Organizing Document Libraries

Occasional Contributor

What is the best practice for organizing documents: folders or metadata? I try to explain the benefits of organizing by metadata, but my users are skeptical.

5 Replies

Metadata wherever it meets your needs.

Folders are REQUIRED if you want to scope SYNC: Sync is per-folder.


Great compromise:


1) Create folders AND a corresponding metadata column


2) Use the option for "custom default metadata" for each folder so that if a file is added to a folder, the metadata is set to the right value for each folder. Basically this "auto-tags" items based on the folder they're put into.


3) OPTIONAL: Create a view of the library that is set to "do not show folders" - this creates a "flat" view of the library with all files, regardless of what folder they're in. You can GROUP by metadata if you want, or use metadata navigation (in classic view). Note that this kind of view is perfect for VIEWing but, because folders are 'gone', not so good for adding files to the structure.

You can actually meet halfway, "emulate" the behavior of folders by using metadata. This is an old post but still applies: I can certainly understand the unbridled satisfaction and joy when one expands and collapses nested folders that's 14 level deep :)

Here's a fun way to describe the arguement from Folder to Metadata. A refrigerator. A folder is a single location. Metadata is a location & lots of other features.


Folders vs Metadata the refrigeratorFolders vs Metadata the refrigerator

huge fan of doing the 'flat' view and never using folders and requiring Managed Metadata. SharePoint is not an Exchange Public Folder or network File Share, IMHO. Structured content for the win!

Metadata is not fun to put on documents but overall it is a better solution.  There are use cases where folders can be used and are still better in my opinion.  I put a slide deck together from my experiences and some other good info (like this from Greg Zelfond) that I have used to talk about advantages and disadvantages of metadata vs folders that might help. 



Advantages and disadvantages of folders and metadata in SharePoint