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. πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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.

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 πŸ˜‰
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 I’d introduceΒ SharePoint Holmes, SharePointΒ investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.

New! The SharePoint app bar

“Hey, that’s weird, there’s only five News items on my SharePoint start page, not six,” I noticed the other day. When I looked a bit better at the page, I saw that something had been added on the left side of the page: the SharePoint app bar. At that moment, the only item that worked was the Home button, which led me to the SharePoint start page. Which, seeing that I already was on that page, was not a real advantage 😁. The other options showed an empty popup.

So, after asking around on Twitter, it turned out that more people had it and that they also saw empty popups, but Melissa Torres, the developer of this functionality at Microsoft, was so kind to confirm that it was populating, and indeed, the next day everything worked as it should.

Thank you, everyone who responded to my Tweet! πŸ‘‡

Many people responded to my Tweet, including Melissa Torres from Microsoft.

What does it do?

Here’s a nice explainer video from Melissa Torres. (Thank you, Phil Worrell, for sharing that)

  • This is the Microsoft documentation.
  • The app bar is displayed on the SharePoint start page and all sites with modern pages. We have some “classic” sites at work (well…modern but with a classic homepage) and it does not show on the home page but when you navigate to a document library you see it.
  • The app bar allows you to quickly move between content and sites, so when you in one site and need to go to another, you do not necessarily have to go via the SharePoint start page.
  • There are 4 buttons, see Tweet above, top to bottom:
    • 🏠 Home, which takes you back to the SharePoint start page, or, if your organization has a Home site specified, to the global navigation.
    • 🌍 My Sites, which shows your frequently visited sites and your followed sites
    • πŸ“° My News, which shows you about 8 recent News items
    • πŸ“„ My Files, which are recent documents you opened or worked on

Is the SharePoint app bar something to celebrate?

🌍 I was especially interested in My Sites. We do not have a SharePoint-based intranet yet, and we currently use SharePoint mainly for document management, generally in sites with limited permissions. We are slowly starting with communication sites and News, but the majority is “closed” sites. We have a custom web part showing “My Sites”, showing all sites you have access to, and I recently got some feedback that this was no longer displaying all sites. I wondered if this would solve that problem.

There is a Microsoft User Voice (what are these rumours I hear about closing that down?) asking for an out-of-the-box functionality that shows all sites you have access to, but that has been on the waiting list since 2017. Microsoft indicates that with a SharePoint intranet, there will be many sites everyone will have access to, so a list like that will be confusing rather than helpful. They suggest to use Following and looking at Recently visited sites, in order to create your own list. I will have some convincing to do, as the “All my Sites” is apparently popular functionality and now I need to tell people to “DIY”.
I know “Do It Yourself” is a Microsoft thing, but that does not necessarily resonate with everyone. πŸ˜‰

So, in that way My Sites is a bit of a disappointment, as it does not show “All My Sites” but rather “Recently/Frequently visited” and “Followed sites”. I think this is definitely useful but we will have to help people to make this useful for them. I can see the benefits of a quick switch between sites.

🏠 The Home button is at present not really useful, as there is a SharePoint button in every site to take you back to the SharePoint start page. When we have a Home site, and a global navigation, this button will be more interesting.

Every site has a link that takes you back to the SharePoint homepage

πŸ“° The My News option is nice, but to be honest, News is not THAT important that I need to be able to switch to it quickly when doing something else.

πŸ“„ My documents can be useful. I may need to find a certain document when working in a SharePoint site.

And this…

❓ I also wonder about what happened to plans for the SharePoint start page – about a year ago we were told that the left column would go away, but that never happened. I then thought that every “application landing page” would get the full list of Microsoft 365 apps, as we currently see on the Forms homepage, but that may also not be true.
So, perhaps the app bar will replace the left column? Oh well, we will see.

πŸ‘ All this may be a reason to get rid of classic pages!

πŸ‘Ž I am less happy with the fact that I can only see 5 news items on the start page.

What do you think?

SharePoint Holmes and the Disappearing Digest link

It has been some time that SharePoint Holmes’ skills were required to deal with a strange issue. But here he is again – this time with a mysterious issue with SharePoint News!

The case

Last time I mentioned a colleague who had started a new site, and who is very happy with the SharePoint News and the News digest. I had given her a short demo of creating both and emphasized that she needed to have at least 5 News articles before the link “See all” would appear on her News web part.

She called me some time after to ask why she did not see the “See all”. She had 5 news items but the link did not show.

