12 reasons folders in SharePoint are a bad idea

thumbs-downI got an overwhelming response to my “Stay away from folders in SharePoint” article. While I am still working on the follow-up post on how to go completely “folder-less” using meta-data, I decided to list some compelling reasons on why folders in SharePoint should be avoided. The list is geared more towards end-users and folder proponents and could be used as a business case on why document library should be setup using meta-data. So here it goes:


1. Usability. Nested folder structure is only known to the person who created it. Also, too many sub-folders tend to “hide” things.

2. URL length limitation. SharePoint adds all folder and sub-folder names to URL. Overall URL length is limited to around 260 characters. You are out of luck if you create too many sub-folders.

3. File URL. Moving file from one folder to another means change of file URL.

4. Security. Maintaining Security by folders in SharePoint is an administrative nightmare. Don’t even think about doing it!

5. User experience. User Experience (navigation, finding the documents) just stinks with folders (it is so 1990’s!)

6. File duplication. With folders you can deposit multiple copies of same file into different locations – not a good thing when you try to organize documents and data in the first place!

7. 1 Lonely View. There is another reason NOT to user folders. With folders, you get one view: the folder view. Using metadata, you can create unlimited number of views by whatever properties you have setup (i.e. organize documents by date, by customer, by project, etc.) So the document browsing experience is much better-off.

8. Can’t Sort & Filter. Since your files are buried in the folders, you can’t really benefit from sorting and filtering capabilities of document library headers (unless of course you are just sorting and filtering in the particular folder).

9. Change is hard.  It’s hard to change folder structure, while changing metadata is easy.

10. Lost documents. You can “lose” documents when placed in the wrong folder. Additionally, Also, too many sub-folders tend to hide things, making it impossible or too time-consuming for users to find a particular document.

11. Navigation. When you are in a particular sub-folder, there is no way to tell in which folder you are at any given time, and no easy way to navigate to the parent folder (there is no breadcrumb on folder navigation menu available)

12. Cost. If you are essentially recreating nested folders you had on file share, by using SharePoint, you have got yourself one expensive file share. Why not stay with folders on shared drive? Or go with the DropBox account?

So that is my list. Do you have any other ones that you think should be added? Will be happy to discuss this topic further via email or on Social Media. Email me at greg@sharepointmaven.com


Updated February 20, 2014

Wow, social media and crowdsourcing do work! I received well over 50 comments on LinkedIn groups regrading this post. Hot topic indeed! Lots of interesting opinions, both for and against folders. Many have also suggested other reasons for not using folders in SharePoint. So what I decided to do is list them in this post and mention the name of a person who contributed it. While obviously we now have more than 12 reasons for not using folders, I am not going to change the post name. Consider it a freebie for your business case to management and end users! :)

Reason # 13: You can not see how many documents there are in a folder. It could be empty. While if you group documents [via meta tags], you will see how many docs are in the group, and if there are no docs in the group, you do not see the group. With folders, you spend time clicking on nested folders, just to arrive at an empty one (submitted by Ellen van Aken, Netherlands)

Reason # 14: Data Integrity. When you allow users to create own folders, you are prone to data integrity issues (i.e. same piece of information like “Company name” can be misspelled or spelled differently. This would cause duplication and loss of time and efficiency for an organization.


Updated March 3, 2014

Below please find a slide deck on how to setup Document Management without folders by using metadata


Need help?

Gregory Zelfond_sGreg Zelfond is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and independent SharePoint Consultant. Greg provides services in the areas of SharePoint/Office 365 Training, SharePoint Strategy, Governance, Document Management and SharePoint/Office 365 Administration. Since Greg is an independent consultant and most services are delivered remotely and on demand, the cost of the work is fraction of what you typically would pay the big consulting firms.

Contact Greg at greg@sharepointmaven.com if you need help with SharePoint/Office 365 in your organization.