28 April 2016

New SharePoint Online Library Interface - Pros and Cons

SharePoint iconThis month Microsoft has launched the new user interface of SharePoint Online document libraries to some Office 365 subscribers. I have studied the interface and found great enhancements – but also problems for my colleagues and me to solve.

Only to First Release users
By default SharePoint Online subscribers do not get the latest updates until these are released to all Office 365 customers, but there is an option to let admins or the whole organization have the updates earlier. I recommend administrators to take advantage of the First Release possibility, to have a chance to prepare for upcoming changes.

When it comes to the new library interface this is extra important, because much will be different when the new interface is released to all. Currently First Release users are offered to test the new interface, and it is easy to return to the classic appearance. Because of the extensive changes I think Microsoft will keep that possibility for a rather long time, but I doubt that it will last forever.
SharePoint Online Check new library

Quick Action Pane instead of Ribbon
The new library interface has no ribbon, and that was of course what first struck me when I had pressed the "Check it out" button. A panic-stricken thought went through my head: has Microsoft removed all the useful ribbon features?

SharePoint Online A´new Alert iconThe answer is of course no, which I soon discovered. Most of the features are still there but reached in another and often better way. The Alert icon has for example been moved to the new quick action pane, where it is more easily accessible to users. It has also been easier to delete multiple files and to move and copy files within the library.
SharePoint Online new library quick actions pane

Thumbnails for Pin and Pictures
The new library interface gives us a new feature: pin files and folders. Pinned items are easy to find, as they are displayed as thumbnails above the other items. Thumbnails are also used in the new alternate view, which is especially handy for images.
SharePoint Online library grid view

Good for beginners, not as good for power users
In general I find the new library interface an enhancement for most users. Microsoft has focused on the core tasks and made them easier to perform, and they have also added some features that I think will be appealing to ordinary users.

But I am afraid many power users will feel disappointed. Some options are not there anymore or are at least more difficult to achieve, and that is a serious drawback. There is, for example, no no-code way to edit the page or customize the Quick Launch, and you cannot open the library in Outlook, Excel or Windows Explorer.

I hope Microsoft reconsiders and give us a possibility to use these more advanced features in the SharePoint libraries again. Why not add the controls in the Library Settings? There they will not disturb ordinary users.

Courses and solutions
When you use the new library interface, some of what I have shown in my SharePoint Online from Scratch videos are done in other ways, and the same goes for a lot of teaching material out there. This is a problem but absolutely no reason for Microsoft to stop development. When you create IT tutorials, like I do, you are fully aware that they will not be valid forever.

Templates Manager logotypeI have the same attitude towards the products: they need to be updated, and we are happy to do that and to give subscribers free upgrades. In this case we need to update Templates Manager to work with the new library interface.

Next week Microsoft has promised to give more info about their plans for SharePoint in general and the libraries in particular, so I will probably have reason to come back to this subject. Until then, please have a look at the demo below and at the Tips article where I have listed the most important news in the SharePoint document libraries.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

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