Organizing your OneDrive for Business

We all agree that folders are bad, right? They only make sense at a certain point in time and only mean something to the person who created them. Everyone hates the folders in SharePoint which someone else created, but I find the majority of people still organize their personal OneDrive for Business files within folders.

The problem with this is that OneDrive for Business screams and begs for you to share those files with others, so users create folders as a mechanism to define who has access to sets of data. Folder names like the built-in “Shared with Everyone” or “Shared with Team X” become the ACLs which makes sense for a specific project, but that concept quickly detoriates when project members change or someone else needs access to a subset of content within that folder.

I was guilty of the same crime for a long time, but have recently adopted a new technique I think works really well. It goes like this:

  • Store all your files in a completely flat structure within OneDrive for Business, and set permissions only at the file level. No folders allowed. Sort the view by Modified Date for an extra boost because this way everything you’re actually working on is front and center, similar to a “Recent Documents” view.

  • If a group of files lend themselves to being shared together, put them on SharePoint or in an Office 365 Group. Your personal OneDrive for Business isn’t the best fit for a set of documents which are related. You should set up a document library, team site, or Office 365 Group to move that effort forward. Sync that location to keep a local copy handy.

  • Create a single folder called Archive. Similar to mail archive concepts the only thing that goes in here are files you haven’t accessed in a really long time and need to keep around for reference.


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Some personal background, links to related projects, and other ways to connect.

Hi there. My name is Tom Pacyk and this is my small home on the web. I love the intersection of design, technology, and communication, which is a combination that led me to a career in sales and marketing roles at places like Zoom and ServiceNow. They're a bit old now, but I also had the opportunity to publish a couple of books along the way.

Portland, Oregon is home for me, my wife Beth, and our three kids, but I'm actually a Midwestern transplant—I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and went to school at Purdue and Illinois. When I find some free time I'm probably going to concerts, rooting for the Portland Timbers, or working on my Sunshine Burn Photography project.