If you’re working with organizations in SharePoint Online and in a modernization effort to move from a classic to a modern list/library experience, you may receive some push-back from information workers making the transition. One thing I’ve learned over the years while working with SharePoint/Office 365 adoption is how hard some habits can be to break. Classic to Modern library experience is no different.
Note: For the remainder of this post, the term Library will refer to both List and Library.
To be clear, there are certain features or customizations that will ONLY work in the Classic Library experience in SharePoint. If those are required for your situation, switching to the Modern experience will not be an option. Search for “Features available only in the classic experience” in the Microsoft post Differences between the new and classic experiences for lists and libraries.
Many times I see information workers in SharePoint using the Classic experience or they quickly switch to it if they’re not already in it. Unless their library is using one of the legacy features described above, this is either out of habit or a lack of understanding on what the modern experience provides.
It’s incumbent upon us to ensure information workers know the advantages of the modern experience.
There are 2 administrative settings to control what shows as default for the list/library. The first is in the SharePoint Admin Center to control the default setting for lists and libraries in the tenant. The second is in the list/library Advanced settings where you can control the experience at a more granular level.
Even on a newly provisioned modern Team Site, the option to revert to a Classic library experience still exists. Also, with any business users potentially being Site Owners, they will have the permission required to change this setting at their discretion. Due to this, it’s important to understand the key advantages of the Modern Library experience to showcase its improved feature set. You never know when you’ll have to defend the Modern library experience to a die-hard Classic fan.
I’ve started with a list of the key advantages I see having the biggest end-user impact while working in a library. This is not an exhaustive list – if you think I’ve missed a key one, let me know!
If you’re short on time (who isn’t by the way)… here’s the list in no particular order:
- Quicker editing of metadata with the information pane
- Quickly update multiple documents’ metadata at once
- Drag-and-drop from one group to another to update metadata
- Ability to pin documents, links, and filters
- Ability to move and copy documents and folders from the command bar
- Better handling of required metadata
- Creating and customizing views is easier
- Allows you to set a per-item retention label
- Custom column formatting only available in modern
- You can upload a folder
[Updated September 7, 2018] Added 2 as a result of community feedback!:
- Responsive across device channels
- Better handling of large lists/libraries
- Power User tools are embedded in the command bar of the modern experience (Power Apps, Microsoft Flow)
Bonus reason to use modern: all new investments will be in the modern experience, not classic!
Read on for more details on each of the above benefits. I also address some gaps I’ve run into between classic and modern at the end of this post.
#1 – Quicker editing of metadata with the information pane
The time to update a single document’s metadata is reduced and is far less disruptive than the classic experience. Select a document, click the information icon on the top right-hand corner to open up the information pane on the right. This will show a preview of the document, recent activity, document access, and metadata properties. When updating metadata on this pane, you don’t have to press the Enter key or a save button to save your changes. Awesome! You can’t do that in the classic experience.
Note: it is important to know that a new version of the document is created on every autosave done in the information pane. If you update 4 different metadata values, there will be 4 new versions created. (assuming you don’t have check-out required)
#2 – Quickly update multiple documents’ metadata at once
Although in both classic and modern library experiences you can quickly update metadata across multiple documents using the Bulk Edit or Quick Edit features while in an un-grouped view, the ability to select multiple documents in the UI and update metadata using the information pane is only possible in the modern experience and is very quick and convenient. This can be done regardless of the type of view being displayed (Grouped, un-grouped) simply be selecting multiple documents.
#3 – Drag-and-drop from one group to another to update metadata
If you’re in a grouped modern view of a library, you can drag and drop a document from one group into another. This will automatically update the metadata that is being grouped by. This feature is not available in the classic experience.
Note: this is only a benefit if the number of items in a library is relatively small since you need to have the group you want to drag it into visible on the same screen. I see a use-case for this in a library controlling a limited number of documents grouped by status, Corporate budgets for instance. Like the image shows below, when a budget is dragged into either the Approved or Declined status group, a Flow could start to initiate another process and move it to an Approved or Declined Budgets library with appropriate retention controls applied.
