This week’s SharePoint 2013 Top 5 list looks at the latest mobile features in SharePoint 2013. While we all found mobile support in SharePoint 2010 lacking (to say the least), SharePoint 2013 has come a long way. These are the features we see as most important – read on see if you think SharePoint 2013 has finally gone mobile.
MOBILE BROWSER EXPERIENCE
Depending on the mobile browser being used, SharePoint can provide different browsing options – the Classic View, the Contemporary View and the Full Screen UI.
The Contemporary View is new to SharePoint 2013. This view renders in HTML5 and is available to the newest mobile browsers – Mobile IE9.0+, iPhone’s Safari 4.0+ and Android 4.0+. It is a clean view with the goal of providing quick access to lists, document libraries, and other common SharePoint content. The classic view provides backward compatibility for older mobile browsers. In this case, classic means old – it is the same mobile view that was available in SharePoint 2010. While functional, it is meant for a specific purpose, and it is not going to win any user design awards. The Full Screen UI is exactly what the name says – a full desktop view of the site shown on the mobile device.
Device Channels are a way for you to choose how the same content displays on different devices. If you tried to support mobile browsers on early versions of SharePoint you know you either had a single mobile view or you went through numerous workarounds to get browser specific content. SharePoint 2013 cleans it up. Your master pages, page layouts, and style sheets can be mapped to specific mobile browsers, allowing much more control over the display of your content.
While the list of mobile browsers is limited, it includes the popular ones such as iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone. Details on supported browsers can be found on Microsoft’s Technet site.
Say you often work with a SharePoint library, and want to be notified on your mobile device when a new or changed document is posted to that list. Alert functionality has been around for a while and can send you an email or text, but SharePoint 2013 takes it a step further by providing the plumbing so users can receive notifications on their mobile devices when specific activities occur on a SharePoint site. This is a powerful tool to keep users informed of key changes to SharePoint-based sites and business solutions. Imagine you have an idea capture and management solution built in SharePoint 2013. You can now automatically push notifications to the employee who submitted the idea each time the status of that idea changes. This is a great way to engage users and increase overall use of your solutions.
Not surprisingly, the app on the mobile device must be specifically built to leverage this notification feature. Expect more and more apps that leverage SharePoint to incorporate push notifications into their standard functionality.
LOCATION (or GEOLOCATION)
Whether you call it location or geolocation, SharePoint 2013 now contains a geolocation field type that can be included in a list. This has numerous applications, such as automatically logging the location of a user each time they enter information. This is a powerful feature for SharePoint-based applications where mobile users are capturing information through their phone or tablet. You can display this location information via Bing Maps (not Google Maps or other popular mapping services).
There is a notable drawback to this feature. This new field type isn’t available through the standard UI list building tools. Instead, it must be inserted programmatically. Most situations where you will use this field type will require coding anyways, so this drawback isn’t as serious as it initially appears.
OFFICE WEB APPS
Do you find yourself accessing SharePoint-based documents more than ever on your mobile device? If this is true for you or your users, you’ll like the changes to Office Web Apps in SharePoint 2013. Now SharePoint 2013 and the Office Web Apps Server work together better than ever before to provide a higher quality experience for users who interact with documents on their phones. This covers Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, and the viewer for these documents is now optimized for phones. Could you view these types of documents on SharePoint 2010 using Office Web Apps? Yes, but it wasn’t as user-friendly as it is now. We hope that Microsoft continues to enhance this experience, since viewing and editing documents on our mobiles devices is becoming much more common.
There are changes from SharePoint 2010 with how the installation is done (and how many servers are needed) to enable these features, so make sure your infrastructure and admin teams know you want this functionality.
Of course, Microsoft realizes that access via mobile devices is the way of the future, so they have attempted to add support to make mobile use of SharePoint easy and user-friendly. They’ve given improved out of the box capabilities, like the contemporary view, and powerful tools for site designers and developers to use to provide very custom experiences to different users.