What Is Microsoft Lists and How Do You Use It?
What Is Microsoft Lists?
Microsoft Lists represents the evolution of traditional SharePoint lists to a more modern form of information management. It facilitates the rapid creation of code-free applications for users on a personal level or for teams. It facilitates the rapid creation of lists, grids, and calendars that clearly set out complex information in an easy-to-read way.
The Microsoft Lists application is driven by three principles:
- Simplicity – start a list easily from scratch or quickly with ready-to-use templates.
- Flexibility – keep everyone in sync with smart alerts and formatting.
- Integrations – collaborate directly in Microsoft Teams using flexible views such as gallery, list view, and calendar.
Included in the Microsoft 365 suite, Microsoft Lists is a work tracking app that allows you to create one or several lists containing whatever type of information you need so it’s ready to access whenever you need it.
The Lists app is not only a tool for personal use but is also excellent for teams to share information associated with team projects or activities. Microsoft Lists integrates natively with various Microsoft 365 apps such as SharePoint Online and Microsoft Teams, and it allows you to add lists to each channel and site page.
The Microsoft Lists application provides a number of default list templates, but you can also create lists from scratch, from Excel sheets, or from existing lists. You can think of a list like a database or spreadsheet, and with the ability to customize your view of the data displayed, you can create a list that’s easy to use and exactly suited for your particular situation.
Here are some example use cases for Microsoft Lists:
- For QA engineers – track issues, assign them to your team members, and send notifications to close tasks faster.
- For managers – keep track of the ideas contributed by the whole team in a suggestions page. Share the most interesting articles or videos connected to your project with your team. Use them later to brainstorm new ideas for content creation, product upgrades, and so on. Track all data connected to the event, such as participants, their emails, and their timetables, in an event itinerary.
- For HR and team leads – introduce new coworkers to relevant contacts, resources, and tasks with the use of an onboarding checklist.
- For chief information officers – monitor physical assets such as laptops and accessories, their condition, and their checkout dates with the asset manager.
- For general use – define your own training roadmap with the learning content you have pending.
With ready-made templates, you can quickly create lists in the Microsoft Lists app, Microsoft SharePoint, in the Microsoft Lists mobile app, and directly in Microsoft Teams. And because it’s part of Microsoft 365, you can rely on enterprise-grade security and compliance.
Features of Microsoft Lists
With Microsoft Lists, you can improve the visual representation of data to make it simple and intuitive. Thanks to this, your team will get the most out of it and maximize their overall productivity.
An interesting feature of the Lists app is the rule system, which works similarly to the filters in Outlook. With this, you can automate the process of creating reminders and notifications and updating values in lists based on changes in data within a list, or when a new file is created in a library
Whether a list is short or long, simple or complex, it is important to be able to work with others and to do so in a way that is efficient for all. When you share a list or individual items in your Lists app, you can set rules such as enabling or disabling the ability to edit lists or set an expiration date. You can also set a password for access to lists or items.
Sharing Lists and Items
You can share lists with editing or read-only permissions. You can also share individual items, enable or disable the ability to edit, set expiration dates, and require users to enter a password before accessing the data in the Lists app. People with access can add comments to the list or only to some items to increase productivity and team communication.
Calendar, Gallery, and List Views
There are four main views in the Microsoft 365 Lists app in which you can configure your lists: list, grid, gallery, and calendar view. Each default view has its advantages, and you can decide which one is the most convenient for you:
- Grid view is the default style you see when you first create a list—it sets out the items in rows and columns that can be configured and reordered. Grid view is the best choice when you want the list information to be easily edited.
- List view is like a grid but without the click and edit option. It looks more like a SharePoint list.
- Gallery view can be used when you want to highlight images.
- Calendar view is best when the information to be displayed includes dates. For better organization, you can customize this view by adding filters or sorting for more attractive visualization.
You can adjust the way information appears in these views using conditional formatting. For example, you can change the background fill color of an item from orange when the status is “Under Review” to green when the status is “Approved.” The background, font color, and icons change dynamically when certain criteria are met.
How to Create and Manage Microsoft Lists
The application is available for use on several platforms, through the web browser, or via the mobile app. Once you’ve opened Lists, you can create a list by simply clicking “+.” This will give you the option of starting from scratch or using any of the default templates.
