The User Experience in SharePoint Modern Lists and Libraries

The User Experience in SharePoint Modern Lists and Libraries

Last summer, Microsoft rolled out a new look and feel for SharePoint document libraries and lists, which they called the “Modern Experience” (also referred to as the New experience. Since that time, Microsoft has continued to add features to this new user interface in SharePoint Online, and they currently plan to roll out some of the features to SharePoint Server 2016 via upcoming Feature Packs. This article is meant as an overview of what the modern experience means to you, who use SharePoint lists and libraries each day in your work. (NOTE: features and screenshots mentioned here are current as of July 2017.)

If your SharePoint Online administrator has not disabled the Modern Experience, the first thing you’ll notice is some changes to where things are on the page. Microsoft did extensive user testing before creating this design, and found that for new users, this interface is more intuitive and allows them (you) to work more efficiently. However, if you’re accustomed to the “Classic” interface, it may take a little getting used to. Give it a chance, though, as there is a lot to recommend it. Below is a comparison of the Classic and Modern experience for a SharePoint Document Library


sandra blog pic 1


sandra blog pic 2

  1. No more ribbon menus. Files options are now accessed directly within the library after selecting a file. Library Settings are now available from the gear menu.
  2. The Quick Launch (now called Site Navigation) is still there on the left, but in the second screenshot, you can see that the Modern library is responsive – this means that when the window is reduced to a certain point, the Site Navigation items are moved to a “hamburger” menu in the upper left corner. This is especially useful when viewing the library on a tablet or other mobile device.
  3. New actions: There are now Flow and Alert actions just above the library, and on custom lists there’s also a PowerApps action available. Flow is Microsoft’s new workflow tool, and PowerApps allows you to design mobile apps which work with your SharePoint (and other) data.
  4. The SharePoint search function for the current library is now located above the Quick Launch on the left. Or, if the window is smaller, Search moves to the action bar, as shown in the Modern screenshot.
  5. View selection has moved. Also, from the Views dropdown menu you can now select to view items as a list (shown here), or as tiles.

Here are some things which are only available in the Modern experience:

sandra blog pic 3


  1. The Filter icon opens a Filters pane, which lets you easily filter on things like date ranges and other values. If you’ve created custom columns, they’ll also be available via the filter pane, allowing ease of content discovery within the list or library.
  2. The Info icon opens a Details pane, which is also quite cool. When you have no items selected in the list or library, the Details pane show you information about what was edited or added, when, and by whom. When you have an item selected, the Details pane lets you view and edit basic information about an item, without going into edit mode, or opening it. You can also view and edit permissions from the Details pane.
  3. You can now “pin” items to the top of the library via the item menu, or from the top menu after selecting one or more items. This allows you to highlight content from your list or library that you want others to be able to see right away when they visit the library. The pinned item will include an image from the document, if there is one.When one or more items are selected, you will also see some different options in the top action bar, where many commonly used options have been moved into the bar rather than being in the drop-down. See the screenshots below for a comparison.

When one or more items are selected, you will also see some different options in the top action bar, where many commonly used options have been moved into the bar rather than being in the drop-down. See the screenshots below for a comparison.

sandra blog pic 4


sandra blog pic 5

sandra blog pic 6


Here are some highlights, in addition to Pin and Flow which were mentioned above:

  1. Some commonly-used options (Open, Download, Delete) have been moved into the action bar rather than being in the dropdown, requiring fewer clicks. Open allows you to select whether to open the item in the browser or in the appropriate Office desktop app.
  2. The Modern Copy Link gives you slightly different options than Get a Link:

sandra blog pic 7

3. You can now move items to another folder within this library.

      4. Copy has been enhanced, so you no longer need to enter a URL, but rather you can select a folder in the current library or your OneDrive, or another location within your SharePoint Online tenant.

       5. Alert options have been added to the action dropdown. This allows you to set an alert on a specific item (for example, to be notified when it has been updated).

       6. Check Out has been moved to the action dropdown, rather than being in the Advanced option, saving a click.Another area of the interface that’s different appears when you click on the item menu (…) beside an item. In Classic mode, you’ll see a flyout showing some information about the item, along with several action options. In the Modern experience, information about the item is in the Details pane instead, so you just get the action options.


sandra blog pic 8


sandra blog pic 9

The item menu options are the same for the most part, or have the same differences as the action bar options. But the Modern experience also adds an action under “More” called Compliance Details, which gives information about record retention, content type, etc:


sandra blog pic 10

And a few final notes:

  • After navigating to a folder within a Modern list or library, the breadcrumb is below the action menu rather than above it.
  • When clicking New to add an item, in addition to being able to add a folder, Office item (Word document, Excel spreadsheet, etc), or list item, in a Modern list or library you can add a Link directly into the library. The link can be to any webpage or file (with a list of recent files displayed for your convenience). This allows you to enable access to related files without creating duplicates in multiple libraries, preventing redundancy.
  • In addition to using the dropdown menu in a column heading to filter the column, you can now also group by the values in that column, without going to Library Settings.
  • You can change the width of columns by dragging in the heading area. You can also add new columns and rearrange them via the column menu:

sandra blog pic 11

  • Still not quite ready to switch to the modern experience? When viewing a Modern List or Library in a full-sized window, you’ll see a link in the lower left corner that allows you to “Return to classic SharePoint”. Microsoft has confirmed recently that there are no plans to permanently remove “Classic” mode, so you can fall back to that interface if you wish or need to do so. For example, you might have customizations added to your existing lists or libraries which aren’t compatible with the Modern experience.But with all the great new and upcoming features in the Modern experience, and its compatibility with mobile devices, you’ll likely want to take advantage of everything Modern lists and libraries have to offer.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Pin It on Pinterest