Last week I wrote a posting about the use of folders in SharePoint document libraries. After reading the comments I must admit that I probably took a too rigid approach.
There are valid reasons why you can still use folders in SharePoint document libraries but are are also a lot of cases in which metadata/libraries or views are a better approach.
When migrating documents from file share into SharePoint the easiest approach is to copy (and paste) all of the documents including the existing folders into a document library. It is therefore quite tempting to continue working like this in SharePoint but as soon as the naming conventions of your folders carry meaning it might be a good idea to start thinking about converting the folders into metadata.
The only goal of using folders is to group them for the benefit of the authors, the people who need to work with it. Grouping documents in a simple folder without adding extra metadata and creating views is an easy approach - especially when the "Explorer View" is frequently used or when large numbers of documents are used.
So let's compare:
Advantages of using folders in SharePoint document libraries:
- It looks familiar to people used to work with file shares
- Folders are required when you have a large number of documents in a document library (remember the 2000 item limit - for some background check out - Can you have more than 2000 items per folder and Why 2000 item limit per view in SharePoint
- It is possible to define security on folders
- Possible to define metadata on folders. Remark: the metadata is not replicated on the documents within the folder
- Possible to create an alert on a folder
Disadvantages of using folders in SharePoint document libraries:
- Not possible to use it for filtering or to create filtering
- Only allows for adding a single dimension of information
- When you move a document to another folder (because you miscategorized it) - the url will change. This is not the case when you change a metadata field
- Will increase the length of the URL - remember URL length for Docs in SharePoint is still at 260 characters