SharePoint Holmes and the not-so-Dynamic Description

The case

“Can you help me? I have edited my SharePoint News post two days ago, but the old text is still visible on the News page, under the title. How can I update it?”

SharePoint Holmes had not had a request for help recently, so he was eager to jump in! šŸ˜

The investigation

Not everyone knows that the text underneath the post title on a News web part is determined by the text in the Description field. You can find the Description field in the Page Details on the post or page in question. I recently wrote about the behaviour of this Description field.

On my site’s Homepage I changed the News web part into a List view. This shows a good portion of the Description text.

I created and published a new post.

The new post, with part of the first paragraph in the Description

I checked the Description, and it matched the text; it showed almost the entire first paragraph.

As expected, the Description matches with the body text.

I then made a change to the first part of body text, republished, and checked the Description field.

The Description field still contained the old text, and on the News page the old preview text was still visible.

New body text, but still the old Description.

I then manually changed the Description text into a short summary. I had to change it manually anyway, so I tried to improve it.

As I had to redo the Description text anyway, I thought I’d make it a one-sentence summary.
This is the new Description. I think it looks much better than a sentence that trails off halfway.

The solution

Unfortunately, the Description field does not update itself when you make a change to the introduction text of a news post or page. You will have to manually update it if you want to reflect any edits.
Of course, this behaviour does not always have to be a problem. If you only make small edits, or edits in another part of the text, you do not necessarily need to change the Description.

But even if you do not need to change the text, you may want to change the Description into a snappy one-liner that immediately informs your audience about the essence of your post.

And by the way, I have now found #7 of my post 7 things to know about the Description field in SharePoint pages and news! Told you! šŸ˜Š

I accidentally I have also found #8: The Description field is shown in the Newsletter digest. Not unexpected, of course, but now it has been confirmed.

The Description is also shown in the Newsletter.

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

7 things to know about the Description field in SharePoint pages and news

My former colleague recently asked me how to add metadata or tags to SharePoint news or pages, in order to be able to make them link to a certain common topic, and be able to find them in Search.

My first thought was to add metadata to the pages in the Pages Library, but I quickly dismissed that thought as it would mean that every publisher would have to go into the library after publication to add their metadata. It would also mean that every Page Library would have to have those fields added and back-filled and oh well, I got tired just by thinking about the implications! šŸ˜„

But then we remembered that we had once added something on the page, “somewhere in a popup to the right”. I started investigating.

It turned out that the place to look for is the Description field. You can find it by clicking on the link “Page Details” during or after creating a new post or page.

There are a few things to know about this field.

1. The Description field is almost on top of the popup

It is directly under the thumbnail of the header image.

After clicking on Page Details (1) the popup will open and you will see the Description (2).

However, the popup often opens “in the middle” so you need to scroll up to see it.

If the popup opens like this, please scroll up!

2. The Description field is auto-populated after publishing

It will be populated with the first 255 characters of the body text.

SharePoint will tell you how many characters you have left.

3. You can change or remove the text after publishing

Now why would you want to change the description text manually? Items 4 and 5 will provide the answer!

4. The text in Description is shown in the News web part

Rather than having a text that suddenly ends in the middle of a sentence, you may want to edit the Description to provide a good summary to your readers.

The number of characters displayed is depending on the configuration of the web part, e.g.

  • If you have no image, you will see more characters than with an image.
  • If your News is in a page-wide column, you will see more characters than when it is one of three columns.
  • Hub, Carousel and Tiles layouts do not show descriptions.
In the red-lined example, we can remove all text behind the ! in the Description and have one proper sentence.

This preview is not relevant for pages, as these are not shown on web parts.

5. The text in Description is shown in Search results

When you have executed a search, in all of Microsoft365, SharePoint or your site, the Description text will show in the Search results, at least the text around the keyword.

Please compare this screenshot of a news web part, where the word “peregrine” is only

  1. In the title
  2. In the body text
  3. In the Description
  4. In a different text web part

To this screenshot of a search on the word “Peregrine” in the Microsoft365 homepage search box. The numbers correspond to the list above.

The search word ‘peregrine” is in various places in the news posts, but they will all turn up in search.

Please note that I have filtered the search for News, to avoid that the various images that have been auto-uploaded to the Site Assets library during news creation, clutter the list. How was it again with images in SharePoint news? This post will tell you all.

6. The text in Description is searchable

From the screenshots you can see that the keywords can be on various places on the page, but the posts all turn up in Search.
This means that you can add keywords or metadata in the Description, without having to use that text in the title or body of the post or page.

For News, you’d best add the keywords at the bottom of the field after the summary text, so you do not show the keywords alone in the news preview. My news post 3 only has “peregrine” in the Description, and it makes a meagre preview on News.

For pages, you want to make sure that you have a good text for Search, but you do not need to worry about any preview.

Please note that I chose the word “peregrine” in my example because I have not used it before in this tenant. In real-life you will get more search results so you may need to filter.

7. The text in Description is not dynamic

When you are editing your post after publication, the description will not be adjusted. This does not have to be an issue, but you need to be aware, especially when you have edited the first paragraph of your post. My post SharePoint Holmes and the not-so-dynamic Description tells you more.

You can leave the description as is, replace it with the new intro, or even better, replace it with a summary of your post so your readers get the gist immediately!

