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Saving files to SharePoint Online is HARD

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Frequent Contributor

I migrate companies to SharePoint Online for a living. The biggest hangup my users have after their migration is adopting a new workflow for getting files INTO SharePoint. It's unnecisarily complex. Let me ilustrate my point: (Edit - reposting since my original post disappeared)

 

User A gets an email with multiple attachments in Outlook 2016. They want to place the attachments in their team's SharePoint library (https://contoso.sharepoint.com/teamdocs). Their options for this are as follows:

 

  1. Download the attachments to their desktop, drag all the attachments onto their browser which is signed into their Team Docs library, then delete all the attachments from their desktop
    (OR)
  2. Open each attachment, select Save As, hope and pray that their Team Docs library is listed under the "Recent" section. (Unlikely if they're working with multiple doc libraies every day) If it's not listed there, then select browse > paste the url for the Team Docs Library into the nav bar at the top of the Save As dialog > select save > repeat for every attachment
    (OR)
  3. Manually setup a Network Location for the site root (can't be setup via GPO) by going to Windows Explorer > My Computer > Add a Network Location (Repeat for all 300+ users in the company) Finally, have User A user select the option in Outlook to Save All Attachments > select the Network Location you just setup called "Team Docs" and save. 

 

See how hard that is? Users coming from mapped drives through on-premises SharePoint and file servers hate that new level of complexity. Below is some basic functionality that would go miles toward improving user adoption:

 

  • Work with the Outlook team to enable the ability to save Outlook attachments directly to a specific SharePoint library (like you can with OneDrive) - this flyout list of SharePoint libraries should be able to be populated via GPO and/or reg keys.
  • Enable the ability for admins to add specific SharePoint document libraries as PINNED save as locations in Office apps (via GPO) - none of this "recent" junk or links to the site root. My dream would be to have all the Accountants with links to the Finance doc library, all the HR reps to have links to their HR library, and all of this from right within their Office apps under the Save As menu.

 

This was a little general to include in User Voice, but if I can condense it all into a quick blurb I'll throw links down below. Thanks for listening, hopefully the right folks find this feedback helpful! @Sean Squires?

45 Replies

I agree 100%.

 

It would also be useful if you can browse all your team sites (linked to an O365 group) from within Office. I have a similar scenario for Word:

 

I often end up with a document in Word which I have to save to my desktop, open up a browser, navigate to the correct team site, drag the document onto the library in the browser.

After which I remember I have to add or change something, so I have to close the current document (because it links to one on the dekstop), and reopen the document from the browser.

 

This would not be necessary if I could browse all my groups from within Word.

Great contribution Paul. This real world view shows how difficult even basic tasks can be, particularly with a large scale migration. Users point this stuff out without filters. Thanks for sharing!

@bart vermeersch

Hi Bart, try the following:

  1. File menu
  2. Save as
  3. Browse
  4. Write or paste the document library URL
  5. Navigate to the desidered folder
  6. Click on Save
  7. Optionally, pin the folder to the recent list: from now on it will appear in Open and Save as, under Sites

This is exactly why we ended up purchasing a third party tool for our users. (Harmon.ie)

 

Since we had lots of problems with mapped network drives and trusted site GPO's not always applying correctly. Which stopped them accessing the drives. Also sign on was a problem as users would go to there drives before signing on which doesn't work either.

 

 

 

 

 

@Salvatore Biscari I know this process, but you can't expect from end-users to know the url of their libraries by heart. Opening a browser, navigating to the site, copying the url is not user-friendly. The list of your groups should be accessible from within the client applications.

Hi Philip. Problems with mapped drives can be resolved using a free script like the one from Jos https://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/OneDriveMapper-automaticall-d7d498b0

 

Zee Drive, a commercial drive mapping tool my company develops, also provides reliable network drive mappings to OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online with additional features including mapping to shared with me files, sharing directly from Windows File Explorer and viewing version history.

 

Myles

Thanks Myles.
We evaluated both those options.
Went for Harmonie as our users spend most of their time in outlook.

Hi Philip, thank you appreciate the feedback, and glad to hear you evaluated Zee Drive in the process!

