What’s new in Microsoft SharePoint Online

The new SharePoint Online, available with Office 365, includes a wide variety of improvements and new features. Discover how SharePoint Online can help you share your work and work with others, organize your projects and teams and discover people and information.

Note: The SharePoint Online Public Website information in this article only applies if your organization purchased Office 365 prior to March 9, 2015.

In this article


Social features

Community site

OneNote integration with team sites

New ways to work with video and rich media (SharePoint Online in Office 365 Enterprise plans only)


Document libraries

Keep track of important SharePoint sites on your Sites page

Keep track of your tasks

Project sites & site mailboxes




Site customization

Public website

Apps for SharePoint

External data access


Security, site management, and site upgrade

eDiscovery and case management (SharePoint Online in Office 365 Enterprise plans only)

Preservation of content (SharePoint Online in Office 365 Enterprise plans only)


Social features

SharePoint Online is now been reorganized into three distinct hubs: Newsfeed, OneDrive, and Sites. These hubs are available in a global navigation bar, and thus the social features associated with My Sites are fully integrated into the SharePoint experience. You no longer need to specifically visit your My Site in a web browser to access social features.

The Office 365 navigation bar with SharePoint Online

Create and view posts and updates in your Newsfeed

You can post to the public newsfeed at any time, post to a newsfeed on a team site you’re following, or see updates about other people’s activities. Note that you create posts or start “conversations” in the new microblog feature described in the next section. Select options in the Newsfeed to sort information as follows:

  • “Following” shows you updates related to things you’re currently following: people, documents, sites, and tags.

  • “Everyone” shows conversations started by people in your organization, and may include posts created by people you’re currently following.

  • “Mentions” shows posts in which you are mentioned.

  • “Activities” shows a feed of your current activities, just as it appears on your “About me” page.

  • “Likes” shows all items you have “liked.”

The newsfeed views

The Newsfeed page provides quick access to the lists of people, documents, sites, and tags you’re following. Note the following details about these lists:

  • In the list of people you’re following, you can optionally view a list of people following you.
    The People page on a personal site

  • Click a callout icon for any person to see their current newsfeed and a link to their profile.

  • Get updates in your newsfeed when any person you’re following starts following another person, document, site, or tag. You can optionally receive an email notification about these activities.

  • Tags correspond to the list of interests you’ve added to your user profile.

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New microblogging features

If you’re familiar with popular social networking sites, you’ll feel right at home using the new microblogging features, which allow you to engage in conversations in your Newsfeed.

A newsfeed item containing an @mention, document link, and #tag

With microblogging, you can:

  • Post to the public newsfeed, where everyone in your organization can view and respond to your posts.

  • Post to a newsfeed on a team site, shared with a select group of people.

  • Refer to other people in your posts using @mention. People are notified when they are mentioned in a post. You can quickly view all posts in which others have mentioned you.

  • Include tags in newsfeed posts. You can quickly view all conversations that reference that tag.

  • Share entire conversations by sending a link.

  • “Like” posts in your newsfeed. People following you see posts you “liked” in their newsfeeds. You can use the Likes view to find these posts easily later.

  • Include pictures, videos, links to documents, and web URLs in your posts. You can modify web URLs to display as text.

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More ways to share documents or sites

This release provides more options for sharing documents and sites:

  • You can now store personal documents in a single, personal library, accessible from anywhere — your OneDrive for Business. This takes the place of sorting documents into either “Shared Documents” or “Private Documents.” All documents in the library are initially private until you decide to share them.

  • Use the new Share command to quickly share documents or sites. You can invite people to share specific documents and control what they can do with them (read, write, and so on). You can also use the Share control to:

  • Receive alerts in your newsfeed whenever a document gets updated.

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Features for maintaining user profiles

User profiles in SharePoint Online are similar to those in earlier releases, with the following notable improvements:

  • Navigation is streamlined so that you can more easily switch between different areas of your profile, and the profiles of other people when you visit them.

  • Sharing options for all fields are now simplified to include “Everyone” or “Only Me.”

  • Newsfeed settings (“Activities I want to share” and “People I follow”) are turned off by default for privacy reasons. You must manually turn on the activities you want to share. However, conversations and email notifications are turned on by default.

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Community site

SharePoint Online expands the discussion board concept by introducing Community Sites, which are site collections built using the brand new Community Site template.


