Office 365 | 13 min read

3 recommended updates: add comments to non-Office files, new web parts in modern authoring, and swap sites in SharePoint Online

WRITTEN BY Jasper Oosterveld
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Version 19.08.21 is now available.

In this bi-weekly blog series, Microsoft MVP Jasper Oosterveld turns his Dutch directness to up-to-the-minute industry news—bringing you honest content about the current and future state of Microsoft and Office 365.

Published on August 21, 2019.

Welcome back to 3 recommended updates, a new blog series where I bring you the latest and greatest from the world of Microsoft and Office 365.

I hope you enjoyed the last one—with Skype for Business’s imminent retirement, a new Save for later feature in OneDrive, and the release of private channels—and are ready for the fourth installment!


3 recommended updates series:

  1. Version 19.07.10: org-wide channels, page recommendations, and Q&A in Yammer
  2. Version 19.07.24: channel cross posting, organization assets, and updated site usage analytics
  3. Version 19.08.09: Skype for Business, Save for later, and Teams gets private channels

In this release you'll find a new feature to add comments to non-Office files in SharePoint and OneDrive for Business; new and updated web parts for modern page authoring; and the ability to swap sites in SharePoint Online.

Without further ado, let's take a closer look at my 3 recommended updates you need to know about now.


Add comments to non-Office files in SharePoint and OneDrive

Users have been able to leave comments in Office files for years—that feature, along with the ability to track changes, helped first transform digital collaboration.  

Microsoft took the comment feature to the next level with the ability to @mention a colleague. Suddenly we could talk directly to a teammate, drawing their attention to important changes and in-document conversations:

The ability to comment in Office documents has been around for many years.
The ability to comment in Office Files—and @mention a colleague directly—has been around for years.

Once a comment with a @mention was saved, that colleague automatically received an email notification to their inbox:

Comments with a @mention sends an email directly to that colleagues inbox.
Saving a comment with a direct @mention automatically sends an email to that colleague's inbox.

When the @mention feature was first introduced, we saw a huge increase in our productivity and efficiency when collaborating at work.

Now, non-Office files can reap the collaborative benefits of the comment feature. This is great news because we don’t limit ourselves to Office files—we also frequently use PDFs and images as part of different projects. This marks a huge win for modern collaboration!

This feature will allow you to work together not just in Office documents but with photos, CAD drawings, PDF's and more.

microsoft 365 roadmap, featured id: 16617

Good to know:

  • Comments appear in the Details pane.
  • File owners receive a notification once a comment is added.
  • A notification is also sent once someone replies to your comments.
  • Users can unsubscribe from the notification e-mails.
  • The @mention feature is not available for comments.
  • You cannot add line breaks or other formatting to a comment.

Microsoft will be gradually rolling out this feature starting in mid-August, with rollout completed by the end of September. Click here to read the official Microsoft blog post and here for the Office Support Page.

New and updated web parts for modern SharePoint page authoring

A series of new and updated web parts have been released for modern page authoring—which is always exciting!

Building effective and informative pages is crucial when it comes to engaging end users with news, applications, and important information in SharePoint. These new and updated web parts will help make authoring pages faster and more intuitive.

This concerns the following:

  • Button & Call-to-Action web parts:  the Button web part and Call-to-Action web part let you add text to a button that will load content for the page viewer to consume. You can add text or an image with the Call-to-Action web part.
  • Hero gets second call to action link for large tiles
  • Divider updates to allow controlling of the length and weight of the divider

The Button web part and Call-to-Action web part allow you to provide text on a button that will load content for the page viewer to consume. The Call-to-Action web part can add text or an image.

microsoft 365 roadmap, featured id: 53221

Microsoft started rolling out some of these features in early August, with worldwide rollout expected to be completed by the end of October. Click here to read more on the official Microsoft blog.

Move SharePoint sites to a new location

This year, Microsoft introduced a new feature to promote a root site to a communication site in SharePoint Online.

This feature was long overdue. Before, most organizations had to create a new site collection for the landing page of their new intranet portal—which was strange because then the root site collection was just left sitting there. Another downside? The template was a SharePoint team site.

By enabling the promotion to a communication site, the root site was finally usable as a landing page. That said, there were still a few limitations:

  • The root site shouldn't currently have the classic publishing feature enabled (at the site or web level).
  • The root site shouldn't have had the classic publishing feature enabled in the past (at the site or web level).

Unfortunately, this was a blocker for a lot of organizations. But this can now be solved with the new site swap feature!

SharePoint Online admins will be able to leverage the new invoke-spositeswap Windows PowerShell cmdlet to move SharePoint sites between locations within an Office 365 tenant.

microsoft 365 roadmap, featured id: 51259

Admins will be able to swap the location of a SharePoint root site with another site using a new PowerShell cmdlet. This allows organizations to swap a communication site with the team site of the root site. Awesome!

Good to know:

  • Rollout is starting with organizations that have approximately 50 licenses or less.
  • It will gradually expand to organizations with approximately 1,000 licenses or less.
  • More info about organizations with more than 1,000 licenses coming in a future announcement.
  • You have to use the SharePoint admin PowerShell version 16.0.8812.1200 or later.
  • The source or target sites can't be "associated" with an Office 365 Group or hub site.

Microsoft started rolling this out to customers in early August, with completion expected by October, 2019. Read more about the PowerShell cmdlet in the official Microsoft documentation.

Restructuring made easier

Another great round of updates for Office 365!

I think my favorite has to be the new site swap feature. A lot of customers want to start using their existing root site collections in SharePoint Online for their intranet portal—and now it's become a whole lot easier.

This also reinforces Microsoft's push to restructure your intranet environment—and the modern workplace at large—moving forward.

Hope to see you next time for another round of awesome updates!


Want to learn how to keep your Office 365 environment tidy and secure? Download our curated guideOffice 365 Groups Governance, for practical tips on achieving a balanced approach to Office 365.