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The not so responsive new Office 365 suite bar

Many people recently discovered a new enhancement in Office 365 and especially SharePoint. The suite bar is now responsive if “First Release” option on your tenant is activated.

Responsive Office 365 suite bar rendered on mobile device

Responsive Office 365 suite bar rendered on mobile device

The first people that blogged about this responsive improvement were Wesley Hackett and Marc D. Anderson.
The current implementation works well on desktop but not on mobile devices.

Why it doesn’t make your Office 365 / SharePoint responsive?

Actually the current suite bar lacks of one important thing. The viewport meta tag is currently not implemented in SharePoint or Delve. This tag is responsible to render the page correctly. The display of modern devices has a higher pixel density than the normal desktop computer. The viewport meta tag helps the browser to scale web sites properly. Is this html tag missing in the header of the html document the website will be rendered as a desktop version, but everything is tiny and unreadable unless you pinch and zoom.
If you have a new Lumia 950 for example the pixel density is 314 pixels per inch. Desktop monitor in reality has pixel densities beyond 72 pixels per inch but thus the actual base size your browser renders the web site. All CSS values are calculated based on this.

On mobile devices without a proper viewport meta tag the web site will look like the desktop version, but really tiny and therefore unusable.
This brings us back to the new shiny responsive suite bar. A good example when a web site wasn’t tested on a real device. Works perfectly on a desktop browser but not on mobile. Someone might have forgotten to include the view port on the master page. On my phone, SharePoint will be rendered like this.

Suite bar rendered on mobile device

Suite bar rendered on mobile device

As mentioned earlier, it is currently only available for first release subscriptions. So currently nothing to worry about. I hope this will be fixed in the final release and we currently see an early beta version of the suite bar.
Where can the problem be spotted. Simply everywhere in Office 365. Here is a detailed list:

  • Missing viewport meta tag
    • SharePoint
    • Delve
  • With viewport but not responsive design
    • Outlook
    • Calendar

Outlook and Calendar use device detection. Some sort of Device channel to work responsive.
The only first an real native responsive apps are currently Sway and blog post on Delve. Both are equipped with a correct viewport.

Final thoughts

The new suite bar gives a nice outlook on coming up design features. I expect to see more improvement in the near future. Currently, SharePoint in Office 365 and SharePoint 2016 is built upon XHTML 1.0 and not HTML 5. Once the doctype have been converted an all functions work on HTML5 I guess we will see more adoptions to come out faster and more reliable.

From my perspective the new suite bar is a fast shot. I also have concerns about the usability. On mobile the waffle aka app launcher is hidden behind the three dots in the suite bar. To switch between SharePoint and Mail or Calendar users have to tap twice. This forces to learn user a new behavior because the app launcher was one of the essential improvements recently.
On the tablet devices the app launcher is jumping from left to right. This is actually a no-go. User will get confused. A small resize of the window is enough to show this effect. You don’t even have to be on a tablet device.

If you think about to change the master page of SharePoint to make this work. In Office 365 editing the master page is not recommended to do so. I guess this issue will be fixed by Microsoft sooner or later.
In case of a publishing page SEO meta tag injection can be use to add a proper meta tag. For a javascript based solution to add the viewport meta check out the solution provided on OfficeDev Pattern & Practices.

If you have other concerns, feel free to comment on this blog post.

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Update on the Office 356 icon font and SharePoint 2016

Office 365 Icon Font

Microsoft has recently “removed” or at least don’t maintain the Office 365 icon font on their CDN. The location of the icon font has recently fundamentally changed.


A possible reasons

The font is still available on CDN but shouldn’t be used anymore form my point of view. The problem is that the url to the font files always had a version number included.
With every upgrade of Office365 this address has changed and your custom code have to be adapted too.

For my blog post “Office 365 Icon font documentation” and the demo installment on I had to adapt the urls form time to time.

Those changing urls hindered the use in custom implementations. The latest version is still available through the CDN link.

The new font location is _layouts

To be honest to change a CDN url from time to time was not really an optimal solution. So for I had to change the url at least five times. Nearly every month.
Recently I was a little bit nervous be cause the CDN was now static for at least two month.

Just to be sure, I checked the current location of the fonts files today and recognized that this has fundamentally changed on Office 365.
Now all fonts are located in the folder “_layouts/fonts”. This is new in SharePoint and Office 365. Fair enough to check if this folder is also available in the current SharePoint 2016 version and yes it can be found there as well.

Office 365 icon font location on SharePoint 2016

Office 365 icon font location on SharePoint 2016

Beside there are also some other fonts stored there that I will investigate soon.

Final thought

I really like the fact that SharePoint on Office 365 and SharePoint 2016 will now use the same basis again. While Office 365 in the past has improved much quicker on-premises SharePoint were always a year behind.
Hopefully we will see further improvements on both platforms at the same time. Through all the hybrid scenarios, it has to be this way.
I know to have the same fonts on Office 365 and Sharepoint is just a small improvement but it makes development of custom web parts (jslink, add-in part and angularjs) easier. You can develop them once and use the same the in the same way in both worlds. It currently serves most icons you need and you are able to provide a consistent design across SharePoint.


Enhance suite bar for your responsive experience

Over the last year I did more branding projects on Office 365 than on on-premise. Since the first call by Microsoft to avoid modifications of the master page I played around with certain scenarios and patterns to reduce or avoid such modifications.
One common issue is that the suite bar is responsive (everything that resize is responsive) but not well optimized for mobile. Without any enhancements this part of SharePoint shows only half of the content. With some small CSS only modifications the suite bar looks great on nearly any device.
The following blog post use SASS pre-processed CSS the compiled CSS can be found too at the end of this post.

