Software

How to add useful features, apps, and tools to your SharePoint site

The default setup for Microsoft SharePoint is limited, but you can add powerful tools to your site with just a few mouse clicks. Here's how you do it.

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Image: iStock/patpitchaya

For a modern mobile workforce, the ability to connect employees and provide them with tools that promote collaboration is the engine that drives productivity. Many of the principal collaboration tools are provided via Microsoft Office 365, and one of the most often used tools in that productivity suite is Microsoft SharePoint.

With just a few clicks of the mouse, any authorized employee in your enterprise can create a SharePoint site where teams of employees can communicate, coordinate, and collaborate in a virtual digital meeting place. The employees create the virtual space and then manage and maintain it on their own—no need to bother the busy IT department.

However, many users are unaware of all of SharePoint's capabilities. The online Office 365 version of SharePoint is, for all intents and purposes, a specialized website. Tools and apps can be added and subtracted from a SharePoint site at the whim and discretion of the employees who created it. This tip shows you how to add a calendar and a task list to a SharePoint site using Office 365. Adding other tools to your site follow the same general pattern.

SEE: Comparison chart: Enterprise collaboration tools (Tech Pro Research)

Adding to SharePoint

The default configuration of a SharePoint site is about as simple as simple gets. There is a column with a message center and a list of documents and folders stored on the server. As you can see in Figure A, there is not much to it.

Figure A

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To add some much needed depth to the SharePoint toolset, click the Edit button in the upper-right corner of the window. That will take you to a screen showing you the layout of your SharePoint site. As you can see in Figure B, this page offers options to change all sorts of basic settings, like fonts, colors, and themes.

Figure B

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In the left navigation bar, click the Site Contents link to get to the page that will allow you to add tools and apps to your SharePoint site (Figure C). Click the +New button to get a list of apps and tools you can add.

Figure C

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For our example, we're going to add a calendar and a task list. Scroll through the list (Figure D) and select the links to the apps you want to include. You'll be asked to give each addition a unique name, because you can add them more than once to your site.

Figure D

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Once you get the apps you want linked, navigate back to the Edit page shown in Figure B and insert the new tools into your Home page (although the calendar app might best be left on a separate page where it can expand to its full glory). Be sure to click the Save button to update your site. As you can see in Figure E, our Home page now has more tools for the team to use the next time they log in.

Figure E

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SEE: Microsoft Power BI: Getting started with data visualization (free TechRepublic PDF)

Think site design

A Microsoft SharePoint instance is really a specialized website with features that can be manipulated. When adding apps and tools to your SharePoint site, consider the flow of your overall Home page layout. You can also add apps to secondary pages, if that works better for you. Adding apps and tools at random could lead to confusion and frustration, which is not conducive to collaboration or productivity.

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Other tricks?

How have you customized SharePoint to suit your organization's collaboration needs? Share your advice and experiences with fellow TechRepublic members.

About Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

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