Thursday, 24 October 2013

Windows Explorer View- SharePoint 2013- Be careful!

Ok maybe it’s not that drastic, but Explorer View unchained can cause problems in your environment. Let’s start with the basics and discuss why Explorer View can cause serious headaches.
There are three ways to upload and manage documents in SharePoint:
  1. Directly via Web Interface – Good!
  2. Via a SharePoint Aware Application (Office/3rd Party Solutions) – Good!
  3. Directly via Explorer View (WebDAV) – Not Good. 

Explorer View has few merits

There are very few reasons Explorer View is good, but most of them can easily be dismissed.
People may argue –
  • Users are familiar with the interface

Who cares? Bad interfaces have existed before, and will continue to exist. Just because your user is familiar with the interface doesn’t make it good.
  • Offline Syncing (aka – SkyDrive Pro is amazing)

It’s very hard for me to argue against this. I like SkyDrive Pro. Having a local sync’d copy at all times for specific Document Libraries is great. Unfortunately, SkyDrive pro does nothing to encourage users to check-in or add metadata, and for these reasons I think SkyDrive Pro, like Explorer View, has the potential to cause problems your SharePoint environment.
  • Explorer View makes moving multiple items easy

Unfortunately in SharePoint 2010, managing content has its drawbacks, and often Explorer View is the best out-of-the-box option to reorganize. I must stress though, the end-user should be well informed before using it.
Have you ever had an end-user copy a folder from inside a document library into the root of a site? Sure it looks the same, but all of a sudden you have a sub site without a template housing documents that are still within the source document library. In SharePoint, you see the folder inside of the document library. In Explorer View, you see it at the root of the site. Confused? You should be.
Explorer View should be used sparingly. Explorer View should be used only by administrators and trained power users.

Explore View is more bad than good

I don’t know how to say it better than this: Explorer View in the wrong hands is that mistake in life that can cost you everything. It is akin to texting and driving – a situation where you may get away with it a few times. In the case of using Explorer View things may seem ok but eventually, EXPLORER VIEW WILL RUIN YOUR SHAREPOINT ENVIRONMENT.
Here’s why -
  • Metadata

When you upload a document via Explorer View, regardless of if metadata is required or not, there is no prompt and the user has no idea.
Allowing users to upload documents without metadata completely undermines the sole purpose of SharePoint.
  • Versioning

Want to view a document’s version history? Not in Explorer View. Sure, once you open the file in Office you’ll see the versioning console (if you look under the ‘File’ tab), but now we’re assuming that it’s an Office document.
What happens as a result? Users start saving “V2″ and “V2-final-final” copies again, completely undermining SharePoint.
  • Check In/Check Out

There is no notification of a document’s checked in/out status via Explore View. It is not until you open the document that you are prompted to check out or told someone already checked it out.
WORSE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, if a library has a required field and a user uploads the document via Explorer View, the document remains checked-out. This means no other user will see the document in SharePoint (regardless of view) and the person uploading the document has no idea. None.

The Solution:

  • Microsoft – It’s been 13 years. Please fix Explorer View.

  • IT - Train your users. Embrace the technology.

Training is your job. Sorry. If you see a person turning their computer off by pulling the power plug, you’ll stop them. If a user is using SharePoint via Explorer View, stop them. At the very least, explain the benefits and train on the hindrances.
  • End User - Don’t hold on to old technology.

Have you used an outhouse recently? Did you paint your room with leaded paint? Of course you didn’t. Technology improves with time. Explorer View is 13 years old and is holding you back. Embrace SharePoint’s power. Using SharePoint as it is intended will make you love it instead of hate it.

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