SharePoint best practices

SharePoint Folders vs Metadata

Should you use folders or metadata when organising content inside a SharePoint library? Find out which approach is best with this list of pros and cons.
Martin Hattingh
August 18, 2023
1 min to read

Folders or metadata? Do you pick sides in this classic SharePoint structuring fight, or do you use what's best suited to the job at hand?

Over the years, we've many times heard fellow experts saying "folders shouldn't be used anymore, they're a dinosaur!"

Recently, this came up in a discussion about SProbot's approach to site building. We think it's time to list the vital statistics of each again:


πŸ‘ Can have permissions set on them.

πŸ‘ Can be synced and browsed in the File Explorer interface.

πŸ‘ Enables documents with the same name to be synced and browsed sensibly in File Explorer because they are unique in their folder.

πŸ‘ Can have permissions set on them.

πŸ‘Ž Files can't be dynamically grouped, sorted, or filtered.

πŸ‘Ž Can result in extremely long (eventually unsupported) URLs.

πŸ‘Ž It's not possible to see "through" folders without navigating into them.



πŸ‘ Enables users to dynamically group, sort, and filter to find files.

πŸ‘ Enables views (global and user-specific) to be created.

πŸ‘ Can be managed with content types.

πŸ‘ Is an enabler to structured records management.

πŸ‘Ž Can't have permissions set on it.

πŸ‘Ž Can't be synced and browsed in the File Explorer interface.

πŸ‘Ž Can cause confusion when multiple files in the same library with the same name are synced and viewed in File Explorer.

πŸ‘Ž Are still limited by the 5000 item view threshold.

Folders aren't dinosaurs. They serve a very specific purpose, and at least for now will remain the preferred choice when permissions and File Explorer access are part of the scenario.

Metadata in *combination* with folders can be an excellent solution (with a few caveats) if you don't want to compromise on either side!

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