Prepare your organization for this new – and compulsory – feature.

Introduction 

Last year, Microsoft began showing off a new feature – the SharePoint “App Bar” – designed to bring global navigation across all sites in your SharePoint online tenant. The ‘reveals’ were mostly limited to screenshots and, in keeping with Microsoft tradition, presenters were tight-lipped regarding questions related to features and schedules.

During the February 9th, 2021 Monthly PnP Community call, Melissa Torres gave us our first in-depth look at the feature, as well as important details regarding the planned rollout.

Here is a list of what you need to know.

What it is

In Microsoft’s own words, the SharePoint App Bar  “…brings a consistent navigation experience to every site on your intelligent intranet, featuring quick access to important sites across the organization, personally relevant sites, and the news feed.” (Holme, 2020)

Functionally, this is realized as a rail that will appear on the left-hand side of all Modern sites within your tenant.

At launch, the app bar will consist of four different elements: Global Navigation, “My Sites”, “My News”, and “My Files”.

The first element, global navigation, is the only configurable element of the app bar. The Global Nav node will be enabled by default but can be disabled if your organization does not want it. It is also tightly coupled to the Home Site of your tenant, giving you the option to use its site or hub navigation as your organization’s global navigation.

Additionally, it appears that you will be able to replace the default “Home” icon with a custom logo – recommended size of 20×20 pixels with support for transparency – as well as the title displayed at the top of your navigation.

The other three nodes are not at all configurable, nor can they be hidden. Instead, they show content that is personalized for the user that is logged in.

The first node, My Sites, shows two separate lists of SharePoint sites: Frequent Sites and Followed Sites. The list of sites shown are based on the user’s SharePoint browsing habits and the sites that they have explicitly followed; exactly as they show for users on the SharePoint Start Page (not to be confused with a Home Site).

The next node is My News, which shows a list of News content published from sites that the user has access to and that SharePoint decides is relevant to the user. In this way, it is very much like the News web part when set to the “Recommended for current user” setting. In fact, I suspect that is exactly what it is, but that’s only speculation on my part.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, the My Files node shows a list of files that the user has recently interacted with in some way. Again, this is a lot like the “Recent Documents” web part that is available in Modern SharePoint.

When is it Available?

While they did not provide an explicit date, Melissa did say that it was “Coming soon” and that she and her team were currently working on an announcement to disclose their plans for General Availability. Vesa Juvonen later added, to paraphrase, that it should be available on targeted release “in weeks”. As always, these are not concrete dates until they are officially announced, so stay tuned for that coming in the near future.

It is NOT Optional

One thing that caught me by surprise and was met by some immediate pushback from some users in the chatroom during the call, was that this new feature is going to auto-enable once it reaches general availability.

They are providing the ability to delay the rollout in their tenant, but only until October 2021. Once that date is reached, the app bar will be activated in your tenant; like it or not.

It is NOT Viewable by External Users

The App Bar is meant to be a tool used by your users to give them quick and consistent access to the sites that matter the most in your organization. Guest users, however, will need to rely on the navigation provided by the Hub or Sites they have access to.

While it is nice to not need to worry about a guest user learning more about your organization (via the navigation) than you desire, I am not sure what the harm is in showing a guest user the personal nodes. Microsoft clearly has the ability to not show the Global navigation so it does not seem like it would have been much more work to just disable it for guest users while allowing the others, but that’s just my opinion.

It CAN Work with Classic SharePoint Sites

While it will be enabled on Modern sites by default, Melissa said that it would “not [be] available on classic sites by default.” She also said that the ability to manually add the SharePoint App Bar to a classic site would be provided and that more details would come on that later.

It MAY Impact Your Customizations

If you are using custom web parts, extensions, or add-ins, you need to be aware that they may be affected by the inclusion of this new element in the browser. In particular, they called out any customization that is absolutely positioned to the left side of the page. If you have any of these, you will need to update your CSS to account for the presence of a new DOM node.

You Should Begin Planning Today

Finally, while we do not know exactly when this new feature will be made available to us, Melissa did recommend that you begin planning for it. To start with, if you haven’t already, set up your home site. Then start planning your intranet information architecture to determine what you need in your organization’s global navigation.

Conclusion

Do you have questions or comments regarding the SharePoint App Bar? Did I get it all wrong? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

And, as always, if your organization needs some help, the experts here at ThreeWill would be more than happy to assist.

References

Holme, D. (2020, September 22). Innovations for workplace communications and employee engagement in Microsoft 365. Retrieved from The SharePoint Community blog: https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/microsoft-sharepoint-blog/innovations-for-workplace-communications-and-employee-engagement/ba-p/1696149

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