How to use SharePoint: Tips for SharePoint Online

© Microsoft

SharePoint Online is Microsoft's enterprise collaboration platform, and part of its Office 365 subscription offering.

Launched 17 years ago, SharePoint has come a long way, from a stripped-back document manager to a collaboration, file hosting and content management powerhouse.

SharePoint Online lets users access internal sites, shared documents, create document libraries and other data which can be shared across your company whether your employees work within an office or remotely, via the cloud.

You can create intuitive intranet sites with custom images, text and documents to deliver your content.

For example, team sites can be created so that employees working on a certain project can keep up with its progress and get all the relevant data. Alternatively, a company might want to create a site housing interesting news stories to keep all employees in the know.

For businesses just starting out or looking for quick tips on SharePoint's features, read on.

Please note this story refers to SharePoint Online.

For a full SharePoint cheatsheet, take a look at our sister site.

Setting up a new site

Before diving into specific tips, it's important to ensure the basics are done. Most people reading this will be in the process of setting up an internal site or in fact have successfully created one (or more).

Luckily, it is pretty simple to create a site. You can easily add text, video, images and other custom content easily via SharePoint's site editor. It works just like a WordPress site and shouldn't take too long to get to grips with.

By clicking the plus symbol in the middle of the blank site template you can add in what you want and search for add-ons that aren't displayed such as Bing maps.

For example, if you want to edit the layout of a text box, you can click edit section and select the column layout you want.

There are plus symbols all over the blank site indicating where you can add in your content. You can add people to the site or share it within SharePoint's libraries.


Microsoft's SharePoint comes with a bunch of preprogrammed items which should accommodate most users. However, if you want a break from the pre-configured, this tip will help you customise views and columns.

Our sister title Computerworld highlighted a great tip for those wanting to manage site views. This is ideal for those wanting to add a little information to a project they are working on.

For example, if you want to add a drop-down menu which states who is working on what, or add a column displaying where you are during an item's life-cycle.

To manage your views go to All documents in the toolbar and select manage views. From there you can do all sorts, for example, add in a column that performs a specific function.

Under display choices, you can choose from drop-down menu, radio buttons and checkboxes.

Photo credit: Jonathan Hassell,

Create RSS feeds for external content

Within SharePoint's 'web parts' toolbar, you'll be able to add in content from external sources to your own intranet sites. This is great for adding in news and weather reports or information from industry-specific sites.

It should be noted that SharePoint Online users will have to switch to the 'classic' SharePoint rather than the new UX in order to use the RSS web part.

Here's how to do it.

Gather the RSS URL, you'll be able to find this by clicking on the RSS logo which looks like this:

Next, you'll need to subscribe to the feed and copy the link shortcut.

Then click on edit on the page you want to add the RSS web part, then click insert and then select web part.

Now you should click the RSS Viewer web part and then select add.

The final step is simple: Open the RSS tool panel and paste the RSS URL into the RSS Feed URL field, add the number of items you want the RSS feed to display and click OK to finish.

Set up/remove custom alerts

To keep track of any changes in your libraries, SharePoint is able to send you a notification when any changes happen.

This is pretty useful as it will save you time checking each of your internal SharePoint sites for changes. Here's how to do it:

On the toolbar click on Alert Me, or find it within the ellipses (...) tab.

You can select Alert me to send you notifications about changes on your sites as a whole or use the ellipsis button to get notifications on certain parts of the site.

Once you've selected 'Alert me' it will bring up a window which you'll need to fill out to confirm your customised notification. It will ask how you want the alert to be delivered (via email or SMS), when you want it sent and when exactly it should notify you or others.

If you've got an alert already set up that you'd like to remove you can go click the ellipses, and then click Manage My Alerts and uncheck to box next to the alert you want to disable. Then click Delete Selected Alerts and confirm.

To delete an alert which is set up for a colleague, select the settings cog symbol and click Site Settings. Next, under the Site Administration tab, click User alerts. To bring up alerts for a specific person, choose Display alerts for and enter their details.

To finish, check the boxes next to the alerts you want to disable and then select Delete Selected Alerts.

Create a master calendar

Another top tip from our colleagues over at allows SharePoint Online users to overlay up to 10 calendars, creating a master calendar.

To do this you'll need to visit the main SharePoint site as this is the place where the master calendar will be displayed.

Next, you can choose to make a new calendar or use an existing one. To make a new one, you'll need to click on the Site Actions tab.

Under the Calendar tab, click Calendars Overlay, and then, New Calendar.

Photo credit: Jonathan Hassell,

Now you'll need to provide SharePoint with some information on your new calendar. You'll need to provide a name, a description and the URL of the site that currently houses the calendar you want to add. Note: use the site URL rather the URL for the specific calendar.

If the site URL you've provided has multiple calendars associated with it, SharePoint will ask which calendar you wish to overlay. Choose the calendar you want and click on the box next to Always Show and then OK. Do this for up to 10 calendars.


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