Forms appears to be top of my mind these days. It’s near the end of the year and lots of evaluations need to be done 🙂 so I am searching the organization for opportunities to make the switch from other tools or processes to Forms.
Every year my organization has a week where you can spend (half) a day with another department. This has mutual benefits as you can well imagine. This process involves:
Making an inventory of which departments are open for receiving visitors that week
Asking employees which one of the “open” departments they are interested to visit and when
When I joined the organization last year, I had seen the Google form for item 2. and I made a resolution to try and help the organizer move that to Microsoft Forms this year. So recently we sat together to create the Form and it turned out she had some doubts about the inventory. Last year she had sent out emails to various departments with some questions, and it was a lot of hassle to collect the data and get the overview. So I suggested she create a Form instead in order to
make sure that everyone replies to all questions
get everything collated into a tidy Excel sheet without having to copy it all manually
So, we created a Form and she sent an email with the request to complete the Form. (Which is additional advertising and awareness for Forms, I hope!)
Then we set about to create the Form where employees can specify their interest and preferred date. As this had already been set up as an online form, this was rather simple. We could even shorten the form because we decided to collect people’s name and email address automatically.
When the inventory is completed, she just needs to add the dates and departments to the Form and the announcement can be posted on the intranet with a link to the Form.
So, unexpectedly we could move two processes to Forms! Yay! (Those little wins always put a big smile on my face)
Handing over ownership of a Form before it has been distributed
According to Microsoft, you need to add a Form to an Office365 Group if you want to hand over ownership. This will make sure that the data will be handed over as well.
If you do not have a Group for this purpose, and the Form has not been distributed yet, the original owner can Share the form with the new one, and the new Owner can then Copy it to make it his/her own.
This may come in useful when someone is leaving the organization (and whose account and content will be deleted) has created a Form that still needs to be introduced to the organization.
Top 3 differences between Forms and Forms Pro
In my earlier post I mentioned I did not quite get the benefits of Forms Pro, but then Doug Allen wrote a post that made things clearer to me. Especially the options for sharing of the survey, and the analysis and follow-up of survey results are much better than regular Forms. Those examples were quite an eye-opener for me.
Be a quiz-master!
I have done some experiments with the Quiz option but I was not overly impressed. It only works well for multiple-choice questions. I think it needs some more work, either from Microsoft or from myself 🙂
Have you noticed that Forms has a new icon? I have been unable to get a good large file but here’s a screenshot from my tenant.
Planner and To Do have new icons as well.
Comparison of Forms and Forms Pro
Megan V. Walker has recently created an excellent comparison of Forms vs. Forms Pro. Apart from more options in the typeface part, you have more options to integrate data from other Office365 applications.
However, the licensing cost for Forms Pro is quite high in my opinion, so I will try to guide people to the regular Forms as much as possible. A few colleagues had the Forms Pro Free Trial and they experienced issues when their trial expired. Once I removed the Pro Free license from their accounts, all worked well again, except that your Forms created in Pro are no longer accessible. Any results you captured, are still available. Be aware!
Check out Megan’s blog as she has tons more info on Forms and Forms Pro.
I do not think anyone will ever create a SharePoint survey any more 😦 , but if you are still interested, or want to know how if Forms is a good replacement for SurveyMonkey or GoogleForms, here’s my earlier comparison of survey tools:
Some months ago I shared an invitation to a farewell party in our Yammer group, as an example of Forms. It was to invite internal and external attendees and ask them for their attendance and dietary preferences. I had helped the organizer create it, and he got it immediately and included some lovely pictures.
This was the start of an informal “contest” in my organization on who can create the best-looking form. 🙂
One of my colleagues no longer sends Outlook invitations for large meetings, but creates a nice-looking Form, which means she gets fewer emails and has all responses in a tidy Excel sheet. I guess the receivers are pleasantly surprised by a nice-looking invite rather than a plain Outlook one.
Another colleague is carefully matching images and colours in her themes, and has even added a link to a hexcode website to her browser favourites!
I wonder if they are now thinking up new events just to be able to create a great-looking Form for it! 🙂
I freqently get calls where people mention “this person has created a beautiful survey and now I want one as well – how do I do that”.
