13 Ways to Make Microsoft Lists Work for You

How I created a content scheduler to track my publishing and writing directly in Microsoft Lists

Microsoft Lists
Microsoft Lists. Image source

Microsoft Lists is a new app that is available with Microsoft 365. With Microsoft Lists, you can create a list to organize information. Store, share and collaborate with others in a clean list format.

What makes Microsoft Lists unique?

Now you may be wondering “What makes Microsoft Lists unique? It sounds like a spreadsheet.” There are a few things that make Microsoft Lists unique.

Visualize the data

First, you can visualize data in multiple ways. For example, you can view the list in a standard grid, also known as, a list format that does indeed look much like Excel.

Microsoft List in list format
Microsoft List in list format. All screenshots by the author.

You can also view the data in cards or gallery view:

Microsoft List in Gallery format
Microsoft List in Gallery format

Custom alerts

Another great feature of Microsoft Lists is the ability to customize the alerting when something changes. For example, you can set up a rule to receive an email every time something on the list changes. Don’t worry, we’ll get into how to set up alerts later on in the article.

Microsoft Lists Alerts
Microsoft Lists Alerts

Validate data before saving

Another feature of Microsoft Lists different from spreadsheets is the ability to validate data before being saved. Is a column required? Is it a date? With Microsoft Lists, you can verify data before it’s saved.

Adding a column to Microsoft Lists
Adding a column to Microsoft Lists

Lists vs Planner & To Do

You may be wondering, what’s the difference between Lists, Planner, and To-Do. Planner and To-Do are designed specifically for task lists. Microsoft Planner is a team-based task management solution while To-Do is for personal tasks. Microsoft Lists is more robust. It allows you to track inventory, recruitment, or patient tracking. Microsoft Lists is a lot more robust than Planner or To-Do so be sure to use the right app for the right task.

The evolution of SharePoint Lists

Microsoft Lists is really the next evolution of SharePoint Lists. On the backend, they live in the same place. The difference is Microsoft Lists has a new front end interface.

Without further ado let’s jump into creating our List.

An Example Use Case for Lists

In this article, we’re going to build a content scheduler directly into Microsoft Lists. We’ll create a list, add columns with validation, and set up automated Teams messages when an item is created. Finally, we’ll trigger an automated email to ourselves every time a new item is created.

1. How to Access Microsoft Lists

  1. Go to https://portal.office.com
  2. Log in using your Microsoft 365 credentials.
  3. Click the waffle icon in the top left corner.
  4. Select Lists.
How to Access Lists from Microsoft 365
How to Access Lists from Microsoft 365

Lists home page

Microsoft Lists Home Page
Microsoft Lists Home Page

From the lists homepage, you can access a few things very quickly. You can:

  • Click the New list button to create a new list.
  • Click the star in the top right corner of one of your lists to flag it as a favorite or not.
  • View recent lists or My Lists (which will show all your lists).
How to customize and share a list
How to customize and share a list
  • Quickly share a list with someone else by hovering over the list > clicking the ellipsis (…) and clicking Share.
  • Customize the name, color, and icon of the list by hovering over the list > clicking the ellipsis (…) and clicking Customize.
How to delete a list
How to delete a list
  • To delete a list go to the My lists view > hover over the list you want to delete > click the ellipsis (…) and click Delete.

2. Create a New List

1. Click New list

New List button
New List button

2. Click Content scheduler.

Microsoft Lists Templates
Microsoft Lists Templates

3. Click Use template.

Microsoft List Content scheduler template
Microsoft List Content scheduler template

4. Enter a Name, description, choose a color, an icon, and select where you want to save the list. Then click Create.

Microsoft Lists create a list
Microsoft Lists create a list

3. How to Hide Columns

The default template has a couple of columns that aren’t important to me. So let’s hide them. Hiding a column will remove the column from any views and forms, so it’s a great way to remove the default columns.

1. Click the Content files column > Column settings > Hide this column.

Microsoft Lists Hide a column
Microsoft Lists Hide a column

I recommend performing the same steps for the Author column.

