Office 365 (80)
Automating a common manual process in Office 365 is easier than ever with Microsoft Flow. We will dive right in and create an approval workflow for the review, approval, and classifying a blog as “ready to submit.” Here is the basic workflow for our process that we’d like to automate.
There a couple different ways to enter in to the Flow designer.
- From flow.microsoft.com
- From a SharePoint Document Library
- From the Teams
In this example, we are going to create a workflow from scratch straight from a SharePoint Online document library. The benefit of starting the workflow from the document library is that the Site URL, list GUID, and other contextual information is automatically pulled into Flow.
From the document library, select Flow > Create a Flow > Request Manager Approval for a selected item.
You will be redirected into the Flow application to begin editing the workflow.
At the bottom of the template overview page you’ll see what connectors this template is configured to use out of the box. You’ll find that the “Request Manager Approval for Selected Item” Flow template already is configured to integrate with SharePoint Online, Office 365 Users, Appovals, Emails, and Notifications.
The template comes pre-configured with the following steps:
- For the selected SharePoint Item
- Get the Item
- Get my user profile
- Get my manager
- Start an Approval process
- Condition (based on approval decision)
- If Approved (inform requestor)
- If Approval Denied (inform requestor)
If the get manager action fails, the workflow will send an email to the document creator and terminate the workflow. If the get manager action is successful, it will start an approval sub process.
Based on the outcome of the approval process (approved or denied), the workflow will alert the requester to the manager decision.
Each of the previous steps output certain variables that you can use in the current step. So, if we want to add more information about the SharePoint document library item in the alert email, we can click in the Email Body field then select Add Dynamic Content.
As you can see, we have these 6 items returned from the “Get Item” workflow step. We can add any of these to the email alert body. One thing to not do here is that if you select a multi valued array of data, like “Shared with Display Name,” it wraps the “Inform requester of approval” step inside of each loop, effectively emailing multiple times.
We are going to add more more step to the end of this to update the status field to “Ready to Submit.”
Click on New Step at the bottom. Then select Add an Action.
Click on SharePoint to filter the available actions provided by the SharePoint connector.
We would like the workflow to update the Status field, so we’ll select SharePoint – Update item.
Now select your SharePoint Site URL. You’ll see, however, that the List Name is not available. You can use the GUID from the Get Item workflow step above to fill in here. You’ll need to select Enter custom value and then paste the list GUID in.
For the ID field we are going to use the ID variable of the Get Item action.
And finally, we’ll have the workflow update the Status field’s value to Ready to Submit.
Let’s save the workflow and head back to SharePoint to test it out.
In our document library now, if we highlight a list item and select Flow > Request manager approval for a selected item, you’ll see a panel appear at the right.
Based on the design of the work flow it now asks the user to enter a message to their manager.
The manager will get an email from Microsoft Flow and the select Approve or Reject and then Submit.
After the approval is processed we can refresh the document library and you’ll find our item Status field was updated.
If you did not change the workflow name from the default you can easily do that by going back to the Flow interface and click edit flow. Then just type in the new name and click Update Flow.
Microsoft has provided some very useful templates right from the start for you. Most processes in organizations require some type of approval and this template can be a great launching point for you to start automating those processes!
Stay tuned for more posts in the future on PowerApps and other solutions in Office 365.
Flash Fill is one of those features in Excel that is easy to ignore or turn off, but it actually does have some very valid use cases that could make life easier! Flash Fill can be tremendously helpful when working on repetitive tasks that would be tricky to implement with formulas. Below are a few examples to demonstrate how this feature can be used. It’s pretty smart! If you’re doing any sort of repetitive task in Excel, I recommend giving it a try.
Credit to https://www.excel-easy.com/examples/flash-fill.html for the Flash Fill example ideas!
There’s nothing worse than accidentally sending an email before you’ve finished it (or forgetting an attachment, or sending to the wrong recipient..)! Did you know Microsoft Outlook allows you to attempt to recall a sent message?
There is a catch–per the related support article,
-The recipient must use Outlook
-The recipient must be logged on to the mail service provider
-The recipient must not be using Cached Exchange Mode/working offline
-The original message cannot be moved from the Inbox (so if the recipient has rules that would move your message, you’re out of luck)
-The original message cannot be opened and/or marked as read
To attempt to Recall a message, navigate to the Sent folder in Outlook. Open the email in question and select the “other actions” button in the Move section of the menu. Select “Recall This Message”:
Select an option and I suggest leaving the “Tell me if..” checkbox checked so you’ll know if the Recall worked:
Example of a failed recall status message:
We’ve all been there. In the midst of editing a Spreadsheet or Word document, you realize you’re in too deep with changes, and everything’s broken, and the formatting is messed up, and and…! If you saved your document to OneDrive, have no fear. It is really easy to recover old Excel, Word and other document versions with the help of OneDrive.
