SharePoint Holmes and the Continuous Classic View

Sherlock GnomesThe case

“Why can I not set my document library to the New experience?” the user asked me.

“Of course you can, let me show you”, I said confidently.
Over-confidently, as it turned out. Because there was no “Exit Classic View” link bottom left.

Huh? No “Exit Classic View” bottom left of the page.


And the Advanced Library Settings showed that the library was already set to display in New experience.

The library was set to display in the New experience

Sigh…I got my SharePoint Holmes hat and magnifying glass out of the cupboard and set out towards…

The investigation

  1. I remembered some other sites which did not display their “Exit Classic View” button. Those all have a banner on top of the page,  a popular feature from our old intranet, that has been migrated to the new intranet.
    I set the user’s page into Edit mode. There was a web part zone on top but there was no web part in it, so that did not give me any clues. Hmmm.

    Empty web part zone!
  2. I looked at the other views in the library and those were in New Experience. Huh!
  3. I created a new view and this was in New Experience as well, so the issue was with the default view.
  4. To check my sanity, I did some searching (Yes, I know I should do that straight away but I like to look at things and push buttons 🙂 ) and what did I find?  This.
  5. So, I dove into that Classic View, edited the page, looked at Closed Web Parts…and found a Content Editor Web Part.

    There was a closed web part on the page.
  6. I added it to the page, then deleted it and that turned out to be…

The solution

The library now shows in New experience, with the “switch”-link bottom left.

So, there are two options when you can not get your document library to show in New Experience while it is set to be New:

  1. Remove all web parts on the view page, open and closed.
    Set the page to Edit mode.
    If you see a web part, DELETE it.
    If you do not see a web part, click Insert > Tab > Web Parts > Closed Web Parts. If you see one or more web parts mentioned, add part(s) to page, and then DELETE it/them.
  2. Create a new view by copying the old view with a new name, setting it to be the default view if needed, and deleting the old view.
    I must admit this did not work in my own tenant – all views showed and were created in Classic SharePoint. But I have seen this multiple times in our work tenant.

If you want to display a picture, you could also upload one or more pictures and pin it/them to the top.

Microsoft also has some things to say about the Classic vs Modern view. They also mention the influence of web parts (at the end of the article) but the language is not very clear.

About SharePoint Holmes:
Part of my role is solving user issues. Sometimes they are so common that I have a standard response, but sometimes I need to do some sleuthing to understand and solve it.
As many of my readers are in a similar position, I thought I’d introduce SharePoint Holmes, SharePoint investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.

Picture from unknown source but it was too funny to let go. See the trailer of Sherlock Gnomes! With Johnny Depp…


SharePoint Holmes and the Pesky Permissions

SH-Pesky-ByOllieArteThe case

“This user is losing her access all the time”, the site owner said. “She keeps getting an access denied and then asking me for access”.
Now I know that SharePoint permissions can be a bit of a nightmare, but I have not come across situations where people who have access, suddenly lose that without any actions on the side of the site owner or manager of the permissions group.

The site owner told me he had added her to a group in his site. This group needs Edit permissions to the Commercial documents, a document library with confidential information.

“When she gets that access denied message, do you find she has disappeared from that group?” I asked him, but he did not know that.  Not very helpful, but a site owner should not have to be a detective, of course; things should just work.

So…time to get my Detective paraphernalia out of the closet and set out on a hunt for clues.

The investigation

    1. First step: site permissions.
      The group was called L1-CommercialTeam, with Read permissions.

      SH-Pesky-Site permissions
      I still have not figured out why permission levels are mentioned in Dutch, but trust me: The L1-CommercialTeam has Read access on this site.

      That looked OK, knowing she would have Edit permissions on one library. And indeed, when I looked at the “Users with Limited Access” I saw this:

      Limited access because this group has Edit permissions on one document library.
    2. I checked the settings of the group. The user was a group member. The owner of the group was the site owner group, so there were no other parties who might have been messing about.
    3. I checked the permissions of the group: Read + Limited Access on the site, Edit on the document library. OK.
    4.  I checked the permissions for the library with confidential information. Indeed, the group had Edit permissions there.

      Enter a caption
    5. So, everything looked OK. What could have gone wrong? It is extremely hard to solve things that “occasionally happen” so I needed some time to think about next steps.
    6. I decided to have a look at all the permissions in the site, knowing that things can be more complicated than you might think at first sight.
      That was interesting: all 3 document libraries in the site had unique permissions, but the L1-CommercialTeam only had access to the Commercial Documents.

      All document libraries in this site have unique permissions
    7. I contacted the user and she confirmed that the she got the access denied when she wanted to go to the other document libraries.
    8. I contacted the site owner and asked him when he had created the Commercial Documents library and the group  – this had been done recently.

