Microsoft Lists, the newest app for Microsoft 365, explained

Arif Bacchus

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On May 20, at the Build 2020 developer conference, Microsoft revealed “Lists,” the newest app for the Microsoft 355 subscription service. Not to be confused with Microsoft To Do, the new experience is quite different and is designed to help you track the information centered around your work. It is set for release later this summer, but here’s a look at what the app means for you, and how it will work.

What is Lists?

Different from Microsoft To Do, Lists is an experience that is designed to plug in with your work life. For those familiar, it also essentially superpowers the lists feature found in SharePoint online into a newer experience.

In a post on the Microsoft 365 blog, the company says Lists is designed to “help you track information and organize your work” in “simple, smart, and flexible” ways. Information input into Lists can also be tracked across geographies and locations thanks to Microsoft 365, making sure that everyone at your workplace can be on the same page.

Some use cases for Lists include tracking company assets like laptops, tracking contacts, inventory like office supplies, or even a daily routine. Lists will have its own website accessed via the Microsoft 365 app launcher, but they’re also will be a separate mobile app launching later this year. As with most Microsoft 365 apps, there will even be an integration with Microsoft Teams, too.

How does Lists work?

Judging from a blog post, and the 15-minute demo above, we were able to gather a few things about how Lists will work. Here’s what you need to know.

First off, the main experience of Lists will be a web app. The app will be accessed via the Microsoft 365 launcher. From there, the user interface will give you options to start a list. You can make one manually, or choose from templates. There are templates for things like trip cancellations, meeting and event itineraries, design, launch parties, and more. You’ll even see some “favorites” which will give you quick access to Lists. Options to see all your shared lists, and create personal and team lists for sharing will appear there, too.

There’ll also be certain “views” for any Lists you create. These include grid, gallery, and calendar. We’ll be diving into these in the next section about customization.

Looking at the templates specifically, these will have some common elements to help make creating lists easier. That includes a basic structure with formatting, forms, conditional formatting. You’ll be free to edit and fill out things are you see fit, and you can even create a list from Microsoft Excel by importing the table data. You even can write “rules” for Lists, too, and create certain if/then scenarios to send out notifications and have lists updates when certain values change.

How can you customize Lists?

Just like with most of Microsoft 365 apps, the default view isn’t the only view you’ll get with Lists. There looks to be plenty of ways to customize the experience based on how you want it to look.

As we hinted earlier, there’s a couple of different “views” for Lists. The main ones include grid, gallery, and calendar. The grid view will give you rows and columns to reorder and is best for editing. List, meanwhile, doesn’t have the point and click capabilities. Gallery will be the most visual of the bunch, as it has images and cards to display information, as well as dates.

Finally, the calendar view is best for showing off Lists that have a date associated, as you’ll be able to see the ones that are most important to you. Those who create lists can also use the format view to change the way cards look for everyone when they load the list.

To improve the discoverability of Lists, there also are options to use conditional formatting. Microsoft says that there will be options to change the background color fill of an item to show conditions such as in review, approved, and more. You won’t need to worry about fonts, though as these will adjust as you change. There will be options to change the icon for a list, too, if need be.

How will Lists work in Teams?

The most interesting part of Microsoft Lists is its integration with Microsoft Teams. According to Microsoft, you’ll be able to use Teams to collaborate on the Lists you create. They’ll be various views for Lists in Teams, such as grids, cards, and calendar. Lists can also be added to a Teams channel, or via a chat, as with most apps.

Microsoft says that once you add a new Lists tab to a Teams channel, you’ll be able to create and embed your lists in Teams without leaving the app. They’ll be options for adding new columns, defining choices in a drop-down menu, creating a view or edit share links, and setting up custom filters. It essentially looks just like Lists does on the web.

Sharing lists

Finally, we want to touch on how sharing will work with Lists. Microsoft says that when you share a List, there will be options for edit or read-only permissions. You also can share individual items, too, with the option to allow or disable the ability to edit, set an expiration date, or require a password before granting access. Just like with Word, anyone who gets a shared list can also add comments as well.

For those worried about SharePoint lists, Microsoft details that all your lists, including lists that you have inside SharePoint sites today, will benefit from everything coming with the Lists app.

We’ll be looking forward to trying out Lists when it becomes available later this summer. Until then, keep it tuned to OnMSFT for all your Microsoft 365 news and information. And, feel free to let us know if you think you’ll find Lists useful by dropping us a comment below.