8. The Description shows up in Newsletter

It will be no surprise, but just to be complete. The Description is also displayed underneath the title in the SharePoint Newsletter.

Conclusion

The Description field in the Page Details can be very useful in the following scenarios:

  • Providing a one-sentence summary of your news post on the News page(s) and Newsletters instead of the first words that trail off somew…
  • Making sure the post or page can be found in Search results. You can add the relevant keywords without having to add them to the title or the text. For instance, if it is related to a certain project or topic, but you do not want to use that word all the time.

Do you have other scenarios?

Are you using the Description field consciously or do you have another scenario where it comes in useful? Please let me know!

Diverting SharePoint News comments to the Author

K: “Hi Ellen, can you post this on the ICT News page for me, please?”

E: “Sure Karla, will do and I’ll let you know when you can review it.”

K: “Can you make sure all comments are directed to me?”

E: “Uh…I do not know if that is possible, I will try to find out.”

The other day a reader of my blog asked me how you can send the News comments to the person mentioned as the Author (rather than the person who created the post). I did not have an answer ready, so I decided to find out and report. I love investigating these kinds of things and finding as many workarounds as I can!
And yes, I have found a few workarounds.

Recap of the basics:

1. Read my earlier post on the topic

I suggest you read my earlier post “4 ways to manage comments on SharePoint news and pages” as a starting point.

2. By default, the Creator of the News post = the Author

When you use the defaults, the post will appear with you as the Author.
When you post something on someone else’s behalf, it is possible to click on the Author field and insert name or email address of the author. The author’s name will then be displayed on various places as the responsible person for this post.
You can simply click on the field below the title and insert the name/email address of the author. BTW, this is called the Author Byline. You can make the Author Byline visible in the Site Pages library (see screenshot with #6)

You can add the Author (when this is someone else than the publisher) by clicking on the highlighted field.

3. Readers can Like and Comment to posts and comments

There’s a simple thumbs-icon for Likes and a field to add comments. Anyone who can read the News post can give feedback.

This setting is enabled by default. If you find it is not, check with your SharePoint or Office365 admin because this is a setting in the SharePoint admin center > Settings >Pages.
The Author can decide to turn Comments off, but for News I do not think this is good practice. For Pages it can be a good idea, especially if they are meant for long-term usage.

You can Like or Comment at the bottom of the post, when enabled.

4. You can receive or stop email notifications of Likes and/or Comments

  • Check your settings on the SharePoint Homepage.
  • Click the gear wheel top right
  • Select Email Notifications Settings
  • Make sure you have the first 3 enabled if you want to be notified.

Please note this setting is for all sites you have access to, so you cannot set this per site.

On the SharePoint home page, you can click gear wheel and then Email notifications settings
The top 3 buttons should be enabled to receive notifications

5. External publishers (Creators or Authors) NEVER get email notifications

I do not think this will be a big deal for most organizations, but in my own tenant, where I am the only user, I always need externals when I want to test things like these.
So I need to plan my tests carefully. šŸ˜Š

6. You can show Likes in the Pages Library

You can make the column Like Count visible in the Pages Library. This can be helpful if you do not want to receive an email every time, but you do want to keep track of Likes.
You cannot show Comments in this way, nor is there a list of Comments in the site, as far as I know.

Like count is a column that you can add to a Site Pages library view. To the right you see the name of the Author of the post (Author Byline). In most cases this is me, but some posts have another author.

7. Email notifications only go to the Creator of the post

And this is where the problem is. Although Karla would like to receive a notification of the comments, they will always be sent to me.

How can I make sure that the Author gets notified of comments and likes?

There is no simple straightforward way to set this, but workarounds a. to d. may help:

a. Train people to ALWAYS @ the Author when making a comment

As you do not see who the Creator is (unless you go to the Site Pages library) this will have to become a habit for every post within the organization. This will need education and change management!

These comments will go to the Creator (when mentioned) and also to external Creators and Authors, so this is very dependable. šŸ˜Š

However, if you are a Creator who has disabled Comments on the SharePoint homepage, you will still get these messages. šŸ˜’

@mentioning the Author is workable, but will need change management

b. Use an Outlook Rule to forward Comments to the Author

The Creator must be internal and needs to make sure he or she has comments enabled on their SharePoint Home Page. They can then forward notification mails to the Author.

If they always create News for someone else, or for the same person, they can add a simple Forward rule based on the word “Comment” in the subject.

This Rule will forward all comments and replies to comments to Mystery Guest.

If they only occasionally post News on someone else’s behalf, they will need to be more specific and create a new Outlook Rule for every post, based on the title. šŸ˜’

In case the Creator only posts something on someone’s behalf occasionally, they will need to set a Rule for each post, based on the title of the post.

If the Creator does not like to have the comments, they can add an additional rule that these messages are deleted immediately after forwarding.

This also works for external Authors, providing your organization has not blocked external forwarding.

c. Use PowerAutomate

I tried to find a “trigger” for the addition of a Comment or Like, in order to notify the person in Author Byline if this was different from the person in Modified By, but could not find it. Whenever I thought I had a good trigger, I could not select the Site Pages library, so I guess Power Automate does not want me to automate something from here. (Which is strange, as the Power Automate link is visible in the Site Pages library)
Does anyone know if this is correct? Or have I just selected the wrong triggers?

