employees, unless they have another policy applied to them.
  3. The standard Frontline Workers Meeting Policies have the Outlook add-in disabled, so employees with this policy package are unable to add a Teams meeting to their scheduled meetings.

So, in the organization of the person who made the comment, it is most likely that the Frontline Workers have the Microsoft Teams Frontline Workers Meeting Policy Package applied to them, or another policy without the Outlook add-in.
In theory the Global (Org-wide default) Meeting policies could also have been changed, but in that case all employees would be unable to add a Teams meeting. That was not what I understood from the comment.

But why you would want to exclude Frontline Workers from adding a Teams meeting, is totally beyond me. But that is another topic.

So, what do you think of Teams Thorne’s first case?

* About Teams Thorne:
Part of my role was solving user issues. Sometimes they are so common that I had a standard response, but sometimes I needed to do some sleuthing to understand and solve it.
As many of my readers are in a similar position, I thought I’d introduce Teams Thorne, Teams investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud. Teams Thorne is based on Tom Thorne, a British detective, who was created by Mark Billingham and has featured in books and a TV series.

Please note: Due to an exciting, but rather time-consuming private project (moving house) I am currently posting a bit less frequently than usual.

SharePoint Holmes and the Concealed Classic sites

Today I have a mysterious SharePoint issue myself. Fortunately, I know where to reach SharePoint Holmes so I can ask for help! 😉

< takes cloak, puts on detective cap >

The case

Over the years I have created lots of new sites in my tenant, in order to learn, to test stuff and to make screenshots for my posts. As my list of sites was pretty long, and as I am no longer using most of those sites, I decided to do some spring cleaning.

What better place to start than the SharePoint Admin center? So there I headed, to the list of Active sites. This includes the root site, an App Catalog, a site called “Group for answers in Viva Engage (I never created that myself!) and my External site, which should no longer exist but still is around. (More about that in another blog)

I checked each site and deleted it when possible. Oh, the joy of being alone in your tenant and not having to ask if an unused site can go! 😁 (Mind you, at other times it is not very practical to be the only user in your tenant.) I ended up with this manageable list of 13 sites:

My Active sites. The ones that are sort of “system-related” are highlighted.

To check all sites had really gone, I looked at my SharePoint landing page, under Followed sites.
I noticed a few sites that were not in my list of Active Sites, such as 3 varieties of “Team site”. They are all highlighted in the screenshot. What is happening here?

The investigation

I clicked on each of the highlighted sites to see what was the matter.

Sites I follow. The highlighted ones do not appear in my list of Active sites.

“Espana-Management Only” and the “Team site” on the same row appeared to have been deleted. Deletion of a site apparently does not delete the Follow, which is unpleasant.
I unfollowed those sites to keep my list clean.

This is what you see when you click a Followed site that has been deleted.

I opened the other sites. Hey, this was interesting.
“Quick Links”, “Project site” and “Sales Reporting” looked like subsites, judging from their URL. According to the information link in the SharePoint admin Active site list subsites are not listed in the Active sites, as are some other system sites. OK, that is a little annoying, but as we are not supposed to use subsites anymore, it also makes sense.

That leaves a few other sites.
I had already noticed that the 3 subsites are Classic sites. The “Team Site” and “ellenvanaken-teamsite” are also Classic sites.
But they are not in my list of Active sites!

I went back to the SharePoint Admin Center and filtered on “Classic sites”. Nope, they were not in the overview.

Filtering on “Classic sites” showed only three “system” sites

I was not exactly happy about this, as I want to be able to know which sites are in my tenant. Which other sites was I missing?

I checked the “Recent” in my SharePoint Landing page and noticed another Classic site that was not in my list – “Drinks business”. The URL did not look as if this was a subsite.

My list of recently visited sites contained another Classic site not in the list

I traced back all the subsites except the “Drinks business” to their parent sites: “Team Site” and “ellenvanaken-teamsite”. But those two parent sites were not in the list of Active sites!
I looked again at my list of Classic sites in the Active sites. There are two sites that start with “ellenvanaken” so might that be a clue that those were the original sites created when I set up my tenant? And that all sites were created from there?

I clicked on the link of the root site but got an error message.

My root site has an error, it does not have a homepage

But when I added “_layouts/15/viewlsts.aspx?view=15” to the root I could access the list of subsites. BINGO!

The solution

All my mysterious subsites were there.

The mysterious sites are subsites of the root site.

I had never realized that these were all subsites and therefore not displayed in the list of Active sites. In the early days (my tenant is from 2011, well before Modern SharePoint) I created each subsite from the ellenvanaken-teamsite. Later I created sites from the SharePoint landing page, which creates sites on the top level.

Well, I am not exactly happy with these messy results but at least I understand and know where all my sites are. I need to think about streamlining this clutter!


  1. If you have an older tenant you may still have Classic subsites hanging around, which are not visible in your list of Active sites in the SharePoint admin center. This is a potential risk, as they may live on forever, may contain outdated or incorrect content or people may still be working in an outdated environment. Although Classic sites still work, they are a tad cumbersome to work with, once you have become accustomed to current SharePoint!
    So you (or your Microsoft365 admin) may want to take a look at your root site and see what you can find underneath.
  2. You may want to inform your colleagues that deleted sites will still be shown in their Followed sites. A periodic reminder to go through all Followed sites (and to unfavourite all that have been deleted or they are no longer interested in) may help them to keep their lists manageable.

About SharePoint Holmes:
Part of my role was solving user issues. Sometimes they are so common that I had a standard response, but sometimes I needed to do some sleuthing to understand and solve it.
As many of my readers are in a similar position, I thought I’d introduce SharePoint Holmes, SharePoint investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.

Please note: Due to an exciting, but rather time-consuming private project I am currently posting a bit less frequently than normally.

