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 Iโ€™d introduceย SharePoint Holmes, SharePointย investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.

Pin, save, follow, favourite the “Microsoft365 stuff you like”

While writing my latest post I came across the different words, icons and mechanisms to store “content you like and/or want to be able to find quickly later”.

So, I wrote this overview to know what is what. You may be able to use it when writing help texts and do not want to go and look what it’s called, or it may help you to understand what a colleague means exactly. There’s quite a few words and icons used for the same functionality.

I have captured the following for every application:

  1. Terminology for the action
  2. Terminology for undoing the action
  3. Icon
  4. Where you can find it later
  5. Anything remarkable

Homepage:

  1. Add to favourites
  2. Remove from favourites
  3. โญ (star)
  4. Favourites tab on the M365 homepage
  5. You can add everything that appears in the list to your Favourites. This is one way to save any interesting OneDrive or SharePoint documents for later.
    The other way is on the respective Word, Excel and PowerPoint online landing pages, where you can add them to favourites. These will be shown on the Microsoft365 homepage as well.
    There was an extra option in SharePoint but that has disappeared.
On the Microsoft365 homepage, you can add all content types shown to your Favourites by clicking the … . You can find them under the Favourites tab

Delve

  1. Add to favourites (popup text when you hover over it)
  2. Remove from favourites
  3. ๐Ÿท (label)
  4. Left-hand rail in Delve under Favourites
  5. Not sure about the exact words in 1. and 2. as I had to test this on my work account and that is in Dutch. (My own tenant only has me, and that means no suggested content)
    You can also create Favourite Boards.
Screenshot from my work account, so it is in Dutch. You can click the label below a document and you will be able to find it under “Favourites” in Delve.

Forms

  1. Add to pinned
  2. Remove from pinned
  3. ๐Ÿ“Œ (pin)
  4. Forms Homepage under Pinned
  5. This action does not influence what is on your Microsoft365 homepage and vice versa
You can Pin a form from the Forms homepage and you will then see it under the Pinned tab.

Lists

  1. Favourite this list
  2. Remove this list from favourites
  3. โญ (star)
  4. Lists Homepage under Favourites
  5. This action does not influence what is on your Microsoft365 homepage and vice versa
You can favourite a list from the Lists Homepage or in the list itself. This one works like SharePoint sites, right? You can see your favourites on top of the Lists homepage.

OneNote

  1. Add to pinned
  2. Remove from pinned
  3. ๐Ÿ“Œ
  4. Pinned Notebooks are shown on the OneNote landing page, under the tab “Pinned”.
  5. So this is different from Word, Excel and PowerPoint while they are usually in the same range.
OneNote uses Pinning, contrary to Word, Excel and PowerPoint which use Favourite.

Outlook

  1. Pin
  2. Unpin
  3. ๐Ÿ“Œ (pin)
  4. Pinned mails are shown on top of your Inbox, see also my post “12 reasons why I ๐Ÿ’— Outlook on the web (owa)
  5. Only available in Outlook for the web, not in Outlook desktop
One of the reasons I love Outlook on the web! You can pin mails you want to keep to the top.

Planner

  1. Add to favourites
  2. Remove from favourites
  3. โญ(star)
  4. Left-hand rail in Planner
  5. Plans only; you can not favourite an individual task
You can add a Plan to your favourites by clicking the star next to the name, or by clicking the … and then selecting Add to favourites. You will see your favourite Plans on the left-hand side.

SharePoint Sites:

  1. Not following
  2. Follow
  3. โญ (star)
  4. Follow block in left-hand rail on SharePoint homepage, world icon in the SharePoint app bar
  5. Followed sites also appear as target sites when you copy or move files from OneDrive or SharePoint
You can follow a site from the SharePoint home page or in the site itself, by clicking on the star. In this screenshot, I am NOT following the Communication site. You can find your followed sites on the top left of this page and in some other places.

SharePoint News:

  1. Save for later
  2. Remove from your saved items
  3. ๐Ÿท (label)
  4. See my earlier post
  5. Will be shown together with favourited documents, see my earlier posts
One way to see your “Saved for later” items is on the SharePoint homepage.

Stream

  1. Add to watchlist
  2. Remove from watchlist
  3. ๐Ÿ“„ (list)
  4. My content tab > Watchlist
  5. You can also “like” a video but there is no list of your likes – “likes” are a compliment to the creator
You can add a video to the watchlist – all added video’s can be seen under My content > Watchlist

Sway

  1. Add to pinned
  2. Remove from pinned
  3. ๐Ÿ“Œ (pin)
  4. On the Sway homepage, tab “Pinned”
You can pin a Sway and it will appear under the tab Pinned on the Sway homepage.

