Branding SharePoint: The New Normal

Modern SharePoint is catching on, and sites are looking better than ever right out of the box. With mobile-ready pages and easier editing, customers and partners are starting to ask for it. And as SharePoint 2019 brings the modern experience on premises, the demand is likely to grow even more.

Yet even as sites look better than ever “out of the box”, there are constraints on how they can be customized. Partners and customers who want to completely change the look sometimes run into these boundaries and get frustrated.

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Swooping into Site Designs

A few months ago a group of SharePoint MVPs gathered to film a new kind of reality TV show and remake a company’s Intranet. You may have seen it – SharePoint Swoop!

This is a story from behind the scenes,in which I got to make their work reusable with SharePoint Site Designs and Scripts. It was quite a thrill to be involved, even though I wasn’t there in person! I’ll start with the story, then dig into the details of Site Designs and Scripts.

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Teams and SharePoint: Better Together

Collaboration Silos

Traditionally, our collaboration tools have been divided into silos based on the mode of communication. In the Microsoft space, we’ve used Outlook and Exchange for persistent messaging, Skype for Business for real-time communication, and SharePoint to provide a place to share documents and other information.

CollaborationSilos

These tools work together to provide for our communications needs, whether they’re real-time, message based, or documents and other content. They work well together, but they’re still separate programs we have to run, and constantly flip between. As we do, the information is organized differently in each tool: most of us view email by date, Skype by person, and SharePoint by project or team. That’s a lot of context switching. Of course we’re all used to this, and probably don’t even notice how much of our attention goes into it.

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Using SharePoint Permissions in Microsoft Teams Channels

A lot of people have asked for “private channels” in Microsoft teams. Microsoft has stated publicly that they’re working on it; there’s even a page in the documentation all ready for when it comes along!

In the meantime, a question came up about using SharePoint permissions to restrict the level of access to channel files. Recall that every Team has a SharePoint site, and the files in the Files tab land in a document library on that site. Each Teams channel gets a folder in that site. (For more details see this article by Matt Soseman.)

So is it possible to make a “semi-private” channel by simply modifying the folder permissions in SharePoint? The idea is that while the conversation might be open, the files are only available to a subset of team members.

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Localized strings in solutions that span classic and modern SharePoint sites

This article builds on an earlier one, Building Headers and Footers that work on Classic and Modern sites. That article, with associated sample code, was about how to create a top menu and footer that work on both modern and classic SharePoint pages. On modern pages, the solution is a SharePoint Framework extension; on classic pages, it’s a stand-alone solution that just happens to use SharePoint Framework tooling like TypeScript, WebPack, and React. That allows a very high degree of common code between the classic and modern implementations.

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Figure 1

The good news is that my POC was successful, and the partner and their customer liked it!

The sample code has moved! It’s now in the SharePoint Framework Extensions repo.

I skipped over one key capability in my project, which was localization. The customer in this case is a large multi-national company, so it’s not too surprising they would want to show some information in the user’s preferred language.

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Building Headers and Footers that work on Classic and Modern sites

One of the partners I consult for is migrating a Fortune 500 financial services company to SharePoint Online. The company wants to take advantage of modern team and communications sites, yet where they need features that aren’t available in modern SharePoint, they’ve decided to stick with classic Publishing sites.

The challenge is: how to build global navigation and footers that will work on both classic and modern sites. There are a few reasons this is important:

  • It provides common navigation across all kinds of sites, making the Intranet easier to use
  • It provides a common footer across all kinds of sites, ensuring compliance messages are delivered consistently
  • It reduces coding and maintenance, because one set of code is used across old and new sites

So I undertook a little Proof of Concept, and here are the results. The solution is usable as-is if your needs are simple. The real intent, however is to prove out a pattern for developing any header and footer that will work on both modern and classic sites.

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Figure 1

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What is Modern SharePoint and Why Should I care?

The question I get the most these days is, “what is this modern SharePoint you keep talking about?” It might sound like an oxymoron! All my SharePointy friends know about it, and debate the finer points over beer at SharePint, but to the casual user, or someone who’s been working on premises, it may be a bit of a mystery. It’s only available online (at the time of this writing anyway), and is slowly being phased in as developers build it out.

So here it is: Microsoft is on a mission to modernize SharePoint, to save it from fading into obscurity as a once innovative but now persnickety old war horse of a product. This article will explain how they’re doing it, and why you might want to take a fresh look on this stalwart collaboration product.

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Office Developer Bootcamp Sponsors on Board

Some readers may already know that Scot Hillier and I are presenting an Office Developer Bootcamp focused on the SharePoint Framework on Friday, October 27, 2017 at the Microsoft office in Burlington MA. This is a great opportunity to learn SharePoint Framework development, including related technologies, Typescript, WebPack, and React. There are still openings, and it’s free! Please register here to join us!

I’m pleased to announce that we have some great sponsors for this event. Not only will they ensure that attendees are well fed, they were hand-picked as they bring key technologies that every SharePoint developer should know about!

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Porting REST calls to SharePoint Framework

The SharePoint Framework (SPFx) is a powerful technology for developing web parts that run on both classic and modern SharePoint pages. SPFx is 100% client-side, and it’s often possible to reuse client-side JavaScript (from Script Editor or Content Editor Web Parts) in SPFx. This is usually straight forward if the original JavaScript targeted a single HTML element, since SPFx does the same thing: it hands you an HTML element and you inject your web part in there.

I was recently porting a JavaScript widget to SPFx and it all came over more or less as expected, except that the REST calls to SharePoint failed. All of them. Failed. Miserably. This article will show you the fix.

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ALM for Widget Solutions

Colleague and fellow SharePoint developer Brian McCullough asked a great question on Twitter:

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This is such an important topic I thought it was worth more than a 140-character reply; hence this article. Whole books have been written on Application Lifecycle Management,and there are many facets beyond simple software deployment, but this article will focus on the baseline needs of a typical “widget” project:

  • Allow reliable and repeatable movement from a development environment to test and ultimately into production potentially across dozens or thousands of SharePoint sites
  • Support this not just once, but repeatedly as project versions are developed and released. If the project includes persistent data, this should be preserved (and perhaps enhanced) as part of the upgrade process

In a widget project, each “environment” may just be a couple of site collections; for example you could have site collections for dev, staging, and production all in the same tenant on farm. Since widgets run on the client side, there’s no need for them to interfere. If you’re on Office 365, you might want a First Release tenant to test your code with forthcoming updates to the platform while keeping your main staging and production environments on the standard release schedule.

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