Very disappointed in the Highlighted Content web part

Brass Contributor

I'm trying to build a new, future-proof, and user-friendly intranet in SharePoint by solely using the Modern UI, but I'm getting really frustrated by the lack of robust web parts.


In particular, as a longtime Content Query and Content Search Web Part fan, I've been extremely let down by the Highlighted Content web part. I'm almost ready to throw in the towel and call it a lemon!


Here's a list of some of the ways the Highlighted Content web part has let me down over the past couple weeks:

  • Doesn't work with custom content types
  • Some content types are just buggy and don't work (I had to convert Contacts and Issues lists into standard Lists because they weren't showing up, but then of course the HC doesn't work with Lists either)
  • Filtering and sorting by managed properties doesn't work for some content types
  • Multiple filters can ONLY be strung together with OR logic, not AND... this absolutely boggles the mind
  • No custom display templates
  • Can't sort Tasks by the Due Date column, but you can by Created and Modified.... whaaaat?
  • A bug that I figured out a workaround for... If you want to filter Tasks by Assigned To = [Me], you have to choose Contains not Equals (but since you can't apply multiple filters, you can't remove completed Tasks from the query result)


Despite my intention to keep 100% to the Modern UI, limitations like those described here are still forcing me to deploy some pages as Classic.  If the Highlighted Content web part is supposed to be the newer better version of the good ol' CQWP and CSWP, it's got a LOT of work to do. It's borderline unusable right now for all but a handful of scenarios, none of which I find particularly useful for building a real intranet.


I'd love to hear from Microsoft that they are aware of these issues and are working to address them...

18 Replies
So.... While I agree the Highlighted content web part doesn't compare to the CQWP it's meant to stay simple for normal users. For us power users and admin / dev types they built the spfx framework.

Here you can find a equivalent CQWP spfx webpart that's pretty easy to deploy.

I tried that one a while ago and couldn’t get it to install. Anyway, the HC web part has a number of bugs in it that I would imagine would frustrate its intended audience, no matter how amateur they might be.

I think you might have set your expectations too high on this webpart, that may be the real source of your concern. That said, I'd still put in your points in the SharePoint uservoice in the webparts section.

Well, I respectfully disagree... "no bugs" at least is not an expectation too high. And I think it's also completely reasonable to expect not just similar but better capabilities when a customer goes through the large hassle of upgrading the user interface. If someone wants to use the Modern UI--and I do!--they shouldn't be forced to use an inferior set of web parts. I know that MS is developing in an iterative pace nowadays, but these sites are now production, and the HC web part has been out for years.


We need a faster cadence on the most important capabilities that are still missing in the Modern UI.


The promise of SharePoint used to be that a power user with little or no development background could still use SharePoint to make amazing things. I don't see that being the reality yet in the Modern UI, forcing many to continue to build sites on the more robust Classic UI.

Hi Brandon, I'm looping in @Mark Kashman and @Chris McNulty in for their views on the issues you raise. They in turn can loop in other Microsoft colleagues to hopefully address some of the problems you are experiencing.

I do not entirely disagree with you. However, the current version of HCWP is what the current version is, and *you* are making the decision to move to Modern UI, you are not immediately forced to make a such move. So since it is not meeting your requirements, you are calling it almost a lemon. That's the part I was mentioning about setting expectations too high. "Real Bugs" -> If the HCWP is supposed to do something and you select it, and it doesn't do that particular function, or errors out, sure Report them. Some of the stuff you mention is something I've not directly experienced, so I can't comment if they are bugs or missing features.


Your point about being forced to use Classical UI due to features missing is something 100% I agree with as a concern and it should have been a more significant concern when Modern UI was being rolled out, that said it is entirely valid to ask the question of why hold back a very nice improvement that will immediately bring value to to *most* customers, while it is getting better and better to improve *all* customer experiences.  my $0.02

Sorry Ali, but I agree with Brandon. 

The HCWP is extremely disappointing when compared with how robust and flexible the old CQWP was.

I had no choice about going to Modern. Our local Microsoft reps came in all 'jazz hands' and told my decision makers to rebuild our intranet using Modern. 

If HCWP is intended for novice users, fine, but Microsoft also needs to have a CQWP equivalent for users who do understand how to use it to build more complex queries.

@Jenny Bruce 

I believe that highlighted content web part is one of the best web part that has the capability to aggregate the information from multiple site collections and render it in many different ways.  You just have to know the tips and tricks.  I have posted a blog on it


SharePoint Online – Change Highlighted Content WebPart


Do comment and provide your feedbacks

@Brandon Murray 

I believe that highlighted content web part is one of the best web part that has the capability to aggregate the information from multiple site collections and render it in many different ways.  You just have to know the tips and tricks.  I have posted a blog on it


SharePoint Online – Change Highlighted Content WebPart


Do comment and provide your feedbacks


Thanks for your feedback. 

I don't know about @Brandon Murray 's situation, but I certainly don't have the necessary access to go to templates to change the Highlighted content UI as you show in your blog post.  I'm now not considered a 'developer' by my organisation, just a site administrator.  Those in my organisation who do have 'developer' access are way to busy to do this kind of work for me. 

I just want Microsoft to provide a properly functional web part that works the same way as the old CQWP out of the box in the Modern Online environment. I.E. that you can create filters using both And (and) Or, and also group as well as sort the returned results. 

@Brandon Murray 

I agree. The highlighted content thing is crap. Microsoft has gone to great lengths to dumb down SharePoint to make it "easier", but ironically, a developer is needed more than ever! It's like a high school coding project done by students who failed the class.

@Ali Salih 

I have to agree with the OP.  This Webpart does not always perform as expected.  I am trying to filter pages based on Page Properties, and it just doesn't let me select any properties.  This is surely a bug and I don't think it is an unrealistic expectation to not have bugs.

Hi@Fleur Williamson 


I was also formerly critical of Highlighted Content web part, but it is improving.


You need to make sure any custom properties (column names) you've created are included in the search index and/or it needs to be a 'managed property'. If you're not a SharePoint Admin, ask yours to check this.  This doesn't happen automatically in SharePoint Online Modern. 

Once your custom properties are being crawled, they should show up when you change the Filter to 'Managed property', then type part of the string from your column label into the  'enter search words' field  (I don't put in the full string as you need to remember to include _x0020_ if you have spaces in your column names - a partial string will usually be enough to find your property), then select from the options that become available in the 'Managed property drop down' below the search field.

If you are just trying to use Highlighted Content web part for documents in a document library, change the source to 'A document library on this site', then you'll get a 'Column name' option in the filters rather than 'managed property'.


You can now use CAML or KQL query in the Highlighted Content web part, so filtering issues are solved:

Hi Brandon, 


Regarding the absence of "AND" filter logic, fully agree astonished this was left out. There is a Uservoice looking to rectify this below. Has a decent amount of votes so will hopefully be picked up soon. 



Try using the Navigator app as an alternative for the Highlighted Content web part. It gives you some easy configuration options, as well as embedded search and refiners.


Screen Shot 2020-01-13 at 6.48.30 PM.png


@Brandon Murray And when using the "From a document library on this site" option, content in nested subfolders isn't consistently surfaced as expected.  I want to use the document library option because I want to filter on column-based metadata, but it does not return the full complement of content as shown if I use "From this site" with type "Documents" - anything in a sub-folder gets ignored :(