Teams

  1. Save this message
  2. Unsave this message
  3. ๐Ÿท (label)
  4. Profile picture top right > “Saved”
  5. You can also Pin a message, but that means you will add the message for everyone in a specific place, so this has a different purpose.
You can Save a message for later by clicking the … on the top right of the message, You can find all saved messages by clicking on your profile pic and selecting “Saved”.

Yammer communities

  1. None, just an icon underneath the community image + description
  2. Remove from favorites
  3. ๐Ÿงก (heart)
  4. Left-hand rail under “Favorites”
  5. There is also the option to Pin a post, but that is done by the admin for everyone, so this has a different purpose.
You can “๐Ÿ’—” a Yammer community, it will be shown in the left-hand rail.

Conclusion:

The functionality to save a specific content item for later is available in most apps. I could not find it in Whiteboard, ToDo or Power Automate, and please let me know if I have missed anything.
Next to this personal action, there is often a group action where you can make something easily available for your team. This is usually called “Pinning” ๐Ÿ“Œ

The nomenclature and imagery vary widely, and I would appreciate some more consistency. Personally, I tend to prefer “Save for later”. That is very clear, even more so than “Add to favourites”. We can then use the word “Pinning” for group actions, such as pinning a document to the top of a SharePoint library, a message to the top of a Yammer groep or a chat to the right of a Teams channel.
I also notice that the location where you can find your darlings varies widely too.

So, Microsoft, is this in the roadmap for a little more streamlining? ๐Ÿ™‚

And while we are on this topic, I would also like to be able to categorize or group things using my own words, when I have more than 10, for instance. I seem to remember you could do that with SharePoint sites in earlier SharePoint versions. (On-prem, perhaps) And I know that Forms will have Collections (check out Mike Tholfsens’s video) in the near future, but I am looking forward to be able to do that with other content.

Where do you find news posts saved for later?

We launched our new intranet this week. Although it is vanilla SharePoint (and what a joy NOT to have complicated requirements and unmaintainable customizations) I have had to create some help materials for users, as we have some organization-specific information to share, and the Microsoft support documentation has not always been translated correctly.

One of the help items is “Where to find the news items you have saved for later”.

Saving is easy: click the label. When you see the post on the SharePoint start page, the label is on the card. When you have opened the item, you see the label on the bottom of the post.
Unsaving: click the label again.

The image to look for when you want to save a news post for later

But where can you find them later?

There is only one place where you can view your saved news items only. Most places I found also contain favourited documents and even other types of content. Most confusing!

Let me list the locations:

1. Clicking “Save for later” or “Saved for later”

When you accidentally hit the text next to the label you get a popup with your latest saved or favourited items.

If you click the text next to the label, you will get this popup

When you click “See all saved items” you get a page with all your darlings.

All my six saved items

You see this is a mixed bunch: news items and documents.

2. “My saved items” web part

We have this web part on our main news page, to make it easy for our colleagues to find their saved items. Again, it shows news posts and documents. (More info from Microsoft)

This web part shows news items and documents

When you click “See all” you get that page with all saved items. Mind you, while the overview above appears to be a page in the SharePoint landing site, this is now shown within the site where the web part lives.

All my six items, but now in the same site as where the web part is added

3. “Saved for later” on the SharePoint start page

In the left hand rail of the SharePoint start page, underneath “Following” and “Recent” there is a block displaying your most recent 5 darlings. I would have expected to have an option to “See all” here, but no.

The Saved for later web part on the SharePoint start page.

4. SharePoint mobile app: “News” and “Me”

The only place where you can list just the news posts is the SharePoint mobile app.

  • “News” shows all your news posts, and allows you to filter the saved items.
  • “Me” shows your recent and saved items, and in the Saved items you can again filter for news posts only.
This is the News part; you can filter for “Saved items” on top.
This is the “Me” portion. In the saved items (“Opgeslagen”) you can filter for just news items.

5. The Microsoft/Office365 landing page

Here is where it gets really confusing.
At work I see my opened news posts in the “All” tab of content, and in my Favourites tab when I have saved it for later. In my personal tenant I do not see those. I have been unable to find out why. ๐Ÿคฏ

Saved news items do not appear in Favourites in my own tenant. I made the one shown here a favourite when it appeared on this page.

While we are on this page, let me inform you how to make something appear in your Favourites. On the All tab you will see all items (Lists, news, Forms, recordings, images) that you have recently looked at or edited. Hover over an item you would like to add to Favorites, click … and then “Add to favourites”.
(Remember you could briefly do this from SharePoint? That has been gone for some time)

How to make a content item a favourite so it is shown in the Favourites tab

It is a star icon, just like when you want to “follow” a site. ๐Ÿคฏ
The Forms that you “pin” on the Forms landing page will also appear on the Favourites tab. ๐Ÿคฏ

You can also make a List a Favourite from this page. But if you go to the List itself, and click the star near the list name, it will appear as a Favourite on the Lists landing page, but not on the Microsoft/Office365 landing page. ๐Ÿคฏ

Well, this homepage functionality appears to be a bit messy. Does anyone know if this is being worked on?