No “See all” link on top of the News web part (left)

The investigation

I counted the News articles but yes, she had 6, so the link should be visible.

Perhaps it had to do with the page, one way or the other? So I checked:

  • Section colour – a wide shot but as she had used the dark section background perhaps there was a contrast issue?
  • The web part settings – you have a number of layouts for News items, such as a list or a Hub, and there are also some options per layout.
  • Number of columns – did perhaps a narrow column hide the link?

I just played around, changing the layouts and fiddling with the various options. Current SharePoint pages are so easy to change, that it is really not a lot of work, compared to the old pages!

The solution

Of course I should have trusted Microsoft that they know how to make sufficient contrast – the background colour had no negative influence.
A narrow column made no difference either – there is always room for “See all”. You see it in other web parts as well.
The web part itself was the culprit. There are actually TWO situations in the Layout when the “See all” does not appear:

  1. You use the Hub News layout – for one reason or another this NEVER shows the “See all”
  2. You deselect “Show title and commands“.
If you switch off “Show title and commands” you will not get the “See all” link

The latter was the problem in this case. My colleague did not like the extra space that the title took, so she had decided not to show that when she configured the page. When she hit 5 articles, she expected the link to show, as she did not realize that she had turned it off.
I can’t blame her, I only found out after she had called me!

The desired end result. You see it takes more space.

The tip

So, if you like the Hub News layout, or you want to hide the web part title, and you still want to create a News digest, you may want to do either of this:

  • Change the web part layout temporarily into another style, and go back to it when you have created your Newsletter
  • Create an additional page with a layout that supports See all, to create your Newsletters from.

I knew something would turn up as my 10th “Things to know about the SharePoint News digest“, so I have added it just now! 😁

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.

SharePoint News or List?

One of my colleagues asked me to help her with setting up a “news functionality” in a communications site. She had the following requirements:

  • nice and inviting looking, with images
  • easy to add news for two or three publishers
  • readers have the option to set an email notification

SharePoint News?

SharePoint News is excellent of course, but it does not lend itself well to notifications, as we have seen before.

Sending a News digest then? No, because the site owner does not know whom to send it to. The content is not confidential and the site is accessible for all employees. The content is not of interest for all employees, so sending it to “All Employees” is not a good option either. Any other option would need her to maintain users – but she has kept the site open so she does not have to maintain anything more than some publishers.

Same issue with a Power Automate action – although that works better than a notification, she does not know whom to send it to. And asking all interested people to create a workflow themselves would create a ton of support questions. “Low-code” is still “too much code” for someone who is not interested in creating workflows.
BTW, I have used the “Send a customized email when a new file is added” template for some time, which sends a link to a recently published News item.

A list, then?

So I decided to check something else. Whatever happened to the good old Announcement list, that I have used so often in earlier roles? And had I not recently seen a new list template with a large image on display?
I decided to check if one of these could meet all requirements. Besides, it would provide a good reason to play with the new Lists app πŸ™‚

Announcement list?

πŸ‘Ž There is no Announcement list template in a Communication site. I knew that the Communication site has fewer options, but I just forgot that this was also not available.

πŸ‘ When I started to work from a Custom List, I found that I could add a column to upload a picture. That must be new – I only remember the unpleasant option for “hyperlink or picture” that needs a link and a properly formatted image.

πŸ‘ The Custom List now also has a Gallery View option, which I used to create a News view, consisting of

  • Image (upload)
  • Title (single line of text)
  • Body (multiple lines of text)
  • Created (system)

πŸ‘‰ You will need to have the picture stored on your PC when you create a news item in this way. This means you can not use those lovely Stock Photo, Search on Web and Organizational Assets options you have when creating a News item, but I guess that for some people this may not be a problem.

πŸ‘ Looks nice when added to a page.

πŸ‘ When you click on an item from the page, you can read the item in full.

πŸ‘Ž Notifications work as expected, but instead of a thumbnail of the image, you see an unpleasant URL.

This is a notification email. The image does not display. The title (highlighted) is clickable and leads to the item.

Asset Manager list?

So, I decided to investigate that Asset Manager list template that I saw displayed in the new Lists app.
After a few tests, I removed all columns except:

  • Device Photo (which I renamed to Image)
  • Asset Tag (which in the List settings is called Title and cannot be renamed, single line of text)
  • Condition Notes (which is the only Multiple line of text field in the list). I renamed that to “Body” to be in line with the Announcements list.
  • I created a News view based on the Asset Gallery View and added that to the page

Well, it looked as if I just recreated that Custom List πŸ™‚ It behaved in exactly the same way as the other one.

