Maarten Visser

Business Consultant and Software Architect. Passion for People, The Singularity, Cloud Computing, SharePoint, Office365, Azure, Apps and Energetic Music.


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List View Auto-Indexing – This SharePoint 2016 feature is available in SharePoint Online

It’s Sunday evening and I’m working late, so I’m not sure…
But how long has this option been around in the SharePoint Online ‘List Advanced Settings’?


Allow automatic management of indices


A part of me has the idea it has been there for a while, but running a Google search on this feature doesn’t return any results.
Anyway, I guess it can be useful to do a short post on it.

Why is this feature important?

SharePoint lists have never been designed to replace database tables. But SharePoint solutions grow and the result can be that you get into trouble by hitting the SharePoint 5000 list view threshold. When your company is running you’re own SharePoint Server farm, you could try to be nice to the IT Pro guys and ask to set a higher limit (like 10k items), but with SharePoint Online this isn’t possible. Setting a higher limit will Always have a negative influence on server performance, and so it’s understandable that Microsoft doesn’t want to set higher numbers.

Bill Baer (Microsoft Senior Product Manager for SharePoint) wrote a blogpost last week about “Navigating List View Thresholds in SharePoint Server 2016 IT Preview”. In this post he describes the inner workings of this feature. Basically there is a new timer job that will hunt for Lists that exceed 2500 items and when it find a list that has a view definition that could benefit from setting a index on a column, it will automatically created this index.

For example, if a view includes a filter for “WHERE A=1 AND B=2”, the Timer Job will create an index on either column A or column B. The specific choice depends on the other view definitions in the list, with the goal of minimizing the number of indexes created.

All Lists in SharePoint 2016 and Sharepoint Online are set by default to ‘automatic management of indices’. So there is nothing you have to do, it just there. This is the Office 365 Support article which describes the feature and usecase.

A filtered view with a column index is not only a way to retrieve items more efficiently, but a primary method of working with large lists and libraries without getting blocked. Creating a filtered view with an indexed column is a two-step process: create an index for a column and create a view that uses the indexed column to filter the view:

# Indexes   An index retrieves items quickly and can improve list and library performance. You can create up to 20 indexes for a list or library. Unique values require an index and the ID column is automatically indexed. Because each index adds some overhead to every database operation to maintain the index, it’s best to only add indexes for the most common or likely columns used to query the list or library.

# Filtered views   When you create a filtered view, make sure that the first column in the filter expression is indexed and that the filtered view does not exceed the List View Threshold. Other columns you specify in the view filter may or may not be indexed, but the view does not use those indexes, even if the final result of the filtered view returns less than the List View Threshold. If you use two or more columns in the filter expression, use an AND operator but make sure the first column in the expression returns the lesser amount of data

It’s a useful addition and I love the fact that it will ‘just work’…



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A new Office 365 Store is coming soon

A new update has been added to the Office 365 Roadmap which tells us the delivery date of the new Office 365 Store. The released date for all tenants will be ‘late July’. Organisations having a First Release tenant will be getting the new store in the next couple of weeks.

When released the new Store will only show ‘free apps’, so I’m guessing the current Office / SharePoint Store will exist besided the new store for a while. The new store will probably get the same look and feel as the store which will be released around the same timeframe.

We learned a lot about the new Office 365 Store updates during the Build and Ignite conferences. Jim Epes did a session named “Making Money with Office 365” at Build were we learned about the coming improvements. He did a similar session at Ignite named “Everything You Need to Know about the Office Store”.

Here are some of the things we learned during these presentations:

  • The store will get a more prominent location in Office 2016 ribbon and in the Office 365 App launcher
  • The new icons will bring users to a special version of the Store, which will also show them all registered applications at the tenant level of Office 365 (via Azure Active Directory).
  • You can hide Apps in the App Store (and only navigate to the app using a ‘code’)
  • The streamline acquisition flow which allows you to install apps directly into a SharePoint site or Outlook inbox without having to leave the Store Experience.

The update I liked most:

  • There will be a new option to present Web Apps in the store which extend Office 365 but live ‘outside of Office 365’. This can be apps which use Azure AD for authentication and use the Office 365 (Unified) APIs.

So what’s the goal of the new Office 365 Store updates?

The Office 365 store will make it easy for Office 365 users to acquire, manage and use third party applications directly from within their Office 365 web experience.

