SharePoint Online Sharing Improvements


Over the past few years Microsoft have been continuously improving the user experience and controls for sharing files in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business, for both end users and administrators. We now have per-site sharing settings, expiration controls for sharing links, the new sharing dialog and the Shared by me page, just to name a few. In this article, I will cover some of the latest improvements that were announced at Ignite in September which are now starting to appear in our tenants.

New Sharing Control – Block download

One of the more interesting settings that Microsoft showcased back at Ignite was the ability to prevent people from downloading files shared with them. In other words, we now have an option that will ensure the file(s) we shared can only be accessed via the relatively safe environment of Office Online, with any SaveCopy or Print functionalities disabled.

You can configure this setting directly from the Share dialog, by toggling the corresponding Block Download control, as illustrated below. A small indicator will appear next to the link once this option is configured, making it easier to identify links with Block downloadenabled.

SharePoint Online Sharing Improvements

There are few important things you should note about this feature. First, the type of sharing link you create must be read-only, as this setting cannot be used together with the Allow Editing setting. In addition, this setting is currently only available for anonymous Anyone with the link and tenant-wide People in Organization Name links. In the future, it will also be available for direct sharing links, via the Specific people option.

On the recipient’s side, clicking the link will open the document in a reduced functionality version of Office Online, like the one you get with the Conditional access/device restrictions feature. As shown on the screenshot below, the File menu and the Ribbon are missing and there is no way to open the document in edit mode. The right-click menu and shortcut keys are also disabled, so you cannot copy information from the document, and printing is also disabled (although you can still use the browser’s print functionality or take a screenshot). Using the Share button is also restricted and the only type of link you can create by using it is one for people with existing access.

SharePoint Online Sharing

It is also important to understand that this functionality is available only for files that can be opened in Office Online, that is Office documents. Finally, it seems that in the current implementation of the feature, you can bypass the restrictions by simply navigating to the Shared with me page in their OneDrive, then pressing Open > Open in Word to get the document opened in the desktop application. This might be a side effect of the incomplete rollout of the feature though, and will likely be addressed in the future.

Better notifications and reminders

Another feature that has already made its way to release are the email notifications for opening shared files, or a link open receipt. The idea is to let you know when the user has accessed the file, but unfortunately in my experience this feature doesn’t seem that reliable. I’ve had it in my tenant for over two months now, yet I’ve only received a handful of notifications, out of few dozen sent and accessed. When I do receive a notification, it looks something like this:

SharePoint Online Sharing Screenshot

Unlike the sharing notifications, these messages are generated using the default address. They also feature some additional text that guides the user on what to do in case the file was accessed unexpectedly, which basically redirects him to the new Manage Access experience for OneDrive files, which I will discuss in the next section. An interesting observation is that those notifications also feature an Unsubscribelink, which is handy considering there is no UI option to toggle them on or off.

In addition to the link open receipts, a new feature has been added to automatically remind people about shared file(s), if they haven’t clicked the link after seven days have passed since the initial email. The automatic reminders look just like a standard sharing notification email, with slightly changed text and subject. Another new element worth mentioning is the branding support for the sharing notification emails. If your organization has configured Azure AD branding, the Company logo will now be added as part of the notification email, as illustrated below.

SharePoint Online Document Sharing

Continuing with the notification improvements, the desktop client will now show sharing notifications as well. And, whenever you are uploading files to a shared library, you will now be able to notify your team members about the new file(s) you just added, all with a single click.

Lastly, we have some improvements around Access requests. First, we can now define a custom message that will be shown as part of the request access workflow. As this message is configurable per site, we can use it to inform users why they must file an Access requestand who to contact for in case of issues. And, the actual access request notifications are easier to work with now, as they use the actionable messages functionality in Outlook.

Easier management of sharing

Yet another set of improvements makes it much easier to manage sharing, both for end users and admins. On the user side of things, the Shared by me page can give you a quick overview of which items you have shared, as well as give you information about the last activity – such as who modified the file and when did that happen. The Shared with me page has also received some love and now features externally shared files, as in files shared with you by users from other organizations. Such items will have the “globe” icon and although some options will be missing from the UI, this is still a handy addition.

The new Manage Access UI allows you to manage all direct and link-based permissions to a given item from a single location. Additional information about the type of link will be presented as well as a quick option to remove a given link or Stop sharing the item altogether. Or, you can Share or Grant Access to another person directly from the same UI, using the familiar suite-wide controls. In the future, even more information will be presented by a new Link details control.

What’s even more important, the same experience will be integrated into the desktop client, allowing you to perform all the sharing or revoking access operations directly from your device, without having to open the browser. The screenshot below shows a comparison between the Manage Access experience on the desktop (left) and in the browser (right). While there are some differences in the way the UI elements and actions are presented, the core functionality is available, which is a great step forward.

SharePoint Online Sharing Options

Another very useful improvement is the ability to @mention a person, which not only makes it easier to comment on a given file but can also automatically grant permissions to people that were mentioned and don’t already have them. To wrap up new user improvements, it’s worth mentioning that we can also deep-link to the Manage Access UI, for example this link will open up the Manage Access UI for item “30914”:

On the admin side of things, the team has moved away from their custom implementation and the permissions model is now fully integrated with the Azure AD B2B experience. Among other things, this means that a new Guest user object will be provisioned the moment you send a sharing link, and you can take advantage of features such as Conditional Access.

Some cross-suite improvements have made it possible for the Share UI to immediately reflect on changes made to the link settings in the SharePoint Online and OneDrive admin portals. Similarly, Outlook’s cloud attachments functionality should now respect the default link type and settings configured by admins. And, those settings can be configured per-site now, via new parameters introduced for the Set-SPOSite cmdlet.

Other features worth mentioning

The improvements we listed in the previous section don’t represent even a half of the new features that were showcased at Ignite. While I’ve focused on the ones that we can already play with, the rest of them should hopefully be landing in production in the coming weeks and months. An example is the password-protected sharing links, which allows you to configure a password at the time of link creation. The user accessing the link will have to then provide the password to open the document, regardless of whether he’s currently logged in with his Office 365 account or not.