In any case, did I miss a location where you can see your saved news posts? Let me know in the comments!

SharePoint Holmes and the Event Error

Our new SharePoint intranet is getting its final shape, and now that we have the different sites and the news in place, we can start working on other things.

The case

One of those “other things” is the Events calendar, where we share important events within the organization. As these are published on the intranet home page, we needed to give people access to the Events list in the home site only, to avoid them being Masters of the Intranet. ๐Ÿ™‚

We created a group of Event Publishers, added that group as Contributor to the Events list, and instructed them how to create a new event. (It works much like creating a page or a news item, just with extra predetermined columns).

The form to add a new event from the Events web part.

Shortly after we gave out the instructions, questions started to roll in. Some Event Publishers had no issues at all, but some reported strange error messages and could not publish their event. It was time to see if SharePoint Holmes was still around!

The investigation

  • I checked permissions. Yes, this group had Read access to the intranet site (this is not a given at this moment pre-launch!) and Contribute access to the Events List. So far, so good.
  • I asked one of the users to show me what she did. She did as instructed – clicked on “Add Event” from the homepage and added a custom image from her PC
This is a custom image that was stored on her PC
  • When she clicked on “Add image” she got the following error message. The same happened when she wanted to add something “from the web”.
I had never seen this error message before!
  • It was a rather mysterious error message, that I had never seen before, but it looked as if it had to do with the image and uploading.
  • I wondered if it could have to do with the fact that she did not have Contribute access to the homepage, so I asked her if she could create an event directly from the Event list. She could add the event without issues, but there was no option to add an image.
The “new event” form from the list looks much different from that form from the webpart
  • I then asked her to repeat it from the web part, this time using an image from the Stock Images. The event was published to the homepage smoothly.
  • This somehow felt like News, where images are being stored in a separate Site Assets library. (Except Stock Images or Organizational Assets; those images do not get stored)
  • I checked if Events were stored in the Pages Library, as they looked much like a page. They were not – they were stored in the Event list.
  • I then checked the Site Assets library, and in the folder “Site Pages” there was a subfolder called “Event”. In that library the Event images are stored.
Apparently Event images are stored in the Site Assets library.

The solution

We did not know that Event images are stored in the Site Assets library when we started, so we had not thought about giving them Contribute access to this library.
We added the Event Publishers group as Contributor to the Site Assets library, and then every Publisher could add events without any error messages.

The Event calendar. The middle item has been created from the Event list directly and has no image.

We could have asked them to use images from the Stock Images or Organizational Assets only, but we felt that was too restrictive. Our education folks have custom images to brand their events consistently, for instance. We could have added those to the Organizational Assets but giving everyone access to the Site Assets is easiest and saves us a lot of instruction and support. ๐Ÿ™‚

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 Iโ€™d introduce SharePoint Holmes, SharePoint investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.

Troubleshooting external access to SharePoint sites

We frequently get questions about external contacts that can not access SharePoint sites that they should have access to. Well, access and permissions are troublesome in all organizations, but access issues for external users can have additional causes and solutions, so here’s an overview to help Site Owners and support and admin people (such as myself) to identify and fix issues.

The site owner can check the first 4 items, and if that does not work, the support and admin folks may be able to help with 4, 5, 6 and 7.
It always helps to ask for a screenshot of the error messages, because you can already learn a lot from those.

It is wise to advise external users to log in with their browser in private or incognito mode, especially if they are from an organization that also has Microsoft365. It will avoid account mixups.
Thank you, former colleague Anita, for reminding me!

1. Does the user have access?

Let’s make sure that is not an issue, right? Check if the user is a Guest on Teams, or in case of a stand-alone SharePoint site, check if this person has permissions. Please be aware that external users only become visible in SharePoint permissions after they have been in the site once. So, if you can not find them in the Visitors or Members, it does not mean they have not been added.
In the screenshot below, I have already added someone with a Gmail account, but that person has not yet accessed the site. You may want to check item 2 first.

External users are only visible when they have accessed the site. Most annoying!

2. Has the user seen the invitation?

Warn your user that the invitation may end up in the Spam, Junk email, Unwanted items or whatever their non-regular mailbox is called. My invitation to a Gmail account was considered Spam, and my invitation to a Hotmail account also ended up in Junk mail. Messages in Gmail Spam are deleted after 30 days (see below) and in Hotmail Junk in 10 days, so your external contact may never have seen their invitation!