I’m sure these update will bring more Office 365 customers to the Office 365 Store (which currently has around 1500 apps). It might be enough to get App Sales in a lift, but more updates will be required to make it a really hot marketplace.

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Is SharePoint Server lagging behind?

Last week we got the shipping date for SharePoint Server 2016. Many of us (including Microsoft watchers) were surprised, since we were expecting SharePoint to hit RTM later this year. Most of us were expecting the RTM in the same timeframe as Office and Exchange 2016, but Microsoft is breaking with this tradition. Customers can try the public beta in October or November, but have to wait at least another year (Q2 2016) until the final bits are shipped.

Although it’s a good thing Microsoft has decoupled SharePoint from the Office client and Exchange Server, I do feel the need to make a negative comment about this new fact.

SharePoint Server is slacking compared to SharePoint Online!

The (OOTB) functionality Gap between SharePoint Online and SharePoint OnPrem is becoming a lot bigger this year with the introduction of more NextGen Portals and new features. Can you imagine how big the gap might be 12/14 months from now? SharePoint Online and Office 365 are updated on a weekly basis, and new features are added quicker than most Sharepoint farms can manage to do a successful reboot…

One of the big Sharepoint Online differentiators can be read in this new blogpost. The ability to quickly setup ‘enterprise grade’ collaboration solutions which connect to full featured Office clients on any device is great from a productivity standpoint. Due to the standardisation of the cloud it will bring more abilities to do ‘one click’ integrations with a large amount of software products, and without any hassle it will work anywere, anytime..

SharePoint Server differentiation

Sure, there are still good reasons to implement SharePoint Server 2016. Some companies will keep building new ‘private castles in the cloud’,  because it brings peace of mind to the extreme conservative compliancy and risk management departments. But also for good reasons like existing farms that need to be upgraded, limited bandwidth locations or specific demands for customisation.  Whatever the reason is, having SharePoint as an OnPrem product brings a very important competitive advantage for Microsoft: Hybrid solutions. Important competitors like Google,, Dropbox, Box and other ‘pure SaaS players’ don’t have this ability, which keeps SharePoint attractive for many big corporations. It absolutly makes sense that Microsoft is clearly making the statement that it will keep shipping SharePoint OnPrem for as long there are customer willing to pay for it.

So… SharePoint Server 2016 will continue the success story of bringing flexible ECM (Document management, Collaboration. Workflow, …) to customer datacentres worldwide, with the benefits of connecting specific workloads to the cloud using secure Extensions (like Office Graph signals). Large organisations will continue to like the ability to keep specific workloads (user experiences) inside the Perimeter / datacenter, but I expect the amount of new SharePoint 2016 implemenations to be lower compared to SharePoint 2013.

Desisionmakers need to be aware that SharePoint Online (and Apps build by third parties) are becoming much more feature rich every day and that deploying those solutions will often be much quicker and cheaper . Each new business request will need to be validated to see if the SharePoint Online alternative (and Third party hosted Apps) won’t bring more user satisfaction, productivity and economic bennefits to the organization…



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More Office 365 NextGen Portals are coming – What do we know?

The current portals

During the SharePoint Conference in March 2014 Microsoft showed the world the first two NextGen Portals for Office 365: The Video Portal and the Office Delve Dashboard. In November 2014 these portals became available for Office 365 customers who activated the ‘First release’ option and currently both portals have been rolled out to most tenants.

One of the interesting things about these ‘NextGen’ Portals is that they aren’t fully build using the SharePoint building blocks we have known for years. The Video Portal is using a SharePoint Asset Library and an Access App under the hood (after the uploaded video is processed by Azure Media Services, as explained here). For presentation of video’s the Video portal is using a custom application, with no SharePoint GUI components. For Office Delve it’s the same, it using a custom interface without any SharePoint parts. For data gathering Delve uses the Office Graph, which can be queried using the SharePoint Online Search REST API.

Microsoft has created an answer to a common SharePoint problem: Building business solutions on SharePoint (Online) still takes a lot of consultancy and customizations. While customers are getting used to ‘click and go’ SaaS experiences like they get with Dropbox, Zoho or Box. Office 365 needs more ‘ready to go’ solutions which are able to provision in a couple minutes.


