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Earlier this year, Microsoft shared a sneak peek of some of the new features it intended to bring to SharePoint 2019. The launch of the new preview version last week contained many of those features, as well as a promise of more to come. According to a blog post by SharePoint senior technical manager Bill Baer, the preview release should only be seen as the beginning and not the end.

The release did not create the usual fuss which typically followed releases such as SharePoint 2016 and 2013. This is largely because since the 2016 release and the introduction of SharePoint Online, a lot of what is coming to the on-premises version is a reciprocal version to a feature in the online version, which Microsoft updates regularly with new features. 

Baer explained, "We are building SharePoint Server 2019 to be the same core platform for SharePoint Online as we did with SharePoint Server 2016, it should be no surprise that you see similarities between the two. For you, SharePoint Server 2019 unlocks new, modern experiences for users that are both intuitive and familiar." 

SharePoint On-Premises Remains Popular

However, on-premises versions of SharePoint are still widely used, as a joint Sharegate – Nintex 2017 survey showed. Both SharePoint Online and SharePoint 2016 gained significant ground over 2017, with SharePoint experiencing a 67 percent increase in deployment, while SharePoint Online deployments rose by 167 percent.  Significantly, this was accompanied by a 35 percent rise in the use of Office 365.

There are a number of reasons why enterprises are sticking with the on-premises version, including cloud security concerns and cloud migration difficulties. “The move to the cloud is not always as easy as it sounds. Microsoft has released a content migration tool to help customers leave SharePoint 2010 and 2013, but it just is not enough,” wrote Benjamin Niaulin, Microsoft regional director and product advisor at Montreal-based Sharegate.

Related Article: What Organizations Want in SharePoint 2019

SharePoint 2019 Focuses on 3 Areas

Microsoft's Baer stated the SharePoint Server 2019 Preview provides a first look at a select set of new investments that will help define the scope, scale and reliability of SharePoint Server 2019. In spite of the promise of more features to come, the main elements and upgrades have already become clear. They are based around three different themes:

  • User experiences developed through SharePoint Online.
  • Content engagement across all browsers and devices.
  • Powerful scaling security and compliance capabilities.

"SharePoint Server 2019 delivers an enhanced hybrid experience to all users. Also, all the good qualities of SharePoint Online are now available for on-premises users, including modern sites, communication sites and hub sites,” said Dux Raymond-Sy, CMO of SharePoint migration specialist AvePoint.  “Most importantly, the new rock-solid sync feature for OneDrive makes it more compelling for enterprises to retire competing file, sync and share solutions like Box or Dropbox, allowing SharePoint to become their one-size-fits-all solution for all of these needs."

Jesse Shiah, CEO of Mountain View, Calif.-based BPM software provider AgilePoint added the release of SharePoint 2019 failed to address a lingering challenge many organizations who have deployed SharePoint on-premises for years face, namely being locked down by custom development in business apps, such as workflows and forms, which cannot easily migrate to Office 365. "One of the biggest announcements with SharePoint 2019 is yet another addition of another ‘new’ workflow manager in SharePoint 2019. This ever-increasingly disjointed workflow strategy will prolong the continued compatibility issue that not only will acerbate the ‘lock down’ challenge described above but may also lead to confusion in the market," he said.

Related Article: SharePoint 2019: First Impressions From Enterprise Users

6 SharePoint 2019 Additions

What follows isn't a comprehensive list of new additions or deprecated or removed features. Deprecated features are those features that SharePoint is no longer investing in and may remove in the future. A removed feature is no longer supported by Microsoft in SharePoint Server 2019 Public Preview. In many cases the feature is actually removed from the product, but in some cases it may still be present.

Generally speaking, the added features reflect what Microsoft calls the "modern experience," or experiences that are "compelling, flexible, mobile, and easier to use." They include:

1. SharePoint Home Page

The SharePoint home page is where users can easily find and access SharePoint sites within the organization. Users will also find news from the sites they are following and from suggested sites. Additionally, they can create sites from the home page — if the administrator has enabled the ability to do so.

2. Lists and Libraries

The new preview contains the modern experiences for lists and libraries in team sites. This brings the experience up to date with SharePoint Online. The default lists and library experience is optimized for the most common tasks, allowing users to copy and move files using the command bar as well as pin documents, add files as links, filter and sort easily and apply formatting to columns.

3. New Team, Site Pages

Communication sites are a place to share news, display a story, or broadcast a message to other people. The new Hero web part can display up to five items with images, text, and links to draw attention to the most important content.

4. New Pages

The new pages are built using web parts that can be customized according to needs. Users can add documents, embed videos, images, site activities and Yammer feeds, among other things. Users will be able to use Excel, Word and PowerPoint documents and embed video content too.

5. Modern Search Experience

SharePoint 2019 comes with a new search experience. In the modern search experience, users see results before they start typing, and the results update as they type. The search results page shows a compelling overview of search results, grouped by type.

6. Lists

The new lists provide individuals and teams the ability to access, share and collaborate around structured data and to bring information from other systems into SharePoint to support business process. The SharePoint 2019 lists simplifies how people create, curate and interact with information.

Related Article: Unpacking SharePoint Conference's Day One Announcements

6 Features Sunsetted in SharePoint 2019

SharePoint has always been focused on collaboration, even when it was being principally used to build intranets. SharePoint 2019 continues this, with new features to help people to work together on files, lists and libraries as well, of course, as providing a new generation of mobile and intelligent intranets. However, a number of features are on the way out, according to the release notes:

1. Aggregregate Newsfeed

The existing aggregated newsfeed feature will be read-only in SharePoint 2019. Both the tile in the app launcher and the option to implement the newsfeed capability will also be removed from this version forward.

2. Custom Help

The existing help engine in SharePoint will also be removed in the future. In this edition, Microsoft legacy on-premises SharePoint help engine, which is based on help collections being installed in the on-premises farm, will be updated and will synchronize content with Office 365.

3. SharePoint Designer 2013

Microsoft SharePoint Designer (SPD), formerly known as Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer, is a discontinued HTML editor freeware for creating or modifying Microsoft SharePoint sites, workflows and web pages. SharePoint Designer 2013 will work with SharePoint Server 2019 Public Preview for the remainder of the client support lifecycle (2026).

4. Multi-Tenancy

As Microsoft continues the push to SharePoint Online, an increasing amount of SharePoint multi-tenancy capabilities are building dependencies on cloud technologies that aren’t available in on-premises environments. The cost and complexity of providing an on-premises alternative has become too expensive, so it will not be available in the SharePoint 2019.

5. Visio Services

Visio Services has two options for rendering Visio diagrams: Microsoft Silverlight-based and PNG-based. Microsoft Silverlight will no longer be supported as of Oct. 12, 2021. This means that Silverlight-based rendering will no longer be supported in SharePoint Server 2019 Public Preview.

6. Code-based sandbox solutions

Support for code-based sandbox solutions will be removed from SharePoint 2019. Sandbox solutions are customization packages that can be used to deploy customizations to SharePoint on the site collection level. They have already been removed from SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint Online. Microsoft suggests users look at SharePoint add-ins as an alternative.