4. How to Add Columns

Microsoft Lists choice column
Microsoft Lists choice column

Adding columns is just as simple. Since all of my publishing is done on Medium let’s add a column called Publication that has a preset list of publications where the editor of our list can select one from the list.

1. Click the Add column dropdown which appears as a header to a column in the list all the way to the right. Click Choice.

Microsoft Lists add a choice column
Microsoft Lists add a choice column

2. Enter a Name, Description, enter the publication options that you are a writer. Then click Save.

Microsoft Lists Add a column
Add a column

Now add two more Yes/No columns named: “Alt Text on Images” & “Plagiarism Checker.” These columns will be checked off to verify you have added alt text on images and performed a plagiarism checker before submitting it to a publisher.

5. How to Add Data

There’s a couple of ways to begin adding data to the list. First, let’s look at how to open the form and create one list entry.

1. Click New in the top left corner of the browser.

Microsoft Lists Add a new item to the list
Add a new item to the list

2. Fill out the form with your article details then click Save.

Microsoft Lists New item form
New item form

6. How to Mass Edit Via Grid View

Mass editing is a quick way to update multiple items in the list.

  1. Click the Edit in grid view button.
Microsoft Lists Edit in grid view button circled
Microsoft Lists Edit in grid view

2. Double click the field you want to edit.

Microsoft Lists Edit in grid view
Edit in grid view

7. Share a List With Coworkers (and Remove Permissions)

One of the great things about Microsoft 365 is everything is built around working together. Microsoft Lists is no different. We can easily share a list with a coworker to begin collaborating.

1. Click Share

Microsoft Lists Share a list
Share a list

2. Fill out the form entering the person’s name, the permissions level, and write a message to send to the people you’re inviting to collaborate. Then click Grant access.

Microsoft Lists Share a list
Grant access to a list

The user will then have permission to open your lists and will receive an email informing them of their new access!

Microsoft Lists sharing email
List email

Removing permissions is just as simple

1. Click the I in the top right corner.

2. Click Manage access.

Microsoft Lists Manage access
Manage access

3. Click the down arrow next to the user you want to stop sharing with.

4. Click Stop sharing.

Microsoft Lists How to stop sharing a list
How to stop sharing a list

8. How to Set Up Conditional Formatting

Now we may want to format a column to show when an article is about to be due as well as when an article is passed due. Let’s set up conditional access on the Content Title column.

1. Click Content title > Column settings > Format this column.

Microsoft Lists Format a column with conditional access
Format a column with conditional access

2. Click Conditional formatting.

Microsoft Lists Conditional Access formatting
Conditional Access formatting

3. Click Add rule.

Microsoft Lists Conditional formatting add a rule
Conditional formatting add a rule

4. Click Choose a column and select Draft due by.

5. Click Choose a comparison and select is on or before.

6. Click Choose or type a value and select Today.

7. Click Add condition.

8. Click Choose a column and select Status.

9. Click Choose a comparison and select is not equal to.

10. Click Choose or type a value and select Draft needs approval.

11. Repeat steps 7 through 10 and add status is not equal to Ready to publish.

12. Repeat steps 7 through 10 and add status is not equal to Published.

13. Click the A with a pencil under Show list item as and click a red color.

14. Click Save.

Microsoft Lists Conditional Formatting add a rule
Conditional Formatting add a rule

9. How to Add Column Totals

We don’t really need a column total in our content scheduler but let’s total the number of items in our list.

  1. Click the Content title column > Totals > Count.
Microsoft Lists How to count items in the list
Count items in the list

10. Visualizing Data in Card Views and Excel

Let’s face it, grids are boring. Cards can be a lot easier on the eyes especially if your items have images. Let’s convert the list view to the grid view.

Microsoft Lists card view
Card view

1. Click All Items in the top right corner.

2. Click Gallery.

Microsoft Lists How to enable card view
How to enable card view

Or you may want to export the data to view it in Excel. It’s no problem for Microsoft Lists!

