Over the years, Microsoft has introduced various tools with functionality to replace various components of SharePoint -- and in some cases exceed it. Now, the tech giant will add another tool to that portfolio.
Microsoft's Lists app is a newcomer to the toolbox, planned for release in August. Lists is a standalone Microsoft 365 app that enables businesses to track information -- such as issues, assets, contacts and custom lists -- and organize work. Companies can benefit from Lists by creating extensive custom product catalogs, business trip itineraries and event calendars.
The creation of Lists is Microsoft's attempt to decouple various components of SharePoint and make them accessible via Teams. Teams is becoming the gateway to other Microsoft apps and services, where many users spend their time communicating across content. Users can also access PowerApps, Power BI and Power Automate through Teams, which all replace other components of SharePoint; however, it is important to note that the content for each of these apps still lives within SharePoint.
The replacement functions for each of those apps include:
- PowerApps -- replaces InfoPath, which enables users to create custom forms;
- Power BI -- replaces Performance Point, which lets users create interactive dashboards; and
- Power Automate (formerly Flow) -- replaces SharePoint workflow engine, which enables business process automation.
The features that Microsoft is introducing with Lists will attract many end users to the new platform; however, the challenge that many IT professionals will face is what to do with their legacy lists that already have existing content in them. Businesses will need to decide whether to migrate existing lists to the new platform or leave them within individual SharePoint sites; however, there is not yet any clear migration path.
To better understand how Lists compares to the current functionality of SharePoint lists, IT administrators should know where both end users and administrators will find value in the new tool.
More ways to access various team and individual lists
The old SharePoint lists give businesses a way to organize, sort and filter information. SharePoint users employ lists to view collections of events, product catalogs and custom business lists and more, but these lists are built directly on SharePoint sites.
Microsoft Lists, however, provide users with immediate access to lists and doesn't require users to sort through different SharePoint sites to access them. Users can access Lists via the Microsoft 365 app launcher. From there, users can both create new lists and see all favorited and recent lists that they created themselves or that others shared with them.
A Lists integration will also be available in Teams. Users can add existing lists to a Teams channel or create new lists directly in Teams. However, even though users no longer have to sift through SharePoint sites for this information, content that they create through Lists will still live in the SharePoint platform.
To add a list to a Teams channel, users need to click on "+" and then select the Lists app, where they can then create new or embed existing lists within Teams.
Microsoft also plans to roll out a Lists mobile app that will be accessible on iOS and Android devices.
Administrators and power users have the ability to customize lists to enhance the look and feel with an easy-to-use designer that any business user with no development experience can understand. Current SharePoint list views that will carry over to the Microsoft Lists app include the primary grid view, calendar view and compact view -- a view that gives users only the most important headings.
Microsoft Lists also features a gallery view where items from the list include a preview of images in a grid. In a custom card view, designers can take list information from a table and choose what data they want to see and in what position in a card format.
Collaboration on individual items from individual or team lists
With more companies enabling employees to work remotely, one of the features that makes the Microsoft Lists app attractive to businesses is the ability to support content sharing and collaboration through Microsoft Teams, enabling users to interact with content in real time. Users will be able to collaborate with each other on that content and even post comments to individual items, without ever leave the Teams interface.
While commenting is available with SharePoint lists, administrators need to create a custom field that enables comments. With Microsoft Lists, commenting is available right out of the box -- either on the full list or individual list items.
For enterprise users who are not looking to take an in-depth course in SharePoint administration and creating lists, the Microsoft Lists app offers a number of ready-made templates, including:
- new-hire checklist
- event itinerary
- business trip approvals
- asset tracker
Microsoft will likely add more down the road, but users can get started with a ready-to-go list or start with a blank one in order to meet their business's specific requirements.
Integrations with relevant Office 365 services
In addition to integration with Teams, Microsoft plans to integrate Lists with Power Automate, enabling users to access workflows to interact with Lists content. This provides businesses with the ability to trigger events such as email notifications due to data changes within a list. Lists will also be accessible via PowerApps and Power BI and the Microsoft Graph API.