Of course you can use Power Automate to forward the email that goes to the Creator, but I find Outlook Rules much easier to use.

d. Add a web part with instructions to move the conversation to Yammer or Teams

You can also disable Comments and divert the discussion to a Yammer or Teams community. The Author can set notifications there and join the discussion.
(For external Authors, please make sure you have externally facing communities!)

This will be most useful for updates for important projects that will stay in the organization for some time, as it will allow you to have an ongoing conversation about the project and its outcomes.
For a very temporary news post I think it is too much work, unless you have a generic News discussion community.

An example of diverting Comments to an open Yammer community with the relevant Yammer web part to the right.
You can also divert Comments to an open Team site. There is no web part, so I used a button, but if you publish this news in a Teams-connected SharePoint site, people can find the Team easier.

There are also some options that do NOT work or are not advisable:

e. Set Alert for Likes

Likes or Comments do not count as a “Modification of an existing item”. The Modified column shows no change when a Like or Comment is added. So, an Alert does not work for this purpose.

f. Set SharePoint Rule “when column value changes”

Sadly, this type of Rule, available for most types of modern Libraries and Lists, is not available for Site Pages libraries. šŸ˜’

For more information on this nice, but rather obscure functionality, read my earlier post: List Alerts Rule.

Rules available on all types of Lists
Rules available on all types of libraries, except the Site Pages libraries

g. Add a web part with instructions and Author’s contact details

You could disable Comments and add the Author’s contact details and ask people to message or email them. (Just clicking on the Author’s name will already bring these details, but you may need to be more specific)
Apart from being extra work for the Creator, this will make the comments invisible to the rest of the organization. Comments are meant to start some open discussion in the organization. Moving this discussion to a personal email conversation is not the way to go.

You can try to redirect people to email but that is really not the way to go.

Conclusion

I think being able to redirect Comments to the Author of a News post or page is useful functionality. There are a number of items on this topic in the Microsoft Feedback Portal and you may want to add your votes.

Depending on the situation one of the following workarounds may work:

  • The best option for now is to train your users to always use the @mentioning in Comments. This will always send a notification to the person in question, external or not.
    However, this will override disabled notifications for Comments on the SharePoint home page. šŸ˜’
  • If you post for the same person on a regular basis, you can set an Outlook Rule to forward the comment email to the Author.
  • If the News is part of an important organizational topic or project (and you post on behalf of the Project Manager, for instance) you may want to switch off Comments on the page and direct people to a Yammer or Teams community for any comments and discussion.

Please let me know if you have found other options!

Can the document library web part look like Stream?

OneDrive and SharePoint will be the storage location for video in Office365. I have already shown earlier how to display your videos on SharePoint pages.

I was curious to learn what you can do with the document library web part for this purpose, knowing that the recommended Highlighted Content web part lacks some functionality compared to the Stream web part. I also liked the Card view for the Document Library, so I wanted to check what it can do. Not just because I like playing around with these things, but also so you, Office365 support person, does not have to do it yourself! You are already busy enough.
So the question is:

Can the Document Library web part show videos in a way that is closer to the Stream web part?

What are we aiming for?

As a reminder, this is a Stream web part for multiple videos. You see thumbnail, title, # views and #likes.

Stream (Classic) web part displaying “All of Stream”

And this is the web part for Highlighted Content, displaying Stream (on SharePoint) videos. You see thumbnail, title, uploader, date.

Highlighted Content, most recent. This displays videos in SharePoint.

So, how do we go about when we want to tweak the Document Library web part? This is the basic display, using a card view – more about that later. You see the thumbnail, name (with extension), Modified by and Modified date. Almost the same as the Highlighted Content, but less compact.

So, can we tweak the Document Library web part to be more like Stream? And if yes, how?

1. Add Title column to the All Documents view

The Document Library web part displays the file name, with an extension. If this does not bother your audience, you can skip this item.
If you want to display the title, you need to add the Title column to your All documents view. In most cases you will need to manually add the titles to your videos. This is work, but it will give you the opportunity to use a better title than the file name.
Do not remove the Name (linked to document with edit menu) column because you may need it to make individual adjustments.
Please note the Title column does not show in bold. This makes it slightly harder to notice than the Name column.

2. Create a Tiles view

In your document library you will need a view in Tiles mode before you can create Cards. So, first of all, save your standard All Documents list view again as “Page View” and then save it again as Tiles. This will be the view to add to the page, after some configuration.

If you want to display other columns in your Page view, please add them now.

The view to add to the web page (after tweaking).

3. Use different views

You now have the following views:

  • All Documents for maintenance, adding columns etc.,
  • Page View to display on your page.

Make sure you know what’s what and do not delete either. You can create other views if needed.

4. Configure Cards

You can only configure Cards in the document library itself, not on the web page. So go to your document library, open the Page View and select “Format current view” from the bottom of the view menu. (see screenshot above)

Then click on “Edit card” and the Card view will pop up with options to change it.

You can create and edit the Card view in the document library.

You can select which columns to show, and decide if you want people’s pics or not.
You can also decide if you want to show the column names. They can provide extra information, but take up vertical space, so it is up to you to see what works best.