And if all goes well we may replace a third-party application with a simple Form in the next few months. Fingers crossed!
This all delights me as I am working in a health care organization and most colleagues have different priorities than sitting at a desk at a computer.
(Something similar is happening with the SharePoint modern pages by the way, which is another pleasant surprise. More about that later)
So, invitations for larger meetings appear to be THE Forms application in my organization. What’s your number one scenario for Forms?
In my previous organization I often received complaints about what was shown in Delve. Exactly like the results you see in Search, what you see is what you have access to, and for many people this was hard to understand. Every time the Search or Delve results got questioned (“Search is broken!”) I could prove that this person saw this search result or this document card on Delve because they had access to it, whether that was desired or not. I loved this demonstration of the importance of proper permissions management 🙂
In Search, any mismanagement of permissions only becomes apparent when you are actively searching, but in Delve “content finds YOU” so it is ruthlessly in-your-face.
In my current organization we have not promoted it very much yet, so when we recently changed a number of licenses from E1 to F1, we did not consider the fact that the Delve app would no longer be visible for the F1-users, a big risk.
However, we received a question from someone who uses the people-part for looking up managers and direct reports, so I found three alternative options.
1. Via “My Office Profile”
After all, the Delve “Me” page is your profile page, so that should be available for every user. Just click on your picture top right and select “My Office profile”.
2. Via the URL
Delve is available for users if they are logged in to Office365 and use the following URL: https://<datacenterlocation>.delve.office.com.
For our organization and my own tenant this is https://eur.delve.office.com and for a tenant in the UK this would be https://gbr.delve.office.com
I do not have access to any other tenants so I can not give you the “code” for other data centers but please take a look at your Delve to see what it is. It may come in useful one day.
3. Via Outlook (people data only)
Like Delve, Outlook also uses Active Directory so all people data is also in Outlook.
Users with an F1-license use the Outlook On The Web experience and they can see people’s managers and direct reports in the people card.
When you hover over a person’s name (searched or from an email) you will first see the small card, which expands into a larger card. When you click “Show more” you will see a ton of info, including the “Organisation” which will allow you to see a person’s manager and direct reports. In my case the tab is greyed-out because I am the only one in my tenant and have not set up AD.
4. “Discover” on the Office 365 start page (documents only)
The Home page in Delve shows a mix of documents that are popular or have been edited recently by people you work with.
The Office365 homepage has a tab called “Discover” which shows you a mix of recent documents from others.
When I compared the two I found these were very similar except for
Content: the “Discover” tab on the Office365 homepage only shows documents from OneDrive and SharePoint, while the Delve page shows documents from OneDrive, SharePoint and Outlook
Display: Delve shows cards, the “Discover” tab can show tiles or list items
Sadly I can not share any comparative screenshots as I can only see this in my work tenant. I am the only user in my tenant so there is nothing to share from others.
But trust me, the Discover tab is an alternative, albeit not a full one, for the Delve Home page.
What’s next for Delve?
My colleague was happy with the alternatives provided.
But when I found this all out I wondered if Delve may be going away as a separate workload as the functionality is now embedded in other, more frequently used, tools. It also has not been included in the recent icon redesign, which may be a clue as well. Would anyone know?
Just as I was writing this post, I found this post from John Liu (in response to a Tweet about Delve from Joanne Klein) who is also wondering about the future of Delve – he has a good idea for its development.
So let’s wait and see if Delve keeps being a separate app, but with added functionality, or will be absorbed into relevant other workloads in Office365…
In earlier posts we have looked at SharePoint News and the News digest from the sender’s perspective. It is time to look at it from a reader’s point of view!
1. You can find SharePoint News in the following places:
The site where it has been published
The site overview (click “See all” on the web part after publishing 5 articles)
News digests (Newsletters), consisting of the above, gathered with previews in an email
The SharePoint app
“News from sites” on the SharePoint landing page
All “News from sites” if you click the “See all” on the SharePoint landing page
To avoid a very long post, I have compiled some screenshots in this deck. You may want to watch it full-screen:
2. You will only see News articles to which you have access.
The News digest is an exception – it can be sent to you and you may not have access to one or more of the articles.