Among the other interesting updates, we should mention the Smart People Picker, which will assist you in selecting the right people to share with, or the much-anticipated External sharing reports and re-attestation for External users. The unified sharing and access management experience across all devices and endpoints should be coming soon as well, meaning that regardless of whether you are using the browser, the desktop client or the mobile app, you will have access to the same set of functionalities, presented in a unified fashion. Sharing with Teams or from within the Teams client is a prime example of this unified approach, which can even be extended with workload-specific functionalities, such as surfacing an only this Team share link.  For this and additional demos, make sure to watch the BRK3100 recording, if you haven’t done so already. We will make sure to cover those updates once they make it to production.

read more



If you already spent some time reading my previous articles on SharePoint Metadata and SharePoint Document Management, you probably ran into the phrase called SharePoint Content Types. It is somewhat ambiguous and somewhat a challenge to grasp, especially if you are new to the world of metadata, so let me do my best and explain what it is and how it could be used in your SharePoint environment.

In one of my earlier posts, I explained in great detail what metadata is and how it could be used to organize documents, view and group them anyway you wish. So let me first take a step back and explain how regular metadata works and then we will proceed to the SharePoint Content Types.

With the “regular” metadata, you create columns that you want to assign to the files you upload. For example, say, you have a document library where you store client data. So you would create and add 2 columns to this library: Document type (i.e. Invoice, Quote) and Client Name (i.e. Facebook, Google). Both columns could be choice-type/drop-down columns for user to choose from. Step-by-step instructions on how to achieve this can be found here. So far, so good!

The above approach has one major limitation – it assumes that ALL documents you upload to this library will be tagged against the 2 columns / metadata tags you created: Document Type and Client Name. So what happens if you add say, an Accounting Policy document that is not associated with a particular client? Or maybe you want to store some meeting documents(Agendas, Minutes, etc.) from the meetings that you have on an ongoing basis in your department. How do we store and tag those in this library?

One option would be to store each different type of content in a different library – but then you do not want to setup tens of document libraries on your site. The second option is to use the magic functionality of SharePoint Content Types!


If the name is confusing to you, switch the order of words and it will make more sense. Content Type is = Type of Content.

Here is a real life example for you. Say, you have 2 boxes at your house. One box contains books and another contains beer bottles. (That sounds like a great vacation – a good book and beer in hand) 🙂

beerbottleYou want to organize the contents of both boxes. So for the box with books, you might want to organize the books by title, author, genre. For beer bottles, you don’t have an author or a genre. You probably will organize that box by beer brand, type of beer or the country the beer was produced in. Now, instead of having stuff in 2 separate boxes (think of 2 separate SharePoint document libraries), you could combine them into 1 box (1 SharePoint Document Library). It is just that books would still be organized according to book metadata (title, author, genre) and beer bottles would be organized according to beer metadata (brand, country, type of beer).

Make sense?

So now, we translate this into the world of SharePoint, SharePoint content types are nothing more than a collection of columns (metadata properties) for a particular type of content. In other words, SharePoint content type is a category of documents that have common characteristics and can be classified under one roof. So back to my previous example about client data, if you upload a client document, you might have a SharePoint content type called Client Docs and 2 columns associated with it: Client Name and Document Type. For the meeting notes and stuff, you could have a content type called Meetings and 2 columns associated with that content type: Meeting Date and Document Type. And so on.

Client Documents   MeetingDocs

The best part about SharePoint Content Types is that they, just like Site Columns, can be reused. So if, for example, you created a Content Type for Meeting Documents, you can reuse it at any other site/library (if you followed information architecture best practices).

There is a whole science to creating and maintaining your content types. I will try to document it in one of future posts. In the meantime, if you want to learn how to do this yourself, please consider my “Introduction to SharePoint Document Management” training course.

read more
SharepointSharePoint Document Management


no thumb

I have written a number of posts already on how SharePoint is a perfect tool to store and manage documents. With today’s post, I would like to explain to you, my loyal blog reader, how to build a simple, but versatile Document Management System in SharePoint (also known as SharePoint DMS).


Let me first explain what I mean by SharePoint Document Management System. I don’t mean that you would recreate your file share/network drives folder structure  and migrate 50 GB of documents into 1 document library. First, you can do this without this post. Second, dumping all files and folders into a single document library and essentially recreating the mess you currently have is not considered a wise SharePoint strategy.

What I mean by Document Management System in SharePoint is metadata based document library where users can upload and tag documents, search based on keywords and tags and not worry whether they are accessing a duplicate or latest version of the file.

Below is a quick preview of what we are going to build


Below is SharePoint functionality and SharePoint features we will be using in this blog post to build SharePoint DMS:

  1. SharePoint Metadata (to tag our documents)
  2. SharePoint Content Types (to categorize different types of documents)
  3. Metadata Navigation (to help users find the documents)

Step 1: Determine the types of documents you want to store in your SharePoint DMS

As I indicated in previous posts, it is not a good idea to dump all your company files into one SharePoint Document Library. The major objective of SharePoint DMS is to organize documents that are somewhat related and share same security/permissions. An example of such SharePoint DMS would be you storing various financial documents like:

  • Invoices
  • Purchase Orders
  • Quotes
  • Estimates
  • Receipts

If you are thinking of storing documents that belong to different departments, have different audiences, permissions/security, you do not want to store them in the same document library/DMS. Instead, you want to split them up into multiple sites/libraries. Check out this post for more info.

Step 2: Define different types (categories) of documents you want to store

So for the purposes of this post and example, let’s create a SharePoint Document Management System to store financial documents mentioned above.So let’s assume we are going to build a SharePoint DMS to store the following categories of documents:

  • Purchase Orders
  • Invoices
  • Receipts

Step 3: Define metadata for each of the categories above

It is very likely that each of the categories above will have its own, unique metadata. For example, you might want to tag all Purchase Orders against PO#, Vendor Name, PO Date. Invoices might be tagged against Invoice #, Client Name, Date Received, Date Paid. Lastly, Receipts might be tagged against Vendor Name, Receipt Date, Description, Employee Name. So it might look like something like this:

Purchase Order

  • PO #
  • Vendor
  • PO Date


  • Invoice #
  • Client
  • Date Received
  • Date Paid


  • Vendor
  • Receipt Date
  • Description
  • Employee

Step 4: For each metadata property, define the type of that property/column

For example, free text field, choice/drop-down, date. We will need that when we create our columns in next step

Step 5: Create your metadata columns

In case you are not familiar with how to create metadata in SharePoint, you might want to check out some detailed instructions here. I will do one example below and you can repeat the procedure for all the other metadata/columns you have.