Other observations about Lists

When you click “Create an app” from the Site menu, it leads you to the old page with the different list templates. When you click “New List” from the Site Contents page you go to the new List apps creation page. You can also select “New App” which will lead you to the “old” lists.
I hope this will get streamlined over time as it can be a bit confusing.

The “oldfashioned” apps when you click the gear wheel.
Clicking “List” will give you the new Lists options, and using “App” will give you the “oldfashioned” lists.

You will see a bit of the body text if you use “Plain Text” in the body. If you use “Rich Text” or “Enhanced Rich Text”, it will not display. I personally like the Rich Text, as it gives you just a few more options, but I guess you will need to decide what is most important.

The body text in the Announcements list is Rich Text, while the body text in the Asset list is Plain Text.

When you click on an item from the page, you see a reasonably nice page to read the full news item.
If you click from the list, you get a much more unpleasant view, huddled to the right with a “Show more” link for the body text, even if the text is not that long.

If you click on the title of the item from the web part on the page, you will get this.
When you click on the item from the list itself, you get this. You have to click on “See more” even though there is not THAT much text.

Conclusion

All three options can facilitate creating news items easily, once someone has set up those lists and web parts.

All options together on one page.

SharePoint News is superior in options for making great pages, and also has more display options for the web part, but the other lists provide better options for notifications, although the notification email is very plain.

Owner’s decision

When the site owner saw the SharePoint News, and the News digest, she fell in love instantly and decided that maintaining a Distribution List (yikes, but one of the few options to send a News digest quickly to a large audience) for her “core audience” was worth the extra work. The “core audience” can then distribute it to others.

Case completed πŸ™‚

VR image by Florian Pircher on Pixabay

Computer image by Sora ShimazakiΒ on Pexels

Chairs image by Skitterphoto on Pexels

Curses for intranet and digital workplace peeps

Curses-headerWith Halloween upon us, here are a couple ofΒ  fright-inducing wishes for people that manage or support your Office365-based intranet or digitalworkplace. Courtesy of your “Wicked Witch of the Dutch” πŸ™‚

This post has been inspired by Comms Curses by Helen Reynolds.

So, be aware if someone throws one of these spells on you.

Computer and network curses

  • May your bandwidth be forever restricted
  • My your wifi drop when you are presenting your new intranet to your Board of Management
  • May your migrations be throttled due to too much content being migrated at the same time
  • May your computer need a mandatory reboot in the middle of a global webinar that you are hosting
    This happened to me once. Thanks to whoever threw that spell on me!Β 

Office 365 Functionality curses

Office 365 has tons of good, well-designed functionalities that you take for granted. So what if someone curses you with sudden changes?Curses-MayAllVideos

  • May all your embedded videos start autoplaying at the highest volume when you open the page
  • May Search and Delve forget their security trimming
    As if their normal behaviour is not puzzling enough!Β 
  • May all pictures on your SharePoint modern pages be deleted
  • May all your Flows stop working without warning
  • May all SharePoint document and list item permissions be unique

Organizational curses

An organizational change can have an enormous impact on your digital workplace. Trust me, I have been there. So you can create a lot of panic and work when you throw an organizational curse someone’s way:

  • May your intranet need to merge with that of the organization that has just bought your organization
    Are you already looking forward to the discussions about who has got the best one?
  • May part of your organization be divested, making it necessary to move that part of your Office365 content to another tenant
    This happened at my earlier employer, and I tried to write about the project, but it was so much and so complicated that I stopped
  • May your CEO suddenly come up with the suggestion to replace Office365 with the platform of this nice small vendor that (s)he just met at this event
    Good luck with talking him or her out of that brilliant idea! CurseofCustomization
  • May your intranet owner insist on home page customizations
    I wrote The Curse of Customization about this
  • May all your SharePoint site owners leave at the same time without providing successors
    Divestitures or large reorganizations can do that
  • May your organization decide to cut your MVP-improvement budget, forcing you to stay at an imperfect and slowly declining level for the next few years
  • May your Office365 support and/or tenant administration be outsourced
    I wrote Ouch-Sourcing about this – and I may write more
  • May your introduction video, meant for employees only, go viral after being uploaded without hiding or security and being included in my Video Collection
    πŸ™‚

Microsoft curses

The havoc that Microsoft brings upon us now and then is reality rather than imagined πŸ˜‰ but just in case you want to scare your enemy, let’s go:

  • May Microsoft introduce new standard functionality that you have just custom-developed yourselfspnewsreader-header
    My previous organization had just spend a lot of time and money on a custom-built News solution, when Microsoft announced…News!
  • May the latest update turn your MVP into a NVP
  • May Microsoft roll out unwanted changes without warning or without the option to undo them.Β 
  • May all your employees suddenly be able to buy their own licenses. Oh wait… πŸ™‚
    You can still vote on UserVoice to block this!Β 

What to do when you have been hit by a curse?

