So, there may be six more weeks of Winter – thanks, Phil. And February may only have 28 days this go around the sun… but it was busy, no matter how long or short the groundhog shadows.
February 2021 brought some great new offerings: Microsoft Viva Topics (GA), SharePoint web part toolbox updates, Lightbox for images, Quick Links web part audience targeting, SharePoint portal launcher scheduler, Microsoft Lists: Number column updates, Managed Metadata column, Microsoft Search in classic SharePoint sites, and more. Details and screenshots below, including our audible, “groundhog, shadow-casted” companion: The Intrazone Roadmap Pitstop: February 2021 podcast episode – all to help answer, "What's rolling out now for SharePoint and related technologies into Microsoft 365?"
In the podcast episode, I chat with Naomi Moneypenny (LinkedIn | Twitter), principal PM manager at Microsoft focused on building new capabilities in advanced content, knowledge, and search experiences in Microsoft 365. We talk about the challenges of harnessing knowledge in the enterprise, the tech behind Viva Topics, and a future glimpse of what’s to come next from she and the Project Cortex team.
All features listed below began rolling out to Targeted Release customers in Microsoft 365 as of February 2021 (possibly early March 2021).
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Microsoft Viva Topics (general availability)
Topics is the latest product output from Project Cortex, bringing artificial intelligence (AI) to empower people with knowledge and expertise in the apps they use every day and to connect, manage, and protect content across systems and teams. It is also the first one of four disclosed Microsoft Viva modules to be released.
Microsoft Viva is the new employee experience platform built on Microsoft 365 that empowers people and teams to be their best from wherever they work. See Viva Topics in action:
Think of Viva Topics as a Wikipedia with AI superpowers. It uses AI to automatically organize company-wide content and expertise into relevant categories like “projects,” “products,” “processes,” and “customers.”
When you come across an unfamiliar topic or acronym, just hover. No need to search for knowledge—knowledge finds you. Viva Topics automatically surfaces topic cards as people work in apps like Office, SharePoint, and Microsoft Teams. When employees click on a card, a topic page appears with documents, videos, and related people. Experts at the company can also help curate the information shown in Viva Topics by sharing knowledge through simple, highly customizable web sites called Topic Pages.
SharePoint web part toolbox updates
This one is for page authors or site owners that design a lot of content on their site home page. If you're new to using web parts, one thing the team discovered was the lack of discovery - of all the useful web parts.
So, to help, we are updating the web part toolbox to make it easier to find and use web parts on pages and news posts. We have added categories, a toggle to switch between a grid view and list view, web part descriptions in list view, and a section for the user’s most frequently used web parts.
Bring content visualization to life across your intranet pages and news, now with greater creator visibility when using the service.
Lightbox for images on SharePoint pages
A lightbox popup is a window overlay that appears on top of a webpage. With this update, when people click or tap on an image in SharePoint, they will be able to see a larger version of the image in the lightbox. When viewing the image in the lightbox, the remainder of the page is inactivated and dimmed.
And then, it's easy to close lightbox and turn back to the rest of the page.
There has been a lot of new tech for uploading and working with images during the edit phase, to crop, resize, rotate… and once you've gotten just the way you want it, your readers can see it best in all its glory all lit up and large in the lightbox.
SharePoint: Audience Targeting for Quick Links web part
We are adding the ability to target specific audiences per link within the Quick Links Web Part. With it, you will be able to target specific links to different audiences, helping you provide more personalized experiences on SharePoint pages.
SharePoint Portal Launch Scheduler
This is an admin feature designed to help coordinate and schedule launch details for SharePoint sites that are expected to receive high volumes of traffic. The Portal Launch wizard available via SharePoint PowerShell is designed to configure the deployment waves when launching a new site. It also provides an automatic redirect for users dependent on which redirect option is selected.
The Portal Launch Scheduler makes it possible for you to manage a phased rollout for a new SharePoint site. It also provides an automatic redirect for existing sites, if needed.
During each of the waves, you can gather user feedback and monitor performance. This provides a managed way to slowly introducing the portal, giving you the option to pause and resolve issues before proceeding; ultimately ensuring a positive experience for your users from start to fully launched.
Teamwork updates across SharePoint team sites, OneDrive, and Microsoft Teams
Microsoft 365 is designed to be a universal toolkit for teamwork – to give you the right tools for the right task, along with common services to help you seamlessly work across applications. SharePoint is the intelligent content service that powers teamwork – to better collaborate on proposals, projects, and campaigns throughout your organization – with integration across Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, Yammer, Stream, Planner and much more.
