Adopting the modern SharePoint Online document libraries

During the SharePoint of the Future event a brand new look & feel, including many new features, for SharePoint Online document libraries were announced. You can read my two cents by clicking here. Although I always get very excited and thrilled by new SharePoint features from Redmond. After a couple days, I did realize the major impact on the business users who have been working with the classic document libraries for a long time. Adoption (I know, not a really sexy topic) is absolutely crucial in guaranteeing the success of the new document libraries. In my eyes this is influenced by the following:

– Corporate branding

– Current configuration scenario’s

– Ribbon

– New features

Corporate branding

Most of you know by now that I am not a huge fan of extensive corporate branding in SharePoint. Unfortunately, the reality is that most companies find it very important. By activating the new look & feel the corporate branding of your SharePoint site completely disappears. Let’s look at a before and after:

Figure 1: Before opening the library with the new look & feel

Figure 2: After opening the new library

The suite bar is black and the background of the site disappeared. This has a serious impact on continuity of your corporate identity.

[Editor note]

I received feedback from the awesome SharePoint guys at Redmond and I would like the add the following:

– SharePoint theme’s are supported

– Custom Master pages aren’t supported at the moment

– JSLink/CustomAction isn’t supported at the moment

[/Editor note]

My advice: You really have to discuss with the communication department, often responsible for the corporate identity, if this is an acceptable situation.

Configuration & scenario’s

I advise to create a test site collection with a back-up for every configuration scenario. Why? You really have to test the impact of the new experience on your current configuration after enabling the new look & feel. Document libraries are being used for many scenarios with often a different configuration per scenario. For example: Storing project documents, meeting documents, knowledge files or dossiers. Two very common configurations are Document Sets and Managed Metadata.

Document Sets

We have many customers using Document Sets for storing meeting documents. The customer creates a new Document Set for storing meeting documents per month. You only want them to create a new Document Set after clicking on New in the action bar:

Figure 3: Creating a new Document Set

Within the Document Set we have two content types:

Figure 4: Content types within the meeting Document Set

But what happens in the new situation? Clicking on New results in the following:

Not what I expected, I configured the document library to only show Meeting Documents. After I continue by clicking on the existing Document Set, a new tab opens in my browser and the old look & feel is restored:

Figure 5: The old look & feel is back again

My advice: Don’t use the new look & feel for document libraries with Document Sets until these issues are resolved.

Managed Metadata

Taxonomies are very common to guaranty the application of a company wide and uniform metadata structure. Managed Metadata is your friend. The majority of business users uploads multiple documents at the same time. The downside is assigning metadata afterwards. The Quick Edit view really helps out in this situation:

Figure 6: Use the Quick Edit view to quickly assign metadata to multiple documents

Unfortunately, this view is absent in the new document libraries and you have to edit each document one by one:

Figure 7: Edit the properties of a document in the new edit form

Very time consuming. My advice: In case this is a huge issue for your business users, postpone the use of the new look & feel until the Quick Edit view is restored.


[Editor note]

I received feedback from the awesome SharePoint guys at Redmond and I would like the add the following:

– Declarative Custom Actions are supported in the new page – in other words, any Custom Action that doesn’t includes a script link or script block.

Any custom button in the Ribbon will appear in the new command bar

[/Editor note]

New features

In my previous blog I described most of the new features in detail but let’s summarize these:

– Pinning documents at the top of the library

– Detail tab for activity & editing properties of the document

– New action bar

These are all great improvements but please realize most business users need time and training to get used to, and learn to work, with new features. My advice: Organize training & instructions sessions, create how-to-video’s explaining the new features and launch a Q&A Yammer Group where everyone can ask questions. Keep a close eye on your business users in the beginning and make sure they feel really comfortable with the new document libraries and be there for answering questions. It doesn’t work out? Reverse back to the classic look & feel and see what you have to do to make it work.

What’s next

Listen, you don’t have to use the new document libraries. You can but it’s no obligation. For now, the libraries are only part of First Release. Even after these are pushed to production, Microsoft announced support for the classic document libraries far beyond 2017. Basically as long as it takes to close on any business critical scenarios or customizations to be fully empowered on modern.That’s a long time from now. This gives you enough time to analyze, prepare and launch the new libraries. You aren’t ready? My advice: Go to the SharePoint Online Admin Center and disable the new experience for your tenant:

Figure 8: Disable the new experience within the SPO Admin Center

Last but not least. Keep an eye on my blog for updates and of course

11 thoughts on “Adopting the modern SharePoint Online document libraries”

  1. Thanks for the clarification Jasper on the new doc experience. The documents sets were wrecking my head so I’ve switched off the new experience on a client’s new intranet. The global navigation around the new libraries is also an issue so will leave it for a while until Redmond sorts it out.

    1. No problem Andrew 🙂 We also turned it off for a couple customers. Don’t forget to start with testing and working on the release/adoption plan.

  2. Thank you for addressing document sets so thoroughly. I’m incredibly disappointed in the new experience results for document sets. i have defaulted our document set libraries to the classic experience. My supervisor doesn’t think this is the answer, but, as you noted above, the document set functionality is severely and unacceptably impaired in the new experience.

    I have been looking for an official Microsoft statement regarding how long they’ll be supporting the classic experience. The best I could find was a blog from June where they said, “We expect to run the two modes in parallel into 2017,” which is wildly vague. I was wondering if you have the source for, “Microsoft announced support for the classic document libraries far beyond 2017.”

    Please note, I’m not doubting the validity of your statement. I want to keep the classic view until (hopefully) they address the deficiencies. I would like to be able to plan a little more solidly the conversion for my users to the new experience.

    I appreciate your help. Thanks again for this blog!

    1. Hi Erin,

      Thanks for your reply 🙂 The statement should be on the blog, either within the text or comments, or in the previous Yammer network.

      I have talked with the program team about the issues with Document Sets and they are going to be addresses. Unfortunately there is no time frame at the moment.

      Just keep using the classic view and wait for the improvements 🙂

  3. Hi Jasper, this is a well articulated summary. I like you was very excited by many of the new features and have talked them up at the local user group and with my end-users. However, the slow realization of how much we give up in functionality for the exchange of a few new features is setting in. I often turn off the new experience so I can utilize functionality such as export to excel, or open in access (I use this for large editing and importing of metadata, users use excel for some custom reporting). The new lost feature to add to the list was found by an end-user today it was .pdf related. The new SharePoint experience opened the pdf in a Microsoft pdf viewer which provided ways to edit or print the pdf, but disabled the ability to click on links (book marks) inside the pdf document (a manual for business processes), after troubleshooting and trying various settings the only option was to have the user revert back to the classic experience. I like you hope many of the missing pieces of functionality will be fixed soon. I can already see the tide turning with users wanting to adopt technology that keeps complicating their real business day (because they are not techs) by eliminating functionality that they have come to depend on to do their everyday jobs.

    1. Just stumbled across this tonight and thought you may appreciate it. In a modern doc library, if you go to the View drop down and select View in File Explorer, it opens a new tab in the Classic format, containing Export to Excel, etc. The doc library retains the modern setting for everything else except that tab.

      I can’t find any adverse effects so far, although Microsoft will likely take it away at some point….

  4. Hey Jasper…

    Any updates on the Corporate Branding for Modern UI as im struggling to get any feedback from Microsoft.


  5. Hi Stuart,

    Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any news. My advice? Don’t expect the modern UI to support heavy branding through custom master pages.

    Hopefully we get an official statement and advice from Microsoft how to move forward.

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