Watch out When Creating Files from the Office 365 App Launcher

Watch out When Creating Files from the Office 365 App Launcher

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I absolutely adore the new App Launcher. It's evident yet subtle, and allows me to quickly jump to what I need to use from the cloud. Whether I want to write an email, check my files in OneDrive for Business or look at the Sites I am a member of, the App Launcher is great.

When looking at the App Launcher itself, I don't really have any problems. However, the Office Web Apps within it promote a bad user experience from my perspective. Let me explain.

SharePoint Team Sites and OneDrive for Business, where should the files go

Where should we file Office documents

A question we have always asked ourselves, where should I save this file? Whether this was on Shared Drives or in SharePoint, we'd always think about where to put them.

Of course, in a Folder Structure, you'd think about the right drive and then under it, which folder would be the right place to put the file. The problem with folders is that documents physically can only be under one, folder structure I mean. So the documents would either be under Contract or Customer, but not both.

Then with SharePoint, we started telling each other to step away from folders as much as we could and use Metadata instead. Metadata is a geek word we use to sound smart, but it means Additional Information. If you take a picture and there's the date on the picture, that's also Metadata. In SharePoint, the way we see Metadata is often in the form of columns.

But both of these ways to store our files have one thing in common, they're not personal locations. What I mean is, they're not owned by the individual user at work, in his My Documents or My Sites in SharePoint. Always centralized and in a place owned by the organization.

Now, we have OneDrive for Business in the mix.

If you are not familiar with it, I recommend you take a look at these articles:

I explain what it is and more importantly, that it's a personal library or site for you to put some work files in that don't belong in a Team Site or Group Files.

Office 365 Web Apps in App Launcher can only save to OneDrive for Business

Office 365 Web App save in OneDrive for Business

On multiple occasions, meeting potential and existing customers of ours, I always try to show the value of Office 365 and its Experiences. Being able to start doing things and using them without having to go build them ourselves. I won't lie, I'm extremely impressed with Office 365 Experiences and the work done in the past year.

After explaining the features from a technical standpoint, how they work and what problem they are trying to solve, I've been asked to show how people would work. "What's the flow of a user when working on the platform?" I am asked.

Of course, I'm very proud to show the tools and especially the new App Launcher that helps me jump from Mail to Sites and peeking at my Video Portal in Office 365 quickly.

Through the enthusiasm, they take over and start using it themselves and want to see the content creation and collaboration. After clicking on Word Online in the App Launcher and writing a few lines, the fun begins.

First, they look for the Save Button. Everyone makes the same mistake and it's totally normal. I tell them (with a visible smirk) that their work is saved automatically and that we can see it at the bottom of the page.

They then ask me how they can save the document to the right "Office 365 Group" or "SharePoint Team Site" I have been talking about.

You can't save documents created with Office Web Apps in the App Launcher anywhere other than your personal OneDrive for Business.

In an effort to make Office 365 a personal experience for each user in the organization, it seems the document creation from your main App Launcher is limited to your personal library.

The "it doesn't matter where your files are" philosophy with the Office Graph and Delve

Where are files stored with Office Graph and Delve

If you haven't seen it yet, Delve is a personal Search and Discovery tool built using the Office Graph in Office 365. As an individual, you can go to Delve to find what you're looking for without always looking for it. Using information in the graph, such as your upcoming meetings and who is closest to you in the organization or simple things like recently modified documents, Delve will show them to you.

This has introduced a new working philosophy in our industry: "It doesn't matter where your documents are anymore".

Some are promoting this in organizations. "Just do your work", create files and share them with the person you want to work with and forget about where it needs to be stored. Why? Because Delve will find it for you and show it to you.

And in theory, I actually love this premise. For a small organization like ours, it actually works pretty well. Until someone is no longer here and we have to decide what to do with all the files created in that personal OneDrive for Business. How do you move them and keep the versioning, permissions and any other metadata that comes with it to a new location?

But it goes beyond that! In larger organizations, we work with Content Types to apply the right set of metadata and build Workflows on them to fit our business processes. There are Retention Policies that need to be applied depending on the type of document, and sometimes values in the metadata.

Not to mention strict Audit and Security policies on content sometimes need to be enforced and monitored.

At the moment, the answer is to tell users to "Go to where you need to work" and create the documents from the menu there.

Recently, the OneDrive for Business team has made some announcements on improving the Browser Experience with things like Move or Copy files to a new location and the sharing of folders. However, this is still limited to the personal OneDrive for Business library. I'd love to see these expand to Groups or Sites not unlike in OneNote or Office 2016 when we connect locations.

My Hopes and Wishes for Office 365 User Experience

What Office 365 could become

As we get closer to Ignite, where announcements will be made on SharePoint 2016 as well as on Office 365 and how they can work together to enhance our business, there are a few things I'd like to see.

Office 365 Experiences is something that has already won me over and I believe will continue its path to success this year. There are a few things coming as part of the "Next-Gen Portals" like the Video Portal and the much talked about People Portal, as well as a few others still kept secret.

What's important however is to focus on closing the gaps in the user experience, the way we're going to flow between these experiences and use them. Whether it'll be with Groups for Office 365 or with this App Launcher document creation experience, I'd like to see a seamless and pleasant flow when jumping from one to another.

I've recently asked MVPs what they think and would like to see in Office 365, but what do you think?

Benjamin Niaulin
Benjamin Niaulin @bniaulin

Well known as the SharePoint Geek, Benjamin has been helping people all around the globe reach their goals by simplifying SharePoint solutions. You haven't met Benjamin yet? Look for him at SharePoint conferences and events!