We work with a lot of clients and from time to time, many aren’t ready for metadata.  They agree that files are difficult to find and there are a ton of nested subfolders, the users just aren’t ready to use metadata instead of those folders.  Are we resigned to living in the time-wasting droll of having no idea if the subfolder they are clicking into will even have files in it?  No! 

Afraid of Metadata? Two Quick Tips to Avoid Clicking Empty Folders in SharePoint

I’ll show you two quick ways to alleviate the pain of the hunting and pecking users are forced to do when they don’t use search and trying to find a certain file.  The key is baked into every SharePoint document library.  Of course I’m an advocate for the balanced use of metadata (where applicable), but this is a nice stop gap if you’re not there yet.

Thanks Microsoft

I don’t have a SharePoint 2007 environment to test to validate if this exists there too but this one of these tips works for SharePoint 2010, 2013, 2016 and Online, and the other just works for SharePoint Online (and SharePoint 2019).

Tip #1 - Fix for Any SharePoint Version

The secret is something that someone at Microsoft knew your pain and was thinking ahead and I’ve never seen one client use.  In every document library there are two magically awesome columns that you might not even have ever noticed:

  • Item Child Count
    • This column stores the number of FILES directly under the current folder.
  • Folder Child Count
    • This column

All you have to do is add them to the view and note the counts.  If there’s a 0, there’s no need to click into it because its empty! 

SharePoint Item Child Count and Folder Child Count columns in a view with counts

Tip #2 - SharePoint Online (and 2019)

If you’re using SharePoint Online (or going to use SharePoint 2019 since it’s using modern views now too) it’s even easier though slightly different.  You can still do the columns in the view like above if you like.  But change the view style to Tiles:

SharePoint Online change view style to Tiles

Note how it looks as there are a couple things going on here:

SharePoint Online Tiles view style

By default it gives us a child count number which is a COMBINATION of folders and files inside that folder.  So in the case of the Client Folders folder, it shows 43.  There are 40 subfolders and 3 files inside it. 

The other thing it does is shade the background white if there’s nothing inside it.  Nice!