Externally Sharing – User experience with SharePoint Online


Externally Sharing Series:

Continuing from my previous blog “Externally Sharing – Settings within SharePoint Online” which shows you the different configuration settings within your tenant to enable External Sharing, this blog post is showing from a user perspective how to share, and from the external user’s perspective on the email they receive and how they sign in.

As an internal user sharing

From a document library/list, a user can easily share a document/folder with an external user.

  • Click on the document that you wish to share.
  • From the ribbon click on Share
  • From the dialog, select the drop down.
  • Select Specific people, optionally untick Allow editing if you only wish to give read access.
  • Put in the email address.
  • Click Send

An email will be sent to the user.

To find out who the document has been shared with, click the tick next to the document, then open the information panel. Under Has Access, click Mange Access.

If the user you have shared with, is found within your tenants directory, they will be added as a person to the manage access section. (Cliff K) in screenshot above. If the external user is not found in your directory, then a link will be created. (The top link in the screenshot above). By hovering your mouse over the image below the link, will show you who that person is.

An external user experience

An external user will receive an email from no-reply@sharepointonline.com. Please Note: The email might be in the users Junk Email.

The external user will need to click the link. They will be taken to a page, where they need to verify that it is them.

The external user will need to click the Send Code button. An email will be sent to their email address and be given a code. Please note: This email could also end up in the Junk folder.



The external user will then gain access to the file.

What documents are externally shared?

Unless you are the only user on the site, you will not know what documents have been externally shared. There is a way to see what documents have been externally shared for a given site.

  • Go to Site Contents.
  • Along the menu bar click the Site Usage button.
  • Then click the Shared externally tab.

This will display the externally shared items.

Issues with the Externally Shared tab

Although the above shows you which documents are externally shared, it is flawed in a couple of ways.

  1. It relies on Search. Meaning that documents may not show up for a while.
  2. It only shows documents that have been externally shared, and the external user has viewed the file. This is because there is a flag on the file that get’s updated, only after an external user has viewed the file, not when you have shared it.
  3. Following on from the last point, your site could have lots of documents externally shared, but you would never know if no one externally has viewed the file.
  4. Sharing of a folder will show up the folder in the list, (if external user goes directly to the folder). However, any items that are within the folder, which would also be externally shared, do not show up in this list. (Even if the external user has viewed the files)

This blog post has described how you would share a document with an external user, and how that external user would then gain access to the document. Lastly, I have shown where you can view which documents have been externally shared, although it isn’t great.

My next post will be more development focused, and explain how I’m able to work out if an item has been externally shared or not.


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