3. The SharePoint web part on the landing page can not be configured or removed.
So if anyone is posting News articles and you have access, you will see them there, whether you want it or not.
Our project was a first and we did not want to show the News to everyone just yet. That is why we made the News site and the News digest available to a limited group of people only, even thought the content was not confidential. We simply did not want to confront people with something new which may be there only once. (In theory 🙂 )
We received some comments of people in the target audience because it “obscured their view of the Frequent Sites”.
4. You can like a page and/or comment on it.
You will find the options at the bottom of the page. The author will receive an email now and then with the likes and comments. If you @mention someone, they will receive an email immediately. This is great for urgent remarks to the author, and also to inform a colleague about this article.
5. You can save a news article for later.
This will come in useful when you do not have time to read it now, or in case you will want to keep it. There are 3 ways to do that:
At the bottom of the post you will see an option to “Save for later”.
You can also click the label of any News article that you see on the “News from sites” overviews.
In the SharePoint app you can click the … at the right of each article and select “Save for later”
There are 3 places to see your saved articles:
On the News cards in “News from sites”, saved articles will show with a “filled” label as opposed to have the outline only (Is this proper English? 🙂 )
On your SharePoint landing page, in the left-hand menu under “Saved”
In the SharePoint app News, under Filter (on top) you can select the “Saved Items”.
I would have expected this to be on Delve, together with bookmarks. But no.
6 a. The SharePoint app (iOS and Android) is excellent for reading News.
The Newsfeed (in order of First Published Date) looks great and your saved items are available in a separate place. (Click the filter on top to see only the “Saved Items”)
You can easily read the News in public transport or in the evening on the sofa!
News in the app. The third item is “saved for later”. You can see all saved items nby changing the filter on top.
This items is “saved for later”.
I often hear that people “do not have time to read the news during the day”.
I also heard a story from a bank that made the News available on smartphones (this was pre-SharePoint News and app) and they saw a massive spike in views around 8 pm, when people were ready to settle in for the evening. Apparently employees do not mind spending private time on work-related News, as long as they can consume it at a time that suits them.
6 b. The Android app is very sticky when it comes to post-publication changes.
Both iOS and Android are fast to show freshly published News articles. But while the iOS app is fast to respond to post-publication changes (e.g. items being renamed, edited, depublished or removed) the Android app is very slow and can take several hours to change. Some unpublished or deleted items never even go away, providing you with a 404 (not found) message when you click them.
Android phones and fast-moving news such as IT outages and their fixes are therefore not a good combination.
7. Make it a habit to click on the title to open a News article.
Clicking on the image in the News Digest will only show you the image. Everywhere else you can also click on the image. Weird.
8. You will get notifications of new News articles in the app.
This happens when someone you work with frequently posts a new article. This is determined by the Microsoft Graph (the machine that also provides you with suggestions of documents, sites and people) based on your interactions, so there is not much you can do about it 🙂
9. Alerts suck big time.
If you do not like to wait until you get a News digest or an app notification, you may think about setting an Alert. Please don’t – Alerts do not work.
Here’s what happens:
If you set an Alert based on “All changes” you will get two Alerts – one with the raw URL and one with the title, content and metadata. After that, you will get notified of all changes, of course.
If you set an Alert for “When new items are added” you get…nothing!
I also tried a Flow but the “Send email when new file is added” did not work (404 error) as it links to that “raw” URL which gets overwritten. Only once did I receive the correct URL and I have no clue why.
If someone has found a Flow that works for this scenario, please share!
Using a filtered view (Published items, “version contains .0”) did not solve the issue with Alerts or Flow. Besides, would any reader know that?
10. You can unlike a comment, but not news post.
Be careful with your likes on news posts: they stay there.
However, you can unlike a comment to a news post.
1. You need 5 published News articles before you can send a News digest.
Frankly, this one drove me nuts. I knew I had seen Jasper Oosterveld and other people demo this functionality, so why did I not see the “See all” link on the homepage? Well, because I had only posted 4 items. Duh!
2. The order is by selecting – the first article you select is on top.
This is independent of the creating or publishing order. You can change the order of items after selecting them and clicking “Next”. Using the arrows you can then drag and drop the items into the desired order. The “x” will remove the item from the selection.