How to create Metadata Column in SharePoint:

  1. You can create your column at library level, but it is always considered best practice to create columns at the Site Level. This way, you can reuse your columns in other sites and libraries. In our case, having our metadata columns built at a Site level, will also allow us to create global content types down the road.
  2. To create a Site Level column, go to Site Gear Icon > Site Settings > Site Columns (under Web Designer Galleries) > Createsitecolumns1
  3. Create your metadata column according to the information we gathered in Step 3. For example, I will create Vendor Column, which will be a drop-down choice of all vendor namessitecolumns2
  4. Repeat above steps for all columns you have identified.

Step 6: Create Content Types

If you are not sure what the content type is, I suggest you reference this blog post. With this step, we will create content types defined in Step 2 and associate corresponding metadata defined in Step 3.

How to create SharePoint Content Types:

  1. Go to the root of the Site Collection (or same site where you created all your site columns in Step 5).
  2. Site Settings > Site Content typesContentTypes1
  3. Click on Create linkContentTypes2
  4. On the next screen – this is where we define the name and characteristics of our future Content Type. Fill in the name of the first Content Type from Step 3 (i.e. Purchase Order). In the middle of the page, in the 2 drop-downs, choose Document Content Types and Document respectively. Essentially by this we are telling SharePoint that we will be using our Content Types in a Document Library to manage Documents. At the bottom of the screen, in the Group section, choose the grouping for your Content Types (just like with Site Columns, you can use Custom group or create your own). Click OK buttonContentTypes3
  5. You will now be presented with the next screen that looks like the one below. This is where we associate our newly created Content Type (category) with corresponding custom metadata (columns). There are many other things we can do with customization of the content types, but for the purposes of this post, we will just focus on associating site columns. To do that, click on Add from existing Site Columns. If you notice, by default we have Title Column. We will now add the ones we created.ContentTypes4
  6. You will now be presented with a screen you see below. Under Select columns from drop-down, choose the group you used to organize all your site columns (i.e. Custom Columns). This will filter and only show you corresponding site columns from that group. Choose the site columns associated with the particular Content Type from Available Columns and using Add> Button, add them to the right side of the selection screen. In our case, these columns are PO #, Vendor and PO Date. Click OK at the bottom of the screen.ContentTypes5
  7. Your result should look like the page below, where the Content Type now includes the corresponding custom columnsContentTypes6
  8. So we are done with first content type. Repeat the above 7 steps for all the remaining content types

Step 7: Create a document Library on the site where your SharePoint DMS will reside

I trust that you know how to create a new site and add a Document Library to it. Do not use default document library (there are reasons for it which I will document in later posts).

Step 8: Prepare your document library for custom content types and custom metadata

Before we do the magic and add our site content types to it, we need to prepare our Document Library for “metadata”. Essentially we will need to tweak few advanced settings before we do the rest.

  1. Go to Library Tab > Library Settings to access all “administrative” functions of a document libraryLibrarySettings1
  2. Choose Advanced SettingsLibrarySettings2
  3. Under Allow management of content types? choose “Yes” radio button. This will allow us to add our custom site content types to our document libraryLibrarySettings3
  4. Scroll to the middle of the screen. Under Make “New Folder” command available?, choose NoRadio button. I like to disable folder creation for users anytime library uses metadata. You really do not want to mix the 2 together.LibrarySettings4
  5. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click OK button
  6. From the Library Settings page again, click on Versioning SettingsLibrarySettings5
  7. Make sure Create major versions option is chosen (it usually is, but just to make sure)LibrarySettings6

Step 9: Add custom content types to the document library

OK, now we are into some exciting stuff. We are now ready to add out custom content types from Step 6 to our document library. To do this:

  1. Scroll down to the middle of the Library Settings Page. In there you will see a section called Content Type. This is a section that appears in a document library once we enabled content types in previous step. By default it shows a single, default Content Type called Document. We eventually will remove it. Bit for now let’s add our custom content types. Click on Add from existing site content typesConfigureDocumentLibrary1
  2. On the next screen, choose custom content types you created. Just like with site columns, select the grouping you used to organize your Content Types from the drop-down. Then choose the custom content types and click Add> button to push them to the right side of the selection screen. Click OKConfigureDocumentLibrary2
  3. Your middle section of the page will look like this, with custom content types added next to the default document type (Document)ConfigureDocumentLibrary3
  4. Notice how not only the document types were added, but also all corresponding site columns were brought over as well. You can see them in the Columns section at the bottom of the screen. That section also shows you all the columns used and where they are used (which content types). Pretty powerful!ConfigureDocumentLibrary4
  5. Before we forget, let’s go ahead and remove that default content type as we won’t need it in our SharePoint DMS. To do that, click on the Document Content Type from Content Types section (middle of the screen) and click Delete this content type. You will get a warning message. Click OK.ConfigureDocumentLibrary5
  6. Another thing that is optional, but I personally like to do is Hide the Title Field. Title Field is added by default to every content type. Sometimes it means an extra entry for the user. I like to hide it. If you want to hide it, go to the content type, click on the Title ColumnConfigureDocumentLibrary6and choose Hidden radio button. Repeat this step for all the other content typesConfigureDocumentLibrary7

Step 10: Add metadata navigation

We are getting very close to completion of our SharePoint DMS. Just few more steps. One thing I love to see on any SharePoint document library or SharePoint list is Metadata Navigation. This really only makes sense when you use metadata. This allows you to search for files/documents/items in your list or library using the cool-looking filters. I always compare that experience to shopping, where you punch in filters on the left hand-side and results adjust accordingly on the main page. I have actually written a pretty detailed blog post on the topic and already provided detailed instructions on how to set it up. So I am not going to repeat them here. Instead, I recommend that you check out this blog post here and follow instructions as per that post. Once all is set and done, you will end up with something like this below


Step 11: Optimize SharePoint DMS for 5,000 Item limit

I assume you would want to store lots of documents in your SharePoint DMS. In order to be able to do that in SharePoint, you need to optimize your document library accordingly. Once again, I have written a detailed blog post + published a slide deck with instructions on what you need to do. Please follow all of the instructions and take care of indexed columns, views, etc. Otherwise you will run into issues when you go above 5,000 files in your SharePoint DMS.

