Someone Is Following Me

So last time I showed you how to share access to documents in your SharePoint document library. If you are only allowing others to view the documents, you may not have any additional concerns. However, if you grant them edit access, you might be interested in knowing if or when they make changes to one of the documents. More importantly for them, they may want to follow your document to know when you or someone else has made a change to it. One way that you (or they) can do this is to follow the document. While today’s discussion will focus on following documents, you can also follow sites, tags, and people.

If after you read this document, you do not see the buttons to follow documents (or sites or people) contact your SharePoint administrator. They may not have turned on this capability in Central Administration. Note that your SharePoint Administrator can also limit the number of people, documents, or sites that can be followed.

The following figure shows a document library with one of the documents selected by clicking on the ellipses to show the additional features dialog.

By clicking the FOLLOW command at the bottom of the dialog, I can receive notices on my Newsfeed page when this document is changed, even if only the properties of the document have been changed such as the document name or other metadata value. After clicking FOLLOW, SharePoint immediately confirms that I am following this document by temporarily displaying a message box in the upper right corner of the screen.

To check my newsfeed for updates to anything I am following, click the Newsfeed button on the My apps dialog (click the grid to the immediate left of the Office 365 banner).

In the center of the Newsfeed page, you should see a list of the most recent activity in the items that you are tracking. In this case, there is only one item showing. However, after marking several documents, people, sites, and tags to follow, this list can be rather large. Notice that in this case, the text tells me the name of the person who acted on the document, what they did, and the name of the document. If I hover over an entry, an ‘X‘ appears on the right side and clicking this icon will remove the item from my feeds list. They will also automatically be removed after several days. However, since this information is only stored in cache, if there is a reboot or an iisreset, the list can be truncated sooner.

On the right side of the Newsfeed page, you can see a summary of the number of people, sites, documents, and tags that you are following. If you click on any of these (that have a value greater than 0), SharePoint shows a list of the items you are following.

If I were to click on the number ‘2‘ above ‘documents’ above, I can see information about the two documents that I am following. I can click on a document name and SharePoint assumes that I want to open the document. If the document happens to be a Word document, Word Online opens the document in view mode. Of course, I can choose to edit the document either online or on my local machine by clicking one of the options in the Edit Document dropdown. I can also stop following a document by clicking the Stop following link beneath each document name and address. Similar options exist for displaying and following people, sites and tags.

If I were to click on the Stop following link, SharePoint gives me a chance to confirm that I really want to stop following that item or I can cancel from an accidental click on the link.

Before ending for today, I want to clear up something that may be confusing as you create your sites.  You may have created a team site to work on in SharePoint Online and you may see a web part with the title Newsfeed in the lower left of the default page. (You can see this in my January 24th 2015 post  Do not confuse this Newsfeed web part with the Newsfeed app I referenced above in your My Apps dialog.  They are not the same.  In fact, the team site Newsfeed is actually more of a traditional Internet newsfeed in which you can post information pertinent to the site and allow others to respond or comment on it.  Do not look here for references to sites, people, documents, or tags that you are following.

That’s all for this week. Next week I’ll close this mini-series with a review of using alerts as an alternative to following a document and explore some reasons why I might choose to follow some documents while preferring to receive alerts on others.


Using Word Online to Create Documents in SharePoint Online

Last time, I showed how to create an initial SharePoint site using the online version of SharePoint. This week, I’ll show how you can easily add and use documents in your document library using the Office products included in Office 365.

If you remember, the home screen of the site included a web part in the lower right corner with the title Documents. This web part displays the contents of the Documents library from the current site which is initially empty. You could of course upload existing documents from your local computer folders by clicking the upload button and either entering the name of an individual document, using the Browse button to navigate to and select an existing document or if you have multiple files to upload, click the link: Upload files using Windows Explorer instead. This option lets you drag and drop files using Windows Explorer from different local folders into the SharePoint Shared Documents library of the current site.

However, the real interest part is what happens when you click the New button to create a new document.

A popup menu appears allowing you to create a document using any of the Office 365 tools which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. There is also a new option that lets you create an Excel Survey. While similar to surveys that you may have created previously in SharePoint, there are some difference. I will cover creating and using Excel Surveys in a future week. Let’s assume for now that I want to create a Word document.