3. You can only send this to an Office Group, Distribution List or individuals.
It looks like you can send this only to items which appear in the Global Address List.
I would have expected you could also use a SharePoint site user group (from this site) or a personal Group of Contact Persons from your Outlook, but no. In this case, it meant that our project manager had to add all people to a Distribution List. (We are not using Office Groups yet)
4. It is unclear (to me) what determines the logo.
If you do nothing the logo displayed will be the new SharePoint logo
If you replace the site icon by another image, the logo displayed will be the old SharePoint logo
Your organizational logo (the one in the Office365 top bar) does not show in the News digest
I would like to know how this works, as I would prefer to distinguish the various News digests from one another by using a custom image. On suggestion of Juan Carlos I tested this with a modern team site (instead of a Communication site), but it did not work there either. That said, if there is one site template I would expect to allow more branding, it would be the Communication site!
There is already a number of User Voice requests out there for more options to manage the News digest look-and-feel.
At this moment Microsoft says in their support article that “It is not yet possible to make changes to the appearance of images, header area, or summary area of the email.” That gives hope for the future!
5. Your News digest will display the site’s name.
So make sure your site has a meaningful name.
This is of course another good way to tell the difference between this digest and another, but I still would like to have an image, too!
6. Access requests will be sent for the News article, not for the site.
If someone has been forwarded the News digest, clicks on the first item and then finds out they need access, they will send an access request to the News article.
You can click “Approve”, but
You will only give access to this specific article, so they will have to request access for the next article and the next, etc.
They will not see the header image because that lives in the Site Assets library, to which they do not have access.
I would suggest to treat the access requests as a general request for access to the complete SITE.
In our case, I have added a link to the Visitors group on the top of the site, so the project manager can quickly open the list and add new people.
He grumbled a bit but is IS a sign of success when people forward the News digest 🙂
By the way, the access request email looks really nice these days. Sadly you can only Approve from the email if you are an Owner (not if you use a custom role, like we do) AND you can not give permissions for the complete site from this mail, only to the link requested.
7. Access requests will go to the original name of the article.
Have you changed the title of your News article after publishing? When you get an access request, the original name will be shown. If you have forgotten what it was, never mind – another reason to give access to the complete site! 🙂
8. You can send this to external users.
The email and the articles will look just as nice for your external partners as for your internal colleagues, including all logos and pictures. Of course your external partners can only read the full articles when your site allows external sharing AND they have access.
9. Your News digest may end up in the Spam box.
I have had to dig my beautiful News digest out of several spam boxes, for different email addresses 😦
So if your first News digests do not get the attention they deserve, you may want to ask around if people have received the emails. (and help them mark it as Not Spam)
10. Place-holder for something that I do not know yet.
I am quite positive that something will turn up. If you have found something, please let me know!
Overall, our audience was positive about the News digest and we have already received inquiries from another team.
My next post will be about experiencing SharePoint News as a reader. Stay tuned!
Last week we distributed our first SharePoint News digest! One of our project teams wants to keep their audience informed with a Newsletter, and we decided to give the standard SharePoint News option a try.
So here are a few real-life things that your Communications colleague may want to know:
1. You can add max. 110 characters in the title, but will they all be shown?
A different number of characters will be displayed in any of the other places where the article is shown:
SharePoint homepage and News overview: 48
SharePoint site, 2 side-by-side: 43
SharePoint app: 59
News Digest email: 110
Please note this is based on my screen with my test text. The “i” is a very thin letter and you will get more in the same space if you only use that one (for instance 100 on the SharePoint homepage and overview) the “m” and “w” are wide letters and you will get fewer in that space (for instance 27 on the SharePoint homepage and overview.) So…it all depends…on your title!
And then I am not even talking about the body text!
These things can drive you nuts if you are trying to provide guidance! 🙂
2. When you have no background image, the title is black. With a background image, even a light one, the title goes white.
Seriously, I would never notice these things but my colleague did! It is a tad annoying as I think black would provide more contrast in many cases.
3 a. Every News article is a site page and lives in the Site Pages library.
