What is the SharePoint app bar, and how do you use it?

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The SharePoint app bar is meant to boost the navigational functionality in SharePoint, but communicating this to end users can be tricky. Understand the fundamentals of the app bar so you can take full advantage of this multipurpose feature.

The new SharePoint app bar was introduced last spring, as an addition to the SharePoint site interface. It bears some resemblance to the app bar in Microsoft Teams, and its functionality is along the same lines, providing quick access to files and information in a single click.

However, as many tech reviewers pointed out, Teams relies upon the app bar as a primary means of navigation, whereas SharePoint does not. So, what exactly is this new addition for? And what will it mean for future versions of SharePoint? 

It may be difficult to convey this to your end users. In this blog, we aim to make it a little easier. Use some of the ideas in this blog, or share them with your end users to give them a better understanding of how this new navigation tool can affect your SharePoint architecture.


Benefits of the SharePoint app bar 

The app bar was a new addition to SharePoint in February 2021, but Microsoft has said they intend to expand its functionality in the coming years. The bar is a slim panel on the left of your SharePoint workspace with four icons that refer to the four main functions in the SharePoint app bar, these are:

Global navigation

This is a SharePoint Navigation shortcut. The global navigation icon at the top of the bar gives you a drop-down menu that allows end users to navigate company SharePoint sites, the currently on, or your home site.  As an admin and site owner, you’ll have control over the way end users interact with the global navigation icon. All site owners can customize the global navigation icon for their site, making it unique alongside other sites for faster and easier navigation.

Sites

Below the global navigation, you’ll find a list of your most frequently visited sites, which only requires a single click to open. This is a quicker and easier way of getting to the SharePoint sites that you use most or follow, rather than going through the site’s own navigation bar. This could make navigation of sites on mobile easier to negotiate.

News

Here you’ll see SharePoint news articles that have been shared by your company. The SharePoint app bar will recommend articles that are relevant to your end users based on what’s been added recently and what you’ve read in the past. This collates all the news from the different sites you follow to deliver a personalized timeline of news and updates to end users.

Files

Finally, at the bottom of the app bar, you’ll see Files (you may also see Lists, but we’ll cover that in the next section). This acts very much like recent files in Office, OneDrive, or SharePoint. Your end users will see the files they most recently opened or interacted with, as well as a simplified breadcrumb to see where the file is stored.

The release of the SharePoint app bar received a mixed reception from some experts. Some felt that it didn’t add much value to SharePoint, while others found it improved their productivity. However, it looks like Microsoft intends to continue adding functionality to the app bar, so what kind of functionality would your organization like to see?


New SharePoint app bar functionality in 2022  

Microsoft is in the process of adding Lists to the app bar. The rollout started in January 2022 and is expected to be with all users by the end of March. So, you may already have access to Lists in your app bar.

The addition of Lists gives you a shortcut to all your productivity and organizational dashboards. Like the Files icon, SharePoint automatically shows your most recently used Lists, so you can jump straight back into the project you were working on.   


How to use the SharePoint app bar

For admins, configuring the SharePoint app bar is relatively straightforward. You can set permissions for who can edit global navigation in the Admin Center, then enabling and customizing global navigation can be done directly from the SharePoint site settings.

For end users, the app bar itself is fairly self-explanatory. However, there are a few general rules for admins to remember when customizing your SharePoint site:  

  • You cannot disable the app bar: It’s here to stay. While you can disable and enable global navigation, the rest of the icons are non-customizable.
  • You need to create a ‘home site’ for global navigation: To access the benefits of global navigation, you’ll first need to create a ‘home site’. This gives your company a main landing page from which to operate, linking to all your other SharePoint sites, thus enabling you to use global navigation.
  • You need site owner access to make changes: The way your global navigation icon behaves can be customized, or disabled altogether, but you will need to be the site owner to manage this.
  • Older SharePoint sites cannot feature the app bar: Sites that haven’t been modernized since the 2021 release will need to be modernized before they can feature the app bar.
  • The app bar could affect older site design: If you created a site before the app bar was introduced, it may be affected by the positioning of the bar and may need to be changed so it is visible. This could be an issue for older sites that you manage and could make the end user experience difficult.

Simplify your SharePoint experience

For many, the addition of this smart toolbar for SharePoint has made life easier. It offers a quicker way to access your files, plans, company news, and everything your company keeps on SharePoint sites. But what if you could simplify your entire Microsoft 365 governance process?

ShareGate specializes in Microsoft 365 governance, with a dedicated platform that cuts waste, bolsters security, and streamlines your entire approach to Microsoft 365. Our platform also offers a no-nonsense drag and drop approach to SharePoint governance, allowing you to edit and restructure your entire SharePoint library without a single line of code.

To find out more about ShareGate, contact our team or start your free trial today.

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