Document card designer. The … allow you to move an item up or down

Below an example without the column names and the Modified By (as this is often not relevant), but with an extra choice column called “Topic”.

Example of configured card.

5. Showing the number of Views šŸ˜’

I know you want to see what the end product looks like on a page, but we are not there yet!
I have tried to find a way to easily show Views and Likes, as they are shown together with every Stream video.

Unfortunately I could not make the Views visible on the Card. The number of views are not stored in a column.
The only way you can see how many hits this video has had is in the document library itself. Select a video (1), click the “document details” icon (2) and you can see the number of views in the popup. (3) šŸ˜’

You can not make this visible on the page, not even when you have enabled the command bar.

You need to go to the library to see the number of views.

6. Showing the number of Likes šŸ˜’

Another thing I want to show is the number of likes. I know there is a Rating option in document libraries, so I checked out this post from Gregory Zelfond to see how I enable that again.

I did not see the Rating option in my document library and in the video Greg confirms my suspicion that this is only available in Team sites. But my Intranet site is a Communication site, obviously, and it makes much more sense to me to have a rating option in a large-audience Communication site than in a limited-access Team site!

So, just for the sake of it, I replicated my video library in a Team site and enabled the Ratings.

With Likes it looks like this:

Video library in a Team site – likes

And with Star ratings it looks like this:

Video library in a Team site – with Star ratings

Well, that looks cool, huh?

It does, BUT you can not click on the heart or the stars to give your feedback – you can only do that in the list view in the document library itself…

Another disappointment!

7. Showing the number of Comments šŸ˜’

This is not available on the Stream (Classic) web part, but you can see it in the Stream (Classic) portal and on every video page.

You can see number of views, likes and comments on the My Videos page in Stream (Classic)

I checked if there is a column that shows comments, to add to the Card. Indeed, in the View configuration there is a column called Comment count but it does not get added to the View when you select it.
(Number of) Comments are only visible when you open the video.

Comment count column – but it does not show up when you add it to the view.

8. Configuring the page

Now it is time to add the web part to the page. I used the following setup for the web part:

  • One column with the Document Library web part
  • Page View
  • Hide the command bar
  • Show “See all” button
Web part configuration

And this is the best I could do (in a Team site)

Document Library web part in a Team site, non-clickable likes.

Conclusion:

The Document Library web part is a little more flexible than the Highlighted Content web part, so you can vary in what you show on your SharePoint page. It takes some work to make it ready (you need to create and configure an extra view at least).
It does not show exactly like the Stream web part, so if you are looking for views, likes and comments we will have to wait until Microsoft comes up with a web part more like Stream.

There will be a SharePoint video collections page for Teams, that may do the trick. I have not seen that yet. More information here, please scroll to “In development – Release June 2022” for the announcement.

In any case I enjoyed myself with all the investigative work!

Alternatives for the Stream web part on your SharePoint page

So, the other day I switched the link of my Stream tile and I found out I needed to plan for a migration project of videos currently residing in Stream. Now my one-person-tenant does not have a lot of important videos anyway, let alone that they need to be migrated, but I can image that it would be an unpleasant surprise for anyone maintaining an Office365 tenant.

As I currently have some time on my hands, I have already thought about the approach of this migration project and shared that in my most recent post.

Part of your migration project will also be to replace all Stream web parts on SharePoint pages with other video player web parts. Let’s find out how things work, shall we?

Stream web part

I expect this web part to be disabled together with Stream. But you may want to know what it can look like when you look for Stream web parts to be changed.

By default, once you add this web part, the web part will show “All of Stream” with all videos you have access to. You can Sort by “Trending” (default), “Upload date”, “Views” or “Likes”. You can also filter on a word.

The default settings when you add the Stream web part

When you publish the page, you will see an array of cards, with thumbnails, titles, views and likes. On the top right you will see “View more in Stream”, which takes you to the Stream (Classic) landing page.

The default Stream web part on a published page.

When you click on a video, it will open on the same page, in a large format.

You can also use a single video as a source. In that case you will need to add the URL and you can decide the starting point of the video. This looks like the screenshot below:

Stream web part with Stream (Classic) video.

Please note there is not much to see before you hit the Play button. Only when you play will you see indications in the corners of the video that this is a Stream web part with a video living in Stream. (Especially the Stream logo bottom right). See my previous post, scroll to the bottom for screenshots.

You can also use a Channel as a source. After adding the URL you can Sort by the same options as above. This will look like the All of Stream web part, but then just a selection.

Do you see a larger web part with the text “Microsoft Stream” in bottom right? Then you do not have to do anything; this will be a video living in SharePoint or OneDrive, embedded in a File Viewer web part.

File viewer web part with SharePoint video – please note that it mentions Microsoft Stream at the bottom!

Alternative web parts

When you select web parts, search for “Video” and these options pop up:

Potential video web parts

I have not done anything with Viva Connections yet, so I will skip that one. YouTube is also out of scope – we are dealing with videos that live on SharePoint.

I have used a SharePoint page with one column, to keep things comparable.

