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What’s New in Microsoft 365 (February 2020)

This month we are highlighting some new features in SharePoint and Teams, a new option for receiving Service Health Notification emails, and reminding you of the changes that went live in January for Power Platform Self-Service. Lastly, there is the news of Microsoft forcing users to use Bing Search by default even in Chrome. As always, there are a lot of things happening in Office 365, so be sure to check out the Tech Community Blogs and the Microsoft 365 Roadmap for more of what’s new.

SharePoint Per-Site Sharing Links Can Now Default to People with Existing Access

SharePoint administrators will be thrilled to learn that they will soon be able to set the per-site sharing links default to people with existing access. If your organization is seeing a lot of “accidental broken permission inheritance” in Office 365 this may be a great thing for you! This new feature was scheduled to gradually roll out to Targeted Release customers in late January 2020 and be completely rolled out by the end of March. As of writing this on 1/31/2020, we haven’t seen it in our targeted release tenant yet, but we’re never surprised when Microsoft is behind schedule😉.

Currently the options for default sharing links on the per-site basis are “Anyone”, “People in my organization”, or “Specific People”. Once this new feature is rolled out, “People with Existing Access” will also be an option. After an admin uses this default, tenant users who click on the Share button or Copy Link will receive an existing access link that does not change the permissions on the item. That whole bit at the end is the most exciting part of this addition – “does not change the permissions on the item”. We spend far too many hours reverting permissions after a sharing link has been disabled, and there are many times when the link was created to share a link to the item with people who already have access.  No worries, if this isn’t your cup of tea, additional link types are still available in Link Settings if needed, and this update does not change any existing default settings.

This feature is initially configurable via PowerShell but will be customizable in the modern SharePoint Admin Center in the future.

SharePoint Page Difference Visualization

This feature was originally scheduled to be rolled out by the end of January, but it has been extended to the end of February – again, no surprise there. Anyway, this feature seems like it will be pretty cool once it is available. It will allow page editors to access the version history of a page either through page details or on the command bar. But that is not all, editors will also have the option to:

  • See differences between the current and previous version highlighted on the canvas
  • Delete older versions
  • Restore older versions

Some people are more visual than others, and this new feature will be especially helpful for those folks. Based on the mocked screen shot below, there will not only be the ability to highlight the changes on the canvas, but the panel will also list the changes that were made since the prior version. It’s always helpful to be able to trace specific changes, especially when things go wrong on a page.

Mock Screenshot of Version Visualization

Teams: Notifications for New Colleagues Joining a Team

This feature was scheduled to be rolled out by mid-January, but we haven’t seen it in our tenant yet – funny, that sounds familiar. .

The Activity feed in Teams is the where users are notified of activity they may be interested in such as @mentions, likes and reactions, and activities within groups or channels. With this new feature, the Activity feed will include a notification for new colleagues joining Teams for the first time. These notifications are sent to, at max, the top 5 close collaborators of the new user and a user can receive a maximum of one such notification per day. Edu tenants and tenants who have chats disabled are excluded from getting this notification.

At first glance, this seems like a great little addition. After all, it’s nice to know when new members are added to a group; and if you are really minding your manners, it can be great to send a greeting to make them feel welcome. However, it is easy to see how, depending on the circumstances (users who are members of several teams and/or teams with regular turnover), this could become more like spam. Then there is the issue of the notifications only being sent to the top 5 collaborators of the new user – that seems kind of random. Overall, not really convinced that this is a value-add. Time will tell.

If you don’t even want to be bothered, you can manage notifications by going to Settings > Notifications – and just turn it off:

Screenshot of Teams Settings

Service Health Dashboard Email Notifications

The Service health dashboard in Microsoft 365 admin center will soon support email notifications for incidents. This feature is already available to targeted release customers, and should be rolled out completely by the end of March. With this rollout, you will be able to sign up for email notifications of new incidents and advisories affecting your tenant as well as any status change for an active incident or advisory.