Invitations easily end up in Spam or Junk mail!

3. Has the user’s invitation expired?

External users need to do their first log in within 90 days, or their invitation expires.
In Classic team sites, the Site owner will see this in Site Settings > Access requests and invitations, under “Show History”. If it says “Expired” you may want to add the user again.
In Communication sites, check Gear wheel > Site Information > View all site settings > Access requests and invitations.
I could not find this option in other site types, and adding “/Access%20Requests/pendingreq.aspx?mbypass=1” to the root did not help either.

Here’s where you see who has been invited.

4. Does the user log in with the exact email address as per the invitation?

This is a frequent cause of problems. If you have added your externals with their Outlook or Hotmail account, they can generally access smoothly; if they have a Gmail, Yahoo or other free mail account you can warn them to expect issues, but if they have an email account for work, using their own domain name, you can not tell whether they can expect issues or not.
Externals should access with a Microsoft account. So if you give someone access with their Gmail account, they are prompted to create or use a Microsoft account. This is not always clear, I have found.

Gregory Zelfond has created a good overview of what the external user sees, and how they should proceed.

Another issue can be if the user has multiple emailadresses, and they access with the wrong one. We recently had an issue where the person had two very similar addresses. It was not clear to both the external and the site owner that he was logging in with @organization.eu, while access was given to @organization.nl ! It was clear from the error message, but you know how people can panic over error messages ๐Ÿ™‚

SharePoint admins may use the follwing Microsoft info when trying to help the Site Owner:

Error when an external user accepts a SharePoint Online invitation by using another account

“Access Denied”, “You need permission to access this site”, or “User not found in the directory” errors in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business – scroll down to see some trouble-shooting for external users.

5. Is the site accessible for external users? (admin only)

Another reason for issues can be that the site is internal-only. In my organization sites are by default internal, but when external access is needed, we can open them up. When people request a new site and they specify that the audience contains external users, we make it accessible for externals from the start. Otherwise, it needs to be changed when the need is there, but site owners do not always know or remember that most sites are internal-only.
An admin can check the sharing settings in the SharePoint admin center.

This site is accessible for external users.

6. Is the external user listed as a Guest user in the Admin center? (admin only)

External users added to Teams will be visible straight away, but again, for stand-alone SharePoint site they need to have accessed the site first. If they are mentioned, they have access and have been able to access this or another site in your tenant.
If they are not visible, it does not necessarily mean they have not been added.

Guest users have their own list in the admin center

7. Has guest access expired automatically? (admin only)

This is a relatively new feature in the SharePoint admin center. You can limit the time that a guest has access, counting from the moment the guest has been given access. After the time has expired, the site admin receives an email and can extend the period.

You can set an automatic guess access expiry in the SharePoint admin center.

Personally I would welcome the option to set an expiry time after a certain period since the last log-in, but “from the moment you have been given access” does not make much sense to me. You can be in the middle of a project and then get kicked out because it has been 60 days since you were given access and the site admin has overlooked the email or forgotten to extend your access? Most annoying!

8. Has the other organization blocked access to external networks?

Sometimes the employer of your external guest does not allow access to external networks. You will not know, and it is up to the external guest to find out. There’s not much you can do about it, except giving the external person an account from your own organization.

Access to Teams

Although external users can have difficulty accessing a Team as well, access is much easier to check than in stand-alone SharePoint sites. Permissions to a Team are easier to check, and guest users to Teams are immediately visible in the Guest users in the admin portal, while SharePoint users only become visible when they have accessed the site once.

Did I miss anything?

Have you found a frequent issue with external users and how have you solved that? Would you know where to find the Access requests and invitations in modern non-communication sites? Or do you have another question or remark? Please add them to the comments!

How to link from a SharePoint page

Did I tell you we are finally moving towards a SharePoint intranet?

We are currently training staff to publish pages and News on SharePoint. Many of them are very happy with the ease of creating pages and news articles, and the fact that you can so easily embed pictures and video. (The old platform can handle one picture or video per article)

One common question is: how do we create links from a page or News article?

Let’s discuss some options. Do you want to link to just one site, page or document? Of do you want/need multiple links on your page? And do they need to be functional and modest, just pretty or attention-grabbing? SharePoint has something for every occasion ๐Ÿ™‚

I have made examples in a Team site, but it works the same in a Communication site.

Link opening behaviour

You may want to know that links to content within your tenant always open in the same window. Links to content outside of your tenant always open in a new window. I have been playing around with different options that I found on the internet, but no luck so far.

Make SharePoint Online Menu Items Open in New Tabs! โ€“ Views from Veronique (veroniquepalmer.com)

How to open SharePoint Online Modern SPFX links in new tab | Code2care

Suggestions welcome, as sometimes you want to keep people on your page and the link is supposed to be only a side-step!