#4 – Ability to Pin documents, links, and filters
Pinning is a useful feature found across several areas of the modern library experience:
- Pin a metadata property filter so it will always appear on the top of the filter pane. In the first image, the Region is now pinned to the top of the Filter pane,
- Pin a document (or link) to the top of a library view. In the second image, I’ve pinned a word document to the top . It’s important to know this is a global view setting and not an individual setting.
#5 – Ability to Move and Copy documents and folders from the command bar
Having the ability to move and copy documents (and folders!) between and among sites is a very important part of document management. Both the Move to and Copy to options are available on the Command bar when a document or folder is selected from the modern experience. This is not available in the classic experience.
Another helpful feature for the Move to functionality is the warning the end-user will receive when trying to move a document with metadata that doesn’t exist at the destination. This gives the opportunity to assess if the document is being moved to the correct location, however allows it be moved anyway. (image)
#6 – Better handling of Required metadata
With required metadata, it’s important for information workers to easily identify which documents need it. The classic experience leaves any document checked out if required metadata is not filled out. The modern experience does not leave the document checked out, and assists information workers in two ways:
- Automatically adds a new view to the library called Files that need attention. This view will show all documents with missing metadata
- Highlights the column in the view with a yellow background to visually highlight the missing metadata property
#7 – Creating and Customizing views is easier
Information workers have always been able to create their own personal views in the classic experience and, with sufficient permissions, public views, however there’s a quicker way to create a view in the modern experience without going thru Library Advanced Settings.
Refer to this Microsoft post for specific steps: Creating a custom view in a document library
The modern experience provides a WYSIWYG approach. Simply click Add Column on the top right of any view to show/hide/add column(s), adjust the Group by options, apply filters. You can use the drag-and-drop functionality while on the Edit view column pane once you click the Show/hide columns. This is a really quick way to adjust column positioning within a view. When the view is ready, click Save view.
The modern experience also allows for quick and persistent resizing of view column widths by dragging and dropping column dividers to adjust the widths. (image)
Note: You can continue to do more advanced view settings on the Library Advanced Settings page.
#8 – Allows you to set a per-item retention label
As easy as it is to update a piece of metadata on a library using the information pane, you can also update a retention label. You can add a retention label to a view and set a default retention label for a library in either classic or modern, however you won’t see the label property when editing properties in the classic experience. This feature is only available in the modern library experience.
#9 – Custom column formatting only available in Modern
In the example below, I’ve added column formatting to the OutageStatus column in a custom SharePoint list to show a red, yellow, or green indicator dependent on status. It only renders in the modern experience. The formula will not be executed on the classic experience and only the column value will show.
#10 – You can upload a Folder
Ok, all you folder-hating people… go easy on me – sometimes this option is necessary. 🙂 Although not a common requirement, particularly if you’re wanting to minimize folders in your libraries, you can upload an entire folder into a SharePoint library by using the Upload option on the command bar. (can also do this in OneDrive for Business) This is not possible in the classic experience thru the SharePoint UI (although you can upload multiple files at a time)
#11 – Responsive across all device channels
The modern library experience is fully responsive across all device channels. This is particularly useful when viewing the library on a tablet or other mobile device.
#12 – Better handling of large lists/libraries
The end-user experience is much improved for large lists and libraries with the introduction of predictive indexing. These just-in-time indexes are created based on how the end-user is sorting/filtering the library. Also, partial results are returned as the end-user scrolls down the list of items rather than returning all results at once.
Although this topic alone deserves its own blog post, the overall end-user experience browsing a large library is much improved in the modern experience.
There are a few usability gaps I’ve noticed between Classic and Modern. Here is a list of my top-hitters with a link to their UserVoice. If you have a vote or two to spare, and the status isn’t already Working on it, why not vote them up?
- Bulk check-in/check-out – currently not available in the modern experience
- Different views when inside a folder – used when you have a top-level folder and want to have a different view at the top-level folder and within the folder. This was available in the classic experience
- Document Set modernization – currently the document set content type displays in a classic experience only. Functionality still works, but requires modernization.
Do you have a gap you would like to see addressed? Let me know and I’ll add it to the list above.
Microsoft will continue to make investments in the modern experience which will only add to the advantages over time. I can only assume the classic experience will eventually go away so the sooner the transition can be made to modern, the better off information workers will be.
The next time, you see someone flip to the classic library experience, share some of the benefits in this post to make them pause for a moment and reconsider their choice.
Thanks for reading.