Community Sites encourage information sharing across teams and groups within an organization. They promote open communication by making it easy for users to both share their interests and expertise and learn from others with knowledge or experience in specific areas.

Community Sites offer several benefits over email, instant messaging, or other communication methods, including:

  • The availability of all Community Site content to all members of the community.

  • Full retention of discussion history in compliance with corporate governance guidelines.

  • Built-in search, which enables members to search all content in the community.

  • Ratings, which enable members to vote on individual posts and replies. Ratings contribute to the reputation of community members.

  • An achievement system that rewards members for participation in the community.

  • Categorization of content to improve discoverability and simplify maintenance.

  • Site maintenance via SharePoint lists, which provide a familiar interface and enable you to take advantage of the rich governance, records management, and workflow integration features of SharePoint.

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Community Portal

A community portal is a directory that lists all community sites available on your company intranet. Through the community portal users can search for, discover, follow, visit, and participate in communities of interest.

OneNote integration with team sites

Now, when you create a team site, a OneNote shared notebook is automatically created as part of the site. You can use this notebook to capture, compile, and share information.

  • The shared notebook inherits the team site's permissions.

  • You can embed documents into notebook pages. These embedded documents are automatically stored as separate files in a document library, so you can manage and share them just like other documents you store in SharePoint.

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New ways to work with video and rich media (SharePoint Online in Office 365 Enterprise plans only)

Managing videos

  • In addition to displaying a video on a standard page, each video uploaded to a SharePoint site will have its own player page that contains metadata about the video.

  • Video sets enable you to manage different renditions of each video that could span different resolutions, encoding formats and slightly modified video content (for example, audio dubbed in different languages). SharePoint manages which encoding is played depending on the capability of your browser and device.

  • Embedding of video sources external to SharePoint (like YouTube) is also supported.

Discovering videos

  • You can preview videos directly from a search results page.

  • While performing a regular search, SharePoint recognizes if the user’s query indicates an interest in watching videos based on simple keywords such as “speech,” “talk,” or “video,” and surfaces all the relevant videos to the top in the video intent group.

  • While performing a video search, you can refine the video listing based on properties such as video length or when the video was uploaded.

Playing videos

  • Each video has its own player page with metadata about the video and its owner, and a list of related documents. For example, if someone is delivering a class lecture that person can upload the PowerPoint presentation used along with the video recording for users to view. The player page also enables the viewer to switch between the available renditions, rate the video, and download the video.

  • Both HTML 5 video and Silverlight players are supported.

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Document libraries

Manage documents with the new callout feature

Use the new callout feature with any document in a library to see a set of rich commands and contextual information. Open, share, or follow documents; view a document preview and other information; take action right away from the callout.

Document library more info callout

Use drag and drop

You can now upload documents, pictures, and other types of files to your site by dragging them from your computer to a library on your site, such as Documents or your OneDrive for Business library.

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Sync document libraries to your computer using OneDrive for Business

Use a OneDrive for Business to synchronize document libraries with folders in your Windows file system. OneDrive for Business gives you access to your documents when you’re offline and automatically syncs updates to the server when you go back online.

Keep track of important SharePoint sites on your Sites page

Create new team sites quickly on your Sites page. Follow SharePoint sites and see them listed on your Sites page. People following you get an alert when you start following a site. If a site you create has a newsfeed, you can post to this newsfeed from the public newsfeed.

Keep track of your tasks

See a timeline of your current tasks, including tasks assigned to you in SharePoint, and tasks you entered in other applications such as Outlook that are sent to SharePoint via Exchange. Create new tasks and use views to filter tasks. For example, see which tasks are active, completed, or coming due.

Project sites & site mailboxes

Project sites enable people in an organization to effectively collaborate on lightweight projects. Project managers can quickly get a sense of what’s going on in a project, and team members can quickly see how their work fits into the overall context. Project sites also enable teams to access and share relevant data, documents, and communication.

A project site provides the following:

  • Project Summary Web Part

  • Visual timeline of the project’s tasks

  • Project task schedule

  • Library for storing relevant project documents

  • Notebook for quickly capturing and organizing information about the project

  • Shared calendar for team events

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Enhancements for finding people and expertise

Phonetic search now works in multiple languages. Additionally, along with contact and organizational information, search results now display authored documents and information about past projects that can showcase a person's expertise. Contact cards provide a way to contact people directly from the search results.

