What is a document library?

Applies to: SharePoint Online, Office for business, Office 365 Small Business, SharePoint Server 2019 SharePoint Online Small Business.

A document library offers provides a secure hub to store files where you and your coworkers can locate them easily, collaborate on them together, and access them from any device at any time. For example, you can use a document library on a site in SharePoint Online to store all files related to a specific project or a specific client. Adding files or moving files between folders is as easy as dragging and dropping them from one location to another.

A thumbnail view of a document library with nothing selected.

Note: Does your screen look different than this? Your administrator may have classic experience set on the document library. If so, see Introduction to libraries. If you’re a document library owner, site owner, or administrator, see Switch the default experience for document libraries from new or classic for the steps to set the default experience.

Note: Some features are currently only available in classic experience. Click Return to classic SharePoint in the bottom, left corner of the page to switch to classic experience.

The primary site in SharePoint Online and SharePoint Server 2019 contains a document library and one is created instantly once you design a new site. You can add additional document libraries to a site as needed. This is useful, for example, if you need to restrict access to a set of files. Every document library displays a list of files, folders, and key information about each, like who created or last modified a file. You can use this information to organise your files and make it easier to find them.

In a document library, you can:

  • Add a link in a document library to something that is stored outside the library, for example, a link to a file located in a different library or even a link to an external web page.

Let’s take a look around

At the top left of the document library page is the main menu.

SharePoint Onine Document Library menu

From there, you can produce a new folder, document, or a link to something that is found beyond the document library,

Office 365 Create a new folder or document

(Note: The list of document types will vary depending on your permissions and how your site was set up.)

or upload a folder or files.

Office 365 Upload files or folder to a document library

Note: Folders are not currently supported by Internet Explorer.

You can also sync files with the new OneDrive sync app or create an alert to receive a notification once there is a modification.

At the top right of the document library page, select View options to edit the document library view to List, Compact, Tiles view. If using Internet Explorer, you can access the document library in Windows File Explorer, by pressing View in File Explorer. You can also save a custom view by choosing Save view as or, if you are a library owner or administrator, you can alter or form views on the library settings page by selecting Edit current view.

Office 365 Change document library view
Document Library Add a Column Button

You can insert add new columns and pick the columns to present by pressing + or + Add columns on the far right side of the column headers if you’re in list view or, if you’re in Tiles view, by choosing Document Library Arrange Button and then pressing Document Library Add a Column Button on the far right side of the column headers.

Add a column drop down in a group connected document library

You can view and edit information about a file or folder, like required properties, recent activity or who a file is shared with, in the information pane. To display or conceal the information pane, pick a file or folder and press Document Library Details Pane on the right-hand side of the main menu. You can also glance at the information pane by right-clicking a file or folder and choosing Details.

Office 365 Document Metadata Panel

After you click a folder or file, the menu at the top left of the document library transforms to an action list you can conduct on that folder or file.

A selected file shows change in document library menu

Note: To expose the file or folder menu when in thumbnail view, select the top right corner of the thumbnail.

You can view another version of the document menu by right-clicking the file name or, if in list view, by choosing the ellipses Office 365 Document library list ellipses beside the file name. This menu includes further actions including Pin to top which illuminates files, enabling faster access by you and others.

Pin to top on file menu

Ready to start?

Here are some additional help articles to get you going:

Work with files in a document library

Create a folder in a document library

Create a new file in a document library

View and edit information about a file, folder, or link in a document library

Storage space allowances and other software limits in SharePoint Online

When should I use a document library instead of OneDrive for Business?

See Should I save files to OneDrive or SharePoint? to learn the best area to store your files.

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