Description column in SharePoint libraries – how to use

In this post we take a look at the description column that is available within SharePoint Online document libraries and how to make use of it.


There is a description column available in modern SharePoint document libraries. This description column comes out of the box when you create a new document library, or when you add/remove columns from the existing Shared Documents library that comes with every Team/ SharePoint site.

The problem

The description column exhibits some very strange behaviour. First of all, when you try add it to a library view it does not appear within the properties pane, nor is it a column you can add via edit “columns”.

When adding the properties column to document library views you are not able to edit the column.

If you add the column into a document library view and switch to edit in grid view mode, the column becomes read only meaning you can’t add anything into any of the cells within the library.

If you try to edit the column via edit in grid view the cells within the library are read-only.

The solution

This is more of a workaround than a solution as this appears to be a bug rather than desired behaviour. If you make the column mandatory, then optional it seems to do the trick! To do this:

  • Left-click on the Description column heading > column settings > edit
  • Press more options > set require that this column contains information to yes
  • Press save
Set the Description column to required, then optional to enable editing.
  • With this setting changed, when you edit your document library in grid view now you are able to enter data into the Description field
Once you have made the Description column required, you are able to add data via grid view.
  • Go back to edit the Description column settings and switch off require that this column contains information to make it optional

Add Description column to properties pane

Although the above will allow you to add data to the Description column, it will not add the Description column into the properties pane. You can get the Description column to appear by adding it to the default content type in the document library. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Press the cog > library settings
  • Under general settings > advanced settings
  • Set allow management of content types to yes
  • Press OK
Set allow management of content types to yes in the document library.
  • Scroll down to content types > select the document content type
  • Press add from existing site or list columns
Press add from existing site or list columns to add the Description column to the Document content type.
  • Ensure the Description column is selected > press add
  • Press OK
Add the Description column into the Document content type.

Go back to your document library, select a document and open the properties pane. You will now see the Description column is displayed in the properties pane, as well as being an editable field when you press edit all.

Bonus! History lesson and give your feedback

This description column appears to be a rather recent addition to all tenants, making it’s appearance in summer 2021 with the advent of Microsoft Lists. I went back to SharePoint 2010 just to double-check and sure enough the Description column was not present!

Out of the box SharePoint 2010 document library with no description column.

I’ve added a new item to the Microsoft feedback portal (UserVoice replacement) in the hope this gets addressed by the SharePoint product team so if you could upvote it that would be great!


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