Steve Clements

Steve Clements

Head of Development

It’s a bit late to still be wishing a happy new year in the western sense, but not too late to offer up two virtual oranges and wish you a happy new year in the Chinese lunar calendar; 2020 is the year of the Rat, the first zodiac animal.

We hope you’ve had a wonderful break and with January in the rear-view-mirror, we’re full of anticipation and excitement for the year ahead.

To kick the year off, we’re starting with a special edition update; alongside the normal updates from the worlds of SharePoint and Office 365, you can read about a very exciting new service coming to the Microsoft 365 space called Project Cortex.


Updating a classic team site home page to modern

With this update, classic SharePoint team site home pages that have not been customised will automatically be updated to a modern home page template.

The roll out of this will begin in early March 2020 to Targeted release customers only, but of course everyone else will likely follow shortly after.

The points to note here are:

  • If you have added any custom web parts to your team site home page, it won’t be changed.
  • This is for classic SharePoint team sites (STS#0) only, we’ll see if more will follow.
  • The updated site will not have a group association.
  • Site admin and owners can choose to revert to their previous classic home page.
  • It’s possible to disable this upgrade on specific sites via PowerShell.

Read the Roadmap item here.

If you have any questions, would like to find out more about what Targeted Release means, help with upgrading or help with disabling the upgrade, please get in touch.

Replace the root site

This feature isn’t technically new, we’ve been able to do this for a while using PowerShell and it’s something that we’ve mentioned before in our updates, but now you can change the root site from within the SharePoint admin centre UI

Site level sharing settings

From within the admin centre you can now control sharing settings at a site level, not only tenant level. All the same options are available as before with the addition of being able to limit sharing by domain, if for example you want to ensure sharing is only allowed with a specific partner. 

This is a great addition to the granular security options available in SharePoint Online.

SharePoint page version history

With this update page editors will be able to see the differences between the published and previous version of the page. Delete versions and of course restore older versions.

Resize images from within the image webpart

You can now insert an image from your computer, another site or from the web. You can now choose to resize the image to make it a suitable size. This does not affect the responsive nature of the web part.  Simply potentially reduces downloading a massive image.

Did you know?

When you create a new site in SharePoint Online, you’ll see a ‘Next Steps’ link in the top right of the page, under the suite bar.

Here you’ll find some help on common next steps based on the type of site you’ve created.  Next time you’re there, take a look!

Office 365

Email notifications for @ mentions in documents

In Word, PowerPoint and Excel, currently you would receive an email notifying you that someone had mentioned you within a document. Now when you get that email, the email will contain the comment and context within the document that the comment has been added. Users can also reply directly from within the email.

Admins should know that this is enabled by default.

New features on the app launcher (waffle menu, top left)

Individuals can now pin apps and manage the order. and Office 365 app launcher are now consistent and will show your recent, pinned apps in the order you want.

Windows 7 is now out of support

Office 365 customers on Windows 7 are being strongly encouraged to upgrade in order to ensure your Office 365 Pro Plus is still valid and kept up to date. Office 365 requires you to keep your OS up to date.

Read more here.

Project Cortex

Your knowledge network in Microsoft 365.

Project Cortex is a yet to be released knowledge management service from Microsoft that takes your content and, through the power of AI, surfaces it in the apps and tools we all use today.

It uses AI to scan and process content across teams and different systems (SharePoint being a primary source), but external sources can be included as well. It will recognise types of content and extract important information to automatically index into shared topics like projects, products, processes and customers. Cortex then creates a knowledge network based on relationships among topics, content and of course people.

Built on metadata, Cortex with automatically tag and organise your documents based on your own taxonomy (managed metadata term sets). Object detection is available in images - key information can be extracted from scanned business cards, form processing for invoices, claims and receipts. All of this is fully manageable from within your content centre.

Security and inclusion rules are all observed, it’s a given that content restricted by permission groups won’t be visible to anyone outside of those groups. SharePoint settings such as block sites, allow sites, no index, are also observed and importantly, so are sensitivity labels from Azure Information Protection.

Machine Teaching: we’re all different and so is our key information, Cortex can be taught by your own subject matter experts about the different types of content you have and how to categorise it.

That leads to the most important part of the project: empowering your people. Cortex runs through all the apps and platforms we use today in Microsoft 365; Word, Outlook and of course SharePoint. It can recognise when a topic is mentioned within the document, email or page and surfaces an annotation topic card (see below) revealing more information about the topic, presenting a summary, documents, people and other related topics that have been mined by AI. Clicking through will take you to an automatically generated page for that topic.

If knowledge truly is power, we’ve just been handed Thor’s hammer! We’ll be keeping a close eye on this one and continue to provide more information in the coming months.


There is not an official release date or licensing model for Project Cortex currently. The most we know at this point is there will be a release to general availability in the first half of 2020 and it’s likely to be a premium service.

Originally published February 5 2020, Updated February 5, 2020

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