Navigation enhancements

Improved navigation helps people to discover the search box quickly, perform a search, and find results that are easily scoped to a site or higher levels. Search results are logically grouped and provide query suggestions based on past results. The hover panel allows people to see additional data about an item in the search results without having to click the item.

Search Centers

Site administrators can create and maintain Search Centers, and can customize the styling and settings that affect search results.

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Site customization

Create and edit lists more quickly

You can now create and edit lists right on the page, just as you are used to doing in programs such as Microsoft Excel. For example, just click a link and you can add, edit, or delete columns without leaving the page you’re currently editing.

Editing text on sites

There are many improvements to the rich text editor on many types of sites, including blogs and wikis. You can now embed videos, cut and paste from Microsoft Word without losing your formatting, and drag and drop images into the rich text editor.

Choose a new look and theme for any site

The new Choose a Look feature makes it easier to change the look and feel of your site and provides you with more designs to choose from. Just choose a look, a background, a layout, and fonts, and you’re done. For more information, see Customize your team site.

Edit the navigation more easily

Customizing the site navigation is easier now with the new Edit Links option in the navigation. When you click Edit Links, you can add a new link, rename a link, or drag and drop links from the Site Contents page or to new locations in the navigation. For more information, see Customize the navigation on your team site.

Configure sites for mobile devices

Productivity doesn’t have to stop as long as you have an Internet-connected mobile device. Depending on the complexity of your site you can implement SharePoint features that are designed to optimize your mobile viewing experience. If a mobile browser supports HTML 5, your site can display in a contemporary view.

New Design Manager for advanced design or branding

If you need to completely redesign a site from scratch or reuse a previous design of yours, you can use the Design Manager, which lets you modify master pages, page layouts, mobile views, and more. This feature is especially useful for advanced site design and branding to your public-facing website or your internal site collection or portal.

Public website

The public website in SharePoint Online includes a new design and new features for customizing the site and individual page. Because the website is built on the SharePoint platform, you now get publishing capabilities, more Web parts, and advanced design options. You can also now disable the public website so that it’s not visible on the Internet. You can do this directly from the website or from the Office 365 administration pages. This is useful when the site is under construction or in rare cases when the website must be taken offline. Enable the public website when you’re ready for it to go back online.

More page editing options

The public website now includes more page editing options. You can edit pages and save them as draft or publish them. You can add and format text and images, embed videos, add Web Parts, and more. It’s easier to change the website title, logo, footer, and other site elements. You can also copy and paste your own cascading style sheet and apply it to the site.

Easily change the look and theme

You can quickly and easily change the look and feel of your entire website by choosing Change the Look. Using this feature, you can browse a catalog of designs, choose the one you like, change the background image and font, and you’re done. The new designs have an entirely new look compared to the previous Office 365 public website.

Website navigation

You can now customize your website navigation directly from the navigation links themselves. A new Edit Links option appears in the navigation. When you click this, you can add a new link, rename a link, drag and drop links to new locations, and so on.

Design Manager for advanced site design

If you want to completely redesign the website from scratch or use a design you already have, you can use the Design Manager. This set of features lets you turn a conventional HTML web page into a SharePoint master page with page layouts, mobile views, cascading style sheets, and more. You can use your own website editor to do the design work before uploading the files to the Design Manager.

Optimize your site for search

SharePoint Online now makes it easy to optimize your site for search so customers can find you on the web. Enter title, keyword, and description metadata while you’re authoring the page, and adjust these properties later as you analyze search results. You can also specify values to be included in your sitemap, which search engines use to discover new pages in your website.

View website usage reports

To see how well your website is performing for your site visitors, you can open site usage reports, or popularity trends, in Microsoft Excel. Use these reports to view the daily or monthly hits and unique users to your website.

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Apps for SharePoint

SharePoint Online now includes support for the development, installation, management, and use of apps. An app is a small-scale, stand-alone application that solves a specific end-user need. End users can download apps from their organization's App Catalog. The SharePoint Online admin can use the settings in the SharePoint admin center to manage the App Catalog and monitor apps in use.

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External data access

You can use the following new features when working with external data that has been enabled through the use of Business Connectivity Services and the Secure Store Services.

