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 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”.
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.
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
- With this setting changed, when you edit your document library in grid view now you are able to enter data into the Description field
- 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
- Scroll down to content types > select the document content type
- Press add from existing site or list columns
- Ensure the Description column is selected > press add
- Press OK
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!
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!
This was very, very helpful. I was getting an error message about a 255 character limit that was solved by going in to edit the Description attributes. I randomly changed the max lines and when clicking OK it gave me an error about switching to plain text. Apparently the default was to contain the html formatting characters, which were shown in plain text and could be removed
Hi Mike, thank you for the feedback and glad it helped!