[Read more]


How to add viewport meta without editing the master page

If you like to create a responsive user experience it is common practice to add a <meta name=”viewport”> tag to the html. This tag contains instructions to the browser in the matter of viewpoints and zooming and make sure that your web design is scaled properly according to your style definitions. Without this tag SharePoint on an iPhone will look as seen on the screenshot below. Currently SharePoint doesn’t support it by default.

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How to use: Table of Content – jQuery Plugin

After I’ve published the revised version of my table of contents script I got many request on “How to use” it. You asked for it and here it is the guide how to embed the script. I won’t provide a full featured step by step guide here. Instead, I will provide a small package of a page layout and a guide how to script embed directly. To make this work you need to have an Enterprise Wiki or Publishing page. The first part covers how to add a page layout containing the table of contents script. The second method shows how to add the script using code embedding. You also need to download the following file TableOfContents-PageLayoutPack that contains all the required files.

[Read more]

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Tips & Tricks: Add attachments to list items faster

The great thing about SharePoint is that you can accomplish a goal in many ways. In my case the first version was SharePoint 2003 and I’m used to add attachments always from the edit form.
Recently, while I was working on a solution that works with attachments of list items, I accidentally discovered a faster way to add attachments to a list item. This option is hidden in the ribbon and allows to add attachments directly from the list view.

1. Select item 2. Attach file

1. Select item
2. Attach file

First select any item from the list and then the ribbon button. After you clicked the button the upload dialog opens and an attachment can be added to that specific item.

upload attachment

upload attachment

This saves time especially if files need to be added to multiple files. Sadly the upload dialog doesn’t support multiple file upload via drag and drop. This works in SharePoint 2010 as well as in SharePoint 2013

The lesson I learned. Review your personal and trained workflows, how you do something. There is might a better way to do something.




Remote form customization: Passing data to a modal dialog – Part 1

Let’s jump right into the topic how it is possible to pass data to a modal dialog. On first sight it looks like a complex task but after you read this article you will get an overview how it works. In this simple scenario I use a HTML Form web part with a text box and a hyperlink. The value then should be passed to the new form dialog of a custom list called “Cars”.

Opening the modal dialog

In general there are two ways to open a modal dialog.  The asynchronous and the synchronous way to open a modal dialog, but here I use the synchronous way to keep the code simple.

The setup for this scenario is simple. First I created a custom list named “Cars” and this list has nothing more than the default title field. After that I added a new HTML Form Web Part to the landing page of my demo site. Then I added a simple form to the web part. It consists of a textbox with the id “newcar” and a hyperlink with the id “create” to create a new entry. This form also loads JQuery from the CDN and the custom script that is needed to pass the value of the input field to the modal dialog.

html form web part

HTML Form web part that should pass the values to the modal dialog

The code of the form looks like this:


First the click event on the hyperlink needs to be registered to open a modal dialog. Then the data from the textbox needs to be passed to the title field of the modal dialog.

So far so good this all no rocket science but how do we get the data to the form? Therefor a little trick is needed. The function “SP.UI.ModalDialog.get_childDialog()” will return the last loaded modal dialog. The modal dialog object returned by this function has a special property named $c_0. Once the dialog has been loaded it contains the content of the modal dialog. All that needs to be done is to recheck this property during the loading of the dialog. This can be accomplished with a simple recursive call that pauses for 100 milliseconds, in my case, and check the property again. If this is set then the loading has been completed.

After the content has been loaded all that needs to be done is to parse the property to a JQuery object. Once it is accessible in JQuery the value of the form web part input field can be added to the title field of the new form. The result can be seen in the following screenshot.

modal dialog after the values have been passed

Modal dialog after the values have been passed to the modal dialog

Further user experience enhancement

A nice additional feature when data will be passed to a modal dialog is to tell the user to check the values. This can be done using the page status bar for example. The problem here is that the status bar cannot be enabled with the SharePoint function SP.UI.Status.addStatus.

Previously we already loaded the content to a JQuery object, so we can do further manipulation of the output of the modal dialog. SharePoint renders on default a placeholder for that page status with the id “#pageStatusBar”. The code to show the page status looks like this:

At the end I forced the modal dialog to resize itself to avoid possible scrollbars.

Modal dialog with page status

Modal dialog with page status

If you have any suggestions or question please feel free to provide some feedback. As always you can download the html form web part in the link below.

Download the web part: Modal dialog part 1

Please make sure to change the path of the new form


Close SharePoint Modal Dialogs with “Esc”-Key press

Whenever a list items will be checked or reviewed in SharePoint a modal dialog come up. This feature of SharePoint 2010 is really helpful from a usability point of view, because the user is able to return to the list where the interaction with the list item has been started by closing the modal dialog. When this will be done a couple of times a day, the user will always have to move the mouse pointer to the close button to close the dialog.

As user learned over the last couple of year, when the user want something to go away that pops out of the current browser window, no matter if it is a modal dialog, image or full screen video the use only have to press the “Esc”-Key to make it go away.

As I mentioned before this is not implemented in SharePoint now, but could be changed with a simple JavaScript and the usage of the Modal Dialog Framework implemented in SharePoint. To add this functionality I created a simple sandbox solution, which has a module and a JavaScript.

First of all the elements.xml contains the following definition:

The custom action register a JavaScript on the Master Page. The module definition deploy the JavaScript file the style library, the location for the deployment is URL parameter on the module. The JavaScript file only has few lines of code that capture the ESC-Key press  and close the mos recent dialog. The rest could be found in the following script.


With this simple solution I think the usability in SharePoint could be improved a bit and based on SharePoint components like the modal dialog framework. jQuery would be to overweight for this task.

You can download the visual studio solution as well as the sandbox solution.

After the solution deployment a the site collection feature “Close Dialog on Esc-Key press” needs to be activated. In the Style Library the new added JavaScript file needs to be checked in.