Add external data to published Visio diagrams

Using Visio 2013, you can link data from an external list to a diagram and its shapes. You can then publish the diagram to a SharePoint document library as an interactive web drawing so users can display the diagram and view the associated external data. There are three ways to link rows of data to shapes in your drawing. You can link rows to existing shapes one at a time, you can link the rows to shapes automatically, or you can create shapes from the data.

General performance improvements

Business Connectivity Services has been redesigned to alleviate performance bottlenecks. In general, data retrieval, paging, filtering, and sorting can be offloaded to the external data source to help reduce memory and processing resources needed by SharePoint products.

Overall, these performance features help speed up the display, refresh, and data operations of the external data on a web page and in any Office product that works with external data.

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Security, site management, and site upgrade

Allow or disallow iFrames

Site collection administrators can tighten security on iFrames by specifying the rights of contributors to insert iFrames onto pages, leveraging a list of domains from which iFrames are accepted, if necessary.

Improved site collection upgrade experience

After your Office 365 tenant has been upgraded to the newest version of O365, site collection administrators can upgrade individual site collections to make new SharePoint features and user interface improvements available.

To prepare for the upgrade:

  • Use the site collection health checker  Site collection administrators or owners can use the site collection health checker to detect issues with their site collections, then address those issues before upgrading the sites to the new user interface.

  • Request an evaluation site collection  Before making the switch, take a sneak peek at what a site will look like with the new user interface. The evaluation site collection is a copy of the site—for preview purposes only. Evaluation sites are set to automatically expire and be deleted.

For more information, see Upgrade a site collection.

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Improvements to the SharePoint admin center (SharePoint Online in Office 365 for business plans other than Office 365 Small Business)

The SharePoint admin center that is available with all Office 365 plans other than Office 365 Small Business now features an expanded range of administrative tasks that enable administrators to manage features such as:

  • Site collections

  • User Profiles

  • Business Connectivity Services (BCS)

  • Managed metadata and the Term Store

  • Records Management

  • Search

  • Secure Store

  • Apps for SharePoint

  • Self-service site creation

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New Recycle Bin

The SharePoint admin center now includes a Recycle Bin. This will allow you to restore accidentally deleted site collections.

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eDiscovery and case management (SharePoint Online in Office 365 Enterprise plans only)

The eDiscovery Center site template creates a portal through which you can access cases involving eDiscovery (electronic discovery) requests. You can place content on hold (during litigation or investigations, for example), conduct queries, and export content. Your SharePoint Online administrator can create an eDiscovery Center site collection and grant permission to users who can create and work on their own eDiscovery Case sites. Each case is a collaboration site that includes a document library that you can use to store documents related to the management of the case.

In addition, you can associate the following things with each case in the eDiscovery Center:

  • Sources: Exchange mailboxes crawled file shares, or SharePoint sites.

  • Queries: The search criteria, such as author, date range, and free-text terms, as well as the scope of the search. Queries are used to identify content to export.

  • eDiscovery sets: Combinations of sources, queries, and whether or not to preserve content. eDiscovery sets are used to identify and preserve content.

  • Exports: A location to download exports of content.

When there is a new need for electronic discovery — for example, a legal case or an audit — a user with the appropriate permission can create a new case, add sources of information to be searched, create queries to identify the specific material to be located, and then execute the queries. The user can then preserve the sites and mailboxes in which content was discovered, retain the items that matched the queries, and export the items. When the case is closed, all of the holds associated with the case are released.

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Preservation of content (SharePoint Online in Office 365 Enterprise plans only)

Content that is placed on hold is preserved, but users can continue to work on it. The state of the content at the time of preservation is recorded. If a user modifies the content or even deletes it, the item is retained at the time of deletion and the original, preserved version is still available.

Preserving content is similar to placing it on hold, with the following enhancements:

  • SharePoint sites and Exchange mailboxes can be preserved which, in turn, protects the documents, list items, pages and mail items that belong to those sites and mailboxes.

  • Preservation is done at the level of a site. Preserving a site preserves the contents of the site.

  • Users can continue to work with content that is preserved. The content remains in the same location, and users can edit, delete, and add new content.

  • A user with the permission to perform eDiscovery can access the original version of preserved content.

You do not have to preserve an entire site or mailbox. You can specify a query to define the preservation scope, and preserve only the content that matches the query.

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