As it turns out, videos on Stream (on SharePoint) have a different opening behaviour compared to Stream (Classic): Clicking on a thumbnail will open the document in SharePoint (or OneDrive), so you will no longer be on your page.
When you click the x top right after playing, you will open the library where the video resides, not go back to the page.
Perhaps there will be a “video portal” web part one day, or there might be a PowerShell script to change the behaviour, but I am currently not aware of that.

Update June 28, 2022: From mid-July 2022 you will be able to play videos in the Hero web part inline, so without leaving the page. Nice!

šŸ‘ File Viewer

File Viewer is excellent when you want to show just one video.

  • Easy to pick the video from the site.
  • Has a nice large display on the page (depending on the column width of course).
Published page with the File Viewer web part with one video

šŸ‘Ž Hero

The Hero web part can be used for multiple videos, but it has downsides:

  • You need to manually add each link.
  • Displays thumbnail, but not a nice card.
  • You can only add 5 per web part, so you have to manually add multiple web parts if you want to display more.
Published page with Hero web part and 5 videos.

šŸ‘ Highlighted content

This is a good alternative for the “All of Stream” or “Channel”.

  • The actual sorting is displayed on top of the web part. (“Most recent videos”)
  • You can show a library, or use a filter. I filtered for content type Video and all videos in the site are shown.
  • You can filter (on word) and sort (Most recent, Most viewed, Trending, Managed property).
  • You have various display options – screenshot below is “Grid”, but you can also use List, Carousel, Compact and Filmstrip. This Grid, Carousel and Filmstrip show cards.
  • You can select how many items you want to display.
Highlighted content – configuration

The final page looks nice, with the cards and the play button. There are no views or likes displayed.

Published page with Highlighted Content web part

If you are looking to build a portal-like site, you can check out this blog by Chris Hoard, aka Microsoft365Pro. He also uses the Highlighted Content web parts.

šŸ‘Ž Link

The Link web part can be used to embed just one video. I do not think it has any advantages over the File Viewer.

  • You need to find the video, then copy and paste the link.
  • It shows only a small thumbnail.
  • You need to remember to remove the ugly link before you publish.
  • There is very little information except the title and that is in file format (.mp4)
Configuration of the link – remember to remove the ugly URL before you publish
Published page with the link web part

šŸ‘ Quick Links

This is another good option for multiple videos, especially if they are not living in the same site/library. I have already sung the praise of this web part before.

  • You can easily pick the videos to display. You need to be careful with linking outside of your site due to permissions, though.
  • You can select different display options – I have used Grid because it shows the thumbnail, but you can also use Compact, Filmstrip (shows thumbnail as well), Button, List and Tiles.
  • The video shows the title only, but with the length of the video in the corner.
Quick links web part – configuration
Published page with Quick Links webpart

šŸ‘Ž Saved for later

This web part is useless as it displays only your own saved items and these include News items, documents etc.

šŸ‘ Document library

This is not mentioned in the video web parts but an option when you have a dedicated video library. It will show a more elaborate card, that you can tweak, but needs some work, so I would use the Highlighted Content if that looks good enough for your purpose.

  • First you will have to change the default view from List to Tiles. Save the view.
  • Click on the Views dropdown and select “Format current View” from the menu.
  • Select the “Document Card Designer” radio button and then “Edit card”
Going to the Document Card Designer from the Tiles view

You can now select the columns you want to show in the card, and if you want to show the column name.

The Document Card Designer with the default card.

Only you can determine whether this is worth the extra work.

Conclusion

None of these web parts show or play the video exactly as the Stream web part does, but in many cases the following web parts will be good alternatives:

  • For just one video, e.g. on a page with an explanatory text, or as a side column with a News post, I would suggest you use the File Viewer web part.
  • If you want to quickly display all (or most) videos from a site, the Highlighted Content is your best friend, but the Document Library web part with some modifications can work, too.
  • If you want to pick videos from a site or different sites, the Quick Links may be a good option.

Hope this was helpful and please let me know if you have any questions or tips for others in the same boat!

4 ways to manage comments on SharePoint news and pages

Whenever I published a SharePoint news post, I have always been happy when people took the trouble to read my posts at all, let alone push the šŸ‘ button or even spent time on a reply.

But when we introduced the publishers to these feedback options a few people were hesitant. When we told them they would get an email for feedback some were relieved that they would not miss comments, some were even more hesitant because it meant “more email to take care of”.

Nonetheless, we strongly advise publishers to allow interactions for news posts. It means more two-way communication and that is a good thing.
For static pages, which are available all the time, we leave it to the publisher. It may be better to mention the responsible person or provide an email address for questions about a page on processes within the organization, for instance.

So, how can you manage comments and likes?

1. Best option: as is

When you publish a page, comments and likes are on by default. When someone likes or comments, the post’s creator (this is not necessarily the author mentioned on the page) will immediately receive an email for each interaction. (The Microsoft info says it is batched, and I remember it worked like that, but during the creation of this post all likes and comments turned into individual emails.)
This email may end up in “Other” if you have enabled the Focused Inbox.

Whether this floods you with emails, is dependent on many things: how frequently you post, the type of info you post, the size of the organization, and how interactive the audience is, for instance.

This is the email for a comment.

When do you NOT receive an email?

  • When you like or comment on posts you have created yourself
  • When you are an external publisher, i.e. you have no (email) account on the tenant where you publish
  • When you are mentioned as the author, without being the person who created the post. The person in “Created By” will receive the email instead.