Step 12: Upload some documents

We are pretty much there. Now, go ahead and upload a document. You will notice that in addition to “regular” metadata properties, you also have a Content Type drop-down. As you toggle through the drop-down, your metadata choices will adjust accordingly. Below images show the difference


Step 13: Enjoy your Document Management System in SharePoint!


That’s it! Once all is set and done, you will end up with a really nice SharePoint DMS and wonderful user experience. Check out this video which shows what you would end up with if you follow all the steps above. Enjoy!

read more



SharePoint Online Document Library can hold as many as 30 million items, which is a lot. While I do not recommend that you ever approach this limit in a single document library, having a single document library with tens and hundreds of thousands of files and folders seems like a more realistic scenario. Ideally, you would want to break the content up into multiple sites/document libraries. However, should you decide to utilize SharePoint as file share / DropBox, you and your users would need to be aware of and live with certain limitations they did not have before. In this blog post, I would like to summarize these limitations.


Most of these limitations apply to libraries that exceed the infamous 5000 item limit. Since most file shares easily exceed this limit (both files and folders count as items), I am making the assumption that so does your file share/network drive, hence – the list of limitations below.

Limitation # 1: You would need to use a migration tool to migrate your file shares to SharePoint

It is not just the volume, but also the fact that once you go above 5000, you might encounter all sorts of issues if you try to move files and folders using other Out of the Box methods, like Windows Explorer. This is not necessarily a bad thing since with the 3rd party migration tool you would be able to preserve metadata properties/permissions of your files and folders

Limitation # 2: Users might not be able to open the Document Library using Windows Explorer

When you have a small document library, users can open the library using Windows Explorer and drag files and folders as if they are moving files in Windows Explorer on their computer. Once you go above 5000 items, your Windows Explorer window might act up. Any one of these can occur:

  • Windows Explorer can randomly hang/freeze
  • If you store more than 5000 items in any given folder, Windows Explorer will open up empty, though there are files appearing in SharePoint
  • Your users need to use Internet Explorer Browser (can’t open with Explorer from Google Chrome, the option is grayed out over there)

Limitation # 3: You might not be able to map to this document library

This is kind of related to Limitation # 2 above. When you map your drive, you essentially open up a Windows Explorer window on your computer that points to SharePoint Document Library URL. So any of the issues above will be true for mapped drives.

Limitation # 4: None of your folders can contain more than 5000 files

To clarify, your document library can contain way more than 5000 files, but they need to be broken up into subfolders. You can’t have more than 5000 files inside of the folder, sitting on the same level. Otherwise, you will not be able to view your files without further filtering (on indexed columns). Hope it makes sense.

Limitation # 5: Document Library will not display the whole breadcrumb

This limitation is just how SharePoint Document Library works, does not really depend on a number of items. Unlike Windows Explorer, where you get to see the whole folder path, SharePoint Document Library just displays the last two folders the user is in currently.


Limitation # 6: Search will not work the way your users are used to

There are a couple of scenarios that might occur. First off,  you might not get your keyword search to display any or accurate results based on the size of your library. You might also encounter the following message: “Some files might be hidden. Include these in your search”.


Once you click Include, you might get results displayed, but it is a Russian roulette at this point.

Limitation #7: Sync of SharePoint Document Library to desktop OneDrive will stop working

Once you go above 5,000 items in your document library, you will see the following message when you try to sync your SharePoint Document Library

Large Library Sync

You should not really be syncing SharePoint document library anyway, but in case you wanted to – you would be technically prevented from doing so.

read more



With SharePoint, you never stop learning! I learn something new every single day. I wish I had all the time to share all the cool little tricks with you. But I am super excited to share this little trick I learned just recently. It is on a very exciting topic of Recycle Bins. To be precise, on how to restore OneDrive for Business files from the Recycle Bin. I never thought trash would get so much attention! I learned the trick from SharePoint guru, Mike Smith. He mentioned it in response to my other post on SharePoint Recycle Bin. And while SharePoint Recycle Bin works very similarly to OneDrive Recycle Bin, there is one cool thing that is different. Let me explain.


Option 1: Restore OneDrive for Business files from Online Recycle Bin

Essentially this is the same technique I described in my previous post. You can restore your deleted OneDrive files same way you would restore SharePoint files:

  1. Click on Recycle Binrestorerecyclebin1
  2. Choose the file(s) or folder(s) you need to restore, then click Restore Selectionrestorerecyclebin2

Option 2: Restore OneDrive for Business files from your computer’s Recycle Bin

This is the trick I learned from Mike Smith. If you are using OneDrive for Business sync client, you can also go to your computer’s Recycle Bin and restore files from there as well. So it is just like restoring your regular computer files!

  1. Click on Recycle Bin on your computer desktoprestorerecyclebin3
  2. Restore files from the computer’s Recycle Bin by dragging them out of the Recycle Bin or by right-clicking on the files and choosing Restorerestorerecyclebin4

Couple of very important notes related to that second option

  1. You have to sync your OneDrive for Business to your desktop (if you don’t sync files using OneDrive for Business Client, this technique won’t work)
  2. You have to use the New Generation Sync Client for this to work. If you are using an old generation client, this will not work. Moreover, this trick does not work with SharePoint just yet (since it uses an old sync client for now). I expect the same functionality for SharePoint as well down the road
  3. Deleted folders do not end up in the Computer Recycle Bin, just the files. So if you delete a folder with the files inside, the files will end up in both “online” and computer Recycle Bins (and can be restored from either location). Folder by itself will only end up in “online” Recycle Bin (from where it can be restored).

