Why is SharePoint so awesome now? SharePoint Is Dead, Long Live SharePoint

Day after day I’m becoming more convinced that Microsoft is going in the right direction and the best days of SharePoint are still ahead of us. I went through Ignite SharePoint sessions and picked up a couple of things that in my opinion are the most important. Whether you’re delivering SharePoint consulting services, implementing or adopting enterprise solutions, the new features will have an impact on the platform and how we all use it.

Key points
  • What changed in application capabilities of Modern Sites?
  • What customizations will be available through the UI?
  • What is the roadmap for pages and news?

Ignite is an annual Microsoft conference dedicated for Power Users, IT and Developers (MS Build is a place to go if you are a developer, actually). At the last event I was a bit disappointed because Microsoft didn’t show anything notable. I decided not to go this year, and now I regret it. Because when it comes to SharePoint – there is some pretty exciting stuff going on!

Application Customizer

Today there is a problem with a simple mechanism that would allow you to change the rendering of the common places on the site. Application Customizer will allow modifying well-known placeholders with custom renderings. The example below shows a custom application bar that displays the most important information for the end-user.

Customized design

Source: BRK3252

Field Customizer

In SharePoint server, one can add a custom column or use JavaScript to customize how a list column looks and behaves. In the SharePoint Framework, we will have a Field Customizer that will allow controlling the rendering of data inside columns in the list view. On the image below you can find a map example:

Field designer

Source: BRK3252

Attention views

This is huge! Did you ever have a problem with missing metadata, or files not checked in? The attention view will help us all. The concept is to provide a user with easy to read and actionable information about the files that need their attention. The first release focuses on missing properties. There will also be a dedicated web part with summary and inline approval statuses. You will be informed about information that is missing or that a document needs your approval. Take a look at the example below:

Approval dashboard

Source: BRK3252

Custom formatting in columns

Did you ever use conditional data formatting in Excel? The same feature is coming to SharePoint! You will be able to set column formatting or an additional functionality based on its value. It won’t require programming knowledge and to me that’s pretty exciting.

The first release will require a JSON file, but after that Microsoft promised a user-friendly web designer. The scenarios that should be covered include:

  • Formatting fields based on value
  • Creating actionable links (for example, a button that sends an email to someone)
  • Flow buttons that start a workflow for an item
  • Data Visualizations where you can use CSS and icons to decorate fields.
Column formatting

Source: BRK3252

Custom forms support

I didn’t find much information about list forms customization; there was only one mention that it’s planned in the SharePoint Framework for next year. This is a very important feature in scenarios where PowerApps just lack the power to deliver up to users’ expectations and requirements.


Pages are the bread and butter of every SharePoint solution. Microsoft in particular has already done quite good work on their modern experience and sections. We have a brand new design editor and even page layouts. When you think about delivering news/publishing solution for thousands of users, a couple of features are missing:

  • Comments and likes: this feature was not SharePoint’s strong point, but almost every customer requires it
  • Multilanguage: when it comes to Intranet, it’s a nightmare to provide a user-friendly solution
  • Approval workflow for publishing
  • Scheduling for publication process
  • Content categorization and targeting: a must-have if you don’t want your users to be flooded with information.

Now take a look at the roadmap below! Most of these items should be released in the next three quarters.

Roadmap for Pages

Source: BRK3226

What’s next?

You may think that the SharePoint landscape is now perfect. There is unfortunately a big challenge ahead.

The new development model requires completely different skills. Up until now, people who worked with Microsoft technologies were quite universal – if you knew ASP.Net and Visual Studio you could develop for many Microsoft Platforms. Of course, there was also the case of gaining experience with such a huge platform as SharePoint.

Now, ASP.Net and Visual Studio are not enough. What is worse – the developer toolset has changed. Just take a look at the picture below. Virtually every tool that developers used has been replaced – from C# programming language to the hosting technology.

SharePoint Landscape

Source: BRK2250

From a SharePoint services provider perspective it means in many cases hiring completely new people (believe me – experienced Microsoft developers will look at node.js or yeoman with a big dose of reluctance).

SharePoint is dead, long live SharePoint

The last few years were very hard for SharePoint. The community bashed it for lack of innovation. Many good developers I know just moved to other technologies because of that.

Now I believe we are on the right track and I’m really looking forward to using all the new stuff soon. It will deliver a lot of value for customers and will for sure lower the price of SharePoint consulting projects. If you would like to know more or have a question, just contact us!

Information and screens in this article are from the following Ignite Sessions:

  • BRK3252 – Geek out with the product team on SharePoint lists and libraries
  • BRK3226 – Create beautiful, fast, interactive pages in SharePoint
  • BRK2250 – SharePoint Development in the Enterprise (What’s New, What’s Coming)
Key takeaways
  1. Application Customizer will allow for placeholder customization
  2. SharePoint Framework will gain a Field Customizer for column view
  3. Attention View will be added display actionable files
  4. SharePoint will gain a conditional data formatting feature
  5. Many new features are planned for Pages for next year
  6. The updates mean that new skills will be required of developers

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