What's new in SharePoint 2016: The key features
Since Julia White first announced SharePoint 2016 to us in her evolution of SharePoint post back in February 2015, the excitement levels around the latest release have been gradually building. The question on everyone’s lips: what’s new in SharePoint 2016 then? Multiple feature announcements, Release Candidates, and the most recent Release to Manufacturing version have all served to whet our content creation and collaboration appetites. Indeed, we have all been eagerly awaiting the latest version of Microsoft’s SharePoint Server. And we joined Jeff Teper on May 4th, 2016, for, “a live online event to celebrate SharePoint 2016 and see Microsoft’s vision and roadmap for the future of SharePoint…and what’s new in SharePoint 2016 and OneDrive for Business – both On-Premises and in the Cloud with Office 365.”
As you can see, it’s not just SharePoint enjoying new features and functionality; Microsoft’s file access and sharing platform OneDrive for Business is also receiving numerous improvements. For the past couple of months, we have all been waiting with bated breath to see what Microsoft has been working on with both platforms, and, with today being the 4th May, the wait is finally over. In this post, we’ll discuss what’s new in SharePoint and the highlights of the Future of SharePoint event: the best new features to come out of both SharePoint Server 2016 and OneDrive for Business, and what that means for your company.
So, what’s new in SharePoint?
SharePoint 2016: A new look and feel
With improvements to both platforms, Microsoft has made a conscious effort to more closely align the two together. This entails a more seamless user experience when working with both SharePoint and OneDrive for Business, letting users move content between the two platforms with far less hassle than before.
The SharePoint 2016 server has been given an updated interface that makes navigation around the platform more intuitive and natural. In document libraries, the ribbon is going and will be replaced by the familiar OneDrive information panel/sidebar, which provides less cluttered access to features (such as copy, paste and move) and document properties and metadata. This is a good indication that the ribbon will disappear in SharePoint lists too. Users will find it much easier to create new sites such as dashboards, team collaboration sites, and published content sites as the site creation wizard has been given a series of updated templates and new ‘wizard’ interface. The site creation process is expected to be done in seconds rather than the several minutes that is has taken in the past – a big improvement
Team sites have also been given a facelift, with a more user-friendly interface that includes simple social integration with Yammer and SharePoint. The real change to Team Sites, however, has taken place backstage – literally. Much like in Microsoft Word 2016, the ‘backstage’ panel – which opens when you click the ‘file’ tab – tells you info such as properties, file sizes, tags etc. of the open document. In team sites, users can now view similar information about their site – how many people are using it, their most active users, what they’re doing and so on. These statistics have always been available, but users previously had to go to the report library that was hidden away and very rarely used.
This ‘backstage’ access to team sites is now much more accessible and can quickly provide site owners with key information regarding their site. Like much of Microsoft’s new products, team sites have been redesigned with the “cloud-first, mobile-first” mantra; making the SharePoint experience and that of its supporting cast far more mobile friendly.
OneDrive for Business mobile
Led by Jeff Teper, the OneDrive for Business mobile app has been completely redesigned to improve the way teams can collaborate on documents.
There has always been a range of different methods for users to collaborate on a document – attach it to email chains, Yammer conversations, Skype messages or comments within Word.
This variety of communication is great, but left the actual collaboration aspect rather disjointed. The original document author may see comments in an Outlook email, as well as amendments already made to the file within Word, and all done by different users. With the new OneDrive for Business app, however, documents are at the centre; all comments are stored in a centralised location around the document. The conversation now follows the document, rather than the document following the conversation, meaning it’s far easier for users to keep track of changes to their work.
The OneDrive app looks awesome and will be initially available on iOS first, then on Windows, Android and possibly even the Apple watch later this year. It really disappoints me that it is not released simultaneously on Windows – there should be a Windows Universal App right out of the gate on launch day. Hopefully it is a short time to wait for the Windows version as the app features real time collaboration, Outlook integration and PDF annotation amongst other great features such as easy and simple file sharing.
In the future, the OneDrive for business app will also have Office Graph intelligence added so that it will have Delve like qualities to make it even more personal and usable.
SharePoint document libraries
Document libraries are core to the SharePoint experience; organising documents for quick-and-easy access, creation, and sharing of documents company-wide. You can now preview documents in a more modern, ‘thumbnail-centric’ view that allows for rapid scanning of documents. The ability to copy and paste documents has also been added, meaning users can copy a document and move it to another library, something that was not previously possible. Additionally, there are ‘durable links’ so if you do copy and paste a document somewhere else, existing links to it will still work. There is also better support or special characters in file names so there is less user frustration when saving or migrating existing files into SharePoint. These document library features are all mobile responsive, as well, with social features, conversations, and notifications for users on the move. The new document library functionality seen today is a big indication that Microsoft has bigger ECM (Enterprise Content Management) plans and features for document libraries in the future.
Pre-SharePoint 2016, groups created in Outlook would have access to a basic document library, a OneNote file and a shared inbox to use with a team. SharePoint Server 2016 sees much deeper integration with Yammer groups, so that if you create a new group from Yammer, you will get a fully-featured, dedicated team site with document libraries for each group, as well as a OneNote file and Yammer for the conversation stream. However, conversely, if you create a group, from the Outlook groups site, the you will still get the dedicated full featured team site, although the conversation stream will be an Outlook inbox.
Yammer is also ‘on by default’ in any new Office 365 tenant that is set up now that they have moved to use the same authentication and access. This should ensure far greater take up of Yammer.
A long-awaited beginning
After much speculation and waiting, we now have a real idea of what’s new in SharePoint 2016 and what users are capable of with the server. Microsoft has created a powerful enterprise content management (ECM) platform with better OneDrive and SharePoint integration and a myriad of new and improved features to make the user’s experiences easier, more intuitive and more productive.
SharePoint 2016 proves a big step forward for Microsoft’s on-premises content collaboration platform, but continuing updates mean there will be more to look forward to in the future. We can expect to see more features and updates released over the course of the next 6-12 months. Today has given us an insight into the future of SharePoint, but where that future is heading is the cause for real excitement.
At Content and Code, we partner with our clients to offer expert advice on how you and your company can make the most of features, both new and old, in SharePoint. For more information on what’s new in SharePoint 2016, contact us today.
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