5 Tips to keep your OneDrive lean

Microsoft365 may be introducing all kinds of shiny new functionality, your good old OneDrive is as important as ever. More and more information is being stored on OneDrive automatically and by default, so it may grow even without you consciously adding and uploading Word, Excel and PowerPoint files.

This could be an issue especially for users with an F3-license as they have only 2 GB of storage space at their disposal. Their OneDrive may get full quickly and that is rather a nuisance.

But also the 1 or 5 TB of E-licensed users will fill quickly if they have a long career in this organization and never a clean-up moment.

So, the following may be of interest for all:

1. Understand what is “private” and what is “shared” (and what is in between)

Although information on your organization’s OneDrive is never truly private, we consider files and documents that are only for you, private. This can be drafts of documents you are writing, your yearly objectives and evaluation, correspondence with your manager, etc.

Documents or files that you work on with others, are shared and should therefore live in a shared environment such as Teams or SharePoint. Or Viva Engage (the application formerly known as Yammer).

That said, there are still many items stored on your OneDrive that may be shared, but are still added to your OneDrive by default, such as Recordings and Whiteboards of Team Meetings and Files and Loops that you have shared in private Teams chats, and attachments from Forms.

Suggestion: instead of creating a new draft document in your OneDrive, create it in SharePoint, if it will be shared at the end. You may want to set up a document library especially for drafts. You can move it to its final place once it has been reviewed and made official. This way you will not have any old and forgotten drafts in your OneDrive.

2. Understand what is stored on your OneDrive

OneDrive has the habit of creating new Folders by itself when you do certain things in Microsoft365. The most well-known may be the folder Attachments, for files you have received as attachments to Outlook. Microsoft Teams is also a good source of automatically created folders, as Recordings, Microsoft Teams Data, Microsoft Teams Chat files, Transcribed Files are all added from your work with Teams.

Again, content you share with others in private Teams chats, will be stored in your OneDrive. It makes perfect sense, but it is annoying if your OneDrive is prone to overflowing.

Some time ago I wrote about the folders that are automagically created in your OneDrive:

Who created those folders in my OneDrive?

These folders have all been created by my use of Microsoft365. I have not created any of them myself.

Suggestion: Avoid private Teams chats and work in Teams Channels where possible. Create Channel meetings (when you know they will be recorded), chat and share files and Loops etc. in Channels so they will be stored on SharePoint rather than your OneDrive.

3. Understand the new Syncing

A new way to sync documents is on its way. I do not know the details yet, but keep an eye out, please! I learned this from Paul Keijzers’s video.
Synced SharePoint folders will then be stored in your OneDrive on your PC, if I have understood correctly. This may mean that your OneDrive also gets clogged up with SharePoint files. It may also mean that just the links will be shared, so I am curious to learn more.

How will SharePoint sync behave in future?

4. Understand what happens when you leave

Your next career move may not be top of mind right now, but it is good to know what will happen to your content when you leave the organization and your account is deleted. This may help you create new habits now.

I wrote about this earlier:

Leaving the organization gracefully

Suggestion: check on a regular basis if there is any content that would need to be in a SharePoint site or Teams, in case you would leave. It will save you time when you actually leave.

5. Clean up your OneDrive on a regular basis

Yeah, I know this is not exactly a fun task, but if you do this regularly, let’s say once a month on a quiet time of the week, it will be less work and will save you from the panic that will engulf you when you get a message that your OneDrive is full and you can no longer add new info.

I have also written about this topic:

9 steps to clean up your OneDrive

Other tips, tricks and suggestions?

Please let me know if there is something that you do, or your organization does, to keep OneDrives in check.

Number 5 by Pramit Marattha on Pixabay

10 tips for owners of (intranet promotion) videos

It always makes me sad when some of the videos in my collection disappear because the owner deletes them or makes them private. Of course I appreciate that they have to keep their channels up-to-date, but for my collection it is not ideal.

And while toying with the idea for a post on this “problem”, I came across many more things that video owners on YouTube and Vimeo could do to help me with my collection. If they want to, and if it fits with their organization’s procedures, of course!

So I decided to write an instructional post about uploading and maintaining “my kind of” video, aimed at

  • Communications or intranet managers who have been so kind to share their intranet launch or promotion video on a public platform
  • Employees of creative agencies, who share their created intranet promotion videos as part of their portfolio
  • And everyone else who manages videos on YouTube, Vimeo or another platform, and would like to be in any collection

So, please share this with other video owners that you know.

Thank you!

First of all, a big thank you to all owners! Your video will help the intranet and digital workplace world to learn about other organization’s approaches and focal points. Your example is not only entertaining, but it can inspire other organizations, for instance help them express their thoughts on the intranet, visualize their concepts or give them fresh ideas!

For instance, below video from Kelloggs has a voice-over from people with different accents from around the world. This makes it clear they are an international company without explicitly saying so. I think it is much nicer than when an American or British manager from the corporate office provides the voice-over. And it is not that difficult to implement. Nice tip, right?

Multiple accents from across the world show that you really are a global organization!

Secondly, there are a few settings and processes in YouTube and Vimeo that help or hinder adding them to my collection.
Of course I respect your governance processes around video. But in case you do not have a confirmed process, or you and your organization are open to suggestions, please find here some suggestions that help me adding to and maintaining my collection. And therefore help other intranet people.

Some tips are suitable for any video platform, but as the majority of my videos lives on YouTube or Vimeo, I will focus on those platforms.

Please click on any of the titles below and you will jump to the corresponding paragraph.
If you want to read them all, just scroll on!

Tips summary:

  1. Share your videos publicly
  2. Give your videos a good title
  3. Use the word “intranet” in the title, description and/or tags
  4. For people videos, add the name and role of the speaker
  5. Provide a transcript or subtitles (and in English if possible)
  6. Select the correct audience
  7. Allow adding to collections
  8. Allow embedding
  9. Let me know about them!
  10. Hide video instead of deleting it when the video is past its date

By the way, I have got 600 videos in my collection now!