The solution

As the unique permissions in the other document libraries had been created before the L1-CommercialTeam group had been created and added to the site, the L1-CommercialTeam did not automatically get access to those libraries.

I informed the site owner about the permissions in his site – that all libraries had different permissions and that the user had requested access to the two libraries that she did not have access to.
He had inherited the site from a predecessor and was not aware of the unique permissions.
Besides, as the group appeared to have Read permissions at site level, he thought the group had access to everything. I can not blame him, really.

He gave the L1-CommercialTeam access to one library, and re-inherited permissions to the other. No access denieds have been reported since.

So, dear site owner, please check the unique permissions in your site on a regular basis. SharePoint Online has a very useful link on the site permissions page, which has turned into my new BFF:

This link allows you to see all libraries and lists with unique permissions, as well as libraries and lists that contain items with unique permissions.


About SharePoint Holmes:
Part of my role is solving user issues. Sometimes they are so common that I have a standard response, but sometimes I need to do some sleuthing to understand and solve it.

As many of my readers are in a similar position, I thought I’d introduce SharePoint Holmes, SharePoint investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.

Image courtesy of Ollie Olarte.

SharePoint Holmes and the Embedding Enigma

SH-ObjectDetectiveSmallMy SharePoint Holmes cases are not extremely technical or complicated. Most of the solutions to the issues that I encounter have been amply described in blogs and Microsoft support. So why do I sometimes feel at a loss when I have a new issue to solve?

  • I am still learning about SharePoint Online
  • Users generally do not know what the issue is and they do not use the most precise language. Nobody likes an issue that stops you doing your job and calls for submitting a support ticket, so I can imagine you want to spend as little time as possible on that ticket.
  • As a result, things may have a different cause and solution than I expect from the description. I may think that it is permissions-related (I often do), while it may be PC, browser or document library settings. Or vice versa.

For instance “I can not manage my site” (to me, this sounds like a permissions issue) has meant different things in different circumstances:

  1. “I can not edit my site’s homepage” (because the page has been checked out to someone else – this is a document management issue, not a permission issue)
  2. “I can not manage permissions” (because I am not the owner of the group I want to manage – a permissions issue)
  3. “I can not manage this content in my site” (because this content has unique permissions and for one reason or another I am not in the site owner’s role here  – a permissions issue)
  4. “I do not know how to manage my site” is a training issue

With this SharePoint Holmes series I try to start with the issue as described by the user. As that is not always clear or correct, I sometimes start off on the wrong foot.

The case

“Hyperlinks in a document on SharePoint are not working” the title of the incident read.

Well, “not working” or “is broken” are always great and accurate descriptions that any support person loves to see 🙂 . So I called the owner and asked him to demonstrate the situation.

The issue was with a manual (in Word) that lived in a document library.  The document had some embedded documents as well as some hyperlinks to a company system.

The real problem was: “In this document, the embedded documents as well as some specific links can not be opened – they appear unclickable”

The investigation

    1. I opened the manual – I noticed that the document opened in Online format.
    2. I clicked on a number of links – all links to pages worked OK but I could not open the embedded docs. There was no “hotspot” or “zone” where the cursor showed something clickable.

      SH-Object Online
      The embedded Word document was not clickable
    3. The special links (to a certain system) looked properly configured, but they gave an error message.
    4. I could not find anything strange in versioning settings (no mandatory check out) or advanced settings. The opening behavior was set to “use the server default (open in the browser)” which is standard practice.
    5. I determined to take a better look at the document, because only that document caused the issue. I did not want to make changes to the content, so I downloaded it.
    6. I opened it in Word. The embedded documents could be opened – they had an active window. And I could open the special links too!

The solution

OK, this was easy. I changed the library’s opening behavior to “open in the Client application” and opened the document again. Yes, the embedded documents and the links were now clickable and opened without problems.

SH-Object Client
An active zone appears around the embedded document when opening the document in Word

I can not explain what was happening with the links but they could be opened in the Client software.

This is yet another illustration of the fact that the Online versions of the Office programmes are limited in functionality.

The owner of the manual was happy, but I suggested to upload all embedded documents into the document library and making links to them from the “Master Document”, instead of embedding. If they are in a document library, you can manage and update them online when needed, and the link in the Master document will always lead to an up-to-date document. If you embed the document, it will live on its own and there will be no history of changes or anything.

Which issues with the opening behaviour of document libraries have you encountered? (Apart from my earlier password-protected document case)

Image courtesy of Craig Whitehead on


SharePoint Holmes and the Missing Metadata


After all the recent permissions issues it was nice to get a Document Management case for a change.

The case

The issue was: “Every time I edit a document and save it, it is checked out and we need to check it in again and add the metadata. We have not set mandatory check-out in this library – what is going wrong?”.

