Microsoft 365 update for March 2019

Here are some of the latest improvements and new features in Microsoft 365 for March 2019:

What’s new this month:


SharePoint organizational news

SharePoint news allows you to broadcast stories and announcements across the organization. Now, within the news web part you can apply a custom order to your news, meaning you can highlight key content to be more visible among other news items.

Also coming in March 2019 is the ability to make a SharePoint site an authoritative news site. When you post news from these sites, it will propagate throughout SharePoint home in Office 365 or via the news tab on the SharePoint app. You can tell an authoritative news post from others by a color badge on the title.

Page templates

One that I’ve been personally waiting for…page templates! Templates are a really great way of ensuring a consistent design for your intranet or team sites. Initially there will be three page templates – basic, text-centric and visual, but you can also create your own template from an existing page and it will be displayed in the template gallery.

New sharing page in the SharePoint admin center

A new sharing page has been released within the SharePoint admin center. The new SharePoint admin center has been in preview for some time, and more management capabilities are being updated throughout March and April 2019.


List and library sticky headers

SharePoint list and libraries will now have the column headers pinned at the top of the page. This will prove extremely useful when dealing with large lists and libraries! Column headers will also remain in place when inside web parts.

Find out more:

Microsoft Teams

Customized backgrounds in video chats

As mentioned in the November 2018 Office 365 update, background blur enables you to remove any unwanted distractions from video calls to keep colleagues focused. Later this year you will not only be able to blur but completely change your background.

Live captions/ subtitles

Live captions and subtitles make meetings in Teams more inclusive for attendees who are deaf or hard of hearing, having different language proficiency levels or connect from a noisy location.

Secure private channels

This one is great 🙂 secure private channels are coming to Teams later this year. This will allow you to restrict channel participation and channel visibility without having to create an entirely separate Team.

Yammer in Teams

You can now add a Yammer tab to a Teams channel that will load a specific topic or group feed from Yammer.


Copy a plan…in planner

You can now duplicate an existing plan to create a new one based off of a previous creation. From the Planner hub, select the Copy plan option in the ellipsis menu.


Find out more:

Microsoft Whiteboard

Teams meeting integration

Microsoft Whiteboard in Teams meetings allows attendees in the same tenant to participate in the conversation on any device. The board is automatically shared with all meeting attendees.

Intelligent ink grab and beautification improvements

You can now easily take content from a physical whiteboard and convert it to digital using Ink Grab. Ink Grab converts images of your whiteboard notes into digital ink, making them easier to read and share with others.

Then this is where Ink Beautification comes in. Ink Beautification takes the written notes and makes them easier to understand, erasing a common problem with whiteboard notes – bad handwriting!

Find out more


Co-author with first-degree connections

Documents being shared in Outlook on the web, OneDrive, SharePoint, Word Online, PowerPoint Online and Excel Online can now be co-authored with first-degree connections from LinkedIn.

This feature is available for targeted release customers now.

Find out more:

Live events in Microsoft 365

Live events in Microsoft 365 is now generally available, meaning anyone can create live or on-demand events using video and interactive discussion across Teams, Stream or Yammer.

Attendees will receive notifications and are able to participate in real time, with high-def video and interactive discussion across all devices. Live Events also allows you to connect with attendees whether they are in Yammer, Teams or Stream.

Once a live event has finished, you can easily make the recording available to access on-demand and catch up quickly, with AI features that automatically transcribes the content and detects who the speakers are to make it simple to search for content later.

Forms Pro

Forms Pro has just been announced in public preview, this new solution allows you to professionally distribute surveys (including custom forms), with extensive capabilities to collect feedback and analyze data.

You can try the preview at

Security Center

The new Microsoft 365 security center is the place to monitor and manage security across your Microsoft identities, data, devices, apps, and infrastructure.

Some of the new tools include:

  • View security trends and track the protection status of your environment
  • Analyze and take actions to improve your security posture with the all-new Microsoft Secure Score
  • Hunt for intrusion attempts affecting your e-mail, data, devices, and identity

Find out more:

Admin Center

The also new Microsoft 365 admin center simplifies how you manage Microsoft 365 and Office 365 services. The admin center is tailored based on the roles within your organisation, improving task efficiency and providing insights deliver a better experience to users.

Find out more:

Links and resources


Fix pages with no publishing options in SharePoint

(This post was written using a SharePoint 2010 environment)

So you’ve got a SharePoint site, it all looks good (well, as good as it can!) but you notice that the Publish tab isn’t available in the ribbon.

First things first you check the site settings to see if SharePoint Server Publishing is turned on.


If you get to this point and your still no further forward it’s likely that your site wasn’t set up as a publishing site, but if you follow the steps below and your pages will be able to be published in no time.

