Office 365, SharePoint

SharePoint 2016: What’s coming.

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As Julia White, General Manager of Microsoft’s Office division said, “Today, I’m here to say SharePoint. SharePoint, SharePoint, SharePoint”.

So let’s talk SharePoint. At the end of August, Microsoft announced the IT preview of SharePoint Server 2016 was being made available to the public. Since then, there has been plenty of time for users and developers alike to get their teeth into what Microsoft has to offer with the latest edition of the collaboration platform. But, since the full release won’t be here till the first quarter of next year, we thought now was a good time to review some of the new and improved features that you can currently experience in the preview version of SharePoint 2016.

Familiar features, better implemented

SharePoint Server 2016 is being built upon the same core platform as SharePoint Online. Most of the new features are improvements upon previous areas of SharePoint, making ’16 feel fresh yet familiar. Microsoft said we can expect to see improvements coming in three main areas:

1. Improved UI

Improvements coming through mobile experiences, personalised insights and people-centric collaboration and file storage.

2. Cloud-inspired infrastructure

Including hybrid cloud search, improved performance, reliability and support and monitoring tools.

3. Compliance and reporting

New data protection and monitoring tools, a trusted platform and improved reporting and analytics are featured additions.

So, what improvements will you and I see?

The new SharePoint release will provide IT Professionals and developers with numerous enhancements, but we wanted to focus on the visible benefits for the end user. Below are details on the best new additions and what they’ll bring to the user.

Hybrid compatibility with SP16 and Office 365

We thought we’d begin with the most sought-after addition that’s coming to SharePoint 2016. Whilst not a fully polished feature, Hybrid Cloud searching is available in the IT preview. Searching in Office 365 will take your On-Premises SharePoint search index so you can harness results from both.

New Minimum Role (MinRole) feature

This feature will make it much easier for users to set up and maintain SharePoint in a stable manner. It’s a simplification that will assist administrators by automating the process of configuring services when they select a role. In previous versions of SharePoint this was a task that had to be completed manually.

UI Changes

The App Launcher is a new navigation experience that places all your apps in a top navigation bar for easy access. Sound familiar? The new SharePoint is being given an almost identical interface to Office 365, further implementing the hybrid nature between the two platforms, and making it easier for users to navigate.

A touch-friendly interface has been designed for use with mobile and tablet devices. It has become imperative for end users to be able to access information and content on-the-go, so this is an important, much-needed addition.

Document libraries have inherited a new, sleeker control surface for working with content. For example, users can now preview images and video inside libraries simply by hovering the mouse over the intended item. The result is a smoother and easier user experience for file creation, sharing and management.

The new Share button makes sharing documents a more natural experience. By clicking the button, users can input the names of who they wish to share the document with, and hit enter. That’s it!

Infrastructure and performance improvements

The view threshold of 5,000 has been removed. Although the technical limit in a document library is 30,000 items, if you don’t know how to index columns this number actually caps at 5,000. This is actually a feature put in place by Microsoft to stop your SharePoint suffering performance-wise, and is still in effect. However, the indexing of columns is now an automated process, cutting out the middle man and saving you the hassle.

Although still not recommended, the File Size upload limit has also been increased. The limit has actually more or less been taken away altogether, but Microsoft advise against going over 10GB, or end users are likely to experience a disconnect when uploading.

Tip of the iceberg

Microsoft have promised that currently accessible features in the preview version are just a fraction of what is to come in the full version of SharePoint 2016. For those of you that are interested in the more technical improvements, The Microsoft Developer Network provides a comprehensive feature list of everything that is available now in the IT preview version. We’re sure Microsoft will drip-feed us more features along the road to the full release, so make sure to keep your eyes and ears peeled – there’s certainly a lot to get excited about.