One of the joys of Office 365 life is finding features buried in an application that you never knew existed. It’s possible that you might never end up using the feature, but there’s a certain deliciousness in discovering something new and probing how it works. Which is what happened when I stumbled across automatic SharePoint document IDs, a way of assigning a system-generated identifier to documents. The document ID service goes back to SharePoint 2010, when Microsoft introduced the feature as part of its expansion of SharePoint’s record management capabilities.
I’ve worked with legal and government agencies over the years and understand the deep and abiding love that exists in some quarters for document ids, which they can use as file or case numbers. The thought of referring to a document as PRJ0-1974991961-1874 instead of MyDoc.docx might not appeal to you, but it does make sense when you want to be able to assign a unique identifier to a document in a mass of many hundreds or thousands of similar documents.
Most SharePoint Online site collections belong to Office 365 Groups or Teams (aka, modern team-enabled sites). I selected a couple of groups to play with document IDs. The directions to enable the Document ID service in Microsoft’s online documentation were incorrect (they might be adjusted now). To enable the Document ID service, a site administrator (group or team owner) or tenant administrator performs the following steps:
SharePoint stores the ID as part of a document’s metadata. You can see the document ID by viewing the properties of a document or by adding the Document ID to the list of columns displayed in a library view (Figure 3). This kind of extended information isn’t revealed by the simplified “Files” view for SharePoint document libraries currently used by Teams (Microsoft is due to make a new Files interface available for Teams soon).
A document ID is composed of:
If you select a document and view its properties, you see that the document ID is a hyperlink that you can copy and reuse to open the document using Office Online (Figure 4). The link is of the form:
When opened, this resolves to a link like:
Apart from anything else, SharePoint stores document IDs in a managed property called DlcDocId, which means that you can search for a specific document by using a search command like:
This works very nicely with SharePoint search because it knows the difference between queryable and searchable properties. A property is queryable if you can find things by including the property name and a value in a search. It is searchable if you only need to include the value.
Once you move outside SharePoint, other Office 365 searches like Delve or Office 365 content searches won’t find items based on document IDs unless:
If you don’t know much about how the SharePoint search schema works, it’s probably a good idea to consult an expert before you make changes of this nature for a production tenant.
An advantage of any identifier is that it stays consistent throughout a lifecycle. In the case of document IDS, this is true if:
In addition, if you reset the document identifiers for a site and choose to update all current documents, the original identifiers are overwritten.
Document IDs won’t inspire or excite everyone. It is a concept for those interested in records management rather than those who simply want to use SharePoint as a convenient place to hold documents. But you never know when a feature like Document IDs might turn out to be useful, which is why I’ve left the service enabled for several of my sites.