Give or take a few.

Tips full-length:

1. Share your videos publicly

I will be unable to find your video if they are hidden, or behind a password, obviously.

For YouTube, that means this setting:

Please make your videos public!

For Vimeo, it looks like this:

This is the preferred option in Vimeo.

If you really want to hide your video, but you are OK to share it with people who are interested in intranet videos, you can also make it “Unlisted” and send me the link. I can then add it to my collection, provided you allow that. (see items 7 and 8)

2. Give your videos a good title

I see many videos called “Company_Intranet_IT_something else_PEP_V.06_final.mp4” or similar unpleasantness. A better name is something like “[Company name] Intranet Launch” or “[Company name] new intranet teaser”. Here’s how to do this a little better:

  • Save the video you want to upload with a pleasant file name, without underscores, version numbers or other things that are not relevant for your audience. Keep a separate copy with the technical information, such as version, if you want.
  • Alternatively, you can edit the title after uploading to YouTube or Vimeo.

A good example from Eindhoven University (screenshot):

Technical University Eindhoven uses a good title for their intranet video.

3. Use the word “intranet” in the title, description and/or tags

“intranet” is my main search keyword, so if you can add this to the title (preferably) or in another place, please do.
I sometimes also use “Digital Workplace” but that generally gives a different type of video, e.g., an expert’s lecture on digital transformation, or an introduction to an organization’s office suite overview, such as Microsoft365.
It is also helpful when you add information about the video and the intranet in the description, e.g. purpose, launch date, if there are any more videos, etc.

4. For people videos, add the name and role of the speaker

It helps viewers if they know who is addressing the organization. It can be the CEO, HR Director, someone from the IT helpdesk, a factory employee. Please mention their name and their role in the video itself, or in the description of the video.

Good example:

Good example: we know who this person is. (The video title is less good though 😉)

Not so good example:

This is a really nice video I think, but why do we not know who this person is?

5. Provide a transcript or subtitles (and in English if possible)

YouTube can provide automatic live captions in the language spoken in the video (provided you have set the correct language while uploading), and do a live translation as well, although it is not always perfect.
This will be very helpful for people who can’t hear, but also for people who are watching the video in a noisy environment or with the sound off. Or for people who are learning another language.
However, if the video is not in English it would be nice if you were able to provide English subtitles as well, or an English translation in the description.
Hey, a girl can ask, right? 😊

Don’t worry, I am working on good instructions on how to extract an English transcript from a video.

6. Select the correct audience

Intranet promotion videos are meant for the general public. They are not specifically meant for children, even when the organization is a children’s hospital or a primary school.

Recently, both YouTube and Vimeo have added an audience check for your video. You will be prompted during upload. It is important that you check the correct audience. And for older videos, please may I ask you to retrofit the audience? Not having an audience assigned has various drawbacks for my collection.

For YouTube, please select that this video is “No, it’s not ‘Made for Kids'”.

If you select the other audience, I will be unable to add the video to my “Watch later” list (which serves as my backlog) so I have to do extra things to keep it in sight.

Below you find an example of an intranet video, rated as For Kids. This means I cannot download the video, which is OK, but I can also not add it to a watchlist. As this is a video targeted at employees of an insurance company, this rating appears not to be correct. I can share it, however. You can watch it here.

This video should not be rated as “Made for kids”.

For Vimeo, you are requested to select a rating, and then specify this video is for “All audiences”. All unrated videos are currently waiting for a rating, and if it has not been specified, you have to be logged in to Vimeo to view the video. This is most annoying! Fortunately, a Vimeo account is free, but it does not help a good experience for viewers of my collection.

Video owners on Vimeo, please check your videos and rate them as “for all audiences” so people do not need to log in to watch.

7. Allow adding to collections

If you have earmarked the video on YouTube as “Made for Kids” I will be unable to add it to my “Watch Later” List (which is my backlog) but I also will be unable to add it to any other playlist. I am currently working on a YouTube playlist so it would be nice if I could add your video to it.

For Vimeo, there is a separate setting. I can always use “Watch later” for the backlog but please allow “people can add to showcases” (6 in the screenshot below). A Vimeo showcase is similar to a YouTube playlist.

The video settings in Vimeo.

8. Allow embedding

Embedding is showing the video as a whole on a page, for instance the videos in this post, but adding the video to my collection is also done by embedding. If you do not allow it, I need to create all kinds of workarounds with thumbnails and links to add the video.

On YouTube I cannot embed Shorts videos, and on Vimeo it is a specific setting as shown in the screenshot above, number 7. Please enable it.

9. Let me know about them!

Did you recently create a video that you are proud of? Do you think it could help other intranets? Would you like feedback? Do you want to have some control over the description in my collection? 😊
If you do not want to wait until I have found your video, please send me the link and anything you would like me to share, and I can add it asap.
That will also make things easier for me. In most cases I have to look up the type of organization and country, and I sometimes have to guess about aspects of the intranet or video, so if you want to keep me from making incorrect assumptions, please contact me via LinkedIn or Twitter.

10. Hide video instead of deleting it when the video is past its date

All videos have a lifecycle, and I totally understand if you want to keep your video platform free of outdated stuff. I am that person who is always nagging about housekeeping, remember? 😁 But in the case of an intranet promotion video, may I ask you to make the video Unlisted instead of making it private or deleting it altogether?

An unlisted video can only be seen by people who have the link (or when it is embedded). It will no longer be visible on your page or in search results, so it will only be visible for those people who are really interested in my collection. I hope you do want to keep sharing with us!

Two of my own videos. I do not want to make the intranet video from a former employer too visible, so I have made it Unlisted.


