File Modified date misalignment in SharePoint, Explorer View and file shares/drives


Most of you have been using for ages now the Explorer View of a Document Library. It’s indeed one of the most controversial features SharePoint (sometimes painful for IT Pros) offered since early days but is arguably one of those feature that seduced the “normal” and non-IT users thanks to the easiness of move/copy drag and drop.

During a recent scenario we discovered a misalignment between a file’s “Modified SharePoint metadata field and the actual Date Modifiedof the file as displayed in the Explorer View (if one uses the Explorer View of a Document Library or if the Document Library is mapped as a network drive on the users computer – very common scenario for users) or if one checks the date of the file properties in Office applications (e,g Word, Excel, etc)

The complete scenario is as follows: the “Modified” column in SharePoint has been basically overwritten during a copy/move operation performed using the Document Library Explorer View and now reflects the “Modified” date in which the moving operation was done instead of the last modification date of the file itself.

Below the picture displays the Modified date as it appears in SharePoint (2/08/2012) which is indeed the date where the file was moved from the source to this Document Library:

Below the picture displays the Modified date as it appears if we use the Explorer View on the same Document Library (with the original date when the file was truly modified (27/7/2012):

When you upload a document to a document library SharePoint will use the last modified date as the date which the upload was done while the Explorer view (Windows) will display the modified date stored as property of the file itself!

This behavior can also be explained from another angle: “Modified” date in SharePoint is actually the Content Type modification date while “Modified” date in Windows (classical file shares or drives) is the date of the file itself.

Well, in our case this behavior creates big problems given the fact that many users continue to use the Explorer View in order to access and find their work files in their department or team site (most of them simply remember that the file they look for it was modified at a certain date in time so they will look for that file rather sorting on the modified date than on performing a search).

We looked than for a way of mapping these inner file properties reported above, carrying the last modification date of the file, onto a site column to be shown in a Document Library View. We know that this approach is very useful for search purposes: in Shared Services Administration -> Search Administration -> Metadata Property Mapping we can map the properties Basic:14(Date and Time), Basic:16(Date and Time), ows_Modified(Date and Time) onto a new property labelled, for instance, LastModifiedTime (see pic below).

Nevertheless, this mapping seems to be useful for search purposes only and unfortunately Microsoft confirmed that there is no out-of-the-box configuration for our purpose.

It seems that the only out-of-the-box solution would be to use Backup and Restore which will then preserve the original last modified dates…or custom development of course (event handlers, etc)


Usability week 2011 – Application usability


Nielsen Norman Group Usability Week 2011,

“Application Usability one”
session on 4th of April 2011 by Garett Goldfield.


My notes and feedback from this session:

  • This session was mainly focused on individual components (controls) usability issues
  • “Easy to use” (frequent users target) vs easy to learn (new users target)
  • What users WANT in applications
    • Control
    • Understanding
    • Recoverability
    • Consistency
    • Clutter Free (biggest problem in design now a days … everything is added nothing is removed / creates confusion)
    • Give satisfaction (is a differentiator)
    • Exceed Expectations (is a differentiator)
  • Primitives (widgets/controls/design patterns) that work the way the users expect will be “easy to use”. It is based on people habits. People always rely on their habits (Even for tackling a new type of problem they will use previous habits/experience/knowledge and try to apply it to the new one)
  • Gestalt principles (Sampling) : GROUPING – how human brain works to understand things
    • Proximity
    • Similarity
    • Closure
  • Recognition of things – easier then recall for a human – directly applicable to “browse by subject” where subjects/sub-subjects and terms are listed for the user instead of searching for a term
  • Big Icons/menus -> Fitt’s Law (military source: close and thus big targets are easier to hit than distant and thus small ones)
  • Main things influencing usability:
    • Order and flow (left-right & top- down for western world) influences usability
    • Chronology influences usability (don’t put options after the download button for example)
    • Consistency (confusing design influences usability)
  • Menus
    • Needs precise, accurate, meaningful and short labeling. Use the most important word(s)
    • Use less than 7 menus if possible
    • Respect a logical order for menu ordering and items in a menu ordering
    • For Windows/Apple: use their standard…don’t change the habit!
    • Avoid abbreviations & acronyms in menus (Drop down especially). Rather use a long version than “handicapping” the understanding of the user. Best is to test options.
    • Contextual menus
      • Very useful for experienced users
      • Most user are not aware of it
    • Avoid:
      • Cascading menus more than 2 levels (main and submenu)
      • Scrolling menus
    • Trends are at the moment for horizontal navigation
    • List menus show all options at once…user: see all, pick one.
    • Panel menus allow
      • Display of all options
      • Grouping
      • Sequencing (mini process implementation possible to “walk” the user to selecting more grouped options)
      • Very close to Web metaphor
      • eg. John Deer web site homepage.
  • TABS
    • ATTENTION: options remain hidden until tab is clicked
    • Can be used to ORGANIZE or to CATEGORIZE
    • Used as views or as process
    • Double tab is actually a menu on two levels
  • Toolbars
    • Always use tooltips
    • no toolbar without alternative menu
  • Most frequently used items in a list:
    • You can place 1 or 2 or 3 at the top of the list…then starting the alphabetical order.
  • Assistance to a page:
    • Instructional text: in-field prompts might do thinks less attractive (field already full)..sometimes also repetitive info…and attention with the text selection if the user tries to fill in that field…
    • Use anyway tooltips, embedded prompts and in text fields or example texts
    • Give controls explanations. Link out to more explanation if necessary
    • Write for eye scanning!
    • Assistance tone : friendly error handle – pay attention to words used
      • Describe the problem!
      • Don’t blame de user
      • Suggest ways to solve
  • Form filling:
    • Make fields choice as much as possible rather than free form
    • Accept any format (more work for computer not for the user – related to the placement of the complexity problem also evocated by Gerry McGovern so often)
    • Use Smart defaults (based on user knowledge) – pre fill fields
  • Dialog boxes…try to avoid using them as much as possible…
  • Word wheel/predictive search works way better than the key-search (repeatedly type a letter for instance to advance in a list of words)
  • Search design patterns
    • Search box long enough to suggest
    • Button labeled “search”
    • Group other similar functionality afterward (advanced search, index, sitemap)
    • Make sure the location is consistent on all pages
    • Include brief instructions or links to search tips.
    • Eye tracking for SEARCH:
      • 44% at top or left top
      • 56% at right top
  • use previews (for documents, images, templates)
  • UNDO gives use confidence…warn if actions are not undoable!!
  • Grouping: white spaces can group effectively without much noise on the page
  • MAPS: if you use maps on your site or related search, make sure the map is clickable!
  • Progress: if you drive the user through a process…communicate him the progress (Step x from n)
  • if you have a state related activity in your browser, foresee a specific SAVE button – it gives users confidence!!
  • When using controls and where to place them…think how the users will use them

La référence CSS pour Sharepoint 2007 (MOSS)


Un article “très” complet qui liste tous les éléments de design (les classes CSS) et où est-ce qu’on peut les retrouver/modifier. Un mega travail de Heather Solomon mais très utile pour quelqu’un qui souhaite customiser une master page ou bien créer des themes SharePoint. Voici le lien: