I’ve been working on a modern intranet project amongst over projects for the last 12-months. This has been more about the transformation of content and business processes, rethinking information architecture and reimagining a modern intranet than it has been about custom development.
We’ve recently been testing variations in the design of a homepage with different audiences. This side-by-side comparison has allowed end-user feedback, performance and accessibility testing. The same approach has also been useful for previewing and testing the capabilities of new features (like the new Yammer web part). The challenge comes when you need to promote or switch over one of these variations as the new site homepage. The homepage is the page users are directed to when first navigating to a site or clicking on the site logo. It is like as important as the index.html or default.aspx page existence to a website. Note that these variations of the homepage permit testing of content and not site configuration. To test navigation, theme or similar we have separate sites and environments for this purpose.
To solve the problem switching the homepage from an existing page whilst preserving the home.aspx page name I’ve leveraged the SharePoint Pnp cmdlets to create a script that will rename or remove the current homepage (and can remove it through a toggle) and then rename an existing page to make it the new homepage.
Use my PnP PowerShell script to replace the home.aspx page
Change the default homepage through SharePoint
Site Owners can use the out-of-the-box make homepage action to make any page the default homepage or welcome page. This is available from the toolbar in the site pages library. But this keeps the page name and means the default page is /sitepages/randompagename.aspx instead of the standard /sitepages/home.aspx that all sites have. From my perspective this is not great. Certainly, intranet-like sites should follow some basic content management principles. Call in a touch on the OCD side but consistently having a standard homepage is one of these for me.
Change the welcome page site property through Site Settings or PowerShell
Previously you could use the classic settings page (typically exposed by the publishing feature) or by browsing to /_layouts/15/AreaWelcomePage.aspx to make changes to the welcome page. This method no longer works and throws an error.
As with the make homepage action describe earlier this changes the default homepage to the use the page name you have provided and means the site won’t be available if users have bookmarked the site with the page name (/sitepages/home.aspx) in the URL.
What is my point? To this day can I still memory recall core settings pages. With these, you can quickly review or makes changes to settings pages rather than using the UI to navigate to them. This includes those that may no longer be exposed in the UI. Whilst my memory serves me well I don’t recommend this approach as these pages and settings are gradually being replaced with alternatives or removed by the SharePoint and Office 365 engineering team for a reason.
Instead, you can also use Pnp PowerShell to change the site welcome page property. I’ve provided an example script below.
As simple as my script is, it is the approach worth learning the most. I hope you find this article useful and as with all Pnp development effort. Sharing is caring!
You can download Microsoft Edge based on the Chromium engine from the Microsoft Edge Insider website. Keep an eye out for all the great stuff that is coming soon such as Internet Explorer mode, a Privacy Dashboard and much more.
What do we call the new version? Microsoft Edge. But for those having technical conversations or writing any guidance or documentation the difference will need to have a term to refer to the two very different versions. On Microsoft Docs, the documentation seems to refer to the original version as Edge (EdgeHTML) and the new version Edge (Chromium).
Oh, and with Edge (Chromium) not only am I now able to manage my bookmarks in more than a frustratingly annoying pop-out pane, but I can also consolidate them between the various browsers I have used!
Here at Microsoft, we use the Microsoft Demo Program to provision demo Office 365 environments. This service is available to Microsoft employees and Microsoft Partners.
Both can create up to six 90-day tenants, and Microsoft employees can create three additional 1-year tenants. The 90-day tenants sometimes expire sooner than 90-days, this is because they are pre-provisioned and sit in stockpiles ready for use for up to 45 days before the tenant is deleted and the stockpiles are automatically refreshed. Two types of virtual machines can be created. A standalone VM which isn’t associated with a tenant and a tenant-joined VM which gets domain-joined to a specified tenant. I don’t tend to find myself using VMs by Microsoft Demos as I tend to do this myself in my Azure subscription.
Tips on managing your Microsoft Demo environments
Firstly and most importantly I know it seems a hassle but demonstrate your environment with MFA enabled. It’s a piece of cake to enable MFA. We are and should already use it for our sign-ins, so in real terms, nothing is lost by enabling it and your environment is immediately securer as a result. Security absolutely should be at the forefront of any demonstration alongside our kick-ass product and feature stack.
Tip: You can set a personal PIN in your account profile when signed-in to Microsoft Demos. This is used in combination with another string to form a password.
Add reminders into your calendar a few weeks ahead of the expiry of your environment. This gives you a chance to escalate a renewal or allow you to tear down anything you have been working on that you might want to save and avoids unnecessary stress when you realise you need an expir(ing/ed) environment!
In each of my browser profiles, I include a standard set of Office 365 links. These are mainly to speed up my workflow, but it’s great to see all the shiny Office 365 icons on the bookmark bar too! Additionally, I also use folders with links to anything I am building or working on so I can quickly load them all as tabs (right click on the folder > open all on the folder). I toggle the visibility of the bookmark bar when presenting to customers and creating screenshots.
I tend to make all my profiles use the same configuration mainly for consistency, but some also increase productivity.
Home button – always enable the home button to speed up browsing.
I always add the English (United Kingdom) language for localised spelling.