When I click Word document, Word Online opens as shown in the figure below. Note that the number of ribbon tabs and the contents of the ribbons while similar to those found in your desktop version of Word are similar, there are not as many features in Word Online. For most document needs, you will find that the options provided in Word Online can get you through the creation of your documents. Similar reduced functionality exists for Excel workbooks, PowerPoint presentations, and OneNote notebooks using the online tools. I cannot comment on Microsoft’s intention of eventually duplicating all of the functionality of their desktop Office tools in the Online versions. One can only hope that being online will allow Microsoft to add new functionality as soon as it becomes available, not just in fixed interval releases that can be years apart. Perhaps in the long term, software versions as we currently know them will become a thing of the past as new functionality is added immediately.

In the above figure, I created a short document and I am now ready to save it. Being familiar with the desktop version of Word, my first though is to open the File menu and select Save As. However when I do this, I see the following screen which tells me that I can download a copy of the document to my local computer or I can create a PDF which I can also download to my local computer. Then the dialog asks me, “Where’s the Save button?” Where indeed? It then says that there is no save button because the document is automatically saved.

Where is it saved? Well, remember that I started from a web part that was displaying the contents of the Shared Documents library of my online SharePoint site. That is exactly where the document is saved.

You may have also noticed that I was not asked for a document filename. It fact, it is just called Document. Not very descriptive. I’ll get to what I should have done in a moment, but remember that every document has properties and that you can always edit those properties from within your document library.

Let’s first navigate to the Shared Documents library. A fast way to do this is to click the web part title: Documents on the Home page. Now the entire page is devoted to showing just the Shared Documents library contents. Note the three dots (ellipsis) to the right of the document name. I can click on these dots to open the dialog shown below. This dialog shows me a preview of the document’s contents along with some information about the document. Finally at the bottom of the dialog are some commands to allow you to edit the document, define permissions for the document, get notifications about changes to the document by following it, and another three dots for additional commands.

Opening this second ellipsis, I see a familiar popup menu with commands that include the ability to view and edit properties of the document. In this case, I want to edit the document’s properties to change its name.

The Edit Properties page only displays two user editable properties, the document name and the document title. The difference between these two properties is that the document Name is the physical filename of the property as it is saved in the document library. Generally I recommend that the name be short and that it does not include spaces since spaces in file names require special treatment in many applications. You can see that the name includes the suffix .docx indicating that the document is a Word document. You can store almost any kind of document in a library and the file’s suffix will appear here but cannot be changed. The second property is called Title and by default is blank. However, you can enter any descriptive text you want to use to identify the document. It does not have to be short. It can include blanks. It should be user friendly. When document libraries display their contents, you can display either the Name or the Title or both. In some cases, you may want to ‘hide’ the real filename which may not be user friendly anyway from the user and only display the more descriptive Title property.

Having changed the document’s name and added a title, I may want to modify what properties of the documents I show when the library contents are listed on my home page. I can do this by clicking the ellipsis immediately after the text: All Documents. This pops up the menu shown below which allows me to either modify the current view or create a new view of the library. Let’s modify the current view.

In the Edit View dialog, you can change which columns appear as well as the order in which those columns appear. In addition, you can filter and sort the contents of the library as well as define other display properties. This dialog includes options you may already be familiar with from working in the on premise version of Sharepoint.

For this example, I will click the Display box to the left of the column name Title to include it in the view and I will define it to be the third column displayed from the left, right after the document name, as shown in the following figure.

Now when I display the contents of the document library, both the name and the title of the document appears. Note however, this will have no effect on the properties displayed for documents on the home page’s Document web part. Why? Because the view used on the home page was different when that page was created. It is not automatically updated just because we updated the view in the Shared Documents library. Think of a cookie cutter. When you use a cookie cutter to cut out a dozen cookies and then bend the metal into a different shape, your new cookies will have the new shape, but the old cookies have the old shape. View definitions are the cookie cutter used to define the fields and other properties of a list displayed on the page at the time the list was added to the page. In a future blog, I will show that you can change the view on the home page to either match the current view definition in the library or even to create a new custom view that does not exist anywhere else.

Finally, what should I have done to name the document when I created it? Perhaps you did not notice the word: Document in the heading of the Word Online screen. Maybe you just thought that Word was trying to remind you that you were creating a document. Actually, that word, Document, in the middle of the header was really the default document name. If you hover over it, a tooltip style box appears telling you that you can click on it to perform a Rename File action.

Simply select the current filename and type in a new filename as shown below.

Since I performed this last action on a new document, my home screen now shows that I have two documents in my Documents library, one that I renamed by going through the properties and one that I renamed directly from within Word Online.

That’s all for this week. C’ya next time.





Creating Your First SharePoint Site on O365

I was recently asked if I had done anything with Office 365. At the time I hadn’t, but I do have the opportunity to try it. So starting this week, we will take a series of looks at working with SharePoint online.

Obviously, the first thing you might want to do if you have Office 365 is to create a small collaboration site for you and your friends to share documents, calendars, tasks, etc. So let’s start at the beginning by opening Office 365.


The number of office tools/apps displayed in the Office 365 banner is a function of your screen design. So as in the above case, you may not see anything that looks like it might be SharePoint. However, notice the three dots (called ellipses) to the right of the work Outlook. Just as in SharePoint 2013, this icon means that other options exist and you just need to click on it to view them.


The resulting dropdown menu shows the other tools/apps available. Scroll down and click on the command Sites. This action opens a window showing you SharePoint sites you may have access to as well as sites that you may have created.


In future weeks, I will look at working with existing sites and how to share your site with others, but for today, I will create a new site by clicking on the New button in the upper left portion of the screen. As you can see below, the first thing you need to do is to assign a name to your site. For demo site, why not call it: SharePointMike and then just click Create.


You will first see a dialog on the screen informing you that this should not take too long. After a few seconds (or perhaps a minute or so), you should be returned to the initial screen you saw after clicking on the command Sites. Only now, you should see a listing for your new site that looks something like the following:


In fact, that is all you need to do to create a basic site. To enter the site to start adding content, simply click on the SharePoint icon or by clicking on the site name. When the site opens, you should see a set of icons across the top of the screen that help take you to common tasks you probably want to do in your new site.


Also notice that by default, the site include a Newsfeed web part and a web part to list the items in your Documents library. Of course, both of these are initially empty. I will come back to these in later weeks.

Let’s first click on the icon that displays the text: Your site. Your brand. This icon is the second from the right in the above image.


This page looks very familiar if you have ever worked in SharePoint on the premise. It displays sections to let you change the site title, create a site description, change the site logo from the default SharePoint logo, and even reset the web site address.

Recommendation: When I create a new site, the initial name that I enter for the site is actually the name I want to use in the URL. Then I come to this screen and change the Site Title to something that might be more user friendly.

If you have a logo you want to use for your site, now is the time to set it. If the site is going to be a personal site, you may want to upload a picture of yourself as the site logo so people coming to your site recognize you. Notice that in the section where you can insert a logo, you can upload the logo directly from your computer. You do not have to first upload the image to an images library in SharePoint before you use it. SharePoint can do that work for you. So for example, if I want to grab a logo from my local machine, the next dialog which lets me browse to my desired logo looks like the following.


I can click OK to close this dialog and then click OK on the dialog that displays the site settings to complete this set of actions. Next I might want to change the site style or color scheme. I can do this by clicking the What’s your style? Button from my site’s home page.


This first opens a page that displays a selection of different templates for your site. The following image shows only a portion of them.


After you select one of these templates you can further customize the color scheme by choosing from the available color combinations along the left side of the screen.


You may also have some options for the Site Layout and Fonts used by the pages. I will let you explore some of the different options yourself. The following image displays the options I chose to customize my site.


When I am done, I can save my changes and return to my site’s home page by clicking Home in the top banner to display my new home page which now looks something like the following.


That’s all for this week. Next time, I will drill down into using more of the features of this site such as how to use Word Online to create documents that I will then save into my SharePoint document library.

C’ya then.