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Written: 23/01/2021 | Updated: N/A

It’s been a bit of a mad week. Over the last five days I’ve spoken at Modern Workplace Conference Paris, the Microsoft Reactor in London and Microsoft 365 California. Awesome events with great organisers and every one a fantastic experience. Honestly, it’s such a privilege given our situation, and if you came to see one of my sessions then thank you for your support and the time you’ve set aside. Now the subject of today is a question I got at the end of the Reactor session which I thought I would follow up on. The session was about Teams and Lists and the question was specifically, can you disable comments in Microsoft Lists? As I said in the session the answer is yes – at least in the web app. So this one is for you. And for anyone else reading why would we disable comments? Well, we may not want to have comments and conversations around List Items. We may find them too busy or too distracting. They may not, in our case, add value. So to start out there is two things you need to know about comments on Lists at the current time. Number one – comments on List Items in the web app are different from conversations on List Items in Teams. As shown below in the screen shots of the same item in the different experiences the comments are different and do not synchronise. Being that you can have two different sets of comments in the same item – that in itself is a reason to want to turn it off to avoid confusion. In addition the data isn’t housed in the same place, the conversations in Teams are not housed in SharePoint where the List is. Number two. Disabling comments on List Items in the web app experience can only be done via Powershell and can only be done tenant wide – for all Lists. It’s not as granular as being able to do it for specific Lists in specific Sites/Teams, however Microsoft do have future plans to introduce this. So you have to tread carefully here and understand this isn’t the complete experience which we want – ideally it would be consistent across Teams and this raises the question? Does disabling it via the Shell for the core web app experience also disable it in Teams? Let’s find out

This blog will cover

  • Installing the SharePoint Module (if you haven’t already) and starting a session
  • Disabling comments on List Items in the Lists Web App
  • Disabling conversations on List Items in Teams
  • Reenabling comments and conversations on List Items in the Web App and Teams
  • Final Thoughts

Pre-requisites

  • Administrator permissions to install SharePoint Powershell Module and run Powershell Commands (Global Administrator or SharePoint Administrator). Version 16.0.20518.12000 and above work
  • Office 365/Microsoft 365 licence, with SharePoint and Teams enabled to test that it worked
  • Teams Owner Permissions

HOW – INSTALLING SHAREPOINT MODULE AND CONNECTING

1.) Go to https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=35588 and select Download

2.) Select Open File

3.) Tick I Accept the terms in the Licence Agreement and then Install

4.) Select Finish

5.) To open the SharePoint Online Management Shell command prompt, from the Start screen, type Sharepoint, and then click Run as Administrator under SharePoint Online Management Shell

6.) This will open the session

7.) Enter the following commands to initiate the session. You will be asked for admin credentials during the process

$adminUPN=”<adminUPN”

$orgName=”<OrgName>”

$userCredential = Get-Credential -UserName $adminUPN -Message “Type the password.”

Connect-SPOService -Url https://$orgName-admin.sharepoint.com -Credential $userCredential

8.) You are now ready to go to start adding your list controls

An alternative to downloading and installing the module this way is to simply run a windows powershell session as administrator and run the following command

Install-Module -Name Microsoft.Online.SharePoint.PowerShell

HOW – DISABLING LIST COMMENTS IN THE LIST WEB APP

1.) Enter Set-SPOTenant -CommentsOnListItemsDisabled $true

2.) You can no longer comment on the List Item in the web app – the comment section is just blank

3.) But no change in Teams

HOW – DISABLING LIST COMMENTS IN TEAMS

Ok, so the Powershell command in the SPO module didn’t have any impact on Teams which isn’t that surprising given that we knew beforehand that comments and conversation are different and do not sync. However, after a bit of playing around I managed to find a workaround and this doesn’t involve permissions as I tested this too and List permissions don’t make a difference here. This may not suit all organisations and I am not saying it’s particularly elegant, however, it will disable conversations on List Items for any List in that Channel on a specific Team for all Team Members. Owners will still have the ability.

1.) In Teams, go to the Team and then the Channel the List is in, select More Options (…) and then select Manage Channel

2.) Leverage Channel Moderation and set Only Owners can Post Messages

3.) Whereas once before Channel Moderation any member could start a conversation on a List Item

4.) When Channel Moderation is applied, the member cannot even open the conversation on the List Item. Clicking it does nothing meaning it’s essentially disabled

So via a combination of SharePoint Powershell and Channel moderation in Teams you can in effect disable comments and conversations on List Items. This situation would work optimally in a scenario where you are both the List Owner and the Team Owner. Ideally, the List would be confined to a singular channel and probably it’s own channel away from channels which need chat. However, life isn’t typically that simple, and the downside of this is that if you had hundreds of Teams with hundreds of Lists, then its not practical to go around effecting channel moderation on every channel which has a List. In addition, this List could be used in other channels or even other Teams, since those with permissions on the List could open it as an existing List should they use the URL. As said, it’s not elegant – it’s a workaround at best, however if it’s tightly controlled and done right, it will work – at least until Microsoft come up with something more aligned

HOW – REENABLING COMMENTS AND CONVERSATIONS ON LIST ITEMS IN THE WEB APP AND TEAMS

1.) Set-SPOTenant -CommentsOnListItemsDisabled $false (SPO Powershell)

2.) Remove Channel Moderation

FINAL THOUGHTS

Our job here is done

Disabling List Items is one of those which probably falls into that old category ‘we can but doesn’t mean we should’. The Lists web app end (SharePoint) is all or nothing – it won’t serve the needs of organisations looking for granularity until Microsoft develop that. With Teams it’s a workaround – not as dirty as many I have seen in my time since at least it uses native functionality, however for many it’ll be impractical, or at best would probably be utilised for one or two Lists under tight management – which it needs. Ideally, the comments on List Items could really benefit from being a consistent joined up experience between the Lists Web App (SharePoint) and Teams because currently it isn’t. For many end users who end up using it, it’ll be confusing since there can be two sets of commentary going on around the same List Item. If I were to make a recommendation it would be that comments in the web app win out and are pulled through to Teams because there is another issue with List Item conversations in Teams whereby if you start opening them if different channels and Teams it means multiple disconnected conversations on the same List Item. Have SPO Powershell control this on a List by List basis, or even better, surface it on the Lists web app, and we should be in a much better place. Hopefully we’ll see that at some point

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