Top 5 SharePoint Innovations Announced Today

On Star Wars day the force is most definitely with SharePoint. SharePoint is here to stay and continues to form an integral part of Office 365. Let’s take a look at the Top 5 innovations announced today…
#1 Page Rendering Model
There is a radically new page rendering model. SharePoint pages previously relied a lot on ASP.Net with most of the rendering on the server. Instead, rendering is now on the client using modern web techniques. If the new Document Library pages are representative you’ll see that the page is constructed using Javascript, specifically using Knockout and a Require.JS pattern.NewPageModel
The new pages are mobile responsive by default and are built with a new canvas for WebParts. For some time we have been building mobile responsive experiences on top of SharePoint. However, these experiences often stopped being responsive when reaching non-Publishing pages. The new page model will be great news for building modern Intranets, Portals and Collaboration sites.
By divesting from ASP.Net and making the components available client-side developers now have an opportunity to reuse Microsoft components which were previously buried in .Net. By getting out of the .Net stack for rendering I think there are also great opportunities for optimizing page performance with less reliance on the server and new ways to tailor to mobile or low bandwidth scenarios.
#2 Document Libraries
Previously, SharePoint Document Libraries and OneDrive looked pretty different. This was counterproductive to adoption and it’s great they will now have the same UI. Like everything else, libraries are now mobile responsive. However, they also get some other important updates which will greatly enhance the experience.

  • Thumbnail (‘Grid’) view of documents
  • Inline editing of document properties in the Information panel
  • Addition of columns inline in the view (without going back stage)
  • Spotlight documents at the top of the page
  • Easily link to documents and sites outside of the library
  • Copy feature making it easy to copy to another location

#3 Team Sites
The Team Site template has been the most prolific of all the SharePoint site templates. However, it was usually where a modern experience started to degrade. Not anymore! Team sites get a new responsive look. Like all the other new experiences we expect the page to be rendered client-side and offer greater extensibility options than we saw before.
Team Sites will now come with the ‘hooks’ into other platform workloads like Office 365 Groups. We will now be able to use Office 365 Group membership to define the members of a Team site. This relationship will be reciprocal; an Office 365 Group will also have the capability to launch a Team Site.
#4 SharePoint Framework
A good friend of mine works in digital marketing. Whilst this industry is fickle-by-design I had become a little envious of his innovative work during the past couple of years. Over a beer, or milk as is his preference, we would discuss technology. He would tell me about the latest Javascript framework he was using whilst all I could report was that we had triumphed over Master Pages and Layouts. Well, I am looking forward to the next time I see him because SharePoint just became cool (again!).
The new SharePoint Framework will fully enable client-side Javascript development for 1st and 3rd parties. Microsoft will be using exactly the same framework to develop experiences as its partners and customers. They’ll be no ‘running down the hall’ in Redmond to get a special hook to build something. Microsoft will use the same tools as the rest of the community. What’s more is that a lot of what Microsoft does build will be available open source in GitHub.
The new SharePoint Framework is the realization of the ability to use open client-side tooling directly with SharePoint. Importantly, the ability to consume the Office Graph will be central to this as well. At Perficient we are aligning the tools, frameworks and libraries we will be recommending. For now, here are some you might consider, all centered around the Office Graph.
#5 SharePoint App
SPAppSitesSharePoint will be getting its own mobile App for iOS, Android and Windows. Building mobile responsive experiences for SharePoint targeting mobile browsers has been great and I think will continue to be a good option. However, the new App for SharePoint will add a new dimension to the mobile experience.
The new responsive experiences will be neatly wrapped inside of the App. Accessing and working with a Team Site will now be easy via the App. Whilst we are not yet fully aware of the details, it has been indicated that the App will also facilitate the caching of the authorization, avoiding the user having to log in every time. This would be a great win over the mobile browser experience.
One could dismiss the App as a glorified browser wrapper. However, the future potential for leveraging push notifications and offline working is significant.
SharePoint is once again innovative and at the forefront of web technology. I am excited to see some foundational aspects of the new features drop into First Release tenants already. I understand that we expect to see further deployments in the next few days… I am looking forward to it!

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Chris Hines

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