 

Myles

Hi @Paul Youngberg - thank you for sharing! There's actually some great investments happening across client, ODB, Outlook, and SharePoint products to make these saving/sharing scenarios more seamless and user-friendly. Adding a few colleagues - @Lincoln DeMaris and @Christophe Fiessinger for notice and comment.

The other way that is open is using the OneDrive for business sync client. 

Still requires config to sync libraries people use frequently, but for bulk upload you just save to the local location. It at least cuts out the go find and navigate to the Sharepoint library part. 

 

 

I might be irrelevant, but in that case why not use a Flow ? Your user could set up a folder where emails attachments will be saved to a SP docs lib, and Flow will do the job.

 

One of the things with flow is that it is a giant security hole. 

 

If a user has the skills to use it they can easily send data off to other consumer services and no way of monitoring it other than DLP.

 

The other thing is to set up flows for users but then you are left to maintain those. Which would include

having some access to their email id's. 

 

Highlighted

Totally agree, this process is completely unfriendly to common users. It's not reasonable to think they would remember sites URL, or go to check and copy-paste them every time.

 

They should also copy the right path, another possible issue to process (see there).

 

The new sync client works really good, and it could be a solution; bu there are a lot of use cases in which syncing a library is not the best option.

 

 

A GPO solution would be amazing, but even just the possibility to see all the sites in the tenant (or the sites you are following, or those you see at the SharePoint online home page - tenantname.sharepoint.com/_layouts/15/sharepoint.aspx) would be great.

 

Still no news from Microsoft?

 

EDIT: I've found similar questions on the same topic:

Hi Bart,

This would be ok if Microsoft understood their own generated URLs. For instance, if a user is in a particular folder, and they copy the browser url, the office app does not understand the url and complains to the user. 

How does MS expect all users to understand that they need to get the URL of the library and not the folder url. How difficult would it be for the Office Team to parse a url their own product generates? 

That's a good use case where the "old way" wins.

 

I've had some success "selling" those folks on the enhanced collaboration features of Office 365, including document coauthoring, version history, doc check out/check in.


@bart vermeersch wrote:

@Salvatore Biscari I know this process, but you can't expect from end-users to know the url of their libraries by heart. Opening a browser, navigating to the site, copying the url is not user-friendly. The list of your groups should be accessible from within the client applications.


THIS 1000%!

 

I cannot believe in this time of SPO and Office 2016/ProPlus that it's still such a pain to save a file from one of the core Office applications. Yes, I know one answer is to get people to go to the library first and start a new document from there, but we're talking about decades of habits/patterns. We're already asking the users to change so much. We get them to buy into the benefits of a document management system, but then we make the experience of saving a file painful. Our credibility often goes down the toilet at this point. 

I totally agree. We started using O365 in January and are still using our onsite fileshare as we are unable to find an easy way to explain to people how they can easily save their documents in a SharePoint library. We also struggle with non-microsoft documents (autocad, vectorworks, ...) used by our designers.

I didn't know this product, it seems useful but a bit pricey.
+1 That's clearly one of the pain for users when migrating to SharePoint Online and OneDrive.

I'm not sure why they improved the experience for attaching files, but not for saving.

Maybe that will come in the next few months with Office 2019.

Totally agree, this has been an challenge as long as SharePoint has existed, and that's also why most enterprises still prefer "file shares" as their main document storage. Everything else is painful, not to mention if there is a bunch of "metadata" that needs to be added to the files also.

 

That said, now with SharePoint Online, latest Windows 10 updates and OneDrive file on-demand, you can solve part of this challenge as follows:

- Structure documents in different libraries or team sites dependent on your information architecture and permisions requirements.

- Use OneDrive "file on demand" to synch all files in the libraries you need,

- You can now save by directly drag and drop attachment, emails ect. to the OneDrive synch folders without the need of temporary save to desktop. You can also use save as and in file explorer navigate to the OneDrive folder.

 

Challenges that we still need solved:

- How to tag documents with correct metadata directly in OneDrive Synch? currently you still have to log into the SharePoint Library, a bit easier with mass data tagging recently released but still need improvement.

