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Now You See It, Now You Don’t

If you have supported SharePoint users for at least, let’s say, three days then you probably have received the “I can’t see the documents” message from a frantic user. The process goes something like this:

  • Mary uploads a few documents into a document library and tells Steve

  • Steve goes to the library and sees nothing

  • Steve calls Mary; Mary calls you; Everyone blames SharePoint

  • You quickly eliminate security as the culprit

  • You have full control on the site and you don’t see any documents!

  • You start checking the job websites because SharePoint support is a pain in the $%^&*

OK, breathe for a second and look at the symptoms above more closely… there are two very important lessons to be learned here.

NUMBER 1 – When we ruled out security, everything points directly to checked out documents. When a user checks out a document in SharePoint, no one else can see it until it is checked in. How do you know the files really, really exist? There is a link in Library Settings that brings you to a list of all checked out documents. There you will find the list of “missing” documents and current owners. From here, you can ask Mary to check in the files or take ownership and do the check in yourself. Magic! The files have reappeared!

NUMBER 2 – Sometimes, a content owner has the documents checked out for good reason (i.e. she is working on updates). In this case, Mary explains that she simply dragged and dropped the files into the library and has no edits in play. Then what happened? Metadata! In this library, there is a required field that has no default value. So… when the files are dragged into the library that value is not set and the documents are checked out and cannot be checked in until that field is set. Bad user experience? Maybe. Options? [1] Don’t make the field required [2] Have a default value [3] educate content owners of this nuance.

Remember, in this shell game the document is always under one of the shells. Recycle Bin, Security, or Checked Out. Use the clues and you will always find the document.

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