1. In text

When writing a news article or explanatory text you may want to link to additional information. You can do this in two ways:

  • Linking to a page within your site: type [[ and the list of pages in your site will pop up and you just select one. It will be added with the page name.
Type [[ and the list of pages will show, just click to create a link
  • Linking to anything else: select the text and click the link icon
This is the only option allowing you to open the link in a new tab!
The links will be shown in the text.

If you want your links to stand out, you will need to use a separate web part for that. You can use a two column section where you have a link in the column next to the text, for instance.

The following web parts all handle links in different ways. I will show you how they look in edit mode, what the editing options are and what the end result looks like.

2. Link

The Link web part shows a preview of one link. It depends on the website whether a preview is available. As mine does not have a preview (What! I need to work on that!) I have linked to another very useful website. You just paste the link and the only option you have is to add alternative text or not.

In the screenshot below, from left to right: the empty Link webpart, the web part with link and preview, and the edit options.

If you work with SharePoint, you should follow Gregory Zelfond’s site, sharepointmaven.com!

3. Button

Again, this is for one link, which will be displayed as a button in the colour scheme of your site. You can determine the alignment, but that’s all. Our intranet sounding board contains a number of therapists, and they have warned us against making pages too full of stimuli. So this is a good option if you want to have a quiet, non-overwhelming page.

The Button web part. Very straightforward.

4. Call to Action

If you want people to do something, like register for a webinar or subscribe to a newsletter, a Call to Action webpart may be the best option. It allows you to write an explanatory text (“Attend a webinar”), add the action with the link (“Register now!”), add a background image and align the text.
You pick the background image from the same source as header images for your news items – is there a word for that place? Let’s call it link-picker-page.

This is where you pick images and links from. But not all web parts use this as a source.

The button will be in your site’s colour scheme. If only you could change that black background, it is very visible and sometimes clashes with your colour scheme.

5. Image

You can create a click-through image by using the Image webpart. You will immediately go to the link-picker-page. This web part has an option to add a link, an overlay text (off by default) and to add a caption.

Before we move on to the multiple-link options, let me show you what the web parts look like on a page. I have used three columns, so you have an idea of the relative size. The size can vary depending on the number of columns – the Call to Action and Image web parts will fill the column width, but the Button will always be this size.

This is what the single-link web parts look like.

6. Hero

If you prefer your page to be visually interesting, the Hero web part may be useful. You can choose anything between one or 5 links (also depending on screen resolution and the number of columns in the section) and you start with adding the link (you will go to the link-picker page), then click on the pencil in the bottom of the image to add an image, a call to action for the first item, etc.
This web part consumes a ton of real-estate and I personally think it is too much imagery, too little content ๐Ÿ™‚
There’s a lot to this web part and there is good help from Microsoft available: Use the Hero web part – Office Support (microsoft.com)

The Hero web part has many options

7. Quick Links

Another good option if you want to display multiple links. You can go from large image tiles to modest buttons (as below). You can have as many as you like, and you have a ton of options (352 to be exact) to display them. Click “Add Links” and you get taken to the link-picker-page to add the link, then you can adjust things with the pencil underneath.
This is my favourite as it is versatile and you can keep it compact, yet nice looking. The number displayed horizontally will adjust to the column.
This is my blog about it: 352 ways to show Quick Links in SharePoint โ€“ Ellen’s Digital Workplace (wordpress.com)

The Quick Links web part has a lot of display options. The Button option is my favourite.

What do all these web parts look like? Below is an overview of all options used.

This is what all web parts look like.

8. Navigation

Of course there is also the navigation menu that you use to link to the main parts in your site. That does not look as pretty as the options above, but it will be shown all over your site, so it has its own merits.

Just click the Edit button below (Team site), or next to the navigation (Communication site) and you can add links, sublinks, move, edit and delete them.

The navigation – adding a new link

Navigation – moving, editing, deleting, indenting a link.

Conclusion

You have many options to select the web part that works for you. I understand it is not always easy to choose the best option, but in general I would say:

  • Keep it simple; visually pleasing but not cluttered.
  • Use Alternative text with images whenever possible – you do not know if anyone in your organization has a temporary or permanent loss of vision and they may want to use the Immersive reader to have the page or news read aloud to them. (I assume the Immersive Reader reads the alternative text – not sure!)
  • Think about the future. If your page is there for a long time, think about the number of links needed over time. Will this stay the same or do you expect more or fewer items needed next year? If you expect that your 5 links of today may be 6 or 7 next year, it may be better to use Quick Links from the start rather than a Hero.
  • Do not forget about your navigation; as it is visible all over the site, you may want to use that for important pages rather than a pretty link on your home page alone.