Here’s how you can create a list directly from the Microsoft Lists application in the web browser:
- Go to your Share Pointwebsite, and there open the app launcher by clicking the 9 dots button on the top left. Click “All apps”.
2. Type “Lists” in a search bar.
3. Then Microsoft Lists app will open. Create a new list by clicking “+ New list” button at the top of the page. This can also be made from an Excel spreadsheet hosted in Office 365 or uploaded from your computer (including CSV format).
4. When creating a new blank list, provide its Name and choose where you’d like to save it (your list or some sites within your company’s SharePoint).
5. Here’s your new list that you can fill in with items by clicking “+ New” at the top left.
The Microsoft Lists app offers a number of templates that will help you save time when creating new lists or serve as inspiration.
The Microsoft Lists app’s templates are designed for different use cases, such as tracking issues, onboarding new employees, managing an event itinerary, managing assets, and others. These templates include the structure, forms, conditional formatting, and everything else that you may require to quickly get started on the job at hand. A preview of each template is available so you can see which suits your requirements best. If something’s not quite how you want it, you can modify the list to your liking and needs.
In addition to list templates, there are two other time-saving ways to create lists in the Lists app:
- Create a list from an existing list – inheriting the structure and formatting.
- Create a list from Microsoft Excel – importing the data from the Excel table while choosing the best way to present it. Once started, you will have everything in the new format, with the views, rules, and more to better display your data and get right to work.
Here’s how to make a list from Microsoft excel:
- Choose a file from your OneDrive or upload from the current device.
2. Choose data that you’d like to upload and use in your new list. You can also customize types of the columns if the current selection is incorrect.
3. Here is your new list, ready to use.
The Microsoft Lists Mobile App
With the Lists mobile app, you can enjoy the full power of the Microsoft Lists application on the go. Access any lists whenever you need to, create new ones quickly using the templates or starting from scratch, edit list items, adjust columns, and share information as links with your colleagues. You can also enjoy dark mode and a convenient landscape orientation, and the Lists app for mobile allows you to do everything while you are away from your laptop.
Comparison with Other Microsoft Apps
Throughout this article we have highlighted some features of the Lists app. However, Microsoft 365 has some other similar project management apps, which may be confusing. Let’s find out what these apps are, what they are good for, and how they differ from the Lists app.
Microsoft Lists vs. Microsoft To Do
There is another to-do–list–management application in the Microsoft 365 ecosystem that you might easily mistake for Microsoft List, as they look and function very similarly: Microsoft To Do.
On the one hand, Microsoft To Do is rather minimalistic, but on the other hand, it offers some features that are uncommon for free apps: You can create recurring tasks and set reminders. Tasks can be broken down into steps, you can add comments, and you can combine tasks into lists. You can also sync it with Outlook and To Do on other devices.
The main difference between these two Microsoft 365 apps is that the Microsoft Lists app brings great value when storing all the relevant information for a project and Microsoft To Do helps to organize pending commitments for an individual. This means that To Do is more suitable for personal use than Microsoft Lists, which is convenient for shared projects with large amounts of data. However, both applications facilitate task management and can complement one another if you clearly define the “why” of each of them in your day-to-day work.
Microsoft Lists vs. SharePoint Lists
Microsoft Lists is considered the new generation and a modernized version of SharePoint lists. There are two main differences between these tools:
- Microsoft Lists is a collaboration platform while SharePoint lists are more about storing data, in a similar way to Excel spreadsheets. In the Lists app, you can discuss the items added.
- In Microsoft Lists you can view data in four different ways (as already mentioned), while in SharePoint lists you can only view it in a spreadsheet.
The Lists app is a part of Microsoft 365 that better meets today’s project management requirements than SharePoint lists thanks to its flexibility and communication capabilities.
Microsoft Lists vs. Microsoft Planner
With Microsoft Lists, you can create lists with various data types and view them in your preferred format. In addition, you can use templates addressing specific goals, such as inventory management, human resources, content management, and much more.
Microsoft Planner is designed for agile team collaboration and looks like a classic kanban board. This tool is created for daily use and managing projects, but it is not as customizable as the Lists app.
Integration with Apps
Just like all the Microsoft 365 tools, the Lists app offers a wide range of integrations with other products and services within the enterprise’s ecosystem. Let’s take a look at the most popular ones.