I put on my SharePoint Holmes paraphernalia and set out to solve yet another case. Or so I hoped 🙂

The investigation

  1. I looked at the recently edited document. Indeed, the document was checked out with the yellow box where the metadata should have been.

    The document was checked-out and missed required metadata.
  2. I checked the Library Settings. Set to modern view, to open documents in the Client application, indeed no check out required. The “Topic” field needed a value.
  3. I uploaded another document and edited it without any issues – the document stayed checked in and retained the metadata. I edited the properties, no problem.
  4. I selected the checked-out document to view the properties. I quickly scrolled down the details pane to see the metadata. Yes, no topic selected, as expected.
  5. I Googled on the check-out issue as I had no clue what happened here.
    The solutions all pointed to something with “metadata” so I selected the document again to have a closer look at the metadata, and hoped that permissions and edit history would provide some extra clues.
  6. Someone called me on Skype so I left the details pane open without scrolling down.
  7. When I came back from my call, the answer stared me in the face.

    No preview available – aha!

The solution

I had seen this “No preview” message before on a password-protected Excel file. The owner confirmed this.
After some searching I came across several posts describing this behaviour. Apparently, SharePoint does not only respect the content of a password-protected document, but also the metadata. Hence, you have to re-add the metadata after each edit.

A request to change this behaviour has been submitted to Office 365 User Voice.

I discussed with the owner whether password protection was really needed as SharePoint has its own protection. As it turned out, the people who had the password were the same people who had access to the document and the document library, so she decided to remove the password.

I also checked what happens if this would have been a document library that opens documents in the Online version.
First, you get a warning message:



After editing in the client, you have the same result in the document library: the document is checked out and has missing metadata.

Another reason not to use password-protected documents in SharePoint!

Image courtesy of Simon Howden at


SharePoint Holmes and the Haunted Homepage

sphomepage-thumbPart of my role is solving user issues. Sometimes they are so common that I have a standard response, but sometimes I need to do some sleuthing to understand and solve it.
As many of my readers are in a similar position, I thought I’d introduce SharePoint Holmes, SharePoint investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.

The case

“Oh, Ellen, I think I have done something terrible to my site”, the site owner said, a note of panic in her voice. “I keep getting requests for access, while this is a site for all employees, and I do not know what I have done wrong”.

We had already noticed a number of tickets where people complained that they had lost access to this important site (and it was period-closing time so many people had to upload reports).

My first thought was “I hope she has not clicked “Delete Unique Permissions” when on the site permissions page” because that inherits the permissions from the parent AND removes all unique permissions from the site.
Although I like that as a thorough cleansing option for when you do not know how your permissions are set, in this case it would have been rather disastrous.

SharePoint Holmes to the rescue! I put on my admin cap and ventured into the site.

The investigation

  1. I opened the site. No problems for me, but then I am an admin so I have permissions for everything.
  2. Gear wheel > Site Settings > Site permissions. Phew, “This web site has unique permissions” was still there. So permissions had not been inherited.
    There were a number of groups with a variety of permission sets, including a Visitors group with Read permissions, which included all company employees. That looked OK.
    Of course there were also a few items with unique permissions, but that is not unusual and it hardly ever leads to a sudden flood of support tickets.
  3. I looked at what had been set as the homepage. (Site Settings > Welcome Page). “Homepage_New”.  That made sense.

    You can determine the welcome page yourself.
  4. I checked the Pages library. Yes, there was a page called Homepage_New and it was the page I had seen when I entered the site.
  5. It was time to check the permissions for the Pages library. Aha, “This library has unique permissions” and only the Owners (Full Control) and Visitors (Read) were mentioned. Good idea – you do not always want everyone with Edit or Contribute permissions to manage (and mess up) your pages.

    The Pages library had limited permissions to avoid unwanted editing. But Visitors (Bezoekers) have Read (Lezen) permissions. (I have tried everything to get this page to display in English, not Dutch, but it does not work.)
  6. Then I noticed something in the yellow box: “Some items of this list may have unique permissions which are not controlled from this page”. And yes, one of the pages was “Homepage_New” to which only the Site Owners had access…

    The Welcome page had different permissions – in this case only the Owners had access.

The solution

I quickly deleted the unique permissions from the page so at least Visitors could access the homepage again. Then I informed the site owner what had been causing the issue.

So yes, this was a permissions issue, but everyone still had access to the site. It was only the Homepage that was restricted, leading everyone to believe that they could also no longer reach the content of the site.


When this ever happens to you or your audience, and you expect that you have access to this site (e.g. because you have always had access or you have just been invited), try checking Site Contents.
Take the root of the site (…/sitename/) and then add “_layouts/15/viewlsts.aspx?view=14” to it. Create the link and paste it in the browser.
If you still get an access denied, you likely have no permissions.
If you see the content, it means there is something wrong with the welcome page.

