Of 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)
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.
3. Copy and Move can be done between OneDrive and SharePoint Online and vice versa.
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.
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!
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
This is the result:
Now, let’s Move the same 3 documents to a different library:
This is the result:
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)
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.
c. You Copy or Move a documents to a target location that already has a document with the same name.
d. You Copy or Move a document to/within a document library that has Content Approval, and do you not have sufficient permissions to approve content.
Added April 21, 2019, thanks to this blog by Paul Matthews.
e. When you Move content, you delete content in the source. When you Move (and therefore delete) many documents in one go, you will receive a warning message. This is very considerate, but please be aware that it may freak some users out!
Added April 21, 2019, thanks to a screenshot from Joanne Klein:
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.
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!
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