Integration with SharePoint
Microsoft Lists can be used in Microsoft 365 not only via the Lists app but also in SharePoint sites. This integration is available as a standard option. You can access Microsoft Lists in SharePoint from two places:
- By clicking the “New” button on the home page of a site.
- By clicking the “New” button on the contents page of a site.
Either option opens the list–creation pop–up you’ll be familiar with from the Microsoft Lists app. The difference in this case is that the list will be created on the current site.
Integration with OneDrive
The Lists app allows users to create private lists, so you could say it is a tool for both corporate and personal use. If you create a personal list, it is stored directly in your Microsoft 365 OneDrive for Business and not in the SharePoint library.
Collaboration with Microsoft Teams
Add the Lists app as a tab to your Teams channel so you have quick access to the same information whether you’re using Lists, SharePoint, or Teams.
Just click “+” to open the tab library and add a new instance of the Lists application tab to a selected channel to get started.
Then find Lists application, tap on it and follow the instructions.
Step 1. Find Lists and click on it.
Step 2. Click “Save”
Step 3. Create a new list from existing list or start from scratch.
The Lists app in Microsoft Teams supports the following functions:
- Creating a new list from scratch, from templates (eight standard templates and three industry templates: Patients, Credits, and Incidents), from Excel data, and from an existing list.
- Importing existing lists to your tabs.
- Accessing all the standard Lists functions in a SharePoint website: column types, various views, quick editing, exporting to Excel, sorting, filtering, and so on.
- Allowing channel conversations about list items.
Customize your list by adding new columns, defining options in a drop-down menu, creating views, editing shared links, creating custom filters, and setting rules – you can ensure your list is tailored to you and your team in the best way possible. You have the power to configure the appearance of your Lists app and how it works for you, all from within Microsoft Teams.
Integration with Power Automate
Microsoft Lists integrates with the Power Platform, including customized Power Apps list forms and Power Automate workflows. What does this mean in practice? You can set some scenarios such as sending customized emails to team members when a new file is added, requesting manager approval, or obtaining signatures for selected files. Thanks to this robust tool, you can automate many processes in your organization.
What Is Microsoft Lists Used For?
With a wealth of user-friendly templates and endless customization options, Microsoft Lists can be used to plan and monitor any project or process. Below we look at the most common use cases for the Microsoft 365 Lists app.
Project and Task Management
If you wish to track the progress of a project but don’t want to invest in an expensive and sophisticated tool, the Lists app can help you. Manage your workflow by assigning tasks and setting deadlines, receive notifications when each of them is marked as “done” or “issue,” and see the entire project timeline with the calendar view option.
Try using the content scheduler template in the Lists app to create a convenient content plan for your corporate social networks. You can attach all the images, text, and videos that you plan to publish as well as the date of publication and other relevant information.
Client and Employee Onboarding
Use the Microsoft 365 Lists app’s onboarding template, specially designed to track employees’ and supervisors’ onboarding progress. With alerts, managers can be notified about the completion of each onboarding stage.
When an NDA agreement is marked as “signed,” the Lists app can notify stakeholders that access to the employee’s account and all the necessary keys have been granted.
With a resource list template, you can keep count of corporate devices and all related information. The Lists app saves you time. You don’t need to spend your working time searching for warranty information: plan the maintenance dates and set alerts for upcoming deadlines. The visual grid view will allow you to quickly find the required information.
Microsoft 365 won’t stop releasing convenient products for effective teamwork. However, it often lacks functionality for full-fledged project management or for addressing specific requirements.
Microsoft Lists is far from being a convenient visual project management tool. In a sense, it is a list of some items, and its columns resemble a user-friendly version of excel. Of course, it has its advantages in some cases. For example, it is convenient to use the Asset Management sheet. There is no task on such a list, the progress of which is better to represent visually. In terms of visual representation of some progress, Microsoft Lists lags behind contemporary agile tools like kanban boards or feature-rich calendars. It is not an agile tool that many managers nowadays use to work on a project.
If you are looking for a tool to overlay multiple lists and calendars in one place, try Calendar Overlay Pro by Virto. It is completely free for 30 days and is free forever for teams of up to five members.
Leverage your Microsoft 365 and SharePoint platforms with Kanban Board Pro by Virto for truly agile project management. It is highly customizable and can cover literally any project management scenario. Experience it first-hand and discover the convenience for your business!