Sign up for email notifications using the new Service health preferences menu from within the Microsoft 365 admin center. Note that changes to preferences, including the initial opt-in, will take effect within 8 hours.

  1. To use the new feature, click on the “Edit Preferences” button on the main tab of your Service health dashboard.
  2. Select the services for which you want notifications.
  3. Then specify up to two email addresses to receive the notifications.

Screen shot of Microsoft 365 Admin Center Service Health

Screenshot of Service Health Preferences

If you would like to use the new feature once it is available for your organization, enable the Admin center preview via the toggle in the upper right corner of Admin center.

Microsoft Power Platform Self-Service Licenses Now Live

Self-service purchase capabilities are now available for Microsoft Power Platform products (Power BI, Power Apps and Power Automate nee Flow) in all tenants except Government, Nonprofit and Education. This means that users are able to purchase licenses for these products independent of IT. If you do not want your users to be able to purchase licenses through self-service, you can disable using PowerShell – see Use AllowSelfServicePurchase for the MSCommerce PowerShell module.

For additional information related to self-service purchase, including available geographies, please see the self-service purchase FAQ.

Bing Search Chrome Extension Default for Office 365 Pro Plus Users

Beginning with Version 2002 of Office 365 Pro Plus, Microsoft will install a browser extension that makes Bing the default search engine for Google Chrome, providing the benefits of Microsoft Search in the browser to those end users, or at least that is how Microsoft is selling it. Personally, I don’t like the idea at all. I like to have control over which browser I use; and I use Google Chrome, because I prefer their search. It turns out many others feel the same way. TThe feedback online since the announcement of this new feature has predominantly been negative, with some going as far as calling it browser hijacking which based on Microsoft’s own description…it is. Below is the long and short of it. We’ll let you decide for yourself. 😉

New installations of Office 365 ProPlus will include this extension. When you update your existing installation of Office 365 ProPlus, the extension is included unless Bing is already the default search engine in your tenant. The extension sets Bing as the default search engine by default; users may turn it off via the extension toggle.

As part of Microsoft 365, Microsoft Search is on by default for all Microsoft apps that support it. Microsoft Search provides contextual work-related information using data sources in Office 365, including SharePoint, Microsoft OneDrive for Business, and Exchange.

With Bing as the default search vehicle for Google Chrome, those users will be able to access Microsoft Search directly from their browser address bar when they are signed in with their work or school account. This browser access to work-related search is known as Microsoft Search in Bing.

The first time your users open Google Chrome after the extension for Microsoft Search in Bing is installed, they will see a Welcome screen.

Your end users may disable the extension by

  1. Clicking its icon to the right of the URL bar;
  2. Then toggling off Use Bing as your default search engine; and
  3. Restarting the browser.

Once this feature has rolled out, your end users can change their search engine preferences only via the toggle in the extension; they cannot modify the default search engine in browser preferences.

Although this feature is rolling out initially for Google Chrome, support for Firefox is planned.

Microsoft Search does not use searches in your organization to improve public web results or to improve Bing, and Microsoft Search does not let advertisers target anyone within your organization.

If you don’t want Bing to be the default search engine for Google Chrome, there are several ways to block the installation.

You must exclude the extension before you install or update to a version of Office 365 ProPlus that installs the extension for Microsoft Search in Bing. Implementing the exclusion after the extension has been installed will not remove the extension. 

  • For new installations of Office 365 ProPlus, the Office Deployment Tool may be the best method, as outlined in this support document
  • For existing installations of Office 365 ProPlus, modifying the Group Policy may be best. Enable the policy setting Don’t install extension for Microsoft Search in Bing, which makes Bing the default the search engine.

If you have already made Bing the default search engine for your tenant, the extension will not be installed, and your end users will not be able to change the default search engine.

Learn more

If you decide to deploy Microsoft Search in Bing in your organization, see Microsoft Search in Bing Adoption Kit for resources to help communicate the benefits of this work-related search change to your users. Plan your content to make Microsoft Search more helpful in your organization.

As always remember to keep an eye on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap and your Message Center to stay on top of the latest, greatest updates.