Benefits of using SharePoint for communications over email

Our Intranet central communication hub contains a calendar, announcement list, and discussion list will become the “water cooler” for the division and that it will become a source of more open dialog between division employees.

We used to use a passive “listserv” way of communicating, which meant that everyone received all the emails. We want to create a more active approach where people retrieve their own information.

I for one am looking forward to having this information distilled to me in a more useful format, and here specifically is what I like about the different apps and the information they provide.


Important information will now be front-and-center on the page to which I can refer back any time I want, without needing to hunt for that all-important email.


Important division event dates will be prominently available to me so that I can see at a glance when things are happening division-wide. I can also connect that calendar to my outlook and compare it with my own.

Discussion List

This can be a double-edged sword as we hope that more content will be posted to the discussion list than is currently being sent to listserv, which will create two situations simultaneously:

  • GOOD – we have more collaboration and dialog and learn more about what’s happening in the division, and
  • NOT SO GOOD – we get more information served to us which may or may not be relevant to our work or interests.

Here are some ways you can customize your discussion list experience:

  • There is a specific view for “featured items” which will show only the most important information relevant to the division. This should give prominence to certain topics and help sort through some of the clutter that we receive on a daily basis.
  • All the content will now be sorted and categorized by department or committee so if I want to learn about upcoming training opportunities, I can choose the Human Resources category and see all the notes posted by that department. If I want to know about the latest developments in diversity, I can visit the Diversity and Inclusive initiatives page or choose the specific departments and committees involved with that, and I will be able to see everything tied to that topic. I won’t have to hunt or search emails anymore to find the information I want.
  • I can set alerts on the discussion list to receive content when I want to receive it. If I like emails as they happen, I can choose that. If I like emails once a day, I can choose that. If I want to only receive information once a week, I can do that too.
  • I can create my own Views to only show things that are important to me, and then set different alerts on those views according to my preferences. This way, I can choose to receive a digest of all discussion items once a day, and receive immediate emails on the departments or committees of interest to me.

If we all embrace the use of the central communication hub, then we can limit the listserv emails to only those topics that are truly important for the whole division.


OneNote and Your Phone

Typing up notes after a meeting can be pretty tedious. If I had a stylus with my device I might write notes on my laptop, but I find I write shorthand faster on paper than I do using an electronic device. Afterwards, typing things up afterwards is annoying and time consuming.

One way to make this process much faster, is to use the microphone on your mobile phone. My android phone voice recorder does a decent job of dictation. I had once used it to dictate a 7-page printed document into electronic format.

I have the OneNote app on my Android, and when I want to dictate meeting notes, I create a new page and hit the microphone button. Then I read the notes that I just took from the meeting and OneNote transcribes them for me. It’s not perfect, and you have to spend a bit of time formatting, but it does beat having to type every word.

Transparent Shapes in PowerPoint

When I make screen captures, there are times that I would like to add a highlight to a graphic. There may be some tools within OneNote Clipping Tool that I am not familiar with yet (be on the lookout for a new post in the future if that’s the case), so I have been using PhotoShop as a work around.

I realize not everyone has PhotoShop, and I also don’t always want to have to save out a screen shot, open in PhotoShop, add shape, use the “Darken” filter to create transparency, and then save out the image again.

Sometimes I just want to copy and paste the screen shot and then highlight it in PowerPoint using a transparent shape.

How to create a transparent shape

Create a shape from within the Home tab, set the Shape Outline to No Outline and set the Shape Fill to the color of your choosing.

The transparency feature is actually somewhat hidden:
In the Shape Fill menu, click More Fill Colors.

At the bottom of that dialog box, is a transparency slider. While you slide it, it won’t change the shading in the view, but once you click ok, you’ll see you have a transparent shape.

Using RSS feeds with SharePoint apps

Oftentimes it’s easier to work in SharePoint when you have RSS feeds of changes sent straight to your Outlook or to your preferred RSS reader.

What is RSS?

If you’re not sure what an RSS reed is, it stands for Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication according to It will enable you to get updates to announcements lists and other SharePoint apps so you can stay informed about ideas, recommendations, and other information shared by your SharePoint users.

How is RSS useful to me?

The benefit for me in subscribing is that I can receive the RSS feed in my Outlook and have the quick info at my viewing pleasure while sorting through my emails, calendar appointments, and tasks. I also like that I’ll be able to keep the past RSS feeds handy for future reference.

How do I get this RSS feed?

On a regular SharePoint site, click the LIST tab and select the RSS feed icon. Then copy and paste the link into your RSS reader, or in Outlook, go to Account Settings, then RSS feeds, then New, and paste the location there. If you are on a Blog site, you can click the RSS FEED link under the Blog photo.  You’ll likely be asked in a pop up window to either Launch Application or Do Nothing; choose Launch Application.


Linking an image in SharePoint

Oftentimes, when I add an image to one of my blog posts, I add a full screen shot of what I am discussing. The images themselves are often fairly large – between 1000 and 2000 pixels. If I left them that way in the image settings, then the image would take over the page, rather than appear within the blog post.

In order to combat that, I change the width in the image settings options on SharePoint to resize the image to a width of 500 pixels.  When we do that, however, sometimes the detail is lost on what I am trying to show. I could handle that one of two ways: either create a cropped version of the image in PhotoShop or Microsoft Paint, and then upload that into my post; or I can link the smaller view of the image to the actual image and have that open in a new window.

To add the link to the image, you click on the image, then choose the INSERT tab at the top of the page and choose LINK. In this case, you’ll want to use “from SharePoint” and then you need to navigate to the image you just uploaded. This can get a little tricky because you need to have a sense for where images end up once you upload them, and SharePoint is not always consistent in where it puts them. Generally, they appear in the SiteAssets folder on your site, and then from there, check the sub-folders to find your image.

Once you have found your image and linked it, you may not see anything on the page that shows you accomplished the task. However, we need to make sure now to open the link in a new tab, so click on your image again, then go to LINK, and there you set the open in a new tab checkbox.

Alternatively, you can just upload the image file again as an UPLOAD FILE item, and then SharePoint will enter the file name with a link to it.

Using OneNote to organize my communication plans

onenote-pagelist-blurredI tend to craft a lot of my division-wide email messages in OneNote before I actually mail them out. I do this for 2 reasons:

  1. I like to refer back to the emails I already sent, which is easier to do when I have the emails in one document rather than all over my Outlook sent items or inbox
  2. I often plan out my communications in advance and don’t like having them sitting in draft mode or anywhere near my email until I am ready.

I do the same with blog posts. Some days can generate 3-4 posts and other days I get zip. I try to post one each day, so I plan the extra blog posts out in advance so I can use them on days when I don’t have fresh content.

I use the tip from January 28th post about using OneNote as a Task List to help separate my content.

I was initially using sections to organize my content, but I found having to flip back and forth between sections too cumbersome and I had a hard time finding my content. The search feature works better within a section as well.

Copying a calendar item from SharePoint to your own calendar in Outlook

One question I get asked often is how can I add one event from the SharePoint calendar to my Outlook Calendar.

We are looking into some other options as well, but here is one way: Connect the SharePoint Calendar to your Outlook. View this Sway tutorial for instructions on how to do this.

Once you have connected the Calendar, view the SharePoint Calendar besides your own within Outlook. Drag the event that you want to copy, from the SharePoint Calender over to your own. You don’t need to place it exactly, just drag it over, and it will automatically add itself to the same timeslot as listed on SharePoint.

You can then turn off the view of the SharePoint Calendar by clicking the little checkbox next to the name of the calendar.