Have I missed an option? Would you like to say something else? Please comment – I love to hear about your experiences and thoughts!

Your very own SharePoint page

As we are currently working on a new intranet (SharePoint! At last!) we are thinking about “personal” information on the intranet. So I am looking into web parts that can be added to a page, which will present information especially for you.
Of course, you can add document library and list web parts with a default view of “Created by = [Me]” or “Assigned to = [Me]” etc. but that is generally for a specific site that you work in, rather than being applicable to anyone in the organization.

But there are a few web parts which can be used centrally, on an intranet page called “My Page” or similar, that shows information just for you.

1. My News

The News webpart allows you to show News from the site where the web part lives, or from selected sites. Quite a pleasant functionality, I must say. But you can also select “Recommended for current user” and that will show you YOUR News.

This looks as the same News that is shown on the SharePoint landing page, but it will bring it into the intranet, which saves switching apps.

Microsoft info: Use the News web part on a SharePoint page – Office Support (microsoft.com)

Select this News source to give everyone an overview of their personal News on the intranet

2. Saved for later

This web part will show you documents and News items that you have saved for later. It corresponds somewhat with the “Favourites” on the Microsoft365 landing page, but it will only take news posts and “real” documents, presumably from OneDrive and SharePoint.
And of course it shows the same content as the Saved for later web part on the SharePoint landing page.

There are a few display options to choose from while configuring.

Microsoft info: Use the Saved for later web part – SharePoint (microsoft.com)

The configuration

For comparison: above you will see the items shown in Saved for Later, below are My Favourites on the M365 landing page. You see that Forms, Lists and an attachment in my Outlook are not shown in Saved for later. That is a little inconsistent.

My Favourites on the M365 landing page. The highlighted items are shown in “Saved for later”.

3. Recent documents

This web part shows documents you opened or worked on recently. There’s not much to configure, just the number of documents. It corresponds to the “Recent” tab of the M365 landing page, but then if it would be filtered for Office documents.

Microsoft info: Use the Recent documents web part – SharePoint (microsoft.com)

Recent documents appear to show only Office documents, not recordings etc.

4. Sites

This web part can show your frequently visited sites. You can select the layout and the number of sites shown. It corresponds with your “Recent” list on the SharePoint landing page. In my experiment, it did not show a webpart title upon publishing, so I had to invent my own.

Microsoft info: Use the Sites web part – Office Support (microsoft.com)

The Compact view shows small icons, the Grid view is larger but takes up more space.

5. Conversations (Yammer)

This Yammer web part shows what’s on the Yammer feed. Use the option “Home Feed” to make it personal. My web part is empty, as I am the only person in my tenant and have written all messages, but I hope you will get the gist. ๐Ÿ™‚

Microsoft info: Use a Yammer web part in SharePoint Online – Office Support (microsoft.com)

The Yammer conversations web part can also be made personal

6. My Feed

This will show a variety of items, such as appointments and files that you have shared or updated. In my own tenant it does not show anything, so I have used another tenant, hence the blurred info. You will also see more of the Yammer conversations web part ๐Ÿ™‚

Microsoft info: Use the My feed web part – Office Support (microsoft.com)

My Feed and the options for configuration

7. Tasks?

I have heard rumours about a Tasks web part but I have not seen it yet, so I do not know if it can show your personal Tasks from Planner and ToDo.

“See all”

All web parts have a “See all” option to display more. This is all shown in the site where you are, and generally in a card format.
The only exception is the Conversations web part, where the option is called “View all” and takes you to Yammer.

What do I think?

In general, this is interesting functionality. Some of these web parts are already available in other places in Microsoft365, but it can give your colleagues a good overview of their stuff, and save time switching apps. It is not new – at an earlier employer we already had personal tasks web parts back in 2005, on SharePoint 2003. But that did not look as good and was not as easy to configure as this ๐Ÿ™‚

It can also help bring home the message that Microsoft365 is a fully integrated suite of tools.

The look-and-feel is quite pleasant, but be careful with the number of items you make available, and the layout, as it can easily become a very long page. Below a screenshot of what I ended up with, while finding out what was available.

Of course it will be interesting to see how people will respond to a page that has all their own information “on the intranet”. We need to inform people that the content will be different for everyone.

Are you using this in any way? Any thoughts and suggestions as for the perfect page layout? Please let me know – screenshots also welcome!

The end result, but I am sure this can be layed out a bit better.

Some intranet promotion videos – part 8

I have a few intranet videos lined up that I would like to share.

1. Mobile app for a German wind turbine service organization.

This teaser is quite nice as it shows the benefits of the new intranet app for a real-life person, in this case a service engineer. It is a little rehearsed, but it is good to see someone NOT in the office sitting in front of a PC.