Hope you learned something new! And thank you, Mike Smith for sharing this awesome tip with the community!

read more


no thumb

One of the biggest draws of SharePoint Online and Office 365 is the ability to access the files anytime, anywhere. An added benefit, that in my opinion is somewhat of a revolution in collaboration world, is the ability to open and edit documents in Word, Excel and PowerPoint right in the browser. That means that you can work with those file types without having to have desktop version of MS Office installed on the computer. In this blog post I would like to explain advantages and limitations of using Office Online in SharePoint and OneDrive.


  1. To open the document in the browser, just click on any Word, Excel or PowerPoint file – by default, the file will open using Office Online (in the browser). Screenshot below shows an example of a Word document, opened in the browser, though same exact behavior applies to Excel and PowerPoint as well.officeonline1
  2. To Edit the document in the browser, just click on Edit Document dropdown and choose Edit in Browser (you can also open the document in native Word application if you so desire)officeonline2
  3. Word Online edting capabilities will now be exposed, and you can make changes to Word Document, just like in the installed version of the softwareofficeonline3
  4. Another way (shortcut) to quickly edit MS Office files is by right clicking on the file from within SharePoint and OneDrive and choosing Open > Open in Word Online from the menuofficeonline4


  1. It is FREE. Office Online is included in all Office 365 Business/Enterprise plans, and you don’t need to buy MS Office desktop license for it to work
  2. Simple sharing. It is easier to share Office Online documents as there is a Share button available in the upper right-hand cornerofficeonline5
  3. Quick Editing. Great option when you want to make quick changes to the document – files open up quicker than using the installed version of the software
  4. AutoSave. Office Online does not have a Save button – all changes are autosaved. So if you make a change and then close the browser – no worries – all changes are saved automatically.
  5. Does not require MS Office to be installed on PC to work. Since Office Online does not require Word, Excel or PowerPoint to be installed on the computer – this option is great when you need to access files in SharePoint and OneDrive from computer that does not happen to have this software installed (i.e. connecting remotely from hotel’s computer)
  6. Supports PDF.  In addition to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Office Online can also open PDF documents right in the browser. Please note that it does not support Edit capability for PDF files. For that, you would need an Adobe Acrobat software.


  1. Only works in SharePoint and OneDrive. In order to open and edit MS Office documents in the browser (using Office Online) the documents have to reside in either SharePoint or OneDrive. They cannot reside on a computer or file share (network drive). This is by design, not so much of a limitation, but you would be surprised how many users question this.
  2. Limited functionality. Word Online, Excel Online and PowerPoint Online are not fully-installed applications on your PC. They are stripped-down (lite) versions of the corresponding desktop applications and do not have the full functionality you have on your PC. As such, they are meant for “lite” editing, and are not meant as a replacement for the desktop software.
  3. Limited file support. Office Online only works with the following file formats: .docx, .xlsx, .pptx files and PDF. Note the “x” at the end of MS Office file extensions. That means only latest MS Office files are supported (see next limitation).officeonline7
  4. Requires conversion for older MS Office files. Related to the point above – if your Word, Excel, PowerPoint files have been saved using older versions of the software (i.e., Word 97 or Excel 2003), they need to be saved (converted) to the new file format (from .doc to .docx). If you try to edit older version of the file in the browser, you will get a conversion request message (once you click Convert, the file will be converted to the new file format on the fly (from .doc to .docx)officeonline6
  5. Does not support CSV files. In case you need to edit CSV (comma delimited or comma-separated values) file, you will need to use the desktop version of Excel. CSV files cannot be viewed or edited in Office online
  6. Does not support password-protected files. If your file has been encrypted (saved) with the password, Office Online will prompt you to open it using the desktop version of the applicationofficeonline8
  7. File Size Limitation. If you have large files (>10MB in size), you will be prompted to open the file in the native (desktop version) of the Office. For example, below is a message you get when you try to open an Excel workbook larger than 10MB in size. Here is a Microsoft article that talks about this limitation further.Excel Online Error Message
  8. Certain SmartArt shapes are not supported. If you are using SmartArt shapes to draw charts and diagrams in your Word, Excel or PowerPoint, please note that some shapes are not supported. If Office Online runs into the issue – it will prompt you to open the file in native (desktop) version of the applicationofficeonline9officeonline10
  9. Can’t run macros in Office Online. You can still access the documents with macros using Office Online, but to run macros, you will need the desktop version of the applications
  10. More limitations exist. For complete list of features that are not supported in Office Online, reference this comparison chart, courtesy of Microsoft.


The default behavior for opening Office files in SharePoint when you click on them is via Office Online (via browser) and not via the native, desktop application. You can change that behavior though, if you wish.

Option 1: Disable Office Online (Browser Mode) for a Document Library

  1. Go to the library where you want to change the browser behavior. Click on Gear Icon > Library Settingsofficeonline11
  2. Choose Advanced Settingsofficeonline12
  3. Under Opening Documents in the Browser, choose Open in the client application button. Click OKofficeonline13

Option 2: Disable Office Online (Browser Mode) globally

  1. Go the root of the site collection (the very top site)
  2. Go to Gear Icon > Site Settingsofficeonline14
  3. Under Site Collection Administration, choose Site collection featuresofficeonline15
  4. Scroll down to Open Documents in Client Applications by Default. Click on Activate. Please note that this will alter the behavior for the whole site collection (all document libraries) at once.officeonline16
  5. If you have multiple site collections in your environment, you will need to repeat above steps for all of them

Though I have provided above instructions for your reference, I strongly discourage you from implementing them. Office Online provides a great, modern and convenient way to work with the files and you should really embrace it and take advantage of it and not revert to the way you worked with the documents in 1990’s.


Ability to open and edit Office documents in the browser (via Word Online, Excel Online and PowerPoint Online) provides an awesome value and an additional mode for collaboration to SharePoint and OneDrive users.