- How to automatically Synch Libraries for Users, pr. now each end user have to manually initiate the first Synch.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for the reply!

On the other side, local sync of shared items should be used carefully...

For an example of the problems that could result from local sync, see http://blog.ciaops.com/2018/02/offline-file-conflicts-with-sharepoint.html

Paul, I totally agree!  This is one of my main frustrations with SharePoint. The sooner this feature is enabled the better.

 

I have tried to add my SharePoint address as a Network Location and this doesn't seem to work?  Is there something I need to know?

 

Regards

 

Nick

Adding SharePoint doclibs as Network Locations has never worked reliably.

You could try third-party tools, like Zee Drive (http://www.thinkscape.com/Map-Network-Drives-To-Office-365-OneDrive/).

I disagree, its never been easier to use it.  If you follow the proper patterns. (I know change is tough)  

 

1. Author, or save attachments to onedrive as a default.

   - If desired, users can save to the sync folder 1st, and then open the Onedrive site to perform step 2         when ready.

2. When ready, copy the file directly from onedrive to any site or group you have access to. (using the copy or move to options in the tool bar)  SUPER easy.  File may be synced locally, but user never worked with it locally unless they opened the client, rather than the browser.

 

At that point the user should/could delete the version in their onedrive.  This should be made a point for users know how to determine where they are opening a file from.  That's why its just better to tell them to delete the OG file on OneDrive, or use the move option, rather than copy.

I never save anything locally.  You can pretend like you are by saving to the local onedrive sync folder.  (If you set that up) 

All it takes is a little open minded-ness.  And the acceptance that network drives are dead.  Aside from a few niche applications, users should not be using local storage, or network file shares.   

Joshua,

It's almost 2019, and the tech world revolves around usability. Re-read your post and tell me what about it is "easier to use."

 

I left a client's office today in search of a solution, and found this thread. They have email show up in their inbox, with PDFs attached, and they want to move those PDFs to a Document Library on SharePoint.

 

Yesterday, they could:

1. Open the attached PDF in Acrobat

2. Save As... and pick the folder on the shared drive.

 

What's the process now? Serious question.

 

Kevin

 

 

 

I agree too!

We find the best way with Outlook attachments is to use OnePlace mail - It's a Microsoft preferred soultion and you can push it out to all local copies of Outlook and Outlook webmail easily. If you need some advise on this let us know.

We also find it hard for people to tag documents when using managed metadata. The upgraded version of OnePlaceMail can help with this but I prefer still to tag via the web browser.

Easier is a relative term, but I see no reason why your client cannot do what you described?

You don't even "need" acrobat.   (unless you want to edit the PDF)

Most of the problems I have seen with PDFs and SharePoint, are around the browser plugins for Adobe.  Yes there are some versions issues, if you are using an older version of either SP or Adobe, you can face some compatibility issues.  But I do not think that sort of problem is specific to SP or Adobe.

Below I pasted the URL of a SP site into the save as dialog, and then select the library I want.

 

No Adobe installed at all.

 

PDF-Save.PNG

Thanks for the reply.

 

Can you tell me the result if you do that with Acrobat? Or notepad? Or Photoshop? Or anything other than the 4 or 5 Office apps it works with?

 

Again, the workflow was very simple:

1. Get email

2. Open attachment in attachment's native app (assume Acrobat for a PDF)

3. Identify the project

4. Navigate to the right folder on the Shared Drive and save.

 

Now it is:

1. Get email

2. Open attachment in attachment's native app (assume Acrobat for a PDF)

3. Identify the project

4. Save to some temporary space on the C:\ Drive

5. Navigate SharePoint to the right folder

6. Find the local file

7. Drag / upload from local to SP

8. Delete the local file

 

I'm looking for a valid solution that doesn't require more steps than a local server with a shared network drive for filing files, regardless of the file type.

I couldn't agree more with the original post. I do have a solid workaround at the end of this post.

It never fails to amaze me how IT pros and even power users can be so oblivious to the struggles "normal" users face with technology. The more ironic point is that many of these struggles could be avoided if the solution implementors knew the product better and spent a few minutes training the end users.

