Microsoft have just announced their latest updates to the ever-growing Office 365 suite. Some minor, some pretty major, and some that I’m personally pretty excited about. Two elements that I’m most looking forward to seeing are with regards to OneDrive and PowerApps updates.
OneDrive for Business Updates
Windows Explorer Interface
The biggest update here is the new Windows Explorer interface, combined with new synchronisation capabilities. Coming soon, OneDrive will now look a lot different (and better) in Windows Explorer. Whether you have chosen to synchronise all, some or none of your files locally, you can still view everything within the explorer interface, with a new handy column that displays whether the file is on or offline. In-place, you can then selectively synchronise, or just double-click and open the file straight from there.
This means that, when you have a OneDrive that is many GBs in size, you don’t need to view your local version, then switch to the browser to see files and folders that are set to be online only; everything will be visible in the same interface in Explorer with the ability to act on as you choose.
What’s even better, is that this interface also works for locally connected SharePoint Online libraries!
A new interface has been developed so that the Windows Explorer Share option is in keeping with its SharePoint counterpart.
Within the interface, you can also set time limits when sharing files. This means I can share a time-sensitive document with groups of people for review, and set a deadline on there, so that after 14 days access is automatically revoked. In addition, as an administrator, I can enforce time limits on shared links, so that users can only share links for periods of time dictated by company policy.
Being a former lover of InfoPath for many years, I was sad to hear of its demise when announced a few years ago. From Project Siena through to PowerApps, I pinned a lot of hope on these as a bona fide replacement and enhancement for the easy capabilities InfoPath previously offered. It seems now, that PowerApps is officially being labelled as “the replacement for InfoPath”, and there are new features coming that allow for it to be greatly embedded within the SharePoint Interface.
Replace List Forms
The first is the ability to replace list view forms with PowerApp interfaces (yay!). In-browser, we will be able to take out-of-the-box list forms and replace them with rich experiences using PowerApps to display data in the way we want, include additional functionality and process, and embed features such as Bing Maps (which can connect to fields to gather location data), videos, images etc.
This will also allow for far greater functionality when creating and editing list forms. For example, if we have a list with lots of fields, we can selectively display those fields on the form based on what is or isn’t populated, and create multiple screens to allow us to navigate through that information in a much more user-friendly manner than simply one long, bland list of data.
Embedding in Web Parts
PowerApps will now be able to embed in web parts anywhere in SharePoint, allowing us to create fully functional solutions that can be accessed directly within an intranet (for example), without the need to launch the app separately from the PowerApps interface. This helps keep a fluid interface and experience for users of a solution, keeping them in the same place for multiple tasks.
Microsoft recently began rolling the first elements of one of the most requested features on forums: Offline access. There are many scenarios where users need access to not only consume data, but also create it, regardless of their connectivity status. PowerApps now allows you to load your app when offline, and access a local data cache. Items can be created or modified, which will then be updated in your primary data source (SQL, SharePoint lists etc.) when you are next connected. So, if my role requires me to visit remote locations to provide environmental reports, I can have full access to all the information I need, without a connection, then create my reports based on that data (including images, videos etc.), and save them so that they will automatically upload to SharePoint (or whatever data connection my app uses) when I’m next connected. Once there, any Flows or other internal business processes will be initiated.
Here’s a link to a recent Microsoft Blog on this topic, which includes an example walk through for creating an offline PowerApp for Twitter.
For a full summary of the announcements made at the SharePoint Virtual Summit, click here.
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