Planner Grid View and Repeating Tasks Arrive Together
First announced in message center notification MC428511 (Sept 2022, Microsoft 365 roadmap item 98104), Planner’s much-awaited grid view has finally made its appearance in tenants, roughly a month late from the adjusted date Microsoft set in November. The January 10 Planner blog post is full of excitement but does nothing to explain why the pace of change in Planner is so slow. This isn’t the first long-delayed feature release. Adding the ability for Planner to generate compliance records is another example of slow delivery.
To be fair to the Planner developers, the update also includes the ability to add repeating (recurring) tasks, something that isn’t included in any message center notification that I can find. The feature showed up in preview in some tenants last October and now it’s available to all. Nice as it is to have an extra feature show up by surprise, the lack of communication is something that the folks who are pushing for better and more comprehensive communication with customers through the Microsoft 365 message center might look into.
Biggest Planner Update Since 2020
Planner hasn’t changed its views since the 2018 introduction of the Schedule view., but Grid view is probably the biggest update since Planner expanded the set of labels available in a plan from six to 25 in 2020. As such, I was disappointed to find that I couldn’t sort tasks by clicking on column headings. Instead, Planner uses the same filter mechanism as available with its other views to select the set of tasks displayed in the view (Figure 1).
It’s logical to want Planner grid view to use the same filter component as the other Planner views. However, once the grid is populated (with or without a filter), it becomes much more useful if you can sort the data by tapping a column heading.
Items in the grid are editable. You can open the full task or edit properties inline. For instance, you can edit a task name, set new dates for task, assign new people to tasks, or move tasks between buckets. The inline editing capability of the grid is especially useful. If you’re used to the Planner web interface, there’s nothing difficult to master in grid view.
The Grid Conundrum
What’s surprising about the time taken for Microsoft to introduce grid view for the Planner web app is that they’ve had a perfectly good example to work from since the debut of the Tasks by Planner app for Teams (Figure 2) in 2020. Even odder, the Teams app allows users to sort tasks by clicking on column headings.
The Teams app is not perfect. Once a plan spans more than a couple of hundred tasks, the app slows down discernibly and it becomes easy to make mistakes, such as marking the wrong task as complete because of unpredictable scrolling in the task list. Nevertheless, it’s a nice way of browsing tasks to update those that need refinement and remove those that are complete.
The implementation of recurring tasks is interesting. A task exists as a single instance, so each occurrence of a recurring task is a separate task. After creating a new task, you can edit its properties to set a start date, end date, and interval (Figure 3). This task exists until you complete it. At that time, Planner creates a new task and adjusts the start and end dates by the set interval.
If you remove the due date for a task, it loses its recurring status because Planner cannot advance the next iteration of the task to a new due date. If you delete the active instance of a recurring task, you can delete the task or all future tasks. Deleting the current task deletes the task and creates the next task in the series. It’s a simple and effective mechanism.
Planner Graph APIs
From a development perspective, Microsoft tweeted that application permissions for the Planner Graph APIs are rolling out and should be available to all tenants by the end of January. Up to now, the Planner API only supported delegated permissions, which meant that an account had to be a member of a plan before it could access task information. This made scenarios such as reporting very difficult (you could make the account used to generate reports a member of every plan in the tenant, but that’s not realistic). It will be interesting to see what kind of solutions appear based on the new APIs.
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