It sounds as if the intranet is for corporate info but also plays a large part in keeping the organization connected.

There’s a QR code at the end, and yes, you will be able to download the app, but you can not log on, of course. The next video (no sound) shows what you can do when you have downloaded the app and have signed in. It also has some nice suggestions for your profile picture.

Uploaded April 2021.

2. Demo for a new school intranet

This demo is first of all nice because it is SharePoint, and quite recent as you can see the App bar. The content is what you would expect from a school intranet, with information about the curriculum and exams, a Staff Hub and a Student Hub and so forth. It is quite long with more than 7 minutes, but it is a good showcase of SharePoint site functionalities.

The intranet is for a scondary school in New Zealand.

Uploaded May 2021.

3. Teaser/demo for a revamp

A subtle, tongue-in-cheek teaser for the redesign of an old (SharePoint) intranet that was outdated and looked it, too! The new design does not look like SharePoint, but when you look at the tablet and phone display, you will see it is the SharePoint app. I assume they have some “shell” around it. This revamp was done in 2018, so around the time that the new SharePoint site designs were introduced. If only they had known! But I am guessing here.

This intranet is for a US state child support programme.

Uploaded May 2021.

4. Introduction/teaser for managers

This is a video for managers of a company that works in the construction & engineering, operations & maintenance, staffing, security and defense business in the USA. It informs management of the revamp of their intranet. It could have been a nice teaser, but instead it is a rather overloaded PowerPoint, both content-wise and visually.
I do not think that management will be interested in the name of the platform (it is not SharePoint, although they appear to use sites), for instance. They will be interested in what’s new and how it will help the organization communicate or engage or perform better.

I was quite shocked at the Must-Reads: information that employees will have to confirm they read it. Although I sometimes wish we had that at my organization, I think it is going too far – you will end up with a ton of mandatory reading as everyone will think that their info is essential.

Well, I will be curious what management thinks as the preview will be on May 25th and the launch is June 2nd!

Uploaded: April 2021.

That was all, folks! See you next time!

Image by Photo by Ingo Joseph from Pexels and a bit from myself. Person Recording A Video ยท Free Stock Photo (pexels.com)

List Alerts Rule

When the Microsoft Lists app was introduced I was a bit apprehensive, as I did not really know what all the fuss was about. But now that I have worked with Lists, I am starting to see the light! A few things that I like:

  • You can create personal Lists, which appear to live on OneDrive (as the URL for a list starts similarly, but I have no clue where to access them on OneDrive)
  • The options for colour and icons (trivial, but nice)
  • The ability to create a list from an Excel file, see my earlier post
  • The templates with content
  • Rules. You can create Rules to send yourself an email when something happens in your list.

But…you can also set an oldfashioned Alert. So, guess what I am going to do in this post? Ah, you know me by now. ๐Ÿ™‚

Setup:

I used an Issue Tracker list in a personal and a SharePoint version. (In SharePoint, you can use “Add an app” from the gear wheel menu, or “New > List” or “New > App” from the Site Contents page)

I have set one Alert (for new items) as I know how that works

I have also set all the Rules, as I am curious what I will see, two in the Personal version and two in SharePoint.

How does the Alert work?

  • You can do this from the Lists app and from SharePoint
  • You can do this on a personal list (๐Ÿ‘) and on SharePoint
  • Microsoft information
  • In the top bar, click “Alert Me” or the … at the right of the other commands and select “Alert Me”
Setting an Alert in SharePoint. This can also be done from the Lists app and in personal Lists.
  • Adjust the popup to your purpose and click “Save”
  • You will receive an email confirmation
  • When the desired change happens in the list, you will get an email
  • The sender will be yourself if the Alert is from a personal list, or the site name if it is from a SharePoint list.
The familiar Alerts functionality
This is the email body from the Alert

How do Rules work?

  • You can do this from the Lists app and from SharePoint
  • You can do this on a personal list and on SharePoint
  • You can find the Rule option in the top bar under “Automate”
Creating a rule in SharePoint (this can also be done from the Lists app, and for personal Lists)

You have 4 options:

  • A column changes
  • A column value changes
  • A new item is created
  • An item is deleted
The available options for a rule

Creating the rule is pretty easy – click on the desired change and in most cases you just select the column and/or enter the email adress of the person(s) you want to send the change to (including a Me option).

The most complicated one is “a column value changes” as this will ask you the column, e.g. “Status”, the condition (“is” or “is not”) and the value, e.g. “Completed”, and then the email address.

