10 things to know about Copy to and Move to (in SharePoint Online)

CopyMove-headerOf course you all know a number of ways to move documents from one place of SharePoint to another, such as Open With Explorer*, Content and Structure** and 3rd party tools.

But have you tried the “Copy to” and “Move to” options in SharePoint Online?
(I will use the words Copy and Move throughout this blog as this makes it easier to read…and write)

CopyMove-bar
Copy To and Move To become visible when you select one or more documents

I knew that Copy has been available for some time in document libraries, but only recently I have also discovered Move. So I decided to find out how it works and how I can explain this best to our audience. The Microsoft Help is accurate and helpful, but it does not mention everything.

1. This is only available in document libraries with Modern Experience. 

2. Copy and Move are available for Document, Asset and Picture Libraries.

You can Copy and Move folders or individual documents to other Document Libraries.
You can Copy and Move images from Asset and Picture Libraries, but only to the same Asset or Picture Library or other Document Libraries.
In Pages Libraries, you can only Copy a page and then only to the same Pages Library. This is useful when you want to base a page on an existing one.

CopyMove-Pages
In a Pages library, you can only Copy a page to the same library. No other targets are available.

 

CopyMove-targetoptions
Source and possible target libraries

3. Copy and Move can be done between OneDrive and SharePoint Online and vice versa.

CopyMove-OneDrive
Your OneDrive is always shown as option.

4. Copy and Move can be done between different site collections, unlike “Content and Structure”.

5. What you can do depends on your permissions.

a. To Copy, you will need at least “Add” permissions in the target site.
You will be adding documents, so you will need Contribute, Edit or Full Control or similar.
“Read” permissions to the source site are sufficient in order to be able to Copy content.
b. To Move, you will need at least “Add” permissions in the target site AND “Delete” permissions in the source site, as Move deletes the documents in the source site.

CopyMove-Permissions
The roles you need

 

6. Copy only copies the latest version, Move moves all versions.

This is the same as with Content and Structure, but it does not hurt to mention it again, as this is now available for more users and can have consequences!

CopyMove-Versions
Differences in Copy and Move w.r.t. versions

7. Move keeps the original Created and Modified dates and names.

Copy keeps the original Modified date and Modified By name, but Create date will be now and Created By will be the name of the person who copied. This makes sense, as you are creating a new instance with new Create info.
This can also be slightly confusing, as the Create date can be later than the Modified date.
In the screenshots below, I have used the same Source Library and two different Target Libraries, to show the difference between Copy and Move.
The documents have different dates, people and versions.

First, let us Copy the 3 selected documents

CopyMove-Copy3docs
Version number are 3.0, 2.0 and 5.0, respectively. Different names in Modified By and Created By.

 

This is the result:

CopyMove-3docscopied
All documents have been copied as a new version with the Created date of some minutes ago – while the Modified date is earlier! Created By is me (I did it) while the Modified By is still the same.

 

Now, let’s Move the same 3 documents to a different library:

CopyMove-Move3docs
Now we are moving these same 3 documents

This is the result:

CopyMove-3docsmoved
The original names and dates are in Created By, versions are the same.

 

8. You will receive warning messages in certain scenarios.

a. You Move a document to a target document library that has fewer versions enabled than the source. In this case, document Sharing 9 has 5 versions, the target library 3. You will get a useful warning and the option to stop the process. You do not get this warning when you Copy, as this only copies the latest version.
(This will become less of an issue with the changes in versioning coming up)

CopyMove-VersionWarning
Warning about fewer versions

b. You Move a document to a document library with fewer/different metadata. In this case, I am moving a document that has a Topic column to a target without that. Again, you can Copy it with no warning.

CopyMove-metadatawarning
Warning about different metadata

c. You Copy or Move a documents to a target location that already has a document with the same name.

CopyMove-Titlewarning
You can not Copy or Move when a document or folder with the same name exists in the Target library

9. This functionality is not available for guests.

Guests who want to Copy or Move get an error message, even if they have the correct permissions and see the options. Judging from the error message, the sites shown in the panel are sites you follow and/or have recently visited. As externals have no OneDrive to store their Followed sites, nor Delve to see the recently visited sites, this makes sense.
This may get awkward for long-term trusted external partners, though.

CopyMove-MysteryGuestIssue
Even though the option to Copy or Move is displayed, external users/guests can not do this.

10. The sites that are suggested as targets are based on the Office Graph. 

A good reason to Follow your sites – they show in the targets panel and save you searching. The suggestions are based on the Office Graph and this explains why external guests can not Copy or Move – they have no Office Graph. Thanks to Greg Zelfond for providing me with this info! 

CopyMove-followed sites
What is shown here depends on your Office Graph.

 

My two cents

I am quite happy with this functionality. It is very simple and it will be very useful in case of organizational change or archiving a project.
I now use it all the time when I move instruction and help documentation (that I write using a Word template on my laptop) from my OneDrive to SharePoint. Somehow it feels easier.

However, I would not be me if I did not see some risks. But as this is already quite a long post, I will leave that for next time.

Special characteristics of other ways to move documents

*Open with Explorer
Microsoft help
• Needs Windows on your PC as it opens Windows Explorer
• Needs Internet Explorer 32 bits, does not work with any other browser
• Only works with Classic SharePoint
• Content takes Create/Modify dates and names from the person performing the action and the date/time of the action
• No versions can be copied or moved

**Content and Structure
• Only accessible for people with Contribute or higher
• Only available to copy and move within the site collection
• Only available when your site collection has publishing features enabled

Image courtesy of Baitong333 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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2 thoughts on “10 things to know about Copy to and Move to (in SharePoint Online)

  1. Paula May 22, 2018 / 3:28 pm

    Do you find it takes a long time when you choose to move a file using the Move option? I did this just to test it and it took forever. Maybe because it is new? It wasn’t a large document.

    • Ellen van Aken May 23, 2018 / 5:57 pm

      Hi Paula, No, I have not experienced that. At least not that I noticed.

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