There are a number of settings in YouTube and Vimeo that influence my ability to add your intranet promotion video to my collection.
As mentioned in the beginning, I totally understand if you must adhere to your organization’s guidelines for managing your video presence. But in case you do not have guidelines yet, or you are open to review your procedures, you may want to start doing the above so we can all benefit maximally from your work!

A test of character(s) in SharePoint News Description

The other day I received a comment on my post about the Description field. The writer wanted to know how many characters of the Description you can expect to be visible on the web part in their specific page layout. To be honest, I have no clue so I thought I’d do some tests so you do not have to!

Test set-up

a. Texts

For testing purposes, I am using this text of 270 characters:

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz4abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz5abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz6 abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz7abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz8abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz9 abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0

These are portions of 27 characters. The last number shown will show quickly approximately how many characters are displayed and if there is a difference between various web part and page layouts. 
The full Description (255 characters) will show the 9 and the letter l (from Letitia) as the last letter.
I will repeat this for the longest and shortest Description with 26 i’s and 26 w’s plus the number, as I expect the i is the narrowest and the w the widest letter, and it may make a difference. I found this when doing a similar test for the site navigation.

I also thought about varying typeface and font, but the Description text is a system text so a different typeface or font will make no difference, unless you have a custom font set up in your tenant.

b. Page layout

I have used one and the same page with the same News web part, and changed the Section and Web Part layouts for the experiments.

There are 5 options for the Section layout, but I will use 4 (one, two three columns and the one-third right) as these have all different widths.

There are 6 options to display the News web part, but as the Hub News, Carousel and Tiles do not show the Description (check out my post about the Carousel), I will only test with Top Story, List and Side-by-side.

I will first test with Author, Views and Publish date visible, and then remove this info for the items with the longest and shortest description.

The first experiments are done with this ON, later I will test with these OFF

c. Computer and screen settings

My browser is Edge, zoom 100%. I have a small Edge side bar to the right.

My computer settings are: Scale 125 % and Display resolution 1920 x 1080

Now, there are lots of screenshots to wade through, so if you are impatient, please jump to the Conclusions and Recommendations.


1. One column

Top story: 73 characters

Screenshot of SharePoint News - One column, Top Story web part
Top story

List: 111

List layout, here the Description text is much longer

Side-by-side: 51

Side-by-side, there is less space than in the List or Top Story so fewer characters are visible

2. Two columns

Top story: 33

Top Story

List: 51

The List option has less space, so fewer characters than in the single column

Side-by-side: 51

Side-by-side behaves the same as the List in this setup

3. Three columns

Top Story: 46. This is more than with the two columns but please notice that the Description is now below the image, instead of to the right.

Top Story. Please note the text is now under the image instead of next to it.

List: 31

List – quite narrow so only a small part of the Description is visible

Side-by-side: 31

Side-by-side-just like the List

4. One-third right

I have added the News web part to the left hand column.
Top Story: 47

Top Story

List: 60


Side by side: 81

Side-by-side shows more characters than the List in this layout, as the image is smaller

Well, that is interesting!

5. Hiding the Author, Publishing date and Views in the web part

I have the Author, Publishing date and number of views visible in the above experiments. So, as the next step, let’s take the two extremes and see what happens if I hide those options.

One column – List (111 characters shown in the first experiment): 255 characters. That is the full Description.

One column with List view, and no publishing details, shows the full Description

Three columns – List: (was 31): Now 96 characters

Three columns – List view now shows more characters than with publishing details.

So, that does make a difference! Assuming you want to show as much of the Description as possible, you may think whether removing the publishing info is an option. (Please note making one of these visible has the same effect as making two or all visible – it means fewer characters of the Description text)

6. Which letters does your Description text contain?

I also expect that you will see more or fewer characters depending on your actual text. I have been testing with the alphabet, that is an equal distribution of letters. Let’s see what happens if we repeat the extremes with Description text containing only i’s (narrow) or w’s (wide).

One column – List:

The Description with w’s has fewer characters than the alphabet one, and much fewer than the one with i’s:

w: 77

i: 219

alphabet: 111

One column, List view, there is a big difference in number of characters shown

Three columns – List:

Similar as above, w < alphabet < i

w: 21

i: 64

alphabet: 31

And also in the Three columns – List view the differences are obvious

Interestingly, it appears that the actual letters in your text determine how many you will see in the Description!


  • Although the Description text in SharePoint News can contain 255 characters, you will rarely see the full text on your News web part
  • The influencing factors appear to be: Column width, Web part layout, visibility of publishing details, actual words used
  • Different Section layouts, meaning differences in column width, affect the number of Characters shown
  • Different News web part layouts show a different amount of Description text
  • In smaller column widths, the List layout behaves similar to the Side-by-side layout
  • Displaying the publishing details, such as Author, Date and Views, goes at the expense of the number of Description text characters
  • The actual letters you use will influence the number of characters shown, with wide letters (such as m and w) showing fewer characters than narrow letters (such as i and l)
  • From earlier tests I also know that making your window smaller, or increase the zoom of your browser, will result in fewer characters
  • The available space in the column appears to be the driving factor, not a number of characters. We have seen that before in my tests with the Site Navigation, but also when checking the number of characters in the title of a News post



My first recommendation would be to relax, as there are many factors influencing this behaviour and there is not that much you can do. And when your readers use a 150% zoom in their browser or check their News mainly from their smartphone, it is completely out of your control.

But there are a few things you can do to make sure your readers see as much from your carefully crafted Description as possible:

  • Use the One-column layout, with the List view, and remove the publishing details if that works for your purpose
  • Keep descriptions as short as possible. Your readers will be grateful if they have to read less anyway
  • Use front-loading, i.e. make sure that the most important words are in the beginning of your title
  • Do not use your company name if it is not essential
    I often see the company name in front of everything, but News is for your own audience mostly.