Setting the Rule for when a column value changes
  • You do not get a confirmation email
  • The sender is SharePoint Online
  • When the conditions are met, you will get the following emails:
The notifications from Rules; for Personal Lists they are in Dutch
The email body from this Rule; please note that it uses the known document management icons
Another mail, deleted this time.

But wait, there’s more!

The Reminder, of course! That is a long-desired option that has always been missing in Alerts.

The long-awaited reminder function!

This reminder option will send a notification x days before a certain date. This date needs to be a Time and Date field and can not be a calculated field, so any calculated Due Dates can not be done.
In this case, a reminder before the Data reported is also quite silly, as this is an Issue tracker and the Date Reported is at best Today and sometimes even in the past.

The reminders are Power Automate, and you can find them under My Flows.

The reminders are based on Power Automate

I have set a reminder for 1 day before the Estimated Close date on May 4. So I expected the mail on May 3, but it only arrived on May 4, 01.00 hours. So you have to select the interval carefully.

The Reminders
And this is the reminder mail, the other one is similar. Note the time sent!

What do I think?

  • ๐Ÿ‘ You can set Alerts and Rules in personal Lists. It can be useful when you are sharing a List with someone.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ Rules are easy to set up – you can use “Me” to send an email to yourself
  • ๐Ÿ‘ Rules use a familiar look and feel for emails – it looks like sharing emails and uses the regular document management icons
  • ๐Ÿ‘‰ The Reminder option can be useful, but it only works on dates in the future that you pick yourself. An option to work on calculated dates would be nice!
  • ๐Ÿ‘‰ The Reminder option works, but you have to test whether your reminder arrives on the desired time. In this experiment, 1 day turned out to be “on the day itself”.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Rules do not take a change of list name into account. I changed the personal list to “Issue tracker Personal” but the email from the Rule did not adjust. The email from the Alert did, so did the mail from the Reminder.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž I miss a Rule for: “any changes in the List”. Quite often more than one column is changed, so that would mean you will need to set more Rules in order to be informed properly. You can set 15 rules on any List.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž The information in the email from Rules is minimal – you have to go to the List to see what has changed. This makes Alerts more useful for any changes except Deletions
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž The emails could benefit from more visual (typographic or otherwise) distinction between the actions and values, e.g. ” Ellen van Aken changed Assigned To to Ellen van Aken for SharePoint News does not show the latest items
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž The sender of a Rule notification is always SharePoint Online – that gives less information than the sender of Alerts, which is yourself (for a personal list) or the SharePoint site name (for a SharePoint list). Especially when you have created many Rules, it may be hard to see what’s what.

Conclusion

I think this is very promising functionality, but I think it can be improved, especially on “information scent”. For the time being I prefer the good old fashioned Alert. It does not look as nice, but it gives you more information!

What are your thoughts/experiences?

SharePoint Holmes and the No-show News

The case

One of our Communication sites has changed hands recently. The former owner was very active in her site and we often referred people to that site as a showcase for Communication sites.
She left and someone else took over. The new owner attended one of our Webinars and told us she felt confident managing the site. Last week she asked for help – she had published a News item for the first time and although it showed on the SharePoint start page she could not find it in her site.

On the SharePoint start page, news item are displayed in chronological (First published) order. The item on the left is the most recent.
The homepage of the site in question. The latest item is nowhere to be seen.

The investigation

I remember seeing the post on my SharePoint start page and thinking “Ah, she did it! Good to see that that site is active again”. But I had not looked at the site.

  • I went to the site and there was the homepage, seemingly untouched since the last owner left. (see screenshot above)
  • I created a new page with the News web part and noticed that the new item was displayed in first position.
A new page with the News web part as is – the new item is in first position.
  • I checked the web part settings of the News web part on the home page.
  • After checking the web part layout and settings, I checked the bottom of the web part menu. And yes, what I suspected was true: ALL news items had been fixed on the page, blocking display of all new News items.
All 4 News items are pinned in a fixed position. This means that new items will be displayed below these.

The solution

That was relatively simple:

In web part editing mode, I clicked on each x after the News item’s title. The chronological order revealed itself, and the latest News became visible.

“Native web part” (in chronological order).

I think pinning all News items is not a good idea. I can imagine that you will want to keep one or (at the very most) two things visible for some time, but to fix them all in their place is defying the purpose of having a News functionality. Default is best, because it is news and it is supposed to change! Also, it can really puzzle your successor ๐Ÿ˜‰
And I personally keep forgetting how it is done; the functionality is a bit weird.

More on creating SharePoint News in my earlier post:

16 things to know about creating SharePoint News

And by the way…

I noticed that the web part picker no longer has an expand option. That means you can no longer have a large overview of available web parts. You can now choose between a grid and a list view, and you can search, or scroll.

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 Iโ€™d introduceย SharePoint Holmes, SharePointย investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.