Yes, Folders in SharePoint do suck

Like many people, one of the things I found a little hard to adjust to was not using folders in SharePoint. I mean, you can, and they do have their place, but metadata and views is much more useful. However, now when I go out to customers I notice that a lot of them have a lot of difficulty letting go of using folders for everything.

I suspect I’m not unique in this – certainly JOPX has found the same phenomena. Really, I do think it’s a training issue; for years people have been storing things in File System (hopefully network file shares, sometimes local(!)), and if you don’t tell them that they need to change, and then sell them why they should change, well, they won’t. Finally, you need to show them how to change. Given how badly some users cope with just a hierarchy of files, the ability to create SQL like Views onto a list tagged up with metadata will blow them away – with confusion at first, and hopefully with excitement later!

Certainly people do like their hierarchies, and getting them away from them will be very hard. I mean, it’s this love of hierarchies that is why I don’t think SharePoint Records Management will succeed – it doesn’t have the nice, structured hierarchy of the File Plan that Records Managers are used to. And I feel bad advocating not using folders and tagging up documents when some of our own internal consultants insist on dumping documents into SharePoint folders and not tagging them up. (And yes, these individuals have rendered certain document libraries essentially unusable as a result).

However, we’re stuck with folders. The 2000 items per view pretty much mandates it for most of our solutions – we do document scanning and release into SharePoint, and 2000 items fills up in no time. So we break things out into folders. I’d love it if we didn’t have that 2000 item limit.

Now it’s worth noting that folders can be used for some pretty neat things – even with the limited out-of-box functionality – but they’re also missing some fairly obvious uses; I’d love to see folder based navigation in the Pages library of publishing sites, so we can avoid really deep site structures just ‘cos people do want that hierarchy. And automatic inheritance of metadata to the same columns on items within a folder – really obvious feature. We’ve written event handlers to do this, and had to use them several times.

So, I guess I come back to the original point – SharePoint’s limitations often force us to use them when we’d sooner not, and then there are times we’d like to use them but can’t (at least, not without coding!)

Yes, Folders in SharePoint do suck

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