close up of a calendar
Microsoft announced a mid-2018 release date for SharePoint 2019, the next perpetual release of Office and more PHOTO: Dafne Cholet

On day two of Ignite, Microsoft announced plans to release preview versions of Office 2019 and SharePoint Server 2019 by 2018.

According to Jared Spataro, general manager for Microsoft Office, the preview edition of SharePoint Server 2019 will be out by the middle of the year.

Spataro didn't divulge any further details about the upcoming release. According to a number of SharePoint professionals contacted by CMSWire, this is the first time a specific timeframe has been given for the product, even if everyone knew it was on the way.

(Editor's note: The article has been updated to include feedback on SharePoint 2019 from Christian Buckley.)

Let the SharePoint 2019 Speculation Begin

The lack of details didn't prevent SharePoint speculation from starting. 

Oliver Wirkus, senior consultant with Ontario-based 2toLead and two-time Microsoft MVP for Offices Servers and Services, said based on the releases of the last 12 months, he would expect some of the following features:

  • More modern page layouts and site template (similar to the recently released communication sites)
  • Enhanced support for hybrid environments
  • Enhanced support for SPFx, which will become the most important development environment to add functionality to SharePoint
  • The modern look will become the default look while the classic look will pushed back
  • Out of the box look and feel will get an overhaul, SharePoint 2019 will look modern
  • Forms (used in list and libraries) can be edited with PowerApps
  • Microsoft Flow will become the default workflow engine, although old workflows will remain usable.
Slide announcing the release of SharePoint 2019 and Office 2019 previews next yearPHOTO: Gokan Ozcifci, Microsoft Regional Director and MVP for SharePoint

Christian Buckley, founder of CollabTalk and six time Office Servers and Services MVP shared more than speculation:

"We've known for a long time ... that Microsoft would continue to support on-premises environments. While SharePoint 2016 was the first version distributed since Microsoft moved to its cloud-first, mobile-first innovation strategy, SharePoint 2019 will be foundational in its own right in that it will not only extend the hybrid scenarios available for customers, but provide new AI-first capabilities to help organizations with hybrid environments take advantage of the innovation happening around the MS Graph, machine-learning and analytics."

SharePoint Hub Sites: New Intranet Building Tool

The SharePoint 2019 timeline wasn't the only SharePoint news shared at Ignite today.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company also announced it will release SharePoint hub sites next year, with an expected roll out to Office 365 First Release customers in the first half of 2018.

SharePoint hub sites are a new intranet-building element that will bring together related sites under a unified look and feel with shared navigation. 

“The digital workplace is dynamic and ever changing. Business goals and team structures evolve and change — often frequently,” Mark Kashman, senior product manager on the SharePoint team wrote in a blog about the new release.

“SharePoint helps your organization adapt, by connecting your workplace with intelligent content management and intranets that give you the tools to share and work together, and to inform and engage people across the organization. And now it gets easier to organize your intranet dynamically.”

What stands out amongst the new functionality included in hub sites is the ability it gives intranet managers to combine multiple team sites and communication sites in one place to create an intranet that reflects the way enterprises work.

Even better, Microsoft designed the new hubs with mobile devices in mind. The SharePoint mobile app will be updated to natively render hub sites, and their pages, news and content, as well as providing smooth navigation between associated sites.

Release Timing for Office 2019

The middle of 2018 will see yet more releases from Microsoft. Other widely used services such as Exchange will be updated, along with perpetual versions of a number of Office apps including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

Spataro said Office 2019 will come with new IT capabilities for those who aren't yet ready for the cloud.

Among the new features, he said, will be improved inking features, such as pressure sensitivity, tilt effects and ink replay.

Excel will include new formulas and charts, as well as new AI capabilities.

Among these will be the ability to understand new data types in Excel beyond text and numbers, and augment that data based on public and enterprise information.

Server improvements will include updates to IT services and management capabilities along with security and voice improvements.