I’ve been working with SharePoint since 2002, and really been up to my elbows in it since 2006. Every time I hear about a new version coming out I still get all excited like I did on the first day of summer as a kid. Last month, at the SharePoint Conference NA, Microsoft made its first public announcements and there was that funny feeling in the pit of my stomach again. The new SharePoint is here! The new SharePoint is here!
I’ve been an on-prem SharePoint Server admin for the bulk of my technical career. I’m one of those sick people that actually enjoy clicking “next” a lot to install SharePoint and poring through ULS logs searching for those elusive clues to why something isn’t working. While I initially dismissed Office 365 and its shoddy online interpretation of my beloved on-prem SharePoint, it has grown up a lot and earned my respect. I use SharePoint Online every day and for the most part, enjoy the experience. But my heart still belongs to SharePoint Server. It’s the girl that brought me to the dance and I’ll always have a soft spot for it. It’s good to see Microsoft bringing some of that online magic into the on-prem product. They announced a lot, and here are some of the things I’m most excited about.
Modern Team Sites
I cut my teeth on the free version of SharePoint, Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) and everything to me is a Team site. Team sites are as comfortable to me as an old recliner or pair of slippers. For the last year or so SharePoint Online has had Modern Team Sites. These new Teams have all the comfort and functionality of the Team sites of old, but with some fancy new chrome to keep them current and relevant. When SharePoint 2019 lands this year it will include the new Modern Functionality.
The exact details of what will make it on-prem aren’t ironed out yet, but we can guess on some of it. Modern Team site pages will be more easily customizable and brandable than ever before, making it easy for business users to get SharePoint to look exactly how they’d like without a degree in Computer Science, and without having to open Visual Studio. The pages are also responsive, meaning they will adjust their layout depending on the characteristics of the device they’re being viewed on. Phone? Tablet? Dual 29’ monitors? SharePoint doesn’t care. It will be beautiful and functional regardless. SharePoint has been slowing trying to get this to work for a few versions now. I think the Modern Team site is where this will really come together. But a fancy looking page in a site is no good without content. Never fear, SharePoint 2019 has something for that too…
Modern Lists and Libraries
The content stored in SharePoint 2019 will also get a Modern upgrade. Not only will the lists and libraries’ pages themselves get the aesthetic benefits of being Modern, they also get a huge shot in the arm in the way of functionality. The Sharing experience will be improved, making it even easier to get content in the hands of the people that need it. Modern lists will add functionality for column formatting and the ability to edit multiple items at a time. Also, more options will be accessible from the list view page itself, so you won’t have to leave the page to get something done and then navigate back to it.
What good is all that fancy modern content if you can’t find it to use it? Don’t worry, Microsoft has your back. The SharePoint Home page that we all know and love in SharePoint Online will be added to SharePoint 2019. Now you’ll have an obvious jumping off point when you start your daily journey in SharePoint. It will show you all the sites, documents, and news that’s most relevant to you. It won’t have all the bells and whistles that the SharePoint Online version has, as some of that requires the massive Office 365 backend, but it will still be quite useful. If you have your farm configured in a hybrid configuration, you’ll go to the SharePoint Home page in Office 365, which will roll up both on-prem and online content for you.
One of the areas Microsoft has made the greatest improvements over the last two years is OneDrive. I could write an entire article on that itself. But one spot of disappointment has been that on-prem SharePoint hasn’t gotten to share in all of those victories. SharePoint 2019 remedies that injustice. It will fully support the OneDrive Next Gen Sync Client. This means you’ll be able to take advantage of features like Files on Demand, Selective Sync, and better sync resiliency. And this won’t just be for your personal OneDrive, like it is in SharePoint 2016. In SharePoint 2019 you’ll be able to take advantage of all the sweet OneDrive functionality with your Team sites too. One OneDrive client to rule them all.
While the end user experience is the focus of the improvements in SharePoint 2019, they aren’t the only ones with things to look forward to. We, administrators, get some lovin’, too. Microsoft has improved how quickly sites are created. The new Modern Team sites, Communication sites, and OneDrive sites will be created in seconds, leading to users getting busy quicker, and reducing the number of angry, “Why is SharePoint so slow?” calls to the Help Desk. Everybody wins. SharePoint will also allow files with the characters # and % in their names. This means SharePoint supports all file names that are supported in Windows.
A new version of Workflow Manager will come with SharePoint 2019, and it will support SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013 workflows out of the box. While administrators don’t directly benefit from this, it will result in fewer tough conversations and angry phone calls and IMs from users that make workflows. This will result in easier upgrades as users won’t have to retool their existing workflows before the farm can be upgraded.
I don’t think anyone will be surprised to read that many of the Administration based improvements in SharePoint 2019 revolve around Office 365 and hybrid scenarios. Microsoft has made configuring hybrid even easier in SharePoint 2019, making it part of the farm configuration process and smoothing out some of the bumps you encounter when connecting your farm to Office 365. New to SharePoint 2019 will be the ability to use the cloud only services, Flow and PowerApps with on-prem SharePoint content. This will be accomplished with an on-premises gateway that connects the two. This will open your on-prem content to a whole set of capabilities.
Hopefully you’re as excited as I am about SharePoint 2019. I know a lot can change between now and the end of the year, but I’m convinced SharePoint 2019 will be great, and well deserving of all my anticipation. The good folks of SysKit have made a quite impressive SharePoint administration tool. A free trial is available, so make sure to check it out!