One important thing to note is that…

Office Online is not a replacement for desktop Office applications, like Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Office Online is meant to be complimentary to desktop software, not a an alternative or a complete replacement. If you are trying to save on licenses, please don’t do it. You will not be able to get by on browser versions of the software alone due to many limitations listed above. I worked with several clients who migrated to SharePoint Online and thought they could save few bucks by purchasing cheaper licenses that did not include Office desktop suite and let’s just say I could be rich if I made bets with them at the beginning of the project.

read more


no thumb

The new document library experience has been a welcome change in the SharePoint Online world. While the back-end (administrative) side of things did not really change, the new document library got a major face uplift as well as a number of end-user improvements. It now looks a lot like OneDrive, with an intuitive interface and it is much easier to navigate than before. Below I would like to highlight, what are, in my opinion, some of the best end user improvements and features.

“Classical” library


Same library in the “New Experience”


In the old document library, if you wanted to upload a folder, you had to use Open with Explorerfeature and move files and folders just like you did in Windows. You physically were prevented from uploading folders or dragging and dropping them into the library. Every time you tried to do that – you would see below error message.


Not anymore. In the new document library, you can upload folders using the upload button or you can just drag and drop them into the browser window. This is an extremely useful and time-saving feature.



Do you feel like your proposal or agenda document is the most important document in the library and everyone should see it first when they access that library? You are in luck! In the old days, you had to be creative with your folder names to make them stand out. With the new document library – all you have to do is pin it. By the way, you can pin files and complete folders too!


When you pin a file or folder, it appears as a tile above the rest of the documents in the library. You really can’t miss it!



You will love this one! This was the biggest complaint of the “classical” document library. You now can see the full folder path of the file within the document library. The old (classical) library only displayed the last 2 folders in the path. That has been fixed and now you can see all the full hierarchy (folder path).


By the way, the breadcrumb also applies to metadata. If you filter for certain columns in a library via metadata  – they are all displayed in a breadcrumb. Love it!



Another great feature of a document library. Say, you are storing some files related to a project or research or something, but now you also have some websites you need to bookmark that are kind of related to the document. Or there is another related document that happens to reside in a different site/library. You are in luck! In the new document library, in addition to files, you can store…links. To do that, just click on New > Link and provide the URL and the name for your link. By the way, if you are into links, there are 8 ways to store links in SharePoint. Check this post to learn more.





In the old document library, if you made some metadata columns required and then the user uploaded the doc but failed to fill in metadata – the document would get lost. What happened, in reality, is that those files would be automatically checked out to the user and would stay invisible to other users until the metadata is filled in and until the files are checked back into the library. That often led to lots of confusion, unnecessary calls to Helpdesk, etc.


The new document library in SharePoint behaves differently. If the columns are marked as required, the system would still accept the files without metadata and they would be visible to everyone (just will have empty metadata columns). However, when users hit the Information panel (Details) – they would be prompted to enter metadata. They can still leave the required fields blank – so in other words, the metadata cannot be really enforced like it was in the old library.



read more


no thumb

The classical joke in SharePoint is that the debate over folder vs. metadata never ends and will probably never end. Some users prefer metadata, while others are stuck with good-old folders. However, there is one type of functionality that allows the flexibility of both. Today, I want to introduce you to the functionality of Document Sets, the magic feature that allows you to store documents in folders, yet, assign metadata if you wish.


Document Set is a special Content Type. In the past, I have written few blog posts on content types and how to use them. Check out this post to learn more about what the Content Type is this one about how to use them with documents and document libraries.

To explain in basic terms, Document Set is a folder with metadata. And I am not joking when I say it is a folder. As I will later demonstrate, when you create a document set in SharePoint, behind the scenes you actually create a regular “yellow” folder. Except, this folder can have metadata assigned to it. And the documents you put inside of that folder can also have metadata assigned to them. Awesome!


In addition to being able to have metadata combined with folders, document sets have these special and unique features that make them standout from other document management methods.

Welcome Page

Each Document Set gets its own page that displays folder-level metadata and allows to access the files inside of the folder (document set)

Ability to inherit metadata

You can set the Document Set such that any files uploaded to the Document Set (folder) will inherit the metadata from that folder.

Unique permission for each document set

You can also assign unique permission to each document set. You can do the same with regular folders, but the user experience is much better with document sets.

Ability to search across the document sets

All the document sets (folders) you create reside in a single library. That means that you can easily search across document sets since you will essentially be searching in a single document library (unlike searching across multiple sites, which is a bit tricky).


Let’s go ahead and create a document set. For the purpose of this example, we will create document sets to store our projects (project documents).

Step 1: Create a Document Set Content Type

Since Document Set is a special content type, first you need to create a content type – you do that at the Site level

  1. Click the Gear Icon > Site Settings
  2. Under Web Designer Galleries, choose Site content types
  3. Click Create link
  4. On the next screen give your Document Set a name (i.e. Project), then from the Parent Content Type drop-down choose Document Set Content Types, then Document Set from the drop-down below. At the bottom of the screen, choose the group for your new content type (you can leave it in the Custom Content Types group or can create a new one).
  5. Your custom Document Set Content Type is created! (but we are not done yet)

Step 2: Add content type to the document library

In this step, we are going to be adding our custom content type to the library.

  1. First, we need to enable multiple content types for a document library. In the document library where you want to add document set to, click on Library Settings > Advanced Settings
  2. Under Allow management of content types?, choose Yes. This will allow us to add custom content types. Click OK at the bottom of the screen.
  3. In the Content Types section that appears as a result of the previous step, click Add from existing site content types
  4. On the next screen, select the group where you filed your custom content type in (Custom Content Types in my case), then choose the name of the content type you created in Step 1 and click Add Button. Once the content type appears in the right panel, click OK.
  5. Your custom content type is now added to the library. By the way, you might also want to remove the default “Document” Content Type that was there originally. To do that, just click on the Document and click Delete this content type

Step 3: Create metadata columns

I won’t go into detailed instructions here on how to create library level metadata columns. Since I have extensively covered this previously, please reference this post for step-by-step instructions.

Step 4: Add metadata to the content Type

You could actually do this step right after Step 1, depending on where and how you want to maintain your content type metadata (site level or library level). In this example, I am creating and maintaining my metadata at the library level.

