10 differences between SharePoint List and Library

Every time the battle is long if we need to choose between SharePoint List vs Document Library while designing the application. We have created a comprehensive list of differences between both that will help you to decide, which one is best for your requirement over the other.

1. Check-In/Check-Out feature

List: Do not support
When you select a list item from the list, you can directly edit the item. There is no option available for check-out and then make changes.

Library: Supports.
When you select a document in the document library, you will get options for check-In/Check-out the document. This is one of the most important documents management features. list vs library checkin checkout

2. Versions Supported

List: Only major versioning.
Go to List settings >> Versioning. You can specify whether you want to enable versioning or not. As you can see in the screenshot, you can enable only major versioning for the list. You can also specify the number of versions to retain.

Library: Major (Published) and Minor (draft) versioning.
Go to Library settings >> Versioning. You can set major as well as minor versioning. Also, for both major and minor versioning, you can specify the number of versions to retain. list vs library version supported

3. Document

List: You can have documents as an attachment to the list item.
The screenshot is of the Edit list item. You can see the option of attaching the file as highlighted. There’s no maximum limit of attaching the document here but if you are in mobile view maximum you can see 3 attachments.

Library: The document itself is stored as an item in the library.
In the library metadata update window, you can see there’s no option of attaching the document. The row item itself contains a document and you can just specify the metadata for that document. list vs library document

4. Document in Search results

List: Not available in search results.
The documents you add as attachments are not indexed, hence they won’t be available in search results. I added an attachment in a list item, crawled it, and then I tried to search in the OOB search box. You can see the result. Didn’t get the document in the search results.

Library: Available in Search results.
The document added in the document library is crawled and available on the search results page. In the document library, I added a document and after crawl, you can see it is displayed in the search results.
This is one more big advantage of using the Document library over the SharePoint list. If you want your document also to be crawled and displayed in search results then Document library is the option for you. list vs library dcoument in search results

5. eDiscovery Feature

List: Documents added as an attachment will not work with eDiscovery feature

Library: Documents in the library will work with the eDiscovery feature. This is the same reason (Search Service crawls documents but not attachments) as we went through in the above section, the eDiscovery feature will work for Document Library but will not work for the SharePoint list.
  • eDiscovery is the feature that you very rarely consider while designing your application.
  • Basically, the eDiscovery feature uses the SharePoint search service only, to get hold of content, document, information, and store it at a single or rather central location.
  • 6. Document Set

    List: Not Available
    Add Document Set content type in the list. Go to list >> Add an Item of Type Document Set. You will get an error as shown in the screenshot because the Document set is not supported in SharePoint List.

    Library: Available
    You can have document sets in the library. Add Document Sett Content type in the library. Now you can see, you can add a document set in the library. list vs library document set

    7. Item-level Permissions

    List: Available.
    In the List Advance settings, you will find a section for setting Item-level Permissions.
    Besides Site and List level permission, you can also set the Item level permission for the users having Read, Create and Edit access to the site or list (item-level permission would not apply to the users having Design level permission at the site or list level).

    Library: Not Available.
    For Library we don’t have such a facility available.
    This can be a major decider on certain scenarios where you want to apply for the permission on your data per row/item basis. list vs library item level permission

    8. Document Template

    List: Not Available.
    SharePoint list doesn’t support this feature of document management.

    Library: Available
    In the document library, we have an option to store a document as a template in the library advance settings section so that when you create an Item/document, instead of a blank document, a templated document will open. You can set header, footer, and any other customization in the template.
    I can say this is one of the most underutilized features of SharePoint document management. The system architect must consider this if the application needs various types of templated documents in the document library.

    Note:

    You need to switch off the content type usage as shown in the screenshot below.

    list vs library document template

    9. Custom Send To Destination

    List: Not Available.
    This is also obvious. The list doesn’t support the document so document sends to destination functionality would also not available here.

    Library: Available.
    In document library advanced settings, you can specify the Destination name and Destination URL. After that, when you select any document, you will see this destination in ribbon for option list vs library custom send to destination

    10. Location-based column default value

    List: Not Available.
    On list level, this feature is not available so you’ll need to set the default value of the column from site or list level only. 
  • Library: Available.
    In the SharePoint document library, we can set column default values based on in which folder your document is added.
    So, if your document is in the root folder, you can specify a different default value to a column if it is in an inner folder, you can specify a different default value of the same column.
    Do you know how to create location-based column default value?.
  • When I suggested this feature in my team, most of the people were not even aware that such a feature is available.

    list vs library location based column default value

    Please do write to us in the comment section below if we have missed covering any difference that you know.


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