Nathaniel Granor is a Program Manager on the SharePoint engineering team, focused on user experience.
Someday, I hope to remodel my kitchen. My first problem is that I don’t have a kitchen; the closet that holds a fridge and miniature gas range in my Manhattan walk-up doesn’t count. So for the sake of this blog post, let’s all imagine that I live in a lovely ranch house in the Seattle suburbs and it has a kitchen and I’ve decided to remodel it.
I love projects. I get energized. My heart beats faster. Sometimes I giggle. Remodeling a kitchen is definitely a project. Over the next several months, I’ll amass piles of sketches, notes, contact information, schedules, contracts, blueprints and photos. These materials won’t do any good sitting on my desk. I need to share them, talk about them, and reference them when I’m at the contractor’s office, or chatting on the phone with my mom (hi mom!).
Nail, meet hammer. This is a job for a SharePoint Team Site.
OK, OK. I build SharePoint, so may I have a slight tendency to believe everything is a job for a SharePoint site. But that’s the flexibility of SharePoint. A team site is a place for working together with a group of people. In this version of SharePoint, we’ve focused on making it a tool that is so useful and so enjoyable that you’ll want to apply it to a wide variety of situations. Let me walk you through it.
When you first visit a new team site, you’re greeted by the Getting Started tiles. The tiles help explain some of the ways you can tailor the site to the project at hand.
The first thing I like to do with a site is change the look. I have a lot of projects and giving each one a unique look and feel helps me keep track of them. It’s also a lot of fun. The tile called “what’s your style?” takes you to a gallery where you can skim through a set of beautiful templates for the site.
Once you choose a template, you can tweak it by adjusting the layout, color palette, fonts and background image. After a quick preview, you’ve applied your own custom SharePoint theme.
We’ll come back to the rest of the tiles later. One pro tip: when you’ve finished setting up your site, click on “remove this” and the tiles will get out of your way. You can always add them back to the page later, or visit Getting Started on the settings menu.
With the tiles removed, there’s room on the page for whatever should be front and center. Click “edit” in the top right corner to add your own content. You can add text, links and images, or embed videos, maps and other rich content from the web.
Documents is a fancy word for files. We know from mountains of research and data that documents are the heart and soul of most projects. Every team site comes with a library for storing documents, which is automatically shared with everyone who has access to the site.
We’ve made a lot of improvements to the document experience in the new SharePoint Here are a few quick points:
- Try dragging files from your desktop or file explorer to the document library.
- Click on the “…” icon next to a document’s title to see a quick preview of the document along with other useful information, like the file’s address and who most recently changed the file. This is called a Document callout. You’ll find similar callouts all over SharePoint.
- Look for the “Sync” icon in the top right corner of the page when you are viewing a document library. Press this button to synchronize the library with your computer. Once you sync a library, you can access all of the files in it from Windows Explorer and Office even if you don’t have an internet connection.
Now a quick digression: If you’ve never heard of Microsoft OneNote, I secretly feel a little sorry for you. If you’ve heard of it, and seen its icon sitting there in the Microsoft Office folder, but never opened it up, well then I’m just plain disappointed. It’s a fantastic piece of software (and I’m not saying that just because I work here!). OneNote is a digital notebook, made up of sections and pages. You can write in it, add pictures and videos, paste in clippings from websites or documents. If you’ve got a digital pen, OneNote can capture whatever you draw/write/scribble.
Magic happens when you put a notebook on a SharePoint site. Your notebook is now in the cloud. You can access it from any computer or mobile device, using a native OneNote app or a browser. Even better, you can share it with other people. You’ll see their notes appear as they write them and they’ll see yours.
We think OneNote is such a fantastic tool that we’ve included a shared notebook in each new team site. Everyone who has access to your site will be able to use the notebook. Click on the “notebook” link in the Quick Launch (the navigation menu on the left) to open it in the OneNote Web App. From there you can open the site notebook in OneNote on your PC, Mac or mobile device and it’ll be available offline and stay in sync automatically.
Working together is all about communication. There are many different tools for communication, each suited for a particular use. The site’s newsfeed is a lightweight and simple way to have ad-hoc conversations with the people involved in the project. You can embed images, videos and links, @mention specific people and use #hashtags.
I have lots of projects, and each one has its own group of people (and its own team site). The Newsfeed hub in SharePoint will show me a consolidated view of the conversations going on in each of my projects.
For a more detailed look at Newsfeeds in SharePoint, check out Ben Wilde’s post
Each project is different. We intentionally made the new team site template simple. There are only a few items in the site’s Quick Launch at first: Home, Notebook, Newsfeed, Documents. We’ve included these items because we think they are universally applicable. Every project will want these features (though if you don’t want them, feel free to remove them). Everything else is an app that you can add if you need.
Remember the Getting Started tiles? Several of those tiles represent common apps that you might want to add to your site:
- “Working on a deadline?” installs the Tasks and Calendar apps. These apps help organize the schedule and keep track of who’s doing what. Read Eilene’s post about these features.
- “Keep email in context” installs a brand new app that we’re very excited about, called “Site Mailbox”. It’s a shared inbox in Microsoft Exchange that all the members of your site can access. Again, we’ll discuss this at length in a future post.
- “Add lists, libraries and other apps” is a shortcut to the “Add an app” page, which lists all of the apps available for installation on the site, and links to the SharePoint Store where you can find even more apps to help you get work done.
(If you are experienced with SharePoint, you might be a little confused by this term “app”. In SharePoint 2013, “App” refers to a piece of functionality that you can add to a site. Lists and libraries are apps, but there are other new kinds of apps as well (for example, the Site Mailbox app isn’t a list or a library).
As you add new apps to your site, they’ll be available from the “Site Contents” page. The five most recently installed apps will also show up on the Quick Launch under the heading “Recent.” You can edit the Quick Launch to keep it organized and ensure that the most important items in your site are available. For example, after I install the Tasks app, I’ll edit the navigation and drag Tasks a bit higher, because it’s important.
Onwards and upwards
As the project continues, the site can adapt to suit your needs. In the case of my kitchen remodel, eventually I’ll share the site with my contractor so he has access to all of the project information and can add his updates. Later, we’ll share certain documents on the site with sub-contractors (but we won’t give them access to the whole thing). We’ve drastically simplified the experience around sharing sites and documents. Keep an eye out for a post focusing on this topic.
When construction of my kitchen gets underway, I’ll add a Picture Library and upload photos showing progress. Perhaps I’ll share this with friends and family.
There’s so much more to show about sites and the rest of the new SharePoint Experience! Check out the Office 365 Preview to see for yourself how a SharePoint team site is now a living and breathing place for getting things done.