2. Collect all feedback mails in one folder by using Outlook Rules

If you receive (too) many feedback mails, and/or you do not like to have all these mails scattered around your inbox, you can use Rules to collect all these in a separate folder.

Make sure you create a folder first and then set up the rules, based on ‘subject includes”

The subject lines for the various posts are

  • [Person] liked [Title of post]
  • [Person) left a comment on [Title of post]
  • [Person) replied to a comment on [Title of post]

You can also do this in PowerAutomate, of course, but Rules are easier.

My Rule to move comments to a special folder in Outlook on the web

You can also use this when you are often posting news on someone else’s behalf; you can forward comments to them using a Rule. In that case use “Forward to” as the action.

Remember to look into this folder on a regular basis, and to reply to comments where needed. This is important as the phrase “left a comment” is also used for comments on shared documents and Lists!

An alternative option for Likes

It is possible to see all Likes in the Pages library, so you could also choose to make that visible in the library, look there on a regular basis, and move the emails to the Deleted Items with a Rule. After all, you are not expected to react on Likes.
You can make it visible in the Pages library as follows:

  • Open the Site Pages library (Gear wheel > Site contents > Site Pages)
  • Click “Add column”> “Show/hide columns”
  • Select “Like count” (at the bottom) and click “Apply” top left.
    You can also do this by editing the View, but that is more work.
Add the Like Count by using Add Column

3. When appropriate: Turn off comments for one news post or page

When you click “Add > News post” from the web part, you will see the Comments option on the bottom of the page. When you toggle the switch before publishing, nobody will be able to add comments.

Toggle the switch and people will no longer be able to add comments

People can still like your post, however, and this will send an email to the creator’s mailbox.
This will also happen when there is no author mentioned or when the mentioned author is not the creator. The creator will receive the email.

There is still a “Like” button, and this will send you an email when clicked.

So, turning off comments on your posts or pages can save you some emails, but you will still receive an email for each like, so you could also use the “autodelete” option by using a Rule.

4. Not advised – turn off all notifications across SharePoint pages/news

I would not advise to do this, but for completeness’ sake I can inform you that there is an option on the SharePoint landing page to remove ALL likes and comments across SharePoint news and pages for all your SharePoint sites.
I honestly can not think of any good business case to do this (except for the Likes, see 2.), so if you have a reason to recommend it, please share in the comments!

There are two ways go reach the page with the settings:

  1. Click “Notification settings” at the bottom of every email notification for news and pages.
  2. Click the gear wheel on the SharePoint landing page, and select “Email notification settings”
Here you can turn off all news/pages notifications

You can toggle the notifications on and off.

Please note this does not stop the comments on documents. If you click “Notification settings” at the bottom of a “document comment email” you will be taken to your OneDrive notification settings, where you can turns some notifications off. But why would you?

Conclusion

If you are a news and/or page publisher, and you receive too many notification emails because your colleagues respond frequently, first congratulate yourself with being a publisher that can set people in motion! šŸ™‚
After giving yourself this constructive feedback, check if 2 or 3 are suitable options to reduce the noise a little.

If you have any experiences with managing comments within your organization, would you please share them in the comments?

Writing SharePoint news posts (our way)

A few months ago I helped create and introduce a SharePoint intranet for “my” health care organization. The majority of the new intranet consists of SharePoint Pages and News, default functionality. As this provides our publishers with tons of options for layout, colour schemes, styles, fonts and what not, we had to take a few measures to keep a somewhat consistent look-and-feel.
Additionally, many publishers wanted some guidelines as they were a tad overwhelmed with choice.

I mentioned before that our Communications function is not too fanatical in enforcing the corporate style guide on people – everyone can select their own Office365 theme, for instance. But some consistency is needed, of course.

What a difference with my (multinational) employer before! There we spent the majority of our intranet redevelopment budget on creating a complicated News setup, which was at that time not available in SharePoint, with fixed page templates and colour schemes, fonts, whitespace and what not.
Did I ever tell you that, after launch of this beast, the team attended a SharePoint conference and learned that Microsoft would be introducing SharePoint News? Out of the box? FOR FREE?
You can imagine what we felt when we heard that šŸ™‚

Please find below an overview of our attempts to keep things consistent. Feel free to translate these to your own organization or clients, and please let me know if you use any other guidelines for this purpose.

1. Structure what can be structured

  • All “formal organizational units” have their own site for publishing pages and news posts.
    Although I know you should not structure your intranet according to the organizational setup, there were hardly any other ways to structure it by without running into other issues, such as ownership. Trust me, we tried šŸ™‚
  • All organizational sites are grouped into one Hub site.
    This allows for one navigation and colour scheme, and roll-up of news.
  • All hub sites have the Blue theme.
    This matches best with our style guide. I offered to change the main blue colour into the actual style guide colour, but that was not necessary.
The standard Blue theme matched well
  • Every hub site has the same site icon.
    This way it is always clear if a site belongs to the intranet.
  • The news web parts on all sites are configured to display title, summary and date only.
    Adding too many data provides a cluttered look. It also uses a little more vertical space.
Left colum: with author, date and views, right column: date only.
  • Headers are compact, footers simple.