Microsoft started to build these new Experiences and it seems that most of them won’t appear in SharePoint 2016. There will be Hybrid options which allow Office Graph to receive signals from SharePoint OnPrem (or other applications) and maybe we will get to see some new portal templates…

I slowly moved my focus away from SharePoint distributed on DVDs since 2012, when Wave 15 of SharePoint Online was released. I no longer want to wait for days of configuration to setup a SharePoint solution, I want instant gratification too! So lets take a peek at what’s coming to Office 365 this year!

Updates for the Video Portal

From the Office Blogs, Office 365 roadmap and Ignite session catalog we know the video portal with get the following improvements

  • A companion iPhone app to stream video’s to iOS devices (I guess a Windows universal & Andoid app will follow)
  • Responsive Web pages for access across devices of all sizes (PC, Mac, Android and iOS)
  • Extend video playback to non-Flash capable devices via the new HTML5-based player from Azure Media Services
  • More refinement for some of the admin controls available to portal and channel owners
  • Office 365 Video API to push and pull content in and out of Office 365 Video
  • The use of Doc types (is this a new name for Content types or a whole no artefact?)
  • App Parts (Great! They should ‘ further augment NextGen Portals experiences’ so I guess we get the ability to embed Video’s in SharePoint Online Sites
  • Improved performance


New People Portal

Julia White has mentioned in her blogpost on February 2nd that we are getting a new ‘People Portal’. I have implemented SharePoint at more than 50 organisations and the ‘company Facebook’ (who-is-Who) if one of those features all customers want to have. From a new entry in the roadmap I have learned a little bit more about the new People Portal.

The Office 365 user profile page, aka “About Me,” is getting a significant update. First, it will be more user friendly in its overall presentation and how it looks and responds across all devices. <snip> The new “About Me” page will highlight people and people search in a whole new way – from hierarchical views, to showing who people most closely work with, and even a method to send a kudo to a co-worker.

Based on this information I can imagine a ‘Delve like’ Dashboard focused on people and SharePoint Search (Office Graph) oriented Search result pages. The text above clearly indicates the User About pages (public mysites) will get a nice makeover and I hope we will also get some improvements and extensions of the User Profile Store. This Ignite session about the ‘The New Universe of Findability and Discoverability‘ is about ‘how we connect to the content and expertise’ which might indicate some functionalities around ‘People Knowledge and Skill management’. The mention of Kudu’s could indicate the possibility of rating co-workers (and their skills)…


Knowledge Management

Julia White has also mentioned a ‘knowledge management’ portal in her blogpost and there is a short Ignite session description on this new Knowledge Management Portal. Personally I’m very interested in the capabilities of this Portal. I’m hoping the best SharePoint has to offer (like Document Centers, Topic pages and pre-configured Content Search Webparts) is used to create this experience. But we might see a whole range of new technologies directly built on Microsoft Azure and bypassing the biggest legacy obstacle of SharePoint: SQL Server. One thing that seems to be deeply integrated in SharePoint is a whole new Page authoring tool!

A new page Authoring tool?

This roadmap update about the new About me pages has an interesting description about a new SharePoint Online ‘page authoring tool’. This tool can be used to “create stories within the company – then expand to enable creation of new types of dynamic pages”. Cool! That sounds like an Enterprise Sway! “These stories and pages are created within the browser and have built-in hooks to add other Office 365 content in a seamless way”

So we will get a cool new page builder for users to easily integrate documents from OneDrive, videos from the Video portal and images from SharePoint document libraries! This is like Wikis on steroids and I can image a lot of great scenarios for Enterprise Knowledge Management, Personal Blogs and Support documentation.

Developers will also get some great updates on the Office 365 API’s and the current SharePoint App model since we will be able to “use the Office app model in context with configuring and extending Office 365 NextGen Portals”.

I can’t wait to get my hands on it! Christmas will be in the last week of April / first week of May this year!



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Does SharePoint Online has the ability to show new features per user?

The Office 365 ‘April 9th Update’ added the new command Bar to SharePoint Online and removed the default Sync Button in the upper right corner. But it seems it also introduced something else… People in the ‘Dutch SharePoint Business Yammer group’ mentioned some users were not seeing the new Command Bar, but others did. Both users were using the same Office 365 tenant, the same SharePoint site, the same document library and had the same access right and licences.. Hmmm…

Like Paul Keijzers has also described in his blog post, we then suggested many different things to find the cause. My first ideas was that somehow the new HTML/JavaScript was not loading in the browser… So we asked them to do a hard page refresh, clear the IE browser cache and try different browsers. But since this didn’t have any effect I got a bit puzzled. The test users were identical, used the same PC, the same Internet Explorer and one got to see the new CommandBar feature, but the other didn’t..