From Excel and Word, for example, you can access old document versions directly from the program by selecting the file name at the top, then See All Versions under Version History:
This displays the Activities for that document, including other versions. To open a different version, just click on the corresponding activity:
When you access OneDrive online, you can easily view or restore old document versions by right-clicking any file and selecting “Version History”:
This opens a new tab showing the Version History:
If your organization uses Exchange and Outlook, consider enabling MailTips! It’s quite handy and can be a big help.
The MailTips bar (a yellow bar across the top of your email draft) is contextual and can pop up in different situations, including:
-If you select “Reply All” by accident
-If you type “please find attached” or something similar and don’t actually attach anything
-Responding to someone with an Out-Of-Office message up in Outlook
So, to enable MailTips, open Outlook.
Select File, then Options:
Select Mail, then scroll down to the MailTips section and click “MailTips Options”:
You will see a pop up with full a list of conditions that trigger MailTips. Below, you’ll see options for displaying MailTips–I recommend the first option, “Display Automatically when MailTips apply”:
That’s it! It’s saved me from embarrassment more than once, I hope you find it useful.
If you’re an Outlook and OneNote user, this tip might be handy! You can link any text in OneNote to a task in Outlook…that you can manage from OneNote! It’s fantastic if you do most of your organizing in OneNote.
So, open up OneNote and select the text you wish to turn into a task. It can have a “To Do” (or any other) tag.
A small formatting window should pop up, or you can right-click to make it appear:
Select the Red Flag, then one of the below options depending on the due date:
If you check in Outlook, under your “To-Do List” or “Tasks”, you will see the task you created in OneNote:
Changes sync immediately, no matter where you update the task from. If you mark as complete in one program, it will be updated in the other as well.
Did you know you can personalize your space on portal.office.com? You can specify your start page, change the theme, and access other application settings from one place.
Sign in to Portal.Office.com
Click on the Gear near your name to display the Settings menu:
You can expand Theme to select a personal theme–some of them are motion-enabled, so that’s fun! Don’t forget to “Save” in the Theme section:
More practically, you can also set your Start Page from an option list (I wish Dynamics was on this list!):
You can also update notification settings (so it doesn’t chime in the browser every time you get an email!) and change your password from this Settings menu as well.
On the topic of the Office 365 Home Page, I wanted to bring to everyone’s attention a sneaky little feature on portal.office.com that is hiding in plain sight. If you’re working on a project and keep accessing the same documents, or would like to quickly reference any document at all (including OneNote Notebooks!), it’s easy to “Pin” them.
In the Documents section, there is a “Recent” Tab (shows by default), and a “Pinned” tab, along with “Shared with me” and “Discover”.
WELL, any document that shows up in the “Recent” tab can be pinned to the “Pinned” tab with a few clicks:
-Find any file you wish to save in the “Recent” tab. Hover over the file, and on the right, to display the “. . .” menu, then select “Pin to this list”:
The file will appear in the “Pinned” tab. When you’re ready to remove it from the Pinned list repeat the same steps, but “Unpin from this list” instead:
-You CAN Pin shared documents as long as they appear in the “Recent” tab first.
If you haven’t worked with this relatively new program from Microsoft before, I encourage you to check it out. Sway is like a super-modernized Powerpoint–it’s really good at displaying information in a clean way, but there is so much more room for customization than Powerpoint, which is pretty linear in design.
You can display information Vertically, Horizontally, or like a Slideshow. You can also specify right-to-left layouts as needed.
You can add multimedia directly from Services like OneDrive, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr (and more), or upload files from your device.
Here are two Sway links so you can actually check out a real “presentation”:
How to Sway
Universe Cheat Sheet
This is a great blog post going over Sway basics:
Microsoft’s “Getting Started with Sway”:
If you copy a Sway link and paste it into OneNote, the Sway presentation will embed automatically, so you can give it a try with the How to Sway example above:
So, next time you have a presentation or report to work on, consider trying Sway!
If you are still logging in to Portal.Office.com using a “.onmicrosoft.com” domain, it may be time to update this with your organization’s domain. You may also see this recommendation pop up on the Office 365 Portal Admin Home page:
It’s easy–ESPECIALLY if your domain is with GoDaddy–and free!