Do you have any other tips?

Photo by zai23.guitars399789 on Vecteezy.com

An unusual intranet demonstration video

Recently I was invited by Intranet Management (Italy) to talk about my video collection. I decided to choose “The Intranet Demo video” as my topic. This video type may be not as spectacular as some of the teaser videos in my collection, but the Intranet Demo video (where someone shows what the new intranet looks like, what content you can find and how to use it) is much more valuable, in my opinion.

Some reasons to create a Demo video for your new intranet

There are more benefits to the Demo Video. Not only does it create awareness (as does a teaser) for the new intranet, but it will also help people with actually using the intranet. When someone shows them how to work with the new intranet, it may help to lower the threshold to try it. Remember, not everyone is as computer literate as yourself!
A good demo can therefore save the training departments (often HR, Communications and/or IT) some support time and effort. And its lifespan is much longer than that of the teaser, because it can also be used to introduce new employees to the intranet.
A teaser is fun, and often very entertaining, but it is obsolete once the intranet has been launched. The teaser certainly has its uses, but as I have been at the IT-side of things, I think the Demo is more value for money.

If you have time or budget for only one intranet launch video, make it a Demo!

Do you really have to create a Demo video?

Someone asked whether an intranet should not be so intuitive that a demo is not needed?
Well, a new intranet may be intuitive for some people, but you can not expect it to be intuitive for all. Some people simply need more help, or are coming in as a new employee who has been used to a different intranet platform. And especially when you have changed the design, layout, navigation and/or the platform all colleagues may benefit from an instruction on what has changed, and why and how. And where they can find their relevant content.

The Demo video is just ONE adoption tool

I think a Demo video should not be the only way to increase trial and adoption of your intranet. For some colleagues having a demo that explains the whereabouts of important content and the benefits of completing your profile will be sufficient, others will still need more help. This also depends on your organization: when I was working for multinational marketing & production companies, most people were pretty computer literate. In my last job however, which was in a mental health care organization, colleagues were “working with people, not with computers”. Some of them panicked when they had to store documents on their OneDrive instead of on the Downloads drive. So we had to spend more time and effort making things easy for them.

So, you will always need more tools: webinars or other online sessions as well as classroom training or personal help.

Or is it really the only one…🤯?

The other day I found an extraordinary demo video for the intranet of a software company. Their company goal is to help other organizations with changing/improving on their software systems, therefore giving IT time back as they no longer have to spend lots of time on maintaining legacy systems. Their motto is: Set IT Free. I like that!

Well, apparently that also goes for their own intranet. I was amused to see their intranet tagline:

“Here you will find internal information that should help you to work as independently as possible”

Am I the only one who reads this as: “This is it – you’re on your own!”?

The video is below – What do you think?

Please share your Demo video

I have seen many nice Demo videos, but have not seen the perfect one yet.
Have you created a Demo video when your intranet was (re)launched? Please let me know where it can be seen…or upload it to YouTube or Vimeo.

4 more things to know as a SharePoint News reader

After the recent updates for publishing SharePoint News and creating a Digest, I also wanted to create an update for readers. This post follows on my post “10 things to know as a SharePoint News reader“. We keep on learning!

1. There are various places where you can find your saved-for-later posts.

When you do not have the time to read a news post right now, or when you want to keep it for later, you can save it for later. Click the icon. But where to find those saved items, when you are finally in bus or train or on your sofa? There are at least 5 places where you can find it:

Click the “tab” icon to save a news post for later
  • Microsoft365 Homepage
  • SharePoint Homepage
  • SharePoint mobile app
  • and more!

You can read all about it in this post: Where do you find news posts saved for later?

2. You can filter for News posts in the Search results

Type in a search word in the box on top (make sure you are in the correct “scope”: all M365, this site, this hub, this library).

On the results page you will see a number of “verticals”, or content types, such as Files, Sites and News. You will easily recognize the News posts in the overview by their icon: a folded newspaper, but you can also click on the News tab and see only News.

Clicking on the News “vertical” will show you just the News posts from the search results

3. Please warn the author when you see a post with a greyish thumbnail and no header image

It will probably look like this:

If a News item looks like this, there’s something wrong.

The header image may be deleted, moved or you do not have access to it.
This can also be a Linked Post that has been deleted. The image will disappear after a few days. This will be the case when, after clicking on the post, you get a message “Hmmm…can’t reach this page”. See my post “SharePoint Holmes and the Missing Message“.
You may want to warn the author that there is no thumbnail visible and ask them to check.

A grey image is always an error. If they have deliberately not used an image, the post will look different on the News page:

If a News post looks like this, the publisher has chosen to use the Plain template (without image)

4. You can unsubscribe from News you may have missed

“News you may have missed” is an email that shows you News that may be interesting for you, based on the Microsoft Graph, but that you have not read yet. This is a controversial functionality and I wrote about it earlier. This is an organizational setting that we could not turn off fast enough in my last role 😁, but in case you do not like it and your Microsoft365 administrator has not disabled it, you can do so yourself.

Go to the SharePoint landing page, click the gear wheel top right and select “Email notification settings”. On the next page, uncheck the button at the bottom of the list. It should look like the screenshot below. You setting will be saved automatically.

Turn this button off if you do not want to receive the “News you may have missed” emails

Please let me know if you know more “gotcha’s” for SharePoint News readers!

7 more things to know about the SharePoint News digest

This is an update on my earlier post “10 things to know about the SP News digest” as we have learned many new things about this functionality in the mean time.
I expect that many senders of News digests will also be News publishers and sometimes even Site Owners, so you may also want to read my recent post “10 more things to know about creating SharePoint News” .

1. You must have Contributor or Edit access in a site to be able to create and send a newsletter

A News digest is a page in your Pages Library, and you need permissions to create a page, add an image to the Assets Library etc.

