Productivity Tip When Using Folders in SharePoint

We try to use metadata as much as possible when storing documents in SharePoint, but old habits die hard and sometimes you just need folders too. Just try not to go more than 2 levels deep or you end up with folder sprawl making it very hard to find anything, and possibly running into long file name issues.

However, when folders are in use, we can add 2 cool columns and a setting to help us navigate them.

In this example, we have a set of folders that a group of people are using. It doesn’t tell you much just by looking at it.

However, there are over 820 000 documents stored in those folders! Can you imagine trying to click through all of those to figure out what’s going in the there?

There is no way this structure is scalable or adding proper value to the business but sorting out things like that is a subject for another day. In the meantime, we can add our secret weapon columns to help navigate.

Click on Add Column and Show / Hide Columns at the bottom.

Scroll down a bit and select the Item Child and Folder Child columns. Then click the up arrow on Folder Child Count to move it up one level. Click Apply on top. The Item Child Count is the actual documents in a folder. And Folder Child Count is the number of folders within folders.

It puts the columns in the view and now you can start to make sense of the content. Straight away we can see that medical underwriting has got the most folders and 43 documents outside of other folders. Now we can deep dive that to either find what we are looking for or unravel the structure. You can see some folders are listed as 0, that means they are empty. We can probably delete them if this was a clean up exercise.

What I also like to do, is put on the counter option. It helps us figure out the scope and complexity per area. It also helps us keep track of the volume without having to go back to the top-level folder each time.

Click the dropdown arrow by Name, then Totals and Count.

This puts the total items in the library / folder / view at the bottom. So now I can see on this level is 31 folders.

Now we can deep dive the bigger folders to see what’s going on them with much more ease.


But please don’t go 6+ levels deep on folders. It is such an inefficient way of working. If you have this type of thing happening, your architecture in SharePoint is wrong. At minimum create more libraries to flatten the structure.

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