  1. Open the site in question, then go to Site Actions > View All Site Content
  2. Open the SitePages library
  3. Under Library Tools > Library, select Library Settings

  4. Under General Settings > Versioning Settings, turn on Create major and minor (draft) versions > press OK

  5. Go back to the original page, you will now see the publishing tab has appeared!

Microsoft 365 update for February 2019

Take a look at some of the best bits for the improvements and enhancements to Microsoft 365 throughout February:


SharePoint Migration Tool updates

The SharePoint migration tool now supports migrating content types and managed metadata term stores for SharePoint Server 2013. Global tenant admin permissions are required to do so.

Also, many of the on-premises SharePoint web parts can be migrated into Microsoft 365. Examples being blogs, chart viewer, content search, list form, list view media plus many more.

You can now pretty much migrate every element of a SharePoint site that is most important to you such as web parts, pages and site navigation.

Find out more: full list of supported web parts 
Find out more: new and improved features of the SharePoint Migration Tool

Drag and drop to re-order the left-hand site navigation

You can now re-arrange the order of your site navigation elements with a nice, user friendly drag and drop gesture. This removes the multiple clicks involved in he ellipsis, move up or down options of old. This new gesture also works for dragging/dropping into a sub-navigation location.

Drag and drop the left-hand site navigation

Bulk check in/out

This one I’ve been waiting for awhile for! You will soon be able to check in/out multiple files at the same time form the modern ribbon in a document library.

Bulk check-in/out documents from a modern library

File signals

File signals or status icons are being added into SharePoint to add visual clues regarding the status of a file, such as check-out status, sharing, DLP blocks or missing metadata. This applies to modern lists and libraries.

File signals give visual clues regarding the status of a file

Column totals

A revamp of an old favorite, column totals and subtotals are coming to modern lists and libraries. These totals and subtotals are displayed in the footer. This is a welcome change from the old total count in classic views!

Modern column totals

Add columns between columns and drag and drop

You can now insert new columns in place between existing in and modern list or library view, plus move a column around by simply dragging the header to a new location in the view.

Adding a column between an existing column in a modern SharePoint list or library

Smarter file hover cards

The file hover card gives you a sneak peek into your most important files. Now, as soon as your hover over a file you will be able to see important stats like number of views, who’s viewed and who’s modified. This functionality is now being extended to almost all file types.

This new experience will also appear for files listed in your Shared by Me view.

Find out more: file hover cards are getting smarter and is now available for all file types!

Hover over a file in a SharePoint library or OneDrive folder to see more information about a file

Microsoft Teams

Priority notifications and message delegation

Priority notification alerts will notify a recipient to an urgent message on their mobile and desktop devices and repeat the alert every two minutes for up to 20 minutes, until a response is received.

Priority notifications in Teams

Also coming soon is message delegation. Message delegation enables a recipient to delegate messages to another colleague when they are unavailable.

Message delegation in Teams

Priority notifications are currently in private preview.

Find out more: New capabilities in Microsoft 365 empower healthcare professionals

Microsoft Authenticator

Microsoft Authenticator allows you to receive security notifications for important events on your personal Microsoft Account. When you receive a notification, you can quickly view your account activity to take action if needed.

Microsoft Authenticator can be used to add two-step verification for added security if needed. It supports fingerprint, face ID or PIN authentication.

Microsoft Authenticator

Find out more: Microsoft Authenticator app now sends security notifications

Links and resources

How to provision and deploy the PnP SharePoint Starter Kit part two

Update: The SharePoint Starter Kit is now a solution that’s available to apply from the SharePoint Online Provisioning Service:

This is second part of my two-part series on how to provision and deploy the SharePoint starter kit into your SharePoint tenant. You can read part one below:

How to provision and deploy the SharePoint Starter Kit part one

At this point all the pre-requirement steps should be completed, our Office 365 tenant should have an app catalog site, a dev site collection and a custom user profile service property.

Download the SharePoint Stater Kit

In order to deploy the SharePoint Starter Kit to your tenant you will need to clone or download a copy of the repository. I downloaded a copy of the repository and followed the steps below:

Downloading the SharePoint Starter Kit

Deploy the SharePoint Starter Kit

Now for the fun part…deploying the SharePoint Starter Kit to your tenant! Before you begin, make sure you have run the following cmdlet to connect to your tenant:


  • Change the path in PowerShell to the location where your SP Starter Kit provisioning folder is located

Set-Location -Path C:\sp-starter-kit-master\provisioning

  • Finally, in PowerShell run the following command

Apply-PnPTenantTemplate -Path starterkit.pnp

Deploying the SharePoint Starter Kit in PowerShell

Once the SharePoint Starter Kit has concluded it will provision 3 site collections as well as other tenant level settings like themes, site designs and taxonomy term sets. You will be able to access all the site collections and web parts deployed through the starter kit in your tenant either through the new SharePoint admin center or through the SharePoint app in Office 365.