Has this ever happened to your users?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at


SharePoint Holmes and the elusive Link


“Users can not access links”.
What a boring title, I thought when this incident was assigned to me. But, as usual, there was a twist to it.

The case

Several users of a local site received a “you do not have access” when they clicked a link that was added to a news item on the homepage. This link directed to a pdf-document.  According to the site owner, they should have access.

So I put my SharePoint Holmes Admin Hat on, and dove into the site.

The investigation

The homepage contained an Announcement list in Newsletter Style. The text “read more” (I know, not the best way to name a link) led to a pdf in a document library in the same site, called News Documents.

HH-Local News
The Local News list. “Read More” should take you to a document.

The News Documents library contained 2 items.

The News Documents library
The 2 documents

The document library inherited permissions from the site.
The audience included myself, so I decided to take a look as my “normal” self.

Yes, I could access the page. But when I clicked on the link “Read more” I got a “Sorry, you don’t have access to this page”.

I looked into Site Contents and saw that the library contained 2 items, but when I opened the library, I saw no documents. Hmmm.

As a normal user, I can see the News Documents library contains 2 documents.
As a normal user, I do not see any documents in this library.

I went back into admin mode, and checked again.

  1. I checked the link on the homepage – was it perhaps a broken link? No, it looked solid and led to the pdf without further ado.
  2. Did the documents open in browser by default, which might hamper the opening of a pdf? I checked the Advanced Settings but it opened by default in the client.
  3. Had the documents been checked out? No, I did not see the green tell-tale mark.
  4. I wanted to take a better look at the views, to see if those could tell me more.  There were rather a lot of columns in the default view, so I had to do some horizontal scrolling to get to the Views link.
    “Draft” I suddenly noticed in the right-hand column.
    “0.1” I saw in the column next to it. That column was called Version.
I had not seen the “Version” and “Approval Status” columns in my earlier investigation…


The solution

In the Versioning settings I noticed that content approval was enabled, and only people with approve permissions and the author could see drafts.

The Content Approval settings

Both documents had never been approved and were therefore visible for only a few users.  Everyone else got a “you do not have access” as for the majority of users, these documents were not yet accessible.

That explained why I could see it as an admin, but not as a normal user.

The site owner was not aware of the versioning as he had inherited the site. When I explained, he decided to turn of the content approval as that was not really needed for these documents.

Another issue solved! Now would you classify this as a document management issue or a permissions issue?

Image courtesy of vectorolie at


SharePoint Holmes and the disappearing Datasheet View

SPHolmes1Part of my role is solving user issues. Sometimes they are so common that I have a standard response, but sometimes I need to do some sleuthing to understand and solve it.
As many of my readers are in a similar position, I thought I’d introduce SharePoint Holmes, SharePoint investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.

The first case is about a Datasheet View.

The case

One of the users of a site did not see the items in a list. Having access to the data was a requirement for his role and he had always been able to see this content before it was migrated to SharePoint Online.

So, I put on my SharePoint Holmes cap and rolled up my sleeves.

The investigation

  1. I logged in with my Admin account and went into the site.
  2. I saw the items perfectly well. Just items in a Datasheet view.
  3. Permissions check – the user had Read permissions to the site.
  4. Items with unique permissions check – the list had unique permissions but the user had Read access.
  5. Item-level permissions check – in the Advanced List Settings it showed that all items were visible to all users of the site.
  6. Workflow check – no workflow reducing permissions after going through a process.

Right, that was an interesting one.

  1. It was time to look through the eyes of the user, so I added myself to the same user group and checked. An empty list stared back at me.
  2. I went through the other views and found a standard one. I could see the items in there, and so could my user.
  3. One of my colleagues mentioned that issues with the latest IE update had been reported, which might have influenced the Datasheet view.  We tried different browsers. That made no difference, but there was always that difference between user and admin.


The solution

Search engine to the rescue! One of the results surprised me, and I had to test that.

I created a datasheet view in my own tenant. It looked like this:

What the Admin sees

Then I logged in with Contribute permissions. It looked like this:

What a Contributor sees

Then I logged in with Read permissions. It looked like this:

What a Reader sees

You need at least Contribute permissions before you can see items in a Datasheet view.

The Datasheet view is meant for editing, so only people with edit permissions can see items in it. It makes sense and I have always told people to use the Datasheet view very sparingly as it is only too easy to change something. The many Excel-addicts in my user base however loved it and have also used it for display purposes in our SharePoint 2007 intranet.
Now they either have to elevate permissions or recreate their views.

Interestingly enough this was a permissions issue, but different from what I have ever seen before!

Image courtesy of Geerati at