Dear Microsoft: Confusing Failures in “Modern” SharePoint Libraries

2 minute read

Moving documents around in the “modern” Document Libraries in SharePoint Online (Office 365) has certainly gotten easier. Instead of opening libraries in File Explorer, downloading the files, and then uploading them into the new location, we have nice options like Move to, Copy To, and Rename right in the toolbar. That’s a big upside.

Sadly, there are downsides. While the new capabilities are awesome, I’m finding that the UI is often confusing – both to me and my clients.

When you use one of these new file manipulation capabilities, you get a little feedback message ion the right side of the toolbar telling you how it went. Unfortunately, the message location isn’t all that obvious, and it usually feels as though the operation succeeded even when it didn’t.

Here’s and example of a Move to operation that failed for me. Note that the message says “1 item wasn’t moved”.

There’s no other feedback, and on my wide monitor, the message is way over to the right side. I don’t usually notice it.

In the case above, I did see the message, so I clicked on the message to see what was up. The reason I saw it was that I was looking for something wrong. A client of mine told me that a Move to wasn’t working. Every time she went back to the library, the documents were still in the same place, no matter how many times she moved them.

As you can see from the expanded message below, there was indeed an issue: there was a file with the same name in the destination location. I have two logical options, either to Keep both files or Replace the original.


The message really isn’t obvious enough, and I’ve been caught many times because I didn’t see that something I did failed. Even worse, to my client “SharePoint is broken”. I’m hoping the Product Group can come up with a more informative way to provide the feedback that something has gone wrong – which happens surprisingly often!

There is yet another “unfortunately” here, though. In my client’s case, even when there is no error in a Move to operation, the files are boomeranging right back into the original position after a few screen refreshes.

I also tried the Content and Structure page to see if moving the document that way would help, but still no dice. I checked to see if perhaps there was a workflow in play here causing issues, but that’s not the case. The only other thing I see which MIGHT be a problem is that the library has 4988 documents in it, which is pretty close to the 5000 list view threshold. I hate that threshold with a steaming passion (have I mentioned that here and here and  here and here and here and probably tens of dozens of other places?), but I can’t think why it would matter in this case.

So we’re at an impasse. The error messages aren’t so great, and the Move to operations are failing when there aren’t errors. Maybe SharePoint really is broken.

Anybody? Anybody?



  1. Any chance you have a content organizer rule that puts things into that destination library? I ran into that once – it blocked the document library from accepting anything outside of content organization?

    • @Robin:

      Good thought, but the Content Organizer feature isn’t enabled.

      You did make me wonder if there might be some setting on the view that might be confusing us, but nothing there, either.


  2. Great article as usual Marc.

    Well if you think you have it bad
    None of this new functionality to go across libraries works in our prod tenant.
    Our sites are all based on classic templates.

    There are a few tweaks to the library settings like order of columns displayed content types and versions.
    Yet none of the content displays. Either says no libraries or no contents.

    Create an out of the box library and that works without a problem.

    This same experience we get in onedrive, SharePoint new web experiences, the mobile apps both ios and Android. Also in teams, oh an onedrive sync doesn’t work with our SharePoint libraries either. We have been slowly engaging with Microsoft on this one to resolve it.

    Other third party apps we have work with these libraries and all other functionality is working. So it must be one code bug going around or did they forget we can create our own templates?

      • Yes migrated from 2013. The site templates were rebuilt for Sharepoint online and content /security migrated with Sharegate. However new sites that have been created are still effected. So it is more to do with how they have been setup.

        The template library creates a different object number for the library. Instead of a 101 type it is 80000. Its base object type is a document library. So in theory it should work. I just think MS coded to look for the 101 type..

        • @Philip:

          Generally custom objects in SharePoint should inherit from a known objects, so things inheriting from a Document Library would have an id like “101….”. I’m sure that’s part of the problem. It’s not surprising the “80000…” would be an issue.


          • It does say that the object has a basetype property of 101.

            We have the harmonie products and they work just fine with these libraries.

            On techcommunity I managed to get the mobile apps guys to understand it. Trying to get a premier ticket raised too. Just have to document it all first ;)


  3. I agree – that UI is horrible. The same issue happens when you try to upload files that already exist. Showing a small red icon (indicating a system error occured) doesn’t cut it – they need to make it much more obvious to the user. You need to up your game SharePoint devs.

  4. How about a third option as well besides “Keep” and “Replace?” Something like “Skip.” I don’t know how many times I’ve started uploading files to OneDrive (like photos) and the upload aborts before it gets through all the files, but there’s no telling what kind of order it followed so finding the photos that didn’t get uploaded is quite a chore. So I have to upload all the photos again and choose “Replace,” although it would be much faster if I could say “Skip” for the photos that are already there.


Have a thought or opinion?