In my organization we use SharePoint sites mainly for document management (well, until I came along 🙂 ). Every site has a homepage and that’s it. So working with the Site Pages library was a new thing for my colleagues.
Unfortunately all News article pages live in the same Site Pages library, including your site’s homepage and any other page not related to News. Make sure you do not accidentally delete those while cleaning up old News articles.
3 b. A News digest (Newsletter) is another page in that Site Pages library.
If you create a News digest, you create another page in that library. That makes it easy to make it available for everyone who is not in the distribution list for your News digest, but it can make it difficult to know what is what.
Microsoft suggests to add the date to the title, to identify it better, but…
4. There IS a way to know if a certain page is a News article or another page.
A big applause to Elio Struyf who figured this out first, as far as I know.
In your Site Pages library, click on “Add Column” and then “Show/hide columns” at the bottom of the popup.
Then select the “Promoted State” column to add to the view. Be aware that this column is only available on the page itself; NOT via the Library Settings. (trust me, I tried 🙂 ) And also remember to click “Apply”!
Promoted State: (Thanks to Susan Hanley)
0 = News digest or regular page
1 = News article page, not yet published
2 = News article page, published or unpublished
Please note that the default view (Grouped by Author) does not keep the column, so if you edit the view or log out it disappears. If you really want to make it “stick”, use it in a non-grouped view. Here’s an interesting thread about this topic.
5. You can unpublish an article.
This will keep the article in the Site Pages library, but will remove it from any views. Deleting the page has the same effect, but the article will be gone, of course.
You can unpublish as follows: Go to the Site Pages library, hover over the article and click the 3 vertical dots. Click “More” from the popup and then “Unpublish”. You can publish it again.
Please note this is not available everywhere – it may have to do with the site/web part type. I could not find it in some older posts in different site types, for instance.
6. The Version tells you whether a News article is published or unpublished.
I have been looking all over the place to find how to see the difference between a published and an unpublished News article, and guess what? It is the Version, which has a x.0 for a published article and a x.1 for an unpublished article.
Thank you, Susan Hanley!
7. The author mentioned is the person mentioned in Author Byline or Created By (if Author Byline is empty).
My Communications colleague helped the project team out with their first efforts, but she did not want to appear as the author. We tried to leave the header empty, the project manager edited the item, but everywhere her name showed up.
However, Marc Anderson came to the rescue here. If we replace the name of my colleague in the article header (this is called the Author Byline) by the project manager’s name, HIS name will appear in all places. As I have only one user in my tenant I can not show it in a screenshot, but I have tested it at work and yes, that is the solution.
8. News articles are shown sorted on First Published date.
This can be different from the Created date! Thanks to Christopher Webb for pointing that out. As we published the articles as soon as they were written, we had not noticed.
It makes therefore no difference for the order of appearance if you change the article after a few days. It does not suddenly show on top.
The order of appearance/moving for the side-by-side webpart is top left > top right > bottom left > bottom right > off page.
(WordPress, I would appreciate an “insert table” option!)
9. You can change the order of appearance on the News web part manually.
This will be useful if you want to keep one (or more) important News article visible for some time, without it being pushed off the page by more recent articles.
Edit the page and click “Edit webpart” next to the News web part. Scroll down in the menu on the right-hand side and click on “Select news to organize”.
Drag and drop the News Article(s) you want to keep in the same place, to the desired place(s) and click the x top right. Remember to remove it when it has outlived its purpose, as it will stay there otherwise. And please note that this order goes for this web part only!
10. All images that you upload will be added to the Site Assets library.
You will get a folder for Site Pages and then one folder per page.
In most cases you will end up with one folder per page with one image. What a waste of folders and clicks!
11. Images should ideally be 16:9 with a good focal point that is not too close to the edges.
Another “vague” specification that is a big change from the “images should be square, in .jpg or .gif format, max. 1600 pixels wide and max. 2 GB in size” spec that we used to work with before Modern SharePoint came along. In real life it means that you generally get a decent result without being able to predict it. Keep in mind that the header image is wide and low, but in other places the images are displayed as a “normal landscape image”‘.
A deep bow for two ladies who have figured out picture behaviour extensively, so you do not have to:
Beth Hall: How SharePoint handles images.