Always show the bookmark bar (can quickly toggle it with Ctrl + B when taking screenshots or presenting to customers as needed).
Set the browser to continue where you left off on start-up.
In the non-chromium version of Edge (EdgeHTML) I was dependant on a few browser extensions which up until last week were prohibiting me from solely using Edge (Chromium) as they weren’t available. You can now allow extensions from other stores which has allowed me to install them and to ditch my other browsers altogether.
Grammarly – I know where my weaknesses are and have invested in Grammarly premium for a number a year or so. Grammarly helps me understand the mistakes in my writing and helps improve my spelling and grammar throughout my day.
1Password * – my password manager tool of choice.
AdBlock – blocks ads from all over the web.
Save to Pocket – useful for saving research for reading later. I use Pocket to my read it later tool of choice. I often read from my Pocket list when travelling and have time set aside each week to get on top of my reading list.
OneNote web clipper * similar to above but rather than reading the article later I clip it to my OneNote notebook for reference.
Here is my little bonus tip! I add a secret markdown readme file hosted in Gist provided by GitHub for each of my environments. The primary use for this is to provide a summary of the environment, the key personas like the admin account (note I don’t store passwords in this file) and to provide a basic changelog as you can easily forget significant changes in these environments that then catch you out later.
I decided to use a secret Gist rather than a OneNote page as the readme file is only ever used for read-access. Therefore, a secret Gist URL is just perfect for this and quick too! I also add this to the bookmark bar, so I quickly know what environment and profile I’m using. I then pin this tab, so it is always discretely open for quickly referencing.
Other useful tools for demos
Here are some other tools I use alongside these labs to help me with my task and demonstrations.
Clipboard manager – ClipX is a lightweight tool which I’ve used for years but now opt for Phrase Express for its additional Macro functionality.
Collection of sample files – basic folder comprising of sample files and Office documents. I also have a piece of sample malware file (EICAR test file) useful for demonstrating security capabilities in Office 365 such as Exchange Online Protection (EOP).
ZoomIT – a really useful tool to magnify parts of the screen when presenting but also useful for time management if you have an exercise or break.
Multiple desktops in Windows 10 – they’re great for keeping related apps and content together, for focus and for demonstrations where you can have various personas in each desktop and use a multi-finger swipe on the trackpad to slide between each desktop.
FastStone Capture – my screenshot tool of choice, it has advanced capture capabilities such as an object within a window such as a toolbar and can capture a long page with scrolling capture. It also has a simple yet powerful editor and can blur sections and add incremental annotations.
AirServer – this is an excellent tool for mirroring the display of mobile devices on your Windows desktop. The tool supports mirroring devices that use Airplay, Miracast and Google Cast.
One thing that doesn’t appear to be possible is that you can’t create a shortcut directly to a given profile. When launching Edge from a shortcut it will use the last profile Edge used. I’d rather it open a specific profile such as my default personal profile rather than the mythical demo personas I mostly use profiles for.
I hope you find the tips and tricks in this article useful.
This year I will be welcoming in the New Year with friends at home in Manchester. The last year has undoubtedly been a trying year. A year that has seen much change and I welcome all the challenges and change that 2019 will see.
I considered all kinds of recipes and food I wanted to cook for my friends, but a fondue and raclette grill was a clear winner for many reasons. The elves at Amazon kindly delivered an extended raclette grill that includes a fondue pan, grill and twelve raclette grills. I was keen to encourage games and conversation at the table but also have something that would have longevity as with New Year’s Eve, the evening is long. Food that was easy on the washing up was essential, as was the amount of time in the kitchen for me. The fondue and crudités can all be prepped beforehand if not the day before. Additional with the raclette grill and a hot plate for the fondue, the warmth in the food can be maintained throughout the evening. As with a lot of my cooking I really enjoy the research element to recipes and food, finding out what works well and what doesn’t etc but also very much enjoy sharing my recipes.
I wish friends new and old the best of luck for what 2019 brings and I thank you for all that you have done for me 2018.
Last week I enjoyed a lovely Chinese meal out on my birthday in great company. The restaurant was incredible, as was the food. I wanted to eat everything. What I did eat was like nothing else I have had before, but it was the most simple of dishes that really hit my taste buds. A week on and I wanted to make a meal of one of the plates and decided to give Chicken and vegetable egg fried rice a go.
Serves: 2 ½ Prep Time: 25min Cook Time: 15min
2 cups of rice, cooked, drained and still warm
1 large chicken breast, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
3 spring onions, diced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp dashi powder
1 tsp crushed chicken stock cube
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the wok until hot. Add some oil and once smoking add the eggs. Leave them to whiten before turning and scrambling using a spatula. Add the diced chicken and cook until it is 90% cooked through. Add the carrots and onions and keeping mixing in. Now add the warm rice and break down any large lumps. Now is the time to practice the wok flick!
Add a few pinches of salt and pepper, the garlic, dashi and chicken stock. Once mixed add the unsalted butter and a handful of spring onions. Now add the soy sauce and sesame oil while continuing to combine the ingredients together. Leave to cook for a few more minutes before serving with a sprinkle of spring onions as a garnish topping.