If you are on an Office 365 first release tenant, you may have noticed a new option (Figure 1) when you logged into your environment this past Friday morning if you viewed your document libraries:
Figure 1: In Office 365 First Release, document libraries will get a new look.
What’s this? New stuff? Cool! Let’s click on it and see what happens (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Some document library features are missing in Office 365 First Release.
Woah! What have they done? Not only is the cheese moved, but they replaced my smooth buttery Havarti with something pungent that smells like feet!
Needless to say, my first reaction was not one of joy. The immediate response from others in the community was similar to mine. At first look, this is the most drastic change that Microsoft has made to the UI in SharePoint in a very long time. Menus have moved (missing), options are different (or missing) and my branding did not carry over. It looks much more like OneDrive than SharePoint. It’s easy to see why the first reaction would not be positive to someone who lives and breathes SharePoint every day.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the things that I saw missing in this new experience:
- Left navigation changed (and no obvious way to edit it).
- My global navigation is gone.
- My theme is no longer applied.
- My branding did not carry over.
- It is not possible to edit the page (you cannot add web parts like we did in the past).
- Managed Metadata Navigation is gone.
- Display forms are gone. (Display forms, NOT Edit forms).
- But we do get a nice preview panel with some helpful information by clicking on the “…” (Figure 3) for an item and selection “Details.”
Figure 3: If you click the three dots, the preview panel features some good information.
Microsoft has changed other things as well. As you can see, at first glance there’s a LOT missing. How do we do what we used to do? There’s a good thread on Yammer with people discussing their frustrations as well as other thoughts on the new experience.
Luckily, you can easily switch back to “classic mode” to go back to the way things were before. Scroll down the left navigation (Figure 4) and click the Return to classic SharePoint link.
Figure 4: In the left column, you’ll see a link to return to classic SharePoint.
Okay… things are back to normal. Deep breath.
What does it mean to you?
What do these changes mean for you? At first glance, here are the major effects for this change as it stands today:
Handling the fear of change
Most people will not react fondly to these changes. I get it. You get comfortable with something and someone changes it. There’s that immediate drop in productivity as people learn new functionality. It will be important to properly announce these changes within your organization when they are rolled out. Just communicate well, talk in calm soothing tones and don’t make any sudden movements. But seriously, just educate people. These new views are not all bad; they are just really different. In fact, these changes to document libraries in SharePoint Online will make them much more mobile friendly and responsive.
Your documents are still there. Your metadata is still there. No content has been lost. Microsoft is showing off a new way of working within SharePoint document libraries. In fact, Microsoft has already written an article on how to use these new document libraries.
“What was Microsoft thinking?”
This phrase summarizes most of what I’ve heard about this change. What on earth could Microsoft be thinking? How could they drop something like this on us without warning? I have to admit my first reaction was to complain. Change is bad. Right? In fact, I DID do some complaining on that Yammer thread. I want to give a big shout out to Lincoln DeMaris, a program manager at Microsoft. He fielded the questions more gracefully than almost anyone else I’ve seen in his position and it sounds like his team was working pretty hard on fixing any bugs that came up.
So, before I wrote a blog post about how horrible the new experience was or how out of touch with reality Microsoft is, I decided to take a step back and really think about what’s going on.
It’s first release only
Before you panic too much, keep in mind that this functionality is only available to SOME first release tenants. If you didn’t sign up for the preview release, you won’t see the option for the new look. Your users will not see it. There is no reason to panic!
May the 4th be with you
Microsoft will broadcast a big SharePoint event on May 4, 2016, called, The Future of SharePoint. Microsoft will unveil their vision and road map for SharePoint and OneDrive. Could these changes be related to that? Did Microsoft release these changes before the event to first release customers to make sure it’s stable by May 4th ? Is it possible there is a plan in place? Is there a customization story? In light of the May 4th event, I can understand the thought process to make sure these new document libraries were pretty solid from a functional standpoint. Could this also explain the lack of communication beforehand? Conspiracy theory maybe? I don’t know for sure, but this May 4th event is a free online event you can register for. I encourage you to register for it. Let’s see how wrong I am. I’ll actually be at the event, so I’ll be live-tweeting (@mrackley) and blogging about what I find out. Stay tuned for that!
Let your voice be heard!
This is first release. Nothing is set in stone. Microsoft is test driving this new functionality. LET THEM KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS! Do you love it? Hate it? Do you have any great ideas to make it better? Don’t just be part of the problem—be part of the solution. Submit your feedback on Yammer or UserVoice (https://sharepoint.uservoice.com/) and help drive the evolution of SharePoint.
Classic mode is an option
From reading the Yammer thread, it sounds like “classic mode” will be around for at least a year. So even when Microsoft does push these new document library views out to all the tenants, you will have some time to ease into it, fix anything that may be broken and make sure you apply it when you are ready. Again, don’t panic.
Just MAYBE the sky is not falling.
What’s the bottom line?
I see two ways that you can look at these changes. We can think that Microsoft is out of touch with how people use SharePoint (which they are, sometimes) and we can guess that introducing these changes will crush our ability to use and develop in SharePoint. Or we can think that Microsoft has a reason and plan for these changes, and we’ll have to wait to find out more. Regardless, the worst thing you can do is be silent. Send them your feedback.
I think most people can agree that Microsoft should have handled the communication of these changes better instead of just dropping them on us, but before we all throw our hands into the air and threaten to move to Canada (isn’t that what we are supposed to threaten to do now?), let’s take a deep breath and tune in to the May 4th event and hopefully most of our questions and concerns will be addressed and all of these changes will make sense.