We approach our clients with these projects and sell them on the collaboration and usability benefits that they can offer. Yet seem to get irritated when they can't alter their behavior to accomodate the solution. Some of my end users have been saving company files to file shares for going on 30 years. It's really the one thing that has always been constant. I've been using sharepoint and other ecm systems for half that time and I still find myself getting frustrated with the shortfalls.

The idea that sharepoint SHOULD replace file shares is, at least in my eyes, rediculous. Sharepoint can be a complete file system but it's not what it was meant for. I can create a pretty decent report using notepad, but when I use tools specifically designed for the process I'm working on, the experience is far better. If you sell sharepoint as a better file server, your users are going to struggle. And if you force users into using it as their primary file system they will straight up revolt.

My rule of thumb has been this. If the company is willing to shift the way they work with their files from a traditional explorer based system to a web page based experience, sharepoint is the way to go. But if not, don't force them. Azure has file storage options that work beautifully. Spinning up a server vm to handle file storage also works well. But the key is, instead of forcing them to use sharepoint, give them reasons to want to use sharepoint. Train them on the ways it does save time and provide a better experience. That way if they decide to move everything to the cloud, it will be because they understand the trade offs and have weighed those against the benefits themselves.

Apologies for my long winded rant.

As for saving files. If you setup a site for document management with a drop off library, all your users need to do is have one place where they save all of their documents. Add one or two required managed Metadata fields, and sharepoint will move the content to the correct place on its own. For example, I ask users when saving a document to add two tags, 1. The desired Site(business function) 2. The related Client. 99. 9 percent of the time the document is routed to the place it needs to be and the users love it because it's even less work than navigating a filesystem set of folders. On the rare occasion that the routing is wrong or they tagged it wrong, they know to open Delve and look/search there. Delve has literally gained the nickname of the Bermuda Triangle with many of my clients. The only time they ever go there is to find a missing document. I've been doing this for several years and have yet to have a client dislike it.

Yes, yours is definitely a "rant." And your idea (having a file end up somewhere with some percentage of likelihood that is less than 100%) doesn't solve the problem at best, and makes new problems at worst.

 

We used to be able to map a network drive to a SharePoint doc library. That solved the problem, but issues with WebDAV re-broke it. Microsoft, please fix this.

 

If we could all "File > Save As" to SharePoint doc libraries from any app in Windows, problem solved. I'm sure this is coming some day soon. But to me, "not yet" is "not soon enough."

As I said, it's not 100%, but I would definitely say it's better than the alternative. Put it this way, I had hundreds of users at my throat ready to burn sharepoint at the stake when we tried it the "file system" way. And now they love how simple it is plus it's had the added benefit of eliminating the occurances of users saving documents locally. Which was always a pain even in the old days.

I just don't want Microsoft to spend the time and energy trying to make the sharepoint experience more like a file server. Afterall, if they make it the same, it loses its ability to be a competent document management system. In your example your users are saving things directly to a document library. But what happens when a retention policy, or declaration of record takes place that programmatically moves the document? If you're just using a bunch of document libraries with none of the true benefits of SharePoint, why not use an azure file store?

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/storage/files/storage-files-introduction

You do make a good point however about dragging and dropping. With windows 10 we have the people bar in the Taskbar that you can drag files, links etc to. Why couldnt Microsoft make a SharePoint Library version of the same concept. Give users the ability to Pin 5 of their most common library's and allow uploading via simple drag and drop.

Azure Files is a great option for a straight on-prem file server replacement. However, it's priced separately from Office 365, and the actual cost is tricky to predict in advance. Also, afaik, it loses the collaborative features that come with Word Online / Word + SharePoint.

 

Office Aps have File > Save As => Doc Library

 

I just need it in the Windows "File Save As" dialog.