I am working on the counter-spells but until now I have not been very successful…

Whoohahahahahahahahahahaha!

Curses-witch2

Pixel witch image courtesy of saphatthachat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Noise image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Voodoo doll image courtesy of Kheat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
News image courtesy of rawpixel.com on pexels.com
Witch with pumkin image courtesty of Lekkyjustdoit on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

10 things to know as a SharePoint News reader

spnewsreader-headerIn 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:

  1. The site where it has been published
  2. The site overview (click “See all” on the web part after publishing 5 articles)
  3. News digests (Newsletters), consisting of the above, gathered with previews in an email
  4. The SharePoint app
  5. “News from sites” on the SharePoint landing page
  6. Β 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 πŸ™‚ )

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.

SPNewsreader-comment
Likes and comments are available. If you @mention someone, they will get an email.

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:

  1. At the bottom of the post you will see an option to “Save for later”.

    SPNewsreader-savefrompost
    You can save an article for later by clicking the label at the bottom of the page.
  2. You can also click the label of any News article that you see on the “News from sites” overviews.
  3. In the SharePoint app you can click the … at the right of each article and select “Save for later”

    SPNewsreader-how to save
    From the Newsfeed in the app you can also save for later. Sorry – in Dutch πŸ™‚

There are 3 places to see your saved articles:

  1. 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? πŸ™‚ )

    SPNewsreader-savedfromSPPage
    The highlighted label show that this News article is “saved for later”. You can (un)save on this page by clicking the label.
  2. On your SharePoint landing page, in the left-hand menu under “Saved”

    SPNewsreader-savedSPpage
    You will see “Saved” News articles in the left-hand column on the SharePoint landing page.
  3. In the SharePoint app News, under Filter (on top) you can select the “Saved Items”.

    SPNewsreader-appfilter
    Click the Filter and select “Saved Items”. Sorry for the Dutch! πŸ™‚

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!

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 πŸ™‚

SPNewsreader-mobile (2)
Someone I work with has posted one (1) News article.

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.

SPNewsReader-alert1
First Alert you will get – yikes!

SPNewsreader-alert2
You get this one minute later.

  • If you set an Alert for “When new items are added” you get…nothing!
  • Update January 2021: Power Automate has a good option these days. I have been using the template “Send a customized email when a new file is added” and that works well.
  • 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.

LikesNews
I have liked both post and comment, but can only unlike one.Β 

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

10 things to know about the SharePoint News digest

After my massive list of things-to-be-aware-of when creating and managing SharePoint News, I though it would be good to share some lessons about the News digest (Newsletter) separately.

The News digest is a Newsletter created from News articles. It looks very nice in all browser and systems:

SPNewsDigest-Newsletteremail
The News digest as an email

This is what it looks like as a page:

SPNewsDigest-Newsletterpage
The News digest page or the “web version”.

So, here’s a few things that are not in the official support article but may be relevant.

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!

SPNEwsDigest-See all
The elusive “See all” link that allows you to send a News digest

2. The order is by selecting – the first article you select is on top.

This is independent of the creating or publishing order.Β  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.

SPNewsDigest-moveitems
The yellow-marked icon shows “Move” and allows you to change the order.

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
  • Both the support info and this blog by Juan Carlos Gonzalez Martin show that the site icon is displayed 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!

SPNewsdigest-logoandname
The logo (that I would like to be customizable), and the site name.

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.
  • You will break the permission inheritance in the pages library, so every page will have its own permissions.
  • 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.

SPNewsdigest-linkontop
Easy to reach for giving access.

He grumbled a bit but is IS a sign of success when people forward the News digest πŸ™‚

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.

SPNewsDigest-access
The new access request mail allows you to select role (but not Group) and Approve/Decline, for this specific News article.

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! πŸ™‚

SPNewsDigest-accessrenamed
I renamed that article into “Share your best holiday pix” but the request goes to the old name 😦

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. The web part layout determines if there is a “See all” link

I only recently found out that the Hub News layout does not show a “See all” link, even when you have 5 items or more. Additionally, if you turn off “Show title and commands” in the web part, the link will not show either.