References Starter Kit repository from GitHub to install the required developer tools from Microsoft to install PnP PowerShell from Microsoft – setting up your Office 365 tenant to build and deploy client-side web parts using the SharePoint Framework from Microsoft the new user profile property/ requesting API key to Alpha Vantage from GitHub commands and minimal path to success from GitHub steps added from general cascading errors from GitHub

Microsoft 365 update for January 2019

After a brief hiatus here’s all the best bits of the Microsoft 365 update covering all the latest enhancements and updates to Microsoft Office 365.

Make sure you watch the video in full here:

Improvements to Microsoft Teams

Shifts in Teams

Teams is introducing a new app called Shifts, which allows managers to plan, create and adjust their team’s schedules. Team members can also update their availability, review schedules, and request time off. Shifts replaces much of the functionality in Microsoft StaffHub, which is scheduled to be retired in October of 2019.

New Shifts app in Microsoft Teams

Custom navigation options

Everyone likes to use the tools within Teams differently. Now with the new customizable navigation experience Teams users on mobile devices, you can edit the navigation menu to prioritise the most important features that suit you. You will also soon be able to share you location information and record audio messages through the Teams app.

left: customising the navigation, centre: share location, right: record audio in Teams app

Find out more

Microsoft Stream plus forms integration

Stream is becomming more closely integrated with Forms which will allow you to seemlessly add quizzes, surveys, and polling right into the video. The results from these forms would be available to analyze to help improve the video content.

Stream will also be available to embed within PowerPoint presentations, along with all other video platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo.

The Stream app for iOS is now available along with the android version.

Stream with forms integration

Find out more

New Yammer conversations webpart for SharePoint

New to the long list of readily available webparts in SharePoint is Yammer Conversations. You can include conversations from any Yammer group, topic, user or home feed onto just about any SharePoint page, news article, or site.

Yammer conversations webpart

Find out more

SharePoint Migration Tool generally available

The SharePoint Migration Tool is now in general availability, which along with the SharePoint Migration Assessment Tool, these free tools are key to helping move forward the journey to Microsoft 365.

This free solution migrates content from on-premises SharePoint sites and file shares to SharePoint Online or OneDrive in Office 365.

SharePoint and Nintex workflows failing on start pt.2 **FULLY RESOLVED**

It’s back again…a few months ago a wrote about my experiences with workflows failing on start after a .NET security update that was applied. You can read that post here:

SharePoint and Nintex workflows failing on start

Recently, the same .NET security update was applied to our SharePoint 2010 farm, which in turn caused the failing on start error to present itself again across all the workflows in the farm.

After identifing the issue soon after the update was applied, we decided to follow the same tact as before and roll back the patches, restart the servers and re-test the workflows – However, this time the results were different.

What was different?

Previously, rolling back the security update and any other patches added during this time, plus restarting the servers “fixed” the issue. This time, the same process did not yeald the same results and the workflows were still broken.

After performing the steps above, we observed that standard SharePoint workflows with a pause started to run sucessfully again, but Nintex workflows with a pause step either failed on start, or completed but errored after the pause step and sent an error notification.

Example 1 of nintex workflow with pause step failing on start
Example 2 of nintex workflow with pause step erroring, but completing

How we fixed it…

So this time we followed the updated step-by-step guide provided below on how to update the web.config files and OWS timer files via Add-CodeDomAuthorizedTypeToOWSTimerConfig.ps1 PowerShell script on the SharePoint Application server.

We ran the script as recommended, which re-added the assemblies and dependancies to the OWSTimer config file and the web.config files on associated web servers and this in fact fixed the issue! As the script does an IIS reset/ Timer Job recycle we didnt even need to restart the servers!

I hope the that tidbit regarding the nintex workflow pauses helps someone else 🙂

How to provision and deploy the PnP SharePoint Starter Kit part one

Update: The SharePoint Starter Kit is now a solution that’s available to apply from the SharePoint Online Provisioning Service:

This is the first of a two-part series on how to provision and deploy the SharePoint starter kit into your SharePoint tenant. Part-two of this series can be found below:

How to provision and deploy the PnP SharePoint Starter Kit part two

Although there is plenty of great documentation out there already (I’ll also reference and link to said documentation throughout) I wanted to provide a comprehensive step-by-step guide for those with little or no experience of SharePoint Framework, PnP Powershell or anything else with the least amount of steps required to get the SharePoint starter kit up and running in a Office 365 tenant.