If you are a reader in a site, you will not see the “Create a News digest” option. I wrote about this in “SharePoint Holmes and the Lost Link“.

Screenshot of SharePoint News where person has read access only - they will see the "See all" link on the homepage but when they click it they will not get an option to create a News Digest.
This person only has Read permissions and can therefore not create a News digest.

2. Do not panic when you do not see the “See All” button

There may be a glitch with the web part settings, such as described in my post “SharePoint Holmes and the Disappearing Digest Link

  • The Site owner has used the Hub layout for News (I could not reproduce this anymore, so this may have been a bug that has been fixed)
  • The Site Owner has deselected “Show title and commands” in the web part
Screenshot of News web part where the "Show title and commands" button is turned OFF.
If “Show title and commands” are OFF, you will not see the “See All” link, regardless of the number of posts.
Screenshot of SharePoint News with the "Show title and commands" button OFF, this means you will not see the "See all" link to create a News Digest.
No “See all” after publishing a News web part with the “Show title and commands” OFF.

And then there is the “number of posts” issue. This is the explanation from Microsoft: If you don’t see the See all link, it could be that you don’t have enough news posts published for the option to be available. See all shows only when the number of news posts you have published is greater than the number of posts set to show in the Number of news posts to show option of the News web part. For example, if you have only 2 news posts published, and you set the option to display 4, you won’t have a See all link in the news section.

3. Make it a habit to use the Description field for a good summary of the post

Your audience will appreciate a Newsletter that provides them with useful info and does not waste their time. A good summary in the Description can help, as this will help them determine if title and summary are sufficient information, or if they want to read the full post. The Description from the News page will also be displayed in the Digest.
If you do not publish News posts yourself, you may want to teach your publishers about the use of the Description field.

In the example below, item 1 has a short summary that tells you exactly what Project Peony is about, item 2 blabs on about the project itself and tells you nothing about the purpose.

Screenshot of two identical SharePoint News posts, one with a good summary in the Description that tells you immediately about the post, one with the default description which is not as informative.
Item 1 has an optimized Description, with a nice summary, while Item 2 has the default first lines of the body text.

Read more about the Description field in my post: “7 things to know about the Description field in SharePoint pages and news“.

4. You can send one Digest from various news sites

Suppose you normally publish in and send a Digest from the Intranet site. Now you want to send one Digest from your Intranet News posts, with one or more items from one or more different sites. This can be done by adding a link to news that lives in another site, or even on the internet, or by including all News from one or more other sites permanently.

You have three options, see the screenshots below. You can find more elaborate info in my post “Combining SharePoint News from different sites“.

  • Add a News Link (to one News post from another location) is best for a one-off News post
  • Use News posts from one or more other sites if you want to permanently include News from one or more other sites in your News
  • Use News posts from all sites in the Hub if your site is a Hub site
Screenshot of SharePoint News with the place where you can find the "Add News Link" option.
For a one-time addition of a post from another location, you can use the Add News link option.
Screenshot of SharePoint News web part settings where News from two additional sites has been added to the News from this site.
If you want to show all News from one or more sites, you can add more sources permanently.
Screenshot of SharePoint News web part, where the site is a Hub site so you can select to show News from all sites in the Hub.
If the site is a Hub Site, you can show News from all sites in the Hub

Please remember that links in the Digest will go to the original posts when clicked from the site or the Digest. Make sure that everyone has access to all sites featuring in the Digest!

5. 🥳🥳🥳There ARE options to format the Digest email! 🥳🥳🥳

Microsoft is still in the “promise” phase for any formatting options, but Veronique Palmer has found a way to format it from the Outlook Desktop app – now that is neat! I tried it with Outlook-on-the-web and you can do a few things there as well!

In short, you can reformat while you forward the digest. This is a good way to change the colour scheme and perhaps add different logo’s (I could not make that work but that may be just me or a limitation of Outlook-on-the-web)

So, this is the Digest email that I receive in Outlook on-the-web.

Screenshot of the original News digest email
The original Digest email, it is a bit boring and has a lot of Microsoft branding

When I forward it (and perhaps change the sender from myself to an organizational mailbox such as “Communications” to make it more formal) I can edit the header. In this case I removed the Microsoft and SharePoint logo’s, edited the text and added a background colour.

Screenshot of formatted SharePoint News digest email, without the logo's and Microsoft references, with a different header colour and some edited texts.
I can do some formatting, even in Outlook for the web!

This is the reformatted email after sending:

Screenshot of reformatted news digest email. It looks a bit more colourful than the original.
The reformatted email. It looks a bit less bland!

6. The Digest will always be sent from your personal email address

SharePoint is personal, and any Digest will be sent from your email address. (Unless your Communications Department has a separate Microsoft365 license, but I think that is not good practice).
If you want to send a Digest on behalf of the Communications Department for instance, please first send the Digest to the Communications Department mailbox. From there, you can forward it to the intended audience.
This procedure will allow you to:

  • Shorten the title.
    By default the Digest title will be “[Creator] shared [Digest Title] with you”. By forwarding you can shorten that to just the Digest title.
  • Add the audience to the BCC field.
    This will keep the damage of any “Reply All” actions limited. There is no option to send as CC or BCC from SharePoint.
  • Format the email, see item 5!
  • Treat all emails from the Communications Department consistently (e.g. filing, archiving, etc.)
Screenshot from the Digest creating process. There is only a "To" field in the Digest, no CC or BCC.
There is only a TO field in the Digest, and it will always be sent from the person who creates the Digest.

But make sure to remove any earlier sending info!

Screenshot of News digest email when it is received and being forwarded. At this stage you should edit the title to make it more compact, and remove the sending info from SharePoint to the first mailbox.
When forwarding, please edit the title (1) and remove the sending into from the mail (2).

