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How to share files and folders externally in SharePoint

Posted on June 13, 2018
SharePoint

I wanted to write this post for such a long time. And happy I finally can. Anyone who tried to share content externally in SharePoint Online/Office 365 knows that it wasn’t an easy endeavor. Sharing itself was not that hard. However, experience for the recipient was a big pain in the ass. For the recipient, it was almost like a visit to a proctologist (no pun intended)  – kind of weird and very confusing. To learn more on what I am talking about, please reference this post to see what that experience looked like.

Fast-forward to today, and we have a brand new, smooth and intuitive experience now in SharePoint (and OneDrive) when it comes to external sharing (thanks to feedback from SharePoint users and Microsoft team making important changes). So with this post, I would like to explain the new, pleasant experience we have now on how to share files and folders externally in SharePoint.

First, let’s review what we can share externally in SharePoint.

What content can be shared externally in SharePoint?

  • Sites
  • Folders
  • Files

As far as Site external sharing, as of the writing of this post, the experience is still the same (painful one) as it was before. Please reference this post to learn more about it. We will keep the upbeat mood of this post by focusing only on the new external sharing experience available for files and folders.

How to share SharePoint folders externally

Quite often, you do not need to share the whole site externally. Usually, it is just a specific folder. Luckily, this is the experience that got vastly improved for the recipient, so let’s go over this together.

Steps for you

  1. Make sure you are using a modern document library.
  2. Right-click above the folder you want to share, and click Share Modernexternalsharing1
  3. From the pop-up that appears, choose Specific People, then click Apply. This is the same screen where the user can allow or not allow editing of the folder. I will explain what this means in the next section of this post. Modernexternalsharing2
  4. Type the external user’s email and hit Send. You can also add a personal message if you wish Modernexternalsharing3
  5. OK, your part is done! Go and pad yourself on the back!

Consulting Assistance2

Steps for the recipient

  1. The external user gets an email that looks like the one below Modernexternalsharing4
  2. User clicks on the link included in the email Modernexternalsharing5
  3. The user needs to verify his/her identity by clicking Send Code Modernexternalsharing6
  4. Another email is sent to the recipient with the code. The user needs to use it within 15 minutes! Modernexternalsharing7
  5. Once the user enters the code and clicks Verify Modernexternalsharing8
  6. … The user gets access to the contents of the folder shared! Mazel Tov! Modernexternalsharing9

What the recipient will be able to do with the folder

What the recipient can do in that shared folder depends on whether or not you allowed editing above.

Modernexternalsharing10

If you allowed editing (clicked on Allow Editing checkbox)

Users will be able to:

  • Download files and subfolders
  • Upload files and folders
  • Modify files and subfolders
  • Create and upload new subfolders
  • Delete files and subfolders
  • Move and copy files and subfolders
  • Rename files and subfolders
  • Share files and folders with others
  • Change views (if additional views exist on a document library)
  • Filter by custom metadata (if custom metadata has been created)

Users will not be able to:

  • Rename the root folder that has been shared with them
  • Access any other files or folders in the same library
  • Access anything else on your SharePoint site
  • Access any other SharePoint sites in your tenant

If you did not allow editing (unchecked Allow Editing checkbox)

Users will be able to:

  • Copy files and subfolders
  • Download files and folders
  • Share files and folders with others
  • Change views (if additional views exist on a document library)
  • Filter by custom metadata (if custom metadata has been created)

Users will not be able to:

  • Modify or delete any files and subfolders
  • Rename the root folder that has been shared with them
  • Access any other files or folders in the same library
  • Access anything else on your SharePoint site
  • Access any other SharePoint sites in your tenant

How to share SharePoint files externally

The process is very similar to the folder sharing.

Steps for you

  1. Make sure you are using a modern document library.
  2. Right-click above the file you want to share, and click Share Modernexternalsharing11
  3. The pop-up menu and choices are identical to the folder sharing we covered above. Choose Specific People, then check or uncheck the box depending on whether you want the user to be able to edit the file or not, then hit Apply Modernexternalsharing12
  4. On the next screen, type in an external email, add a personal message (optional) and hit Send Modernexternalsharing13
  5. That’s it – you are done! Nice and easy! Go and have a drink, smoke a cigar, read a book!

Steps for the recipient

  1. The external recipient gets an email and clicks on a link within the email Modernexternalsharing14
  2. On the next screen, to verify the identity, the user requests a verification code Modernexternalsharing15
  3. Just like with folders above, another email is sent, with the code. The user types it in and clicks Verify Modernexternalsharing16
  4. And the user now will be granted access to the file! Modernexternalsharing17

What the recipient will be able to do with the file

As with folders, what the recipient can do with the file shared depends on whether or not you allowed editing above.

If you allowed editing (clicked on Allow Editing checkbox)

User will be able to:

  • Modify file
  • Download file
  • Share file with others

Users will not be able to:

  • Delete a file
  • Rename a file
  • Access any other files or folders in the same library
  • Access anything else on your SharePoint site
  • Access any other SharePoint sites in your tenant

If you did not allow editing (unchecked Allow Editing checkbox)

Users will be able to:

  • Download file
  • Share file with others

Users will not be able to:

  • Delete a file
  • Rename a file
  • Modify a file
  • Access any other files or folders in the same library
  • Access anything else on your SharePoint site
  • Access any other SharePoint sites in your tenant

And here is a video that shows you all of the above steps:

About Me

I’m Greg Zelfond, a U.S. based SharePoint consultant, and I provide affordable out-of-the-box SharePoint consulting, training, and configuration assistance to small and medium-sized businesses all over the world.

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