So by that logic, if a user has been driving a '57 Chevy or an old VW van, with a column shifter, for the past 30 years, that they should/would have no problems getting in a 2018 car?  But is that person better off driving the new car?  Certainly safer.... Airbags, antilock brakes, hell power brakes and steering.... etc...  etc...  A person in that situation could very well need some extra instruction on how to use the new car. But no substantial adjustment would be made to the car to accommodate, the user would just have to learn.  A company that will not train users on new tech, I have no sympathy for...

Should we revert cell phones back to wired phones because my grandmother can't figure out how to use a touch screen?  She even has trouble with a flip phone. It is very much different from what she originally learn how to use.  Good reason to not use it? For her perhaps, but that then limits her ability to communicate to just at home.  There is nothing really stopping anyone from continuing to use a file server.  But it has its limits.

 

The old POTS phone system was far more reliable, and easy to use for phone calls... But not so much for data transfer....  But we should definitely stuck with it by your logic, because everyone knows how to use it, and I never liked the whole router thing anyway.  I am good with buffering video for hours and hours.

File servers are old tech, they are less "securable", less available, less manageable, less redundant (out of the box)  But yes, for the most part, rock solid.  So is a '57 Chevy.  I would love to own a '57 Chevy, but I would not use it as my daily driver.  

It is our job as technology advocates to guide companies into the future, some of that is difficult and challenging.  But if I have a client that insists on the "old way", I have no problem obliging, I build what they want, and move on.  Giving my attention and focus to clients that understand the need to move forward and innovate.  You will never beat your competition by doing things the same way you always have in the past.  That does come with an inherent contract that the new way must provide value that the old way does not.  Better data, faster service for customers, etc, etc....  

Let just go back to paper files, and cabinets. Really that is where your logic leads.  (IMO)

If you want to make the product better, use the user voice tool.  If people agree with you, it could happen.  If not, you need to take a hint, and/or try another solution.

Yes, maybe you are 100% correct. I could be showing my age and becoming more cynical as the years go by.

To be honest, I should have been insulted by your post, but it really just made me get the itch to restore a classic car and see if I could get lost on a country road.

I'm honestly all about technology for the betterment of humanity. I truly am. What I find myself struggling with is technology for the betterment of technology. To use your car analogy, sure an older car isn't as safe in crash tests, but vehicle deaths in the US have been pretty close to the same number since 1975. And in 1975 anyone could work on their own car.

I'm not disagreeing with you at all, it's not the first time I've felt like a Luddite lately. But if something is working and transitioning to the newest and latest is going to cause growing pains, I'm going to err on the side of reliable and a few years behind the cutting edge when it comes to my clients.

Thank you for the words though, it definitely made me reconsider some things.

Sorry about that, I know I come off snarky, I probably should not have included the last part.  Just trying to make a point.  And I am a terrible writer.

 

I find that with most clients, they form a similar opinion, if not provided with a better POV.  Executives care about things like the big Azure data center outage in South Central.  That can give a false since that a Service like Azure is not safe.  But when you bring it to them from a different point of view....  You can in fact turn heads.  You ask that exec, in what other circumstance could you have your datacenter struck by lightning, evacuated, nearly burn to the ground, but yet you have 99-100% of your data back up and available in 24hrs or less.  Plus getting credits for the outage.

 

Don't get me wrong, that was terrible, it just could have been much worse had it been a standard, datacenter from the past. (Sure its possible in a regular data center, only if you had spent the time and money to prepare for it)

 

It just drives me up the wall when users scape goat technology as too hard. When you know, if you gave them a $50 gift card and put them on a new site or app they had never used. They would figure out how to spend that $50 real quick.

You can never please everyone, but as long as you are providing value, that is all that really matters.

For the record, I second your idea to restore an old car.  I prefer off road myself, I love getting away from all technology in the middle of no where.  Tech is great and all, it has yet to beat nature yet. (IMO)

 

Good luck to you!

 

>> So by that logic, if a user has been driving a '57 Chevy or an old VW van, with a column shifter, for the past 30 years, that they should/would have no problems getting in a 2018 car?

 

Um, no.

 

But if for some reason, car manufacturers decided to stop making automatic transmissions, and a user needed to buy a new car, and they ended up with a manual transmission... I'd be willing to advocate for them to have an option for automatic transmission. (I drive an S4 6 speed manual, but not everyone should have to drive stick.)