You should either have access to your organization’s domain information yourself, or warn your webmaster ahead of time so they watch out for the verification code/email (which expires 60 minutes after being sent). DNS Settings must also be updated manually if you do not use GoDaddy–another reason to warn your webmaster/DNS manager! Please note that you must be a Global Administrator to do this.
From the Office 365 Admin Center, go to Setup–>Domains:
You will see a list of domains and their status. To add a new Domain, click “Add Domain”:
Enter your domain name (this should be the same as your regular company email):
Next, verify the domain by sending a verification email to the webmaster OR by having them add a TXT record into Neustar. NOTE: If you use GoDaddy, you can just select that option and sign in from this screen! If you don’t see that as an option, your Domain is not hosted with GoDaddy.:
Proceed to the next screen. It will ask how you want to use your Domain with Office 365. Select your required options and specify if this is for on-prem mailboxes or not, then proceed to the next screen.
You will need to add the specified DNS records to your DNS in a separate window or tab.
After waiting about 15 minutes for the DNS to update, go back to your Office 365 Domain Set-up page, and select “done, go check”.
That’s it! You can now sign in with your actual email, instead of the “.onmicrosoft.com” domain.
One of my favorite new [to me] discoveries in Microsoft Teams is the Planner. The Planner was clearly designed with collaboration in mind, giving you the ability to assign owners to different tasks. However, It works JUST as well as a personal or non-collaborative planner, and I’ve actually started to use it heavily for my own work. I love it! If you’re interested in giving it a spin, keep on reading.
Before diving in, just a quick side note about using the Planner for yourself…I actually created a private team, gave it my own name, and am using that as my own personal “headquarters” in Teams. I can keep notes, files, and I have a nice Planner tab that I’m loving to keep track of my tasks. So Teams can be great for non-collaborative organization, too!
To add a new Planner tab to any team, select the + next to your other tabs:
Give the tab a name (you can always change this later):
A few things to point out:
- Different lists are referred to as “Buckets”. To add a new Bucket, just click right on the “Add new bucket” text and type away.
- You can filter by keyword, assignee, Due Date, and Label:
- You can Group By Bucket, Assigned to, Due Date, etc:
- The actual tasks might look really simple (too simple), but after you create a task, you can click on the task and more details pop up:
You can do so much more from the details screen!
a. You can update the progress and start/due dates
b. Add collaborators (including non-team members)
c. Add a description
d. Give it a label
e. Add sub-tasks! I love this. If the “task card” is looking too simple, you can add the description and sub-tasks (checklist items) to the card by clicking the “Show on card” checkbox
f. Add attachments! Unfortunately right now they must either be added via URL or SharePoint. I’m hoping they’ll add a local upload option as well.
g. Add comments (this is a great way to ask questions or update the status for yourself or collaborators)
h. See activity & comments
- It’s easy to show completed tasks, though they are hidden by default
- You can also access the planner from the Office 365 Portal! (Apps–>More)
The Planner has been incredibly helpful to me and I highly encourage you to give it a try, whether you use it for yourself or collaboratively.
Microsoft Word has a great, not-so-new feature that allows you to easily research a topic right from Word–you don’t even need to open a browser window. Next time you’re reading a document, and a topic is mentioned that you don’t recognize, use these instructions to find out more from within Word:
You just need to highlight the topic in question, then select “References”, then “Smart Lookup”:
The “Smart Lookup” Pane shows Wikipedia and Web Search options. If looking up a word, you can view the definition instead. You can click into these further, and a new tab will open in your default browser:
“Researcher” is intended to be used if you have a topic in mind and need quotes, citable references, or images.
Let’s be honest–not all of us keep to a 9-5 schedule, and you may want to change your working hours in your Outlook Calendar. The Office 365 Portal makes this easy!
To do this, head to the Office 365 Portal, then select Outlook:
Click on the Calendar symbol to go to the Outlook calendar:
Select the Gear to go to your Settings, then Calendar Appearance:
From here, you can change the work week and working hours to match your work schedule:
We’ve all been there–on both sides: we’ve missed our name in an email, or we’ve mentioned someone else’s name, and they never responded to the question. Did you know that Outlook has a built-in way to highlight a name in the body of an email? You don’t even need Exchange for this to work!
Outlook actually allows you to use “@” mentions to do this, and it’s really easy. In the body of your email message, just type @, then the person’s name (no spaces), and a list of possible names will pop up:
Just select the name, and the formatting will automatically change so it stands out more. Another bonus: this person’s email is automatically added to the “To:” recipients line.
You can also backspace once to remove the last name, if you prefer to just use the person’s first name: