Microsoft Borrows From SharePoint Server for Cloud-Based Intranets

The company ports two SharePoint Server 2013 features to its cloud-based counterpart to provide a better search-driven navigation experience.


Microsoft has issued an update that brings search-based navigation capabilities from the on-premises version of SharePoint to intranets based on SharePoint Online, the company's cloud-based business collaboration platform.

"Now we've enabled two features that previously were available only in SharePoint Server 2013—the Taxonomy Refinement Panel Web Part (TRPWP) and faceted navigation," announced the company in an Aug. 22 blog post. The features follow the March release of group cache functionality for the service's Content Search Web Part (CSWP), which speeds up page load times.

CSWP generates query-based pages as users browse a SharePoint site instead of displaying static content. "By configuring the query, you can change both the number of items that are shown in the CSWP, and also which content is shown," explained Mark Kashman, senior product manager for Microsoft SharePoint, in a statement. "For example, you can configure the query so that the CSWP will show nine list items from a particular list, or the last six documents the visitor created in a document library."

Now, Microsoft is expanding on SharePoint Online's capabilities by borrowing two features from SharePoint Server 2013.

The new TRPWP is similar to SharePoint's Refinement Web Part (RWP), in that they both filter content on a given page. "But the TRPWP differs from the RWP in two ways: the filters it uses are the categories from the site's navigation, and it can display category-specific editorial content," informed Microsoft's SharePoint team.

In a mockup, the company showed how SharePoint site managers at Contoso, a fictional company used in Microsoft demos, can create sites that display advisories or other editorial content on the category pages of an internal IT ordering system. The TRPWP also displays navigational aids that help users zero in on the information—or products in the case of the Contoso example—that they are looking for.

"You can use the TRPWP only on sites that use managed navigation and category pages to display content," cautioned Microsoft.

Another feature, called faceted navigation, allows users "to use category-specific filters to narrow down the content that's displayed on a page," explained the company. The feature, which should be familiar to Web shoppers, updates a page's content when they check off select filters (such as brand or color).

The feature eases the content management burden on site maintainers. "Even though different filters are shown for different categories, content managers do not have to create and maintain one unique page for each category," said the company. Like TRPWP, faceted navigation only works on sites with managed navigation and category pages.

The Taxonomy Refinement Panel Web Part and faceted navigation are available now for the following plans: Office 365 Enterprise E3 and E4, Government G3 and G4, Education A3 and A4, and Office 365 E3 for nonprofits. Both work only in private site collection scenarios.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...