Designer Generates Smart Backgrounds for Planner

Eliminate Boredom by Changing Backgrounds in Planner

Office 365 Notification MC227304 published on November 21 promised that Planner would get “smart backgrounds” (Microsoft 365 roadmap item 66578). Given the slow pace of development in Planner, it’s an odd decision to prioritize this update. Who knows that we needed to liven up the dull and boring backgrounds used by Planner to date? In any case, the update is rolling out now and is due to complete at the end of January.

The smart part of the moniker comes from the use of the PowerShell Designer component to come up with a suitable graphic background based on the plan name. Obviously, the backgrounds wouldn’t be smart at all if Designer did its own thing and never took the plan name into account. But it does, and the world is a better place.

Any Plan Member Can Change Background

Any plan member (member of the underlying Microsoft 365 group) can select a background. Go to the […] menu and select Plan settings. From the General tab, select one of the suggested backgrounds generated by Designer (Figure 1). Designer comes up with some nice images and it’s interesting that it often makes different suggestions to different plan members.

Selecting a new background image for Planner
Figure 1: Selecting a new background image for a Planner plan

The background is a plan setting. Once a new background is selected, it applies until another plan member decides that it needs to be changed. This leads to the interesting notion of a background war where different people make their choice of background to frustrate other plan members. There’s no way for a group owner to lock the background and stop frequent changes. You must depend on people behaving maturely.

There’s also no way to upload and apply a background image, such as a corporate logo, either on a per-plan or per-tenant basis. I’m sure that there will be a clamour for this feature soon along with a demand for controls to stop people changing the logo.

New Plan Settings Layout

You might notice from Figure 1 that Planner is using a redesigned layout for Plan settings. The settings are now grouped into three tabs, with the Group tab available only to group owners (the settings which affect a group are here). The new layout is more logical and effective, so it’s a good change.

Changes Trickling Through

Smart backgrounds are one of the changes promised in October 2020. The other changes (being able to use 25 labels instead of six and being able to create tasks from a Teams chat or channel conversation) haven’t shown up yet.

Need more information about Planner? The Office 365 for IT Pros team uses Planner extensively to help track work done to update and refresh the book, which means that our Planner content is pretty good. At least, we think it is.

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