SharePoint Holmes and the Tricky Text

The case

One of our teams is using a SharePoint list to capture the goings-on in their department during each shift.

At the beginning of each shift they create a new list item, add info for date and shift and the name of the person in charge and save the item. During the shift they edit the item, adding all the things that need to be captured for later and/or handed over to the next shift.
Generally they are quite happy as the list is less work to update and easier to search through than the Word document they used beforehand.

However, they noticed a few things:

  • When they used interpunction, such as ; or : the results often ended up a bit weird, especially when they were editing an item (e.g. to add something to the list during the shift)
  • They could not list items properly in a text field. They can add something on a new line while writing, but the end result is one large text without any indentation.

That was new for me, so I put my SharePoint Holmes hat on and started investigating. Incidentally Marc Anderson has just showed that you can edit columns on the List side , as well as on List Settings side, and you can get different results, so I checked both.

The investigation

I asked him to show me his issues during a Teams meeting. He shared his screen and I noticed the issues.

I checked the list setup. As it turned out, almost all columns were multiple lines of text (MLOT), Rich Text. (RT)

Rich Text (RT) promises more options than Plain text, yet is easier to work with than Enhanced Rich Text. (List Settings side)

I have always preferred Rich Text, as it has slightly more options than the plain text, while being less cumbersome than the Enhanced Rich Text. That one has more design options, but needs an extra click to access.
You create this Text field after creating the MLOT as Plain Text or Enhanced Rich Text, and then editing the column in the List Settings. (The option is not available when you create the column, and only available in the List Settings)

When you create a column (List side, shown here, OR Settings side) you can only choose Plain Text or Enhanced Rich Text.

I set up a test with three multiple line of text columns, each with a different configuration, and off I went. The strange thing is that I remember that a MLOT in RT always had a few formatting options, but the entry field looks exactly like the Plain Text.

The Rich Text looks and behaves exactly like the Plain text, even when you add and select some content. No formatting options whatsoever.

However, when you save the entries and check what it looks like , the RT field looks different than the others, and indeed, the behaviour is as described.

The Rich Text displays differently than the Plain and Enhanced Rich Text. It does not align texts properly.

Addtionally, when I edited Experiment 2, you see the : behaves strangely:

Strange behaviour with this : in Edit mode. It looks OK in view mode.

Additonally, when I checked the configuration of the Rich Text column from the List side, I noticed that the “Enhanced Rich Text” option was selected. When I pressed “Cancel”, nothing happened, but when I clicked “Save” the columns changed into Enhanced Rich Text.
It is not relevant for this case, but it confirms that there is something strange with this option.

The option appears to be already on, but not really implemented until you click Save.

The solution

You might have guessed: I changed all Rich Text fields to Plain Text, as that is sufficient for their needs and behaves a bit better.

Does anyone know if my beloved Rich Text is going away? As we are moving more towards configuring from the List page rather than from List Settings I am afraid so. I could not find anything about it, but if I have overlooked something, please let me know!

About SharePoint Holmes:
Part of my role is solving user issues. Sometimes they are so common that I have a standard response, but sometimes I need 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.

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