  1. Click on the Document Set content type from within the library settings, and you will see a screen that looks like this
  2. Click on Add from existing site or list columns and add all the list or site columns you want to associate with your document set (folder). This step is very similar to the one above where we added content type from the list of available content types. Click OK.

Step 5: Configure Document Set

This is the exciting part. Now that we have our document set and columns associates, all that remains is the configuration of the Document Set look and feel and behavior.

  1. Click on the document set, then Document Set settings
  2. In the Allowed Content Type section, choose the content types that you want to allow within the document set. By default, Document content type will be listed there. However, you can also create and add your own custom content types, with its own metadata, just like I did in the example below.
  3. The Default  Content section allows you to embed certain file templates into each new document set created. You can skip this section if you don’t have any templates to embed.
  4. In the Shared Columns section, you can specify which folder-level columns (metadata) will propagate through to the files uploaded into the document set. So if you want your documents to inherit some or all metadata from the folder, just check off the boxes next to columns.
  5. In the Welcome Page Columns section, you can choose the columns that will appear on the Welcome page of each document set.
  6. In the Welcome Page View, you can specify which view will appear as the default view for documents in the Document Set. While you can create many different views to organize documents, you can’t easily switch between them within the Document Set. So you have to provide only one here that will be the only way to view documents.
  7. In the Welcome page section, you can actually customize the look and feel of Welcome Page. To do so, click on Customize the Welcome Page
  8. Then, on the next screen click Page Edit and you can make some adjustments to the look and feel of the page. For example, one thing you can do is replace the default document set graphics with the image/icon to depict your document set, like in the example below.

That’s all!


  1. Click New from the Document Library main page, then choose the document set (you will probably have one type, but you can have multiple content types to choose from)
  2. On the next screen, just fill in the blanks (all the folder level metadata you created in previous steps). Click OK
  3. Your Document Set (Welcome Page) will now be created. You can now go ahead and upload documents.


Same way as into “regular folder.” You can either use the Upload button or just drag and drop documents into the document set.


It is all about documents

It is a limitation by default. But If you are thinking of using document sets to manage small projects, all you have on a welcome page is a document set. While you can add other web parts to the welcome page, they will be common to all document sets (in other words, you cannot have each welcome page contain its own task list or calendar for example).

Document Library can get really large

Say you configured a document library to house client data and are using document sets for it. With time, this library might get really large, impacting performance and ability to find stuff.

Metadata sync

If you decide to sync the document library with document sets to your desktop (link) – you will loose the metadata when you try to access the files on your PC. Metadata will stay in SharePoint, but will not get copied onto your computer.


The following are usually best applications for document sets:

  • Small projects (with each folder being a small project)
  • Financial assets documents (with each document set being a mutual fund)
  • Client documents (with each document set being a client folder)
  • Legal Documents (with each document set being a legal case)
read more



In my opinion, versioning in SharePoint is one of its strongest features. It allows for tracking the activity of any item (document, event, task, etc.) and following the audit trail. In this post, I would like to highlight the most important features of versioning and how it can assist you, the end user, with your daily routine. Let’s first look at what versioning is and how it works.


Any time you change a document in a document library or edit any list item (in a custom list, calendartask list, etc.) – a new version is created. Any change is recorded, whether it is a physical change to the document or just a metadata change. If you just view an item or a document by clicking on it – the new version is not created, it is only created when you actually change something.


Any out of the box web part that stores content has Versioning capabilities. That includes the document library, custom list, AnnouncementsIssue TrackingTask ListLinks, other lists.


If you are in SharePoint Online, versioning is enabled by default in a document library. You have to manually enable versioning in all other web parts. Same will be required if you are not in SharePoint Online – versioning on any list or library would need to be enabled manually. Here is what you need to do to enable versioning on any list or library:

  1. Go to List or Library Settings (depending on whether you are configuring versioning for a list or a document library)
  2. Click on Versioning settings
  3. Choose Create major versions radio button (once again, this is already enabled by default in a document library in SharePoint Online)
  4. Click OK


You probably noticed in a screenshot above that you can have both minor and major versions. Minor versions allow for more granular version control, they are used for very specific content approval scenarios in SharePoint. They are very rarely used in SharePoint, so I will only concentrate on major versions in this post. However, if you want to learn more about minor versions, check out this interesting post by Ellen van Aken.


Obviously, versioning needs to be enabled. See instructions above on how to achieve this. The second major requirement applies to documents. For versioning to work, documents need to keep the same file name. In other words, if you upload a document to SharePoint and then download it, change the file name and upload back to the document library – version history will start with 1.0 for that new document. The file name is a primary key identifier!


1. Ability to audit the history of an item

Version history allows you to retrace the history of an item or a document, since the date and time it was first created till present. If it is a document you are checking, you can see all the changes taking place (physical changes to the document or metadata). If it is an item, like a task or calendar event, you can see the metadata changes made, who made them and when.

2. Ability to track metadata changes

Any metadata changes are perfectly visible in the version history log from above. Say, you have enabled versioning on an Issue Tracking to track help desk tickets. With version history, you can easily see what has happened to the ticket from the time it was submitted to present.

3. Ability to track content changes

If you enable versioning on a document library, you can access any previous versions of the document just by clicking on a previous version link.

4. Ability to restore previous versions

You can also restore older versions if need be. Say you created an important document and then you boss decided to edit and made changes that make no sense. No problem at all. Just click on a drop-down next to the version you would like to restore and click Restore. It will take this version and create a new one for you, making it the latest and greatest.