One of the tenant administrators mentioned that Microsoft had told them (after creating a support call) the current update ‘is rolled out per user’.  Uh? Can you say that again? Really?  That would make no sense since you would deploy this kind of feature per SharePoint Farm, right?  Then I started thinking about how the Office 365 team is learning from the Yammer team and is coping all best practices for running a SaaS platform. For years Yammer has been launching new features ‘per user’ to measure ‘usage metrics’ and other types of A/B testing. Would the SharePoint Online team also started implementing this approach? During the SharePoint Conference we were told that the Office 365 team was also adopting weekly updates (just like the Yammer team). Hmm.. Now I got really curious…

After posting a question about this on twitter, Joe Gaster pointed me to a great blogpost written by Chris O’Brien. I had read this post before, but I missed the Office 365 Change Management session during SPC14 and it is still sitting in my ‘must see list’. In the session (and blog post) one thing is mentioned which could explain this mystery:  The coming “NDA Preview” for Office 365 will allow changes to be rolled out to a subset of users in a tenant”. This near future “NDA Preview” will allow ‘nominated users’ to see early bits…

So this proves Microsoft is working on the ability to push features to specified users, but this still doesn’t explain why users would not be able to see the new Command bar..

Then I received the word that there might be ‘an issue with the new SharePoint Online architecture’.
So I’m guessing Microsoft has rolled out this ‘per user activation’ functionality in the same ‘April 9 Update’ as the new Command Bar and we might be witnessing some unexpected behaviour.

If I get new info I will post it here…

Update May 2nd.

This is an update one of the tenant admins got from Microsoft Support today.

“I would like to inform you that this is still ongoing upgrade and is not completed yet. The users in one Office 365 organization are located on different server farms. The update is performed not by Office 365 organization; the new patches are deployed on the server farms. This is the reason why not all users in your company can see the new toolbar. The upgrade is still not finished and it is normal that some colleagues of you still don’t have the toolbar available. The update might take up to 2 months. After this time passed all users in your organization should see already the toolbar available.”


Somehow I’m not fully convinced this is the exact explanation…
Such an update could never take two months (especially since the 0365 team is on a monthly update cycle and moving towards a weekly cycle)


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Users are missing the SharePoint Online Sync button!

Last week I got a call from a customer mentioning the SharePoint Online Sync button had disappeared (from the upper right corner). The person was looking for a way to setup an OneDrive Sync, but couldn’t find the button to kick it off. As a quick fix I instructed the user to go to the OneDrive client and start it from there (by manually inserting the link to the Document Library).

This weekend I started investigating the cause and logged in to the particular tenant. I noticed the standard “SharePoint 2013 Sync” link in the upper right corner was gone. I also noticed the availability of the new “SharePoint Online Document Library Command Bar’ in this tenant (the use of the new Commandbar is described in this article).


According to the new Office 365 message center Microsoft started rolling out the new command Bar on April 9th and it would take several weeks for it to be available to all Office 365 customers. So, this ‘April 9th Update’ explained why the user was missing the ‘Sync button’ they had been using until today…. In my opinion Microsoft should have kept the original  (upper right) Sync button link in place (at least for a while), since the ‘Sync link’ will not be shown by default in a ‘Document Library webpart’ on a Site homepage template.
This will confuse users…

One way we can teach users to setup OneDrive sync is to click the Document Library webpart and use the Ribbon. Image

We can also teach them just to click the Document Library Wep Part Title and navigate to the Document Library.

I’m sure some users will have issues not seeing a ‘sync link’ on the homepage. For these users I have an alternative: There is a way to add the ‘sync link’ to the ‘Document Library Webpart’.

Here is what you do.
1. Edit the home page by clicking the ‘settings wheel’ in the topright and select ‘edit page’.
2. Select the ‘Documents web part’ and click ‘Edit Web Part’ from the context menu
3. At het bottom, underneath “Miscellaneous” select the option “Display Search box”
4. Click OK.

