Office 365 Groups Files AND SharePoint Team Site Document Libraries
Do I even need a SharePoint Team Site, now that I have Office 365 Groups (Modern Groups)? Since the arrival of Office 365 Groups, this question keeps coming up again and again. My reply is why not use both? A recent change will help the Office 365 Groups and Team Sites work more effectively together when working with files.
We have two main groups of thought
- Simple file sharing — we just want a place to store and share our files with our group. (Office 365 Groups Files)
- Advanced file capabilities — we want to use capabilities such as custom metadata, views, web parts, search or content approval. (Document libraries in SharePoint Team Sites)
When an Office 365 Group is created…
a simple site is created in SharePoint Online. A simplified document library is made available as Groups Files. You can create folders…for a lot of people, this is enough… till they start asking for more capabilities.
SharePoint Team Sites on the other hand…
can use a fully functioning document library that can be customized with all the bells and whistles. Additional columns can be added to record more information about a document. Those columns can be used to provide different views of the documents — filtering, sorting, grouping… not to mention improving search. But you need to have knowledge and experience about SharePoint to configure these capabilities correctly. This usually means resource from your IT department, a consultant or sending someone to a course to get SharePoint Power User training. You also need time to plan and configure.
There needn’t be two camps of thought.
Businesses, Schools, Organizations… we need both and we can have both. We need a simple place to simply share files with groups of people we work with. But we also need a more structured place to organize, share and collaborate on documents.
In my previous post I talked about sharing files and sites with Office 365 Groups. I spent some more time recently, looking at what else I could share. It should have occurred to me earlier — sharing a folder with a Group. This helps bring the Group to the Team Site, rather than the Team Site features to the Group.
If you’re document library is proudly avoiding the use of folders, reconsider that position.
While running courses for SharePoint and SharePoint Online, we try to show the benefits of adding custom properties (metadata) to documents and using folders less. Using the different properties we add we can create views and do all sorts of weird and wonderful things to display documents and items in SharePoint sites. We say “use folders sparingly… alongside metadata”, such as to control access to a set of documents for a group of people.
Now that the sharing of content with Groups is becoming available, I’m more convinced that we should be using folders AND metadata.
In our document libraries, organizing our files into folders gives us a convenient way to share multiple documents with an Office 365 Group. It also means we can still take advantage of all the work put into configuring the useful advanced features of a document library.
Share the whole folder with a Group and the folder will appear in the Shared with Us view of the Groups Files.
Let’s see it in action.
One drawback at this stage is when you visit the shared folder from Groups Files, the folder loads in the context of the site or OneDriveFB. You don’t have a menu item to take you back to the Group Files. You need to rely on the good old Back button in your browser (or keyboard shortcut equivalent if you’re like me, Alt+Left arrow.)
Alternatively, open the folder or file using the “Open in a new tab” option, to keep the Group open alongside the shared file or folder.
I have suggested a change this behaviour at the Office365 UserVoice.com site. In the category for Office 365 Groups, my post suggests that when we launch documents or folders from the Shared with Us view, that it opens in a new browser tab. This way we don’t lose the context of the Group.
Sharing folders with an Office 365 Group is a simple way to associate a Team Site with a Group. We can have both and there will be more ways to associate a Group with a Team Site in the future.