Microsoft Lists | Support for thousands separator and custom symbols in Number columns
With Microsoft Lists and SharePoint lists, owners and members have the ability to add a thousands separator to numbers and to be able to choose their preferred symbol that best represents what the numbers represent - like the various currency symbols used across the world.
There's an important difference between the Yen and the Euro, and you want it to be as clear as it can be. The right symbol goes a long way.
Adding taxonomy columns for modern SharePoint library views
Yes, the power of metadata in the hands of those that need to manage document library content as the business prescribes. This new feature gives you the ability to add taxonomy-powered columns directly to library views in modern SharePoint libraries.
Quick note: SharePoint document libraries are powered by lists for their row and column capabilities.
With this update, users will see a new Managed metadata option as a column type within the Add column menu in SharePoint lists and libraries. Then simply specify the column information such as name and description as well as choose their organization's desired term set or term, to associate the column with. From there, the use of that column is driven by the managed metadata coming from the programmed, managed term set.
Microsoft Search in classic SharePoint sites
This is a quick and simple one, with lots of power for sites that have been around a while and may still be in classic mode. We are expanding the reach of Microsoft Search; classic SharePoint team sites that do not have customized search experience will be updated to the modern Microsoft Search experience, bringing improved personalization and relevance.
That's it. Another example of how Microsoft Search is truly powering search throughout Microsoft 365 - aka, no site left behind.
Text predictions are coming to Word for Windows
Initially, text predictions popped up in Outlook for Windows - during composition to help users write more efficiently by predicting text quickly and accurately. Now, text predictions are coming to Microsoft Word when writing documents in English. And we know a lot of Word document are created in Teams, SharePoint, and OneDrive.
As you type, you'll see suggested text, which you can accept by tapping the Tab key or they can ignore suggestions by simply continuing to type. The feature reduces spelling and grammar errors and learns over time to give the best recommendations based on your writing style.
Note: this is a Microsoft 365 connected experience, and can be turned off by going to any Microsoft 365 application such as Word, Excel, or PowerPoint and going to File > Account > Manage Settings. This feature can also be managed through the policy settings for privacy controls.
Evolution of Microsoft Lens (formerly Office Lens)
And with the evolution, beyond a new name, comes some dynamic new features, like intelligent actions into the camera, including: Image to Text, Image to Table, Image to Contact, Immersive Reader, and QR Code Scan.
We are releasing an improved scan experience allowing you to re-order pages, re-edit scanned PDFs, apply a filter to all images in the document, scan up to 100 pages as images or PDFs, easily switch between local and cloud locations while saving PDF, along with an easy way to identify local and cloud files.
We're noting it here because Microsoft Lens powers the camera in Microsoft 365 mobile apps, including Office, Microsoft Teams, Outlook, and OneDrive - yes, OneDrive loves lens - scan, scan, scan the physical world right where it needs to be stored digitally.
OneDrive for Android updates
We’re introducing an updated home screen experience for Android users, plus support for Samsung Motion Photos and 8K video. Now, you can pick up where you left off on recent and offline files, and easily re-discover memories from the past right from the home screen.
For Samsung Android phones, OneDrive has always saved your Samsung Motion Photos, and now you’ll be able to view them in all their moving glory. Similarly, you’ve always been able store Samsung 8K videos with no loss or compression on OneDrive, and now you can play them back as well. Great storage always, and now rich, new viewing experiences on your Android device.
March 2021 teasers
Psst, still here? Still scrolling the page looking for more roadmap goodness? If so, here is a few teasers of what’s to come to production next month…
… shhh, tell everyone – especially Punxsutawney Phil.
Helpful, ongoing change management resources
Thanks for tuning in and/or reading this episode/blog of the Intrazone Roadmap Pitstop – February 2021 (blog/podcast). We are open to your feedback in comments below to hear how both the Roadmap Pitstop podcast episodes and blogs can be improved over time.
Engage with us. Ask those questions that haunt you. Push us where you want and need to get the best information and insights. We are here to put both our and your best change management foot forward.
Stay safe out there on the groundhoggy-shadowy-laden road’map, and thanks for listening and reading.
Thanks for your time,
Mark Kashman – senior product manager (SharePoint/Lists) | Microsoft)
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