I followed the all of the steps below to get the SP starter kit working in my environment:

Pre- requirements

Make sure that all of the pre-requirements below have been met to ensure that the SharePoint Starter Kit will work in your tenant.

  • Ensure you are connecting to the tenant account using an administrator account
  • Your tenant must be set to targeted release for all users, and you must wait at least 24 hours after setting targeted release before deploying SP Starter Kit
  • Check that the account being used has been added as a term store administrator

LINK: setting up the targeted release option in Office 365

Install developer tools and setup SharePoint Framework dev environment

Before you can get started with the starter kit, you need a SharePoint Framework development environment, this consists of:

  • Install NodeJS LTS version 8
  • Install a code editor – I used Visual Studio Code
  • Install Yeoman and gulp – I installed these using the command prompt
  • Install Yeoman SharePoint generator – as above
  • Install PnP PowerShell – you need to be running Windows 10 or have PowerShellGet installed to run these commands. I’m running Windows 10, so I just ran the Install-Module SharePointPnPPowerShellOnline in PowerShell as an administrator
  • Run Update-Module SharePointPnPPowerShell* to make sure its the latest version

LINK: setting up the SharePoint Framework development environment
LINK: Installing PnP PowerShell
LINK: updating the PnP PowerShell version

Office 365 tenant configuration

Once you have been through the pre-requirement steps, configured your environment for SharePoint Framework development and you are using the latest version of PnP PowerShell, you now can move onto the tenant configuration steps:

Create an app catalog site

  • In the SP admin center, on the left sidebar select the apps menu item, then select app catalog
  • Press OK to create a new app catalog site
Select app catalog from the apps menu option
  • Enter the following details
    • Title: app catalog
    • Web Site Address suffix: enter your preferred suffix for the app catalog; for example: apps
    • Administrator: enter your username, and then select the resolve button to resolve the username
  • Press OK

Create a new developer site collection

In the SharePoint admin center, in the ribbon select New > Private Site Collection. Enter the following details:

  • Title: Enter a title for your developer site collection; for example: Developer Site
  • Web Site Address suffix: Enter a suffix for your developer site collection; for example: dev
  • Template Selection: Select Developer Site as the site collection template
  • Administrator: Enter your username, and then select the resolve button to resolve the username
  • Press OK

Remember the SharePoint Workbench URL

SharePoint Workbench enables you to be able to test and preview web parts without fully deploying them into your SharePoint environment. You can access the SharePoint Workbench by using the following URL:


LINK: Office 365 tenant configuration steps

Create a custom property in the User Profile Service

In the SP admin center, on the left sidebar select the user profiles menu item, then under People, select Manage User Properties

Select manage User Properties from the User Profiles menu option
  • Select New Property from the ribbon options
Select New Property

Configure the new property with the following settings:

  • Name: PnP-CollabFooter-MyLinks
  • Display name: PnP-CollabFooter-MyLinks
  • Type: string (Single Value)
  • Length: 3600 (which is the maximum allowed)
  • Policy Setting: Optional
  • Allow users to edit values for this property: Checked
  • Leave all the other properties with their default value

LINK: preparing your tenant for the PnP SharePoint Starter Kit

Request a custom API key to Alpha Vantage

The API key from Alpha Vantage uses the live stocks service in the Stock Information Web Part. This is not a mandatory step, but I’ve included it for completeness for the starter kit:

In part two I’ll cover downloading the SharePoint Starter Kit, deploying it to your tenant and testing everything has worked.

How to share and co-author in Sway

If you start to use Sway within your organisation, you will likely want to be able to co-author and collaborate on each Sway much like normal documents and files within your O365 environment.

The good news is this is very much possible in Sway and the steps below will show you how to do it:

Share your Sway

  1. Before you can see who has co-author abilities on your Sway, you need to first share it with those people and decide what sort of permissions they have
  2. You have the choice of 3 options: specific people or groups, those in your organisation and anyone with a link
  3. To enable people to co-author the Sway with you, select edit
  4. Select the recipients or share the link with those you wish to edit the Sway

Under more options, you can optionally choose to set a password for people to access a Sway. This can be required for everyone or only those with edit access.


NOTE: You can share your sway with people outside of your organisation and allow them to edit by selecting the anyone with a link option.

Look who’s authored

Now that you have sucessfully shared your Sway, you will now be able to see who has co-authored it with you:

  1. Open your Sway, click on the Share button
  2. Under the link section you will see a list of authors for this Sway


You can also see who is co-authoring your Sway in real time! If you open your Sway whilst others are editing you will notice a little 1 in the Share button.