Document Sets vs Folders in SPO

Occasional Contributor

Hi All,


Document Sets is something I've been questioning since helping people move to SharePoint Online.

With each modern feature being rolled out the advantage of Document Sets over folders is blurring for me.

The approach to using modern features is new to me so I was hoping to discuss my thoughts:


Team sites and Hub sites 

In modern SharePoint architecture we are moving/moved away from sub sites. This has been great for organisation where restructures seem to happen more often than not and teams moving to different departments or reporting lines. 


The push to use team (sharepoint) sites over subsites, leaves us with content types being created and managed per site. Upon writing this I looked at some solutions and my thinking would be to use syndication hub to manage content types for hubs and their connected sites and site scripts in place of site templates. 

Is this correct would everything being managed over site scripts be a better approach?

Can site scripts be executed over an existing site to update? (For example adding more choices to field)

What are each disadvantage and advantages? 


Document sets vs folders

The change resistance to move away from folders has been a battle in multiple organisations. No matter how easy or fool proof the design is, the tiring conversation of folders wears on me. I would like to give the user what they want.

The drive for metadata comes from the business wanting to have reporting through filtering and records management (retention and disposal). Sites that are not driven by these requirements, are less structured. Doc sets/metadata is recommended but the choice is left with business. 


Content types can be applied to folders, however this becomes a mess when using nested folders as users try to replicate their network file structure.


I do not see much news around Document Sets from Microsoft - especially with the advent of Teams and One Drive for Business. 

Are document sets the way forward anymore?

Is there a recommended approach to deliver good information architecture using folders in SharePoint Online? 




8 Replies
Microsoft is working on modernizing document sets so if you ask my opinio, I will advice to use them because same advantages we have Today are going to be in modern document sets

I see the status is already set as "Rolling Out" -


I also see that MS Flow is also supporting Document Set now.


Thanks & Regards,


@bhanu chintha 

Is there details on what will be made available on that change?


@keviseealthough i've been a big fan of content type driven lists and libraries and using metadata to capture all the required properties for a document, which eventually minimize the need of nested folders with in a library, however the narrative of using document sets perfectly aligns with the concept of re-usability of the content types and the ability to share the metadata is amazing, therefore document sets would be my choice going forward.

How are you achieving the re-usability of the content types across multiple sites?

As we've moved away from subsites and into a flat structure with SPO are you using site scripts or syndicate hubs ?


I appreciate your insight @SaurabhDhall 

@keviseei used content type synchronization hub when we were on prem, however we're on 365 now, and although i think i saw this option on 365 once but a long time ago (maybe) but dont remember seeing it anytime lately, and in the new sp admin centre, when you go to settings, there is no option for content type hub over there, which makes me nervous. Therefore, when i migrated sites and structure (using sharegate) from on-prem to 365 i managed to take all the site columns and content types along with it... although i don't have any immediate need to copy the content types across different sites (site collections) for now, however I've already disabled the group creation for my users as a part of governance, only i (365 service account) can create the groups, which means that users can't create the site collections either, therefore when required i'll be creating new site collections using powershell and i'll embedd the script to copy the site columns and content types within. hope my rumbling thoughts made some sense.


Thanks for your input! really appreciate valuable methods on how other professionals are tackling information management within SPO.


I think everyone on this thread is onboard with the value of DocSets and Metadata. My question is how people have been addressing for a good Information Architecture. Mainly because SPO recommended site structures are hub and team sites. 


The site collection you're migrating, are there subsites along with it?

Will you migrate those subsites in to their own team site?

If so how will you maintain columns (for examples choices, so that they are consistent across all sites)?


Thanks again


@keviseeI'm not migrating anything now, but when i did, i first sorted out the mess on the source (on prem), gave each departmental site collection a webapp of its own, just so i could manage the customization one-by-one, then i migrated a webappp (which was now a departmental site only) to a teamsite on 365, and i was able to retain all the list columns and content type (but those became local to that teamsite), which worked like a charm (ofcource nintex played up a little).


Although there is no need for us to have new content types right away, however when the need comes, now it will be evaluated if the reqmt for new content type is to make it a global ct or local ct, if later it will happen on the teamsite level, but if global, then its going to be a challenge to sync that.