1. Click Export to Excel in the top bar.

Microsoft Lists Export to Excel
Export to Excel

2. Save the IQY file to your Downloads folder.

3. Open the IQY file you previously downloaded by double-clicking it.

4. In the Security Notice, click Enable.

Microsoft Excel Bypass security
Bypass security

5. In the Import Data window click OK.

Microsoft Excel Import data from Microsoft Lists
Import data

Now you can view your data in Excel. Quick note, it isn’t syncing back to your lists. Any changes you make in Excel won’t be saved back to your list.

Microsoft List in Excel
Microsoft List in Excel

11. Adding Filters and Permissions

Once you start using Microsoft Lists they can grow pretty large. One of the great things about Lists is the ability to filter and find exactly what you’re looking for.

1. Click All Items in the top right corner.

2. Click one of the built-in filters, for example, Grouped by content status or Unpublished content.

Grouping Microsoft Lists
Grouping Microsoft Lists

But wait there’s more! You can customize the lists further using filters.

1. Click the funnel button in the top right corner.

2. Select one or more of the filters.

Filter Microsoft Lists
Filter Microsoft Lists

12. Adding & Removing Alerts

Alerting is a great way to stay up-to-date when your list or list items change.

To receive an email when an item is added to the list

1. Click the ellipsis (…) in the toolbar at the top of the list.

2. Click Alert me.

Enable alerts in Microsoft Lists
Enable alerts in Microsoft Lists

3. Select New items are added under the Change Type section. Then click OK.

Alert me when items change in Microsoft Lists
Alert me when items change

To test your alert add an item to the list and check your email.

Microsoft Lists Alert email
Alert email

To receive an alert on a particular item change

1. Right-click the item you want to be alert on.

2. Click Alert me.

Microsoft Lists Enable alert for a single item
Enable alert for a single item

3. Update the alerting then click OK.

Microsoft Lists Alert me when an item changes
Alert me when an item changes

Remove alerts

1. Click the ellipsis (…) in the toolbar at the top of the list.

2. Click Manage my alerts.

Microsoft Lists Disable Alerts
Disable Alerts

3. Click the alert you want to delete.

4. Click Delete Selected Alerts.

Microsoft Lists delete an alert
Delete an alert

13. Adding Alerts to Teams

Now we want to receive a Teams message whenever a new item is added to the list.

1. Click Automate in the top bar.

2. Click Power Automate.

3. Click See your flows.

Microsoft Lists Power Automate Create a flow
Create a flow

4. Click New in the top command bar. Then click Automated— from blank.

Power Automate new Automated from blank
Power Automate new Automated from blank

5. Name the flow “Send a Teams message when an item is created.” Then click When an item is created > Create.

Power Automate When an item is created in Microsoft Lists
Power Automate When an item is created

6. Get your OneDrive URL by clicking the waffle in the top left corner. Then click the ellipsis (…) next to OneDrive. Finally, click Open in new tab. From the OneDrive tab copy the URL.

Open OneDrive in new tab
Open OneDrive in a new tab

7. Paste the OneDrive URL into the Site Address field. Select your list in the List Name field. Then click the New step button.

Power Automate filled out when an item is created
Power Automate filled out when an item is created

8. In the choose an action window click Microsoft Teams.

Power Automate Choose an action — Microsoft Teams
Power Automate Choose an action — Microsoft Teams

9. In the Microsoft Teams window click Post a message (V3) (preview).

Power Automate Action Post a message
Power Automate Action Post a message

10. In the Post a message (V3) (Preview) select the team, channel then enter your message.

Power Automate Post a message
Power Automate Post a message

11. Click Save.

Power Automate Save circled
Power Automate Save circled

Test your new automated message by creating a new item in your list.

Microsoft Teams automated chat message from Microsoft Lists
Microsoft Teams automated chat message

That should give you an idea of what you can do with Microsoft Lists!