7. Be aware that not everyone may receive your News digest

That may be because of a problem with your email server, it may end up in Junk Mail, it may be an accident and some readers may have intentionally blocked you because they do not want to receive “more organizational stuff to read”.
I have listed a number of possible reasons and troubleshooting in this post: “Why does my SharePoint News digest not reach my colleagues?

If you are starting with a regular newsletter, I would suggest you inform your audience about the reason and value, and show them how to check their Junk Mail or Archive. It can also be helpful to run a survey now and then, so you can finetune your Digest.

What have I missed?

So, have you found any other “things to know” about the SharePoint News Digest? Please let me know!

The 7 from the image is sourced from https://www.freepnglogos.com/images/number-7-36599.html

Combining SharePoint News from different sites

Sharing News posts from different sites in your site can help you create a good News experience for your audience, as you can share other people’s News without having to publish it yourself. It will also help other publishers by increasing their audience.

We used this extensively in my last role. Communications picked up interesting News posts from other parts in the organization to share that on the intranet Homepage. Reversely, local News publishers sometimes added corporate News posts to their own News.

It is easy to do but there are some things you may want to know.

1. There are three ways to add news posts from other sites to your News

a. One-time only: use the Add News Link

This way you will add one post to your News feed. The item will be displayed on the News web part as if it has been published in your site, it will have the name of your site on top of it.
This link will create a new page in your Site Pages Library, but upon clicking the title or image from the News web part, you will be taken to the original post in the original site. So, you are NOT making a copy, just a reference.

How to do this:

Go to the News web part, click New and select “News link” instead of News post

Screenshot of SharePoint site Homepage with the option to add a News Link.
How to add a link to another News post – use the highlighted option

Enter the link to the News post in the popup. The popup will automatically populate with image, title and description from the News post. You can adjust this where needed. Click “Post” at the bottom of the popup to publish.

You will see the current Page Details and can adjust them when needed.

After you click Post, the post will be added to your News web part as if it has been created by yourself.

Screenshot of SharePoint page with News web part after adding a News link to another news post.
The linked post is added like a regular News item

In the Site Pages Library, a new page will be added that contains only the Page Details, but not the complete item. That still lives in the original site.

Screenshot of page created in the Site Pages Library with just the Page Details.
In the Site Pages library you will get a new page with just the Page Details.

You can imagine that this works well for the occasional post that you want to add. Keep in mind that, when the original publisher deletes the post, your linked news item will give an error message. You may want to check out my post “SharePoint Holmes and the Missing Message” for the details.

TIP: This is a good way to republish an older post from your site. By adding the News Link it will show up as a new item, on top of the feed. This is much easier than fixing the position in the web part which is rather cumbersome.

b. Permanent: Add one or more News sources

In the News web part, by default the News from “this site” will show, but you can select other sites to show their News.

Go to the page with the News web part and click the Edit button. In the web part settings, you can choose “Select sites” and then check the sites you want to add to your News web part. Generally the sites you use frequently will be visible, but you can also search for them.

When you have selected the site you will immediately see their News mingled with your own, depending on Publish date.

Screenshot of how you select the sites that will be part of your News web part.
Upon selecting the sites you will see their News posts mixed with your own. They will have the name of their original site on top.

Unlike the “News Link” options, posts will show the name of their original site above the title, and no reference page will be created in your Site Pages Library.

Screenshot of the News of the Intranet site homepage, with News of two other sites added as other sources.
This is the News feed of the Intranet site and two others

c. Permanent: all sites in the Hub

In case you have a number of sites that belong together, e.g. together they form the Intranet or the global HR information, you can create a Hub site to bring them all together with navigation, design, search, News etc.
Gregory Zelfond has a good explanation in this post, so please give that a read if Hubs are new to you: How to create Hub sites in SharePoint online.

In this case, I have turned the Intranet site into a Hub site and associated 2 other sites with it. You see that each News post has the name of the site where it lives, on top. Again, no reference page is created.
(By the way, you also see that the post I used in my earlier blog now has lost its image, a clear sign that something is wrong!)

Screenshot of how to show the News of all sites from the Hub.
When you have created a Hub site and associated sites with the Hub, you will get the option to include all Hub sites in the News web part.

Screenshot of SharePoint news web part, with News from the 3 sites that are in the Hub.
You see the most recent News from the three sites that are part of the Hub.

2. You can add Team sites to the mix

All three options above can be done with both Team sites and Communication sites. In the screenshot below, I added a Team site to the Hub and the News post I created is incorporated.

Screenshot of SharePoint news web part, including a News post from a Team site.
Top left is the latest News post from a Team Site, that I associated with the Hub.

3. Mind permissions!

Make sure that any posts or sites that you include in your News web part or News Digest, is accessible for your audience. You may want to check with the site owners about the site’s permissions.

This is especially the case with Team sites which are likely to have more strict permissions than an organization-wide Communication site. Team sites may contain updates from important projects, that you may want to share, but make sure everyone can read them, otherwise you will have to create your own post.

4. You can create a digest from combined News

Regardless of where the News lives, you can turn all News posts that are in your web part into a News digest. In the screenshot below I left out the ERP item, where the original has been deleted, but you see that all others can be included in the News digest. But…please verify that everyone has access to all sites! (see 3.)

Screenshot of the News Digest creation page - all articles in your site can be included in your Digest.
All posts in your site can be included in your News Digest

5. You can add a News web part to more pages than one

You will most likely have the News web part on the Home page of your site, and you want that to be as interesting as possible.
But you can create as many News web parts in your site as you want or need, and configure them separately using option 1b. This allows you to keep track of other posts and pick out any interesting ones.

