Modern Document Sets

Photo credit: Sear Greyson

Article Updated: Feb 17, 2022

Introduction

I wrote about Modern Document Sets a couple years ago when they were first released. I have decided to revisit them in this article. I’ll be keeping the content that still applies and have updated the sections that have changed.

Modern Document Sets

Document sets have been around in SharePoint for years. When describing them, I generally call them “super folders” or “folders on steroids”. As the name states, they group together “like” documents, and their superpowers include the ability to share their metadata with the files inside them. This helps by reducing the properties (or metadata) the user must provide.

Document sets where one of the features that would return the user to the classic interface, but they started rolling out in the modern SharePoint interface around May 2019.

Enabling Document Sets in a Site

The document set feature isn’t enabled by default. To enable this, go to:

Gear > Site Information > View all site settings > 
Site Collection Administration (group) > Site collection features

Find the Document Sets feature and click the Activate button.

Result:

Once the feature is activated, go to any library on the site, then:

Gear > Library settings > Advanced Settings > Allow management of content types? > Yes

and click the OK button.

From the Library Settings Screen click “Add from existing site content types”.

At the top of the screen you may see:

This will lead you to believe that you can’t use this interface to add the Document Set Content Type. But just ignore it and continue. 😀

Add the Document Set content type by selecting it, clicking Add, and then Ok.

On the Library settings page, click on “Document Set” under the Content Types heading, then select Document Set settings. This is where the power of the document set can be applied. In the Shared Columns Section, select “Description” and click the OK button at the bottom.

Return to your Document library and add the Description column to the All Documents view.

Create a new Document Site by clicking the New button and selecting “Document Set”.

Note: After adding the Document Set Content Type you are missing all the menu items like, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. Use the Edit New menu link here to add them back.

Fill out the metadata for the Document Set and click the Save Button.

Note: This screen still shows in the classic interface.

You will be returned to the Document library and the Document Set will be showing.

Navigating into the document set will open the information panel so you can view the Document Set properties.

Note: When I wrote the original version of this article, I was able to edit the properties in this panel (except Name), but when I clicked “Edit all” I would get an error on the Name field saying “You can’t leave this blank.”. This seems issue seems to be fixed. You can even edit the name, but you will have to navigate back to the Document Set afterwards.

At this point when you add or create documents, they will take on the shared metadata.

Note: Document sets do not “default” the shared values. They set them on the documents. This means you can’t change shared values on the documents. They will revert to the Document Set value.

What was Missing in the Initial Release?

Modern Document Sets were missing a few features from the classic implementation when they were first released. These included:

  • Welcome page
  • Capture Version
  • Version History

I’m happy to report that versioning has been added since my initial article was published.

For an in depth explanation of Document Set versioning head on over to the SharePoint Maven site and read Greg’s excellent article on the subject titled How to capture the Version History of a Document Set.

What’s [Still] Missing?

Welcome pages never have received a modern equivalent. 😟

I am hopeful that Document Libraries will get the ability to modify the Header/Body/Footer of the form like you can with SharePoint lists so when the properties panel is displayed, you would get more of a Welcome page feel.

Conclusion

Microsoft have almost provided feature parity for modern Document Sets. There is still the issue of the welcome page, but they are very close. I love document sets, and I’m glad they finally made their way to modern SharePoint.

Author: Mike Hatheway

I'm a husband, father of twins, and a consultant specializing in M365. Generally focused on Teams, SharePoint, and the Power Platform. I hold several Microsoft certifications and I work at Bulletproof Solutions.

2 thoughts

  1. Thanks for your articulate re-take here, Mike! Spot-on! Can i just say – “Welcome Page” is a HUGE feature (and hole at the moment.) I had (in onprem) been using Welcome Page to show *other* lists and list items which were relevant to that document set – using combinations of query string filtering.

    For example: when viewing the document set for this contract, bring forward the tasks (from the site’s task list) which were associated (through lookup column) to this document set!

    Here’s to hoping “Welcome Page” gets elevated in the scheme of to-do’s for development!

    Like

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