Next steps?

Overall, our audience was positive about the News digest and we have already received inquiries from another team.Β 

My next post will be about experiencing SharePoint News as a reader. Stay tuned!

15 things to know about creating SharePoint News

SPNews-headerLast week we distributed our first SharePoint News digest!Β  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.

The process of creating and publishing a News article is pretty straightforward, but my Communications colleague had a ton of questions which were not always readily documented.

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)Β  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! πŸ™‚

SPNews-sphomepage
27 m’s, 100 i’s and 48 letters of my test text on the SharePoint landing page.

SpNews-homepagesidebyside
25 m’s, enough i’s to give you a headache πŸ™‚ , en 43 test letters on the News web part.

SPNews-Mobile
37 m’s, 110 i’s and 59 letters of test text in the SharePoint app (iOS)

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.

SPNews-Blackletterswhennoimage
The regular header has black letters

SPNews-whitelettersiwhtpicture
I have selected the whitest background I could find, but it still appears greyish and with white letters…

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 πŸ™‚ ).Β  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.

SPNews-PromotedState1
How to add the column that shows whether something is a News Article or not.

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 πŸ™‚ ) And also remember to click “Apply”!

SPNews=Promotedstate2
It is the “Promoted State” column that enables you to see the difference between News Article and another page.

SPNews-PromotedState3
“Promoted State” can be 0, 1 or 2

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.

SPNews-Unpublish

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.

SPNews-authorbyline
The Author Byline (yellow mark) is the author name that will be displayed.

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”.

SPNews-changeorder
By default this webpart (side-by-side) orders automatically, but you can change that.

Drag and drop the News Article(s) you want to keep in the same place, to the desiredΒ  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!

SPNews-reorder webpart
You can drag and drop any item you want to “pin” in a fixed position to the right and move it up or down there. You see that the 3rd item is already appearing in 1st place.

SPNews-afterreorder
After pinning the 3rd item into the 1st position, new articles appear in 2nd place. This item will be in place until you remove it manually.

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!

SPNews-site assets
Your Site Pages library has a dedicated folder in the Site Assets

SPNews-siteassets2
Every News article has a dedicated folder, often with only one image 😦

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.Β  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.

Tracy van der Schyff: Creating banners for your online SharePoint pages.

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!

What’s next?

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!

Image by kconcha at pixabay.com

Using OneNote during a conference

OneNotevisual

It all started out with a tweet by Simon Bisson:

I really liked that idea but I could not very well imagine how it worked exactly. And as this is another way I can make work easier for my colleagues, who generally do not have the time or the interest to find out these things, I decided to try it and write it all down. The Office 365 and SharePoint Connect conference in Haarlem was a good moment to test it all, using a tablet, but it works the same on a PC.

The day before the conference

  • Make sure you have the OneNote app installed on your tablet/PC and smartphone, and that you are logged in on both devices with the same account.
  • If you have never used the camera option of OneNote on your phone, make sure you know where to find it, and practice by photographing something, e.g. your PC screen, with the automatic edge detection and cropping.
  • Create a notebook for conferences.
  • Create a section for the next conference. From there you can create a page for each session.

    OneNote-booksetup
    I have created a Section for the Connect conference, and have one page per session.
  • Charge your devices and a power bank if you have one. It may be my iPad but it devoured battery. A charger may be useful as well, to use during breaks.
  • Clean the camera lens on your phone πŸ™‚

Before each session

  • Make sure your devices are connected to the conference wifi
  • Create a page for the next session
  • Open tablet/PC and phone on the session’s page

During the session

  • Make notes on your tablet/PC
  • Whenever you want to capture a slide, take a picture with your phone while both phone and tablet/PC are on the session page with the cursor below the current notes. Take the picture when the purple lines are around the slide. The “Document” picture option appears to give the best results.
  • The picture captured in the purple lines will be added to the page at the place where your cursor is, on both devices.

    OneNoteinpage
    I took the picture, focusing on the slide, and this was added to the page. See below for the original photo.

After the conference

  • Process your notes like you are used to.
  • Remove the original pictures from your phone’s photo gallery to free up space. Your slide pictures will still stay in OneNote.

    OneNote-original image
    This is the original picture which stays on your phone and takes up space.

Conclusion

I really like this option. I love the fact that the cropped image automagically appears in your notes πŸ™‚ . I also like the fact that you have the slides immediately; of course you can also wait until the organization makes the decks available, but by that time I generally no longer have the time and patience to cut and paste all this.