If you have been working with SharePoint for a long time, you will agree with me on the fact that one of the most annoying things to deal with is opening a library with Windows Explorer. Why is that? because this is a really simple functionality that should work out of the box under every different circumstance but, at the end of the day, you realize that when you really need it, there is no way for you to make it work.
On this article I would like to give you some hints that might save you some time when dealing with the issue. In addition it will be useful for some articles I'm working on that will rely a lot on this piece of functionality.
First of all, for those of you that are not familiar with what this is all about, the figure below shows a ribbon action (Open with Explorer) that allows you to open a Windows Explorer window with the contents of that library. From there you will be able to interact with them or even to map it to a network drive so you can easily access it whenever you need it. Cool.
If you are familiar with the picture above, you will know that this button is disabled (or won't work) 9 out of 10 times. Why? because it depends on the operating system and on the internet browser you are using. It ONLY works on Internet Explorer and not in all versions. As of today (this might change in the future), if you are using Chrome, Firefox, Safari or even Edge, do not even try to make it work. And, even if you are using IE, you will have a great time trying to make it work in, for example, a Server's operating system like Windows 2008 or 2012. You will need to install the Desktop Experience feature and enable the WebClient service. I would rather recommend not doing that. Why would you need to use this feature in a server's operating system? Some of you will need this for development purposes but, as you will see in future posts, I will try to prevent you from doing it.
If you just need to perform a simple operation, with the button shown above you have more than enough but if you are working with SharePoint most of the days in different environments, you lose a lot of time because what you do is:
- Log in into the site
- Browse to the library you want to access
- Search for the button in the Ribbon
- Realize the button is disabled
- Close Chrome, open IE and repeat process
- Realize that the site is not in the trusted sites list
- Add it, close IE, open it again and repeat process
Probably some of you don't know that there is a shortcut you can take to optimize the process described above and it consists on directly using the UNC path to the library. Imagine you have a SharePoint site that you can browse on http://contoso.com. You can directly access it by running the following command:
Depending on the type of authentication the system will request your credentials once but you willbe done in just one or two steps. Just bear in mind that this is just a shortcut so, if you are using a server's operating system, do not waste time trying unless you meet all the requirements as described above.
Does it work with Office 365? Yes it does. There is only one difference in the process. Unless you have single-sign-on in place, you will need to browse the site once and provide your credentials. Of course the UNC will have some differences and it will look something like: