Microsoft Launches Slack Competitor with Microsoft Teams

Microsoft has launched a competitor to Slack and other persistent chat applications that allows collaborators to chat back and forth in real time through a web user experience and mobile apps. 

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Teams can be activated within your existing Office 365 tenant.   With Teams, now Microsoft has yet another method for collaboration including:

  • Yammer
  • Outlook Conversations
  • Teams
  • Team Sites
  • Skype
  • Delve Boards
  • Good ol Fashioned Email

All of these services essentially do the same thing – facilitate discussion amongst teams working together.  Some are more real time, some are more document centric, but they all focus on enabling collaboration amongst teams. 

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Microsoft Introduces Location Based Conditional Access for Office 365

Office 365 has always had a concept of access controls based on users and groups.  Microsoft has now taken the concept much further to restrict access not just based on identity but also device profile and location.

Using a set of policies in Office 365 that control access to SharePoint and OneDrive documents, Administrators will be able to restrict access to documents based on IP address or network location.  For example, this would allow administrators to restrict sensitive documents from access outside of the corporate network.

Enhanced conditional access controls encryption controls and site classification in SharePoint and OneDrive 2

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Office 365 Site Collection Limit Expands to 25 Terabytes!

Microsoft has announced the increase of the site collection size limit from 1 TB to 25 TB for Office 365.

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A Site Collection in SharePoint is an important logical boundary in that it provides a separated zone for sites and content.  The Site Collection in SharePoint controls a number of settings, taxonomy features, permissions and navigation concepts. 

In previous versions of SharePoint, the Site Collection size was limited by the size of the content database.  Content databases were stored in SQL Server and the recommended limit for SharePoint 2007 and 2010 was 100 GB in order to facilitate easy backup and restore of the database.  In SharePoint 2013, the recommended limit was increased to 200 GB with no hard limits on the database size.  In SharePoint 2016, the content database can be 1 TB or greater, with the limitation being your backup/restore solution’s ability to manage the size of the database.

With smaller Site Collection boundaries, organizations were sometimes forced to carve up their collaboration sites into multiple site collections in order to fit within the recommended size limits.  This created some odd governance issues as organizations split up site collections by department, function, etc. without understanding the complexity of doing so.  In many organizations where conduct migrations from previous versions, we found hundreds of site collections. 

With Office 365, Microsoft is now raising the bar again so that a single site collection can store up to 25 TB.  This should simplify collaboration site deployment in particular so that all site collections can be managed within a single site collection if desired.  Given files are also increasing in size (for example, with large video files or engineering files that can take up hundreds of megabytes) the additional room will be welcome to some organizations.

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Auditing Arrives in Preview to Power BI

Microsoft today announced the addition of new auditing capabilities within Power BI.  The new features are only available in preview to United States customers for now.

For regulated organizations, being able to audit and analyze who has viewed dashboards or reports is an important requirement.  The new auditing features record every user view, export or change to data within Power BI.  The auditing data is available to export or can be viewed within the Office 365 Security and Compliance Portal.

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SharePoint Framework Developer Preview Just Released

In May 2016, Microsoft unveiled a new SharePoint Framework for creating responsive, modular presentation components as a replacement for web parts, app parts, etc.  The framework will be initially released to a new portal experience in Office 365 – I would expect it to be released for SharePoint 2016 on premise as well at some point in the future.

The SharePoint framework-an open and connected platform 3

The new framework is preview only and is available on GitHub here.

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When Migrating InfoPath 2003 or 2007 Forms, Watch out For Legacy JScript

JScript is a JavaScript variant used both by Microsoft browsers (e.g. Internet Explorer) and active scripting engines such as the Macro development engine within Office.  It was originally developed back in 1996 as part of Internet Explorer 3.0 to compete and co-opt JavaScript which was originally part of Netscape, the dominant web browser at the time.  Microsoft also has VB Script which is the default scripting language found in Office products for developing macros.

When migrating InfoPath 2003 or 2007 forms from previous versions, the original developer could have included some JScript code in the form.  This code responds to various events such as the form loading, clicking on buttons, changes to the form, etc.  If you try to load this form in the “latest” (InfoPath stopped being latest in 2013 when Microsoft stopped development on it), you will see this message if you look at the code:

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Any JScript that was embedded into the form won’t run and isn’t compatible with InfoPath 2013 – Microsoft dropped support for JScript in 2010.  You cannot even open the code to view it – the only option you have is to remove it.

If you want to keep this code, you’ll have to port it to C# by opening the form in a previous version of InfoPath (e.g. 2003 or 2007), scraping out the original JScript code and re-writing it as C# code. 

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Microsoft Adds Excel Support to the Office 365 REST API

Microsoft has added support for interacting with Excel documents, formulas and reporting through the Office 365 REST API.

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Key scenarios that this could enable include:

  • Reading and writing data to an Excel document stored within Office 365
  • Calling an Excel formula for calculations
  • Having Excel online render a chart or graph based on Excel data

Code samples and documentation are available here.

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Grammar Checking and Spelling Goes Cloud in Word 2016

Microsoft has released a new service called “Editor” which provides the equivalent of the grammar and spell check in previous versions of Word.  Editor provides these tools now as a cloud based service that uses more advanced analytics and human experts to identify issues.

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The key advantage over the traditional spell check or grammar check features in Word is the Editor service will improve over time as it reads through and digests millions of supplied text samples and the rules and suggestions are augmented based on feedback from experts and users. 

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Microsoft Unveils New Bookings App for Office 365

Microsoft has unveiled a new application as part of Office 365 that enables businesses to provide bookings for appointments, orders or service requests online as a service to their customers.

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Bookings is available for First Release customers with roll-out world wide in the next few months. 

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Bookings represents an interesting return to anonymous, public facing web sites since Microsoft shut down the public facing web site as a service option in Office 365.  Customers will not need to authenticate or be an Office 365 customer themselves – they can book with a name and an email address.

Bookings also represents a move by Microsoft to provide more specialized, fit for purpose applications within Office 365 instead of focusing on generic platforms such as document management, search, etc. 

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Microsoft Revamps Office 365 Video Portal with new Microsoft Stream

Microsoft has revamped its Office 365 Video Portal, transitioning it to a new Azure based video services called Microsoft Stream.  In a similar way to how Microsoft has moved Power BI into its own service, Microsoft Stream represents an independent video service that can be used in conjunction with Office 365 or independently as an pure streaming service.

Getting started

The Office 365 Video Portal was baked into the Office 365 subscription plan – it’s not clear how the new Microsoft Stream will be priced either in conjunction with an existing Office 365 subscription plan or independent of such a plan. 

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