5. Ability to compare SharePoint versions

This is not necessarily a SharePoint feature, but more of a Word feature. Essentially what you can do is compare different SharePoint versions of the document in Word using MS Word Comparefeature. To do this:

  1. Open the document from SharePoint in Word (you have to open it in Word, not Word Online)
  2. Once in Word, click on Review tab, then Compare, then Specific Version
  3. From the next window, choose the version you would like to compare to. In this case, I am comparing Version 5.0 (latest version) to Version 2.0
  4. Click Compare button
  5. It might take few seconds, but on the next screen, you will see the results of the comparison. It will show you several windows: Original Document (Version 2.0), Revised Document (V5.0) and Compared Document (document with all additions/changes/deletions – all in one)


If versioning is a topic you want to read on further, I suggest that you check these three posts from another SharePoint guru, Ellen van Aken.

read more


no thumb

Quite often, my clients are asking me to build an approval workflow for them. For some complicated parallel or serial approvals, you have to either use SharePoint Designer or Microsoft Flow or some 3rd party workflow tool. However, most just require a simple approval process for documentation. The scenario I am talking about here is users uploading documents to a document library and certain individuals approving or rejecting them. If this is the case, you are in luck, since there is a cool Out of the Box (OOTB) feature that allows you to do just that. By enabling this feature, you will be able to approve documents without building a workflow. Let me explain how it works.

Before we go into the details, it is important to note that the approval process we have here is pretty simple in nature. Document uploaded/submitted by one user and then either approved or rejected by another.

  • Step 1: Document uploaded/submitted by one user
  • Step 2: Document approved or rejected by another user

If you need a multi-step serial or parallel approval, or if you need the approval to go to different individuals based on the type of document – you might need to look for alternate workflow options (SharePoint Designer, Microsoft Flow, 3rd party tools).

To make this simple workflow work, we will rely on two out-of-the-box functionalities of SharePoint:

  1. Content Approval feature on a document library
  2. Alerts on SharePoint lists and libraries

Content Approval feature will be used to allow approvers (certain users) to either approve or reject a document. Alerts will be used for email notification to notify managers (approvers) when items are uploaded so they can go ahead and either approve or reject a document. Alerts can also be used to notify the submitter when the document has been either approved or rejected so they can proceed accordingly. Let’s begin and set this up; it won’t take long!


  1. Library Settings > Versioning Settings
  2. Enable Content Approval feature by selecting “Yes” under Require content approval for submitted items?
  3. Once you check “Yes” radio button above, you also will have a chance to set some other options, like Major or Minor versioning and Draft Item Security. Let’s leave Major Versioning on for now (no minor versions). I will explain how you can use the minor version later in this post. The most important setting here is  Only users who can approve items (and the author of the item). It is set for you by default. That means that documents that are in Pending or Rejected state will only be seen by those who uploaded them, and those are the approvers. Once approved, they will be seen by everyone. That is usually the scenario you want anyway.
  4. Click OK at the bottom of the screen
  5. Come back to the library. You will see that there has been a new column added to the library called Approval Statusapprove documents without building a workflow
  6. There is actually another column that has been added as a result of Content Approval feature. It is just it is not displayed. The column is called Approver Comments. It is hidden in the All Documents View. By the way, you also now have additional views as well, which you can see from Views drop-down. Two views have been added: Approve/reject Items and My submissions. Check both of them out, they are pretty self-explanatory. Both display that Approver Comments column.approve documents without building a workflow


While now we have an approval mechanism, we do not have anything to send email notifications when documents are uploaded for approval. This is pretty much a self-serve feature. For example, a manager can go in and set up an alert to be notified when items are added or modified, so he or she can get timely notifications about new files uploaded. The submitter can also set his/her alerts as well. I have provided step-by-step instructions on how to set up alerts here, so please check out that post. It is very easy!


Let’s go ahead and upload a document for approval.

  1. Drag and drop a document or upload a new document into the library (you can have another user do this so you can test the true “workflow” functionality).
  2. Notice how it will default the Status to Pending
  3. So at the moment the document can only be seen by the submitter and approvers, nobody else (because of Pending Status)
  4. Let’s go ahead and Reject this document. Right-click or click on ellipsis (3 dots) > More > Approve/Reject.
  5. On the next screen, choose Rejected radio button, provide rejection comments and click OK
  6. The document status has been switched to Rejected. If the submitter goes into the library and chooses My Submissions view, the document will be right there with Rejected status and rejection comments. Once again, since the document is not approved, it is only visible to submitter and approver at the moment.
  7. At this point, the submitter can make changes, upload a different version of the document. Every time a new version of the document is uploaded or document is edited in SharePoint, the status changes back to Pending and document can once again be approved by the ApproverThis is important to understand!
  8. So let’s say the document has been edited or re-uploaded. It goes back to Pending status.
  9. This time the approver is kind enough to approve the document
  10. At this point, the status changes to Approved and document can finally be seen by everyone having access to the library. By the way, you can also view the Version History and see the whole history of changes as well.


It depends on how you set Draft Item Security.

If you keep the default option above (recommended), up until the document is Approved, it can only be seen by Submitter and those who have Approval capabilities. More on this below.


In order to Approve documents, you need to have special Approval powers. This can be done in 1 of the 2 ways:

  • If your site collection does not have Publishing features enabled, assign Design permission level to the approvers (Design permission level has Approve capabilities, Contribute/Edit do not)
  • If your site collection has publishing features enabled, you should have special Approvers group created for you which has Approval capabilities. Make sure to add this group to your site and add approvers into the group


We can also take advantage of minor versioning and create a truly great publishing experience, often needed for the Approvals. Remember, how above I mentioned that once rejected, submitter can make changes to the document? However, every time I make a change, the document Status goes back to Pending.  This might not be desired. Say, I make some changes to the document (because my @#$% boss rejected it), but I am not ready to re-submit for the approval just yet. I really want to re-submit when I am ready to do so (hey, I ain’t going to have it rejected again!). For this to work, we will need to enable minor versioning.

  1. Go back to Library Settings and enable minor versioning
  2. Go ahead and upload a document again. Notice how the Status of the document says Draft(instead of Pending). Draft means the document is not published just yet. At the moment, the document is only visible to the Submitter and the Approver. However, it can’t be approved or rejected because it is still in Draft.
  3. If you lookup the version, it will be 0.1 instead of 1.0
  4. When the user is ready to submit, user can publish it
  5. You can even supply the comments to advise on the changes made, so the approver knows what has changed.
  6. Once published, the Status changes from Draft to Pending and can now be approved by the Approver.
read more
1 2 3
Page 1 of 3