Here we have a Sync button on our home page 🙂


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MySPC 2014 Summary

It has been 6 days since I returned home from SPC14 but mentally I’m still ‘recovering’.  Like the previous SharePoint conferences in Vegas it has been an amazing week with some very interesting days and truly Epic nights. It was great catching up with existing friends and I had a lot of pleasure in meeting new.

But in retrospect, what did I like best about the conference..?

Microsoft is becoming more and more open
I loved the messages Microsoft was delivering during the conference. I have been visiting Microsoft TechEd’s, SharePoint and Partner Conferences for 14 years, and some things are really changing. Microsoft is becoming the ultimate ‘Open (cloud) platform vendor’ which is fully device-agnostic, and I love the growth in openness regarding roadmaps and future plans.

Here are some facts from the conference:

  • iOS and Android devices are fully accepted as platforms (for users and apps). Apple and Android demo’s during many sessions. New SDK for Android.
  • We get to see upcoming features and roadmaps much earlier. Examples are the future of Forms (FoSL), Office Graph and solid directions regarding the future of Enterprise Social (which isn’t SharePoint;)
  • Microsoft is asking us to actively and openly participate in product direction (by using the uservoice platform)

It’s all about Online Services (SaaS) and API’s now!
I was hoping for this to happen. Microsoft has been pushing the ‘Software and Services’ mantra since 2009. But now, 5 years later we really see the effects in everything that Microsoft does. The SharePoint Online API is becoming more complete every month and new API’s got introduced during the Conference. I planning to write a separate blog post on this topic in the coming weeks.

Here a summary of the SPC14 news related to the SharePoint Services world:

  • Office 365 is clearly becoming the most important platform for Microsoft (It has beaten SharePoint as being the fastest growing Microsoft product ever)
    • Triple digit growth in the past 18 months (a 485 percent growth in user access and a 500 percent YoY growth in customer content storage, since April 2013)
    • About 20% growth every month
    • 1.5 Billion dollar in revenue last year
    • 1 TB Site collection limit and Limitless tenant size (‘unlimited’ users)
  • New Powerful API’s, sample code and API tools are being released
    • New file API (Direct access to OneDrive)
    • New Discovery API (find the SharePoint and Onedrive namespace and endpoint of logged on user)
    • New Site provisioning API (Create Site Collections with options)
    • New Site provisioning and branding options
    • New People API (show stuff like “out of the office status”)
    • New monitoring APIs, like this ULS log SCOM endpoint
    • NEW PowerShell Commands
  • It doesn’t matter if you are a C#, Web, Windows, Android or Apple developer, Microsoft is providing SDK’s and Sample code to help us build cool Apps using these services
  • Services will be deliverd and updated much more frequently. No longer we have to deal with “3 year updates cycles”. Last year Office 365 went from a 12 week to a 4 week update schedule and currently they are preparing for weekly updates (just like yammer has been doing for many years)
  • More Integration
    • With the new Groups functionality we will get the ability to connect data in Exchange (mail and Calendar, SharePoint (Documents), Lync (messages) and Yammer (Social Updates) in a very powerful way.
    • The new type of “Contextual Apps” will be able to run in Office, Office Online and all device related Apps (like OWA for iOS and Android) to help you get all the data you need to make informed decisions.
    • Improved authentication integration (Azure oAuth / SAML 2.0 support)

And last but not least…  The Office Graph.

I’m preparing a separate blog post on this topic in which I will digg much deeper I what the Office Graph could bring to the Microsoft Platform. I have to be careful with my enthusiasm regarding this topic since I have been a big fan and ‘believer’ in the Semantic Web since 2004 (and still waiting for big breakthroughs;). Basically the concept of the “Office Graph” is the same as the Semantic Network Model, only at a smaller scale.  The Microsoft Office Graph will map all data in the enterprise, where the Semantic web (Tim Berners-Lee is now calling it the Giant Global Graph) will probably become the ultimate Graph, which one day will allow you to ask very complex questions ‘to the internet’. Check my blog in about a week to read about my vision on this Microsoft technology.

SPC14 was an inspiriting event, which lots of great moments. It’s just too bad we will have to wait another 1,5 year for the next one (I’m guessing October or November 2015).
I must say that the Conference was perfectly organized and the Venetian Convention Center was a great location for the event.  And yes, I really love Las Vegas, It’s the ultimate adult amusement park!


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