 

I think I see the difference. I'm a software guy. I believe as software people, it's our job to make what people want and need. Maybe other people think it's their job to force feed whatever other software people have made.

No, that's not the same.  No one took away the file server.  As I said, it has it limits.  If you accept them, then so be it.  Just like a '57 Chevy.  If it cannot get you to work reliably, are you going to tell your employer that you just won't buy a newer car because you don't like how they drive?  Or some other subjective or perception based reason.  I doubt it, you will go get something.  You don't have to necessarily get rid of the Chevy.  But hopefully, you see my point.  (if you have enough clout to tell your boss that you will get to work when ever you feel like it, again, so be it, not the case for most)

If you work for an employer, then its your job to use the tools you have to do your job.  If you don't like those tools, and your employer does not agree, find another employer that gives you the tools you think you need.  If you can't find one you either go it on your own, or conform to the accepted toolset.  Or you are unemployed. (or worse, would you like fries with that?)

 

Some things are better with age like whiskey, cheese, and wine, but not technology.

It's been two years since your comment. The gripes in the original post are still valid. When can we expect saving/sharing scenarios to be more seamless and user-friendly?

This functionality has been improved greatly if you've been using Office 365 Groups in SharePoint Online. You can select the down  arrow on the attachment and select "upload",  you'll see all of your OneDrives, but you'll also see all of your Office 365 groups you are a part of. You can upload directly from there.

It sure has got better. Getting closer to cloud only storage.

The improvements in Office functionality with followed sites and the OneDrive sync client make this easier. Not to mention drag and drop in teams.

The OneDrive sync client known folder move and files on demand are also heading in the right direction
It sure has got better. Getting closer to cloud only storage.

The improvements in Office functionality with followed sites and the OneDrive sync client make this easier. Not to mention drag and drop in teams.

The OneDrive sync client known folder move and files on demand are also heading in the right direction

I agree with this 100%.

 

I work in IT and I STILL bang my head up against the wall when I forget to "start" a document in the right place so that it is easy to move to 365. For full disclosure, yes, I have my SharePoint and Teams document libraries synced with OneDrive, but there are still situations where even with the files being "local" having a mapped drive would still be easier to deal with.

 

End user Ease of Use/Usability, I believe, should be Microsoft's focus for the next year or so. I love new features, really, I do. I see a new app and I'm like, "OMG! I WANT THAT!" but when once I start digging into it, I realize exactly how hard it would be for an end user to just pick up that new application and start working on it. I love new capablities also, but at the end of the day, what I care about the most is this: How much are my end users going to love this technology that we are rolling out? Are they going to use it? Is it going to make their lives better?

 

If an application makes life much more complicated, your adoption rates are going to be dismal. Yes, you can "force" them to use a technology, but people are going to hate you for it.

 

Why was the iPhone so popular? It was stupid easy to use. A baby could pick it up and play a video. I know that Enterprise class systems will always have some degree of complexity to them, but when it comes to end users, they have enough to deal with, give them the easiest way possible to get their job done, and we can go from being the meanies in the IT department to, "Hey, you are my bestest friend!"

 

I just posted a discussion on the 365 techcommunity regarding a similar situation with the integration of calendaring and tasks; nothing in 365 or Azure is seamlessly integrated, which if it was, would make end users very, very, very, happy, and my teams job that much easier.

So...I posted my comment, updated my computer, and now am on the latest build for Office 365 click to run.

The new save interface is snazzy and streamlined.

Microsoft is trying to give me the warm and fuzzies today, and I'm not used to it.

@Beau Cameron wrote:

You can select the down  arrow on the attachment and select "upload",  you'll see all of your OneDrives, but you'll also see all of your Office 365 groups you are a part of. You can upload directly from there.


Are you referring to Outlook? Using version 16.23 on Mac, I am only able to select local files when adding an attachment, not OneDrive or Office 365 groups (aka. SharePoint Online sites). For the other Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), I am able to select SharePoint online sites when opening or saving, but only a subset of the sites I have access to.

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