It is a long and thorough post, and a little bit beyond me at times, but my Communications colleague, who is an expert photographer and editor, understood it very well.
12. If you delete a News article, the associated folder and images will stay in the Site Assets library.
Not sure if this is a good or a bad thing, but just so you are aware!
13. Changing the title of the News article after publication will not change the URL, the name of the Site page or the name of the image folder.
So this means links will keep working, which is good. On the other hand, you will lose track of that new title once the item has disappeared from the overviews and from the mind.
14. The News web part is not very stable.
When I was creating screenshots for item 7, I kept getting an empty web part when returning from the web part menu. Reverting to an earlier version helped now and then, but as soon as I hit the “Edit” or “Select news to organize” buttons, an empty page glared at me. I removed the web part and added it again, which helped, but it may be wise to not touch it too often! Microsoft help for the News web part.
John Sanders of Microsoft has kindly offered to look into that!
15. Edits take some time to update.
When you edit and republish an article after publication, the changes will be immediately visible in the article, the News web part and the overview in the site that the News lives in.
On the SharePoint landing page, the all-News overview page and the mobile app the changes take some time (in my test about an hour) to show up. This is probably due to the lag time in Search indexing.
16. Give access before publishing News.
Darn, a number 16! The other day I was given access to a site where a few News items had already been published. It took until the next day before the News was shown on my SharePoint landing page. Not a very big deal, but again something to be aware of!
I really enjoyed this project with my Communications colleague and the project manager. I appreciated their inquisitiveness and it was fun to research all their questions, find new blogs and support pages, see User Voice items, etc.
And…creating the News digest also generated some questions and insights. That will be my next blog as this one is quite long already!
You can create really good looking surveys with Microsoft Forms these days, just by using colours and images.
There are 4 places to add an image:
You can use a standard theme, which will add a predetermined background image (optional) and colour scheme to your Form.
If you want to use your own theme, click Theme and then the +. This will open a screen allowing you to upload an image and/or set a background colour for texts and buttons.
2. Forms title
You can add a small image to the title and introduction text of your form.
You can add an image to a question. You can choose between small and large.
If you want to create a new page for a new question or set of questions, you can use a section. A section header can also contain an image, large or small. It behaves like an image in a question.
Size requirements for images – a test
I recently received a question from one of my users, who wanted to know the size requirements for images in Forms. The background image she used turned out to be a bit blurry. Of course, and fortunately, you no longer have to use exact dimensions in Office 365, but not every size works well in every application, so I did some tests.
I photographed a few scenes with my iPhone, using square, landscape and portrait orientation. (4:3 aspect ratio except for the square of course)
I resized them using good old Paint, making a 50, 38, 25, 10 and 5% of the original. All images were 72 dpi.
Then I created a Form with 2 questions and one section.
I started with the 5% size and uploaded this image as background, as title, as question (large and small) and as section image.
Whenever the image displayed blurry, I repeated the exercise with the 10% and so on, until I had a good idea of what worked.
The background needs an image of at least 750 pixels wide, but 1000 is better.
The orientation of the image (square, landscape or portrait) does not matter. The background focuses on the center of the picture.
In the title you can use an image as small as 150 pixels wide. It does not display a lot of detail, so you can get away with a small image.
The height of the image display is fixed, and the orientation of the image does not matter much.
If you use a small picture in your question or section, go for at least 150 px wide.
Use landscape where possible, as it will keep your form shorter. Check out the differences in the screenshots with the background, above.
For a large picture in a question or section, at least 400 pixels wide is best.
Please note that landscape pictures cover the whole width of the forms, and the question is shown on top. This makes for a very nice image, but as it is blown up a lot compared to the other formats, you really need to make sure the image is sharp.
If you use the same image in every section, you can create a nicely consistent experience. (But do not go overboard, every new section is a click!)
Use landscape imagery where possible – it just displays nicer
Keep in mind that different purposes need different image sizes. If your image is too small, do not use it as background or the large image.
150-400-750 is just a guideline – with a different aspect ratio in your photos and pictures, more dpi and different viewing screen size, you may find that other sizes work better for you. And perhaps you WANT the background to be a bit blurry!