2. Provide guidelines for what is flexible

As we use the standard functionality, we had to create some guidelines for writing and design to try and keep the pages and posts consistent and in line with our standards, and to limit the options for publishers. Those guidelines were brought up in training sessions for all potential publishers (and whoever was interested), and are available as reference material.

  • Use a short and catchy title, one line max.
    The title shows what interesting information your text contains, attracts attention, is informative, distinctive and piques curiousity. There are internal trainings for writing catchy titles!
  • Use active text.
    Do not use verbs such as ‘will’, ‘can’, ‘be’, ‘may’, or ‘become’.
  • Do not underline your text.
    Readers may think it is a hyperlink.
  • Avoid abbreviations where possible.
    If you must use one, first write it out completely and add the abbreviation behind it in parentheses. For example: “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)”
  • When you add a document, give the document a clear title, without date or version.
    The date and other information can be viewed from the document library it lives in. And in case you need to edit the information, you do not need to edit the title.
  • Keep your page or news item as short as possible.
    When you really need a long text, please break up your text with headings and use anchors to allow the reader to jump to the desired part immediately.
  • Use capitals sparingly.
    There is a paragraph in the style guide for the use of capitals. (I am a Big Fan of Capitals, but the style guide is not :))
  • Use “One column” or the “One-third right” layout for news posts
    The first one suits straightforward posts, the other is better when you want to add a photo, button, etc.
    For static pages, publishers can use another layout.
The preferred page layout for news when you want more than just text
  • Use our “Image bank” (Organizational assets) or Stock Images for images where possible.
    The photo’s in the image bank are suitable for the organization, and, like the Stock Images, have no copyright issues.
  • When using an introduction text, use standard size, bold, black or “theme dark alternate” blue.
    That blue is well readable and matches best with our corporate colours.
The preferred blue colour
  • For headings, use standard size bold, standard size italics OR heading 2 or 3.
    You can use black or “theme dark alternate” blue, as long as you use the same colour of the introduction text.
  • Add the Publish date on your news posts.
    By default this is off, so this is easy to forget. Perhaps a new page template may help. If anyone knows how to turn this on by default, please let me know!
Show the published date is off by default. šŸ˜¦
  • Enable comments for news and short-time pages.
    This allows for discussion within the organization.
    You can disable comments for static pages.
Comments are on by default

You probably recognize some of these as standard writing guidelines, but it never hurts to repeat, as not all publishers are experienced writers.

Please note publishers can deviate from these guidelines, e.g. if they have a post or page about a special topic that needs to stand out.

What have we missed? What do you use?

Please let me know which other guidelines you are using to make your vanilla SharePoint news a little consistent.

SharePoint News I might have written šŸ˜‰

When we heard about the functionality “News you might have missed” we could not wait until we found the script to turn that off. As our intranet news sites are all open, and there are more open sites with news, we expected an avalanche of news, while our colleagues are already complaining that they get too much information.

So, disabled it was!

Not so in my own tenant. I have not learned PowerShell yet – it looks easy enough but I need to find out WHERE to insert the command – so I have not disabled the functionality. And as I am the only person in my tenant, I did not really think about it.

A few weeks ago I started posting lots of News, for my tests with the behaviour of images.

To my surprise and amusement I recently received an email titled “News you might have missed”!!!

It contained a number of posts I have created myself…

The email, you see my name everywhere šŸ™‚

Well, in any case I now know what this email looks like! It is slightly different from a regular Newsletter.

This is a regular Newsletter email.

What are your experiences with this functionality? Have you turned it off? If you have not, do people really like it? Please let me know!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Troubleshooting images in SharePoint news

In recent blogs I showed what can go wrong with images in SharePoint news. So, here’s the recap for everyone who is publishing and sharing SharePoint news and everyone who is supporting them. It will save you time trying to find the cause and solution!

These are the issues, their cause and solution:

  1. No header image visible (News post, News web part and SharePoint landing page)
  2. Header image shows a placeholder image (News post, News web part and SharePoint landing page)
  3. No image visible on Yammer when promoted

1. No header image visible

Does your News post look like this?

This is an example of a news post template with no image
This is the same post, but then on the SharePoint landing page

You (or the publisher) may have selected the “plain” template, this does not have a header.

If this is by design, no action is needed.

If an image is desired, edit the post, click the pencil top right next to the title (1) and select a different template than “Plain” (2). You can now add a header image.

You can easily switch the template to add a header image

2. Header image shows a placeholder image

Does your News post look like this?

The news image is a generic grey image

A News post with a generic grey image on the left can have two causes:

  1. Intended readers have no access to the image.
    The image lives in a place (OneDrive, Document library, Site Assets library) that is not accessible for the intended readers. See my earlier post.
    The issue will be reported by someone who does not have access. The image is visible for the publisher and anyone else who has access.
  2. The image has been deleted or moved after publishing.
    It can take some time before this is noticed, especially by the publisher. The image sticks in the browser cache, so the post will look OK to them. But someone “new” to the post will notice immediately that there is no image.
    In my experiments, the post itself will quickly lose its image and show a grey header, on the News web part it will take some more time, and on the SharePoint landing page it may take even longer!
    In the screenshot below the image is still visible on the SharePoint landing page. (All screenshots have been taken at the same time)
    The SharePoint search index may also have a role in this.
While the image has been deleted, it stays visible for some time on the SharePoint landing page

This can be quite hard to troubleshoot if the publisher does not remember where this image came from. Due to the “stickiness” of the image the issue may only be noticed few days after deletion, which may be quite some time after publishing!