EXAMPLE 1: Suppose you are a multi-national organization, and each country has a News site for that country. You can create an extra (hidden) page with a Web part, select all the country sites as your Source, so you can keep track of what is going on in each country. You can then use the info from that web part to add News to your own site, or send a News Digest about what is happening in the various countries.
EXAMPLE 2: You can combine the News of different Project sites to keep track of their News (assuming you have permissions) and then make a selection as a Project Update digest.

These are just examples to give you an idea about “keeping track of News” without having to add it to your Homepage.

Below you will see a screenshot of how I added an extra page in the Intranet site, where I added News from two completely different sites than used earlier.

Screenshot of a different page in the Intranet site, with a News page that uses completely different sites than the News source.
A new page in the Intranet site with completely different News items. This can come in useful to keep track of other News.

Do you have any tips or experiences to add about Combining News? Please let me know!

SharePoint Holmes and the Missing Message

SharePoint News is easy to create and manage, but that does not mean things can not “go wrong”. This is often due to unexpected or unknown behaviour. So, you can imagine that our hero SharePoint Holmes likes the functionality! 😁

The situation

I received an issue in our support system from a News reader who saw an interesting News post on a SharePoint site. However, when he clicked on it, he got an error message. He had refreshed the page, closed SharePoint and reopened, and even logged out and back in, but he could not open it.  
(What a model employee, by the way, doing the most obvious troubleshooting actions before logging an issue. I have seen many people get into a complete panic when they get an error message, while a simple “did you turn it off and on again” could have solved the problem)

But how could that be? He saw the item, it had recently been posted in the site! 

An obvious case for SharePoint Holmes. I grabbed my problem-solving cap and set to work.

The investigation

I logged in as admin into the site and checked his permissions. This was a site accessible for all employees. Good.

Then I looked with him at the site’s homepage. The red-lined item was the problem post.

Screenshot of SharePoint site home page, with News posts. It all looks good, but there is one News post that gives an error upon clicking.
The site in question. Everything looks normal, but the red-lined post gives an error message.

When he clicked the post, this was the error message. Do you see what SharePoint Holmes sees?

Screenshot from Error message saying:
"Hmmm… can't reach this pageIt looks like the webpage at https://ellenvanaken.sharepoint.com/sites/Communicationsite/SitePages/Changes-in-the-ERP-system.aspx might be having issues or it may have moved permanently to a new web address.
This is the error message.

Right, the site above says “Intranet” while the error message refers to a link in “Communicationsite”.

I got the same error message upon clicking the News post, (confirming once more this was NOT a permissions issue), and checked the URL of the site where the item had been posted. There was “Intranet” in the URL of the site with the issue, but the error message was for an item in a “Communicationsite”.

💡 Aha, this looked like a News post that had been created with the “News Link” option. This is an easy way to share News from one site to another. Instead of creating your own post, you can click on Add > News Link and add the URL in a popup. SharePoint will then add thumbnail, title and description, and you can keep that as is, or edit when needed. When someone clicks on the post, they will be redirected to the post in the site where it was created, in this case the “Communicationsite”.

Screenshot from SharePoint site with News web part showing what happens when you click the Add  button under News. You will get two options: News post (to create a news item from scratch) or News Link (to link to another news post in SharePoint or internet)
An easy way to share News from other sites or even the internet

First I checked whether my hypothesis was correct. I opened the Site Pages Library in the Intranet site and looked for the post. When I opened it it looked indeed like a “News Link” page: a page with the link and the Page Details, nothing more.
💡 Normally the image from the Source site would also be shown, but in this case it was missing, and this was a reason to suspect that the original News post had been deleted.

Screenshot of the page that you get when you add a Link to a News Post. In this case there is no image, which is a clue for SharePoint Holmes.
This is what you get when you add News as a link to another site (or the internet). Normally you would also see the image, but this time it is empty, another clue.

I then opened the “Communicationsite” and checked the Site Pages Library (just to be on the safe side) and when I could not see the post, I went to the Recycle Bin. And yes, there it was.

Screenshot of the Recycle Bin of the site where the News item was posted
The News post from the link has been deleted in the site where it has been posted. Links to this post will now be inaccessible.

I contacted the person who had deleted the News post and enquired about the deletion. It turned out that the deletion was done accidentally in haste, and only a short time ago, as the image was still visible. (After a few days, the image will disappear as it is no longer stored in a Site Assets Library)

The solution

In this case, the “deleter” restored the post in the Communication site and that action restored access to the News post in the Intranet site.

Of course, it will not always be as straightforward. Sometimes it can be necessary to delete a post because it is outdated and potentially harmful to keep.

It may make sense to agree on a form of Life Cycle Management for News posts within your organization, and only delete something when a post is older than 1 year, for instance, if it does not need to be deleted earlier. You may want to read “Writing SharePoint News posts – our way” for more agreements you can make with your fellow News publishers.

As News Publishers will not be able to see easily where their News items are being shared, you will never be able to completely prevent issues like the above. But it will help to inform your News Publishers about this potential issue when using the “News Link” option.

Tip: you can check if your News post has been used in another site as follows:

  • Copy the title of the post and enter this in the Microsoft365 homepage Search box (so you search all through Microsoft365)
  • Alternatively, use some keywords from the title that are less common
  • Click the News tab in the Search results
  • Check if there are more entries than yours
  • If you want to delete the item you may want to warn the Publishers who have added your News post to their site.

This will not really help if someone has posted it to a restricted site that you have no access to, or when they have changed the title, but it is an option to reduce any “damage”.

Screenshot of two News posts with the same name, indicating that one is a link to another. The News Search vertical will help filter out the News posts.
Another News post that has been added as News Link: two posts with the same name in Search, in different sites.

About SharePoint Holmes:
Part of my role was solving user issues. Sometimes they are so common that I had a standard response, but sometimes I needed to do some sleuthing to understand and solve it.
As many of my readers are in a similar position, I thought I’d introduce SharePoint Holmes, SharePoint investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.