And before you say: “Why bother, the news is outdated after a few months anyway?” remember that this also goes for pages!

You can try the following:

  1. If the publisher remembers the site where it lives, (whether it is the OneDrive or another site) you may want to check the Recycle Bin to see if a deleted image is the problem. Restoring it will solve the issue.
  2. If the publisher remembers the site where it lives, check the permissions to validate the assumption. But rather than changing the permissions for one image, suggest the publisher to download and upload the image, and re-add it to the post.
    It means duplication, but now the image is within control of the publisher.
  3. If the publisher does not remember, things are more difficult.
    It is very unlikely that the Site Assets library or folder of the News site itself will have different permissions from the rest of the site. Nonetheless, to exclude that option, check if there is a folder with the name of the news item in the Site Assets library, and then check permissions of the folder and the image. If yes, inherit the permissions of the site or library again, as unique permissions for a News image are not good practice.
  4. Search for the image. “Images” is now a search vertical. It helps if you know the name!
  5. If this is not the case, there is not much you can do. I tried the F12 “underwater screen” to see if I could find a URL that shows the location of the image (like …my.sharepoint.com/… or the name of the site) but until now I have been unsuccessful. If anyone knows, please let me know!
    You’d better suggest to use another image.

So, this would suggest that using Web Search or Upload is the best source of News images, since you are in control. On the other hand, it means duplication of files which may lead to a lot of clutter all over your tenant.
This may also be your trigger to finally create an Organizational Assets library :).
Agree with the owner that images are not deleted, but hidden in a dedicated view when they are no longer in use, and wait a year or so before deletion. This will keep the images visible on News and pages, but discourage further use.

3. No image visible on Yammer when promoted

While it is very easy to “promote” (share) a SharePoint news post to Yammer, not all news posts show their image when shared.

Does your Yammer post look like this? (I am using “new Yammer”, but not “native Yammer”)

Promoted News item with image, but image does not show on Yammer

That is because the post has been created in an older (not Group-enabled) SharePoint team site. (and not in a modern Group-enabled Team site or Communication site)
There is not much you can do about it except confirm, and inform the publisher that this is how things work. This post explains it in more detail.

Does your Yammer post look like this?

This post has an image placeholder

If the promoted News post only shows an image placeholder, it has been shared from a modern site (Communication or Team) but here the image source is the issue. In my earlier post I found that when you use certain image sources there will be no image on Yammer.
In that case, please suggest to your publisher to use an image from one of the following sources and repost to Yammer:

  • Recent (but beware of copyright issues!)
  • Web Search
  • Upload
  • Organizational Assets
  • From a link to an image in an Assets library (not a regular Document Library!)

Hope this saves you time experimenting!

It is information I wrote before but now turned around into a guide for support folks to help their puzzled users! Hope it is helpful.

Sharing SharePoint news to Yammer

Last week I wrote about “promoting” SharePoint news items to Yammer. Only when the header image lives in the Site Assets library, the image is displayed on Yammer.
(According to Susan Hanley, it is also displayed when the image is from Organizational Assets)

While I was doing the experiments, the following questions popped up:

  • Does this work in the same way for News posted in Team sites?
  • Is there any difference when you use a different browser?
  • Do news items display better in the Yammer apps?

Let’s find out, shall we?

1. Promoting news from a Team site

Until now, I have only shared news from Communication sites. For the sake of completeness, I recreated all news items from my earlier post in an existing Team site in my tenant.

During Promoting to Yammer, the preview does not show the image, nor does it show on Yammer. This was the case for all options.

You may also notice that the display is slightly different than when you promote from a Communications site: there is no space on the left hand side for an image.

No preview when you promote a news item to Yammer.
None of the options display an image

Now this Team site was created in January 2018 and is not a modern, group-enabled site so I tried it again with a freshly created Team site. Experiments are marked with T2. I have no “recent” option as this was a brand new site.

The preview shows an image in most cases, and on Yammer the behaviour is the same as for the Communication site as mentioned in my preceding post.

One of the previews
A new, group-enabled Team site behaves like a Communication site in this respect

Conclusion: Very modern (group-enabled) Team sites work like a Communications site when showing images on Yammer, but if you have a slightly older Team site, your News header images may not be displayed. You may want to keep this in mind when troubleshooting!

2. Do different browsers show the same result?

I generally work in Microsoft Edge, but when I opened the Yammer page in Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, there was no difference. I also tried Safari on my iPad, same results.
So this is not browser-dependent.

3. Yammer iOS apps

The experience in iOS was rather disappointing ā€“ no images are visible on iPad or iPhone, and for the Communication site, it showed just the link to the page. Not nice!

News from a Communication site. Only the link, not even the title!
New Team site – even the “Upload” option does not show an image

Conclusion

There’s quite a number of factors that influence the visibility of images on Yammer. Location of image, site type, site age, web or app, so there can be various reasons why the image from your News item is not displayed when shared on Yammer!

(I feel like creating a troubleshooting guide…)