SharePoint 1 - Bil 0

Okay, I'm a little frustrated tonight and have expereienced, in full featured dyno-rama glory that which I call SharePoint and the beast known as WebDAV (warning this is a little long but does contain important info about a problem with Explorer View and SharePoint). Caveat Emptor: This is the situation for me in my environment (Windows 2003, SharePoint Portal Server/WSS, Windows 2000 Client and Office 2003). Maybe I've just been up too much watching the Calgary Flames but I do think there's a problem here (and hoping my MVP buddies will help confirm/deny my findings).

Ever since I saw the 2003 version of SharePoint, the WSS and those wonderful features my mouth was watering. What a great improvement over what we currently had. One nice feature was the Explorer View in the document libraries. Now, through the web browser, you could drag and drop files and view your SharePoint site like you do your hard drive. Great stuff.

Tonight I discovered the pain that is WebDAV, the SPIN and SPOUT tools and how things are not always what they seem.

We're moving about 5GB of documents (10,000 documents or so) from our old 2001 server to the new 2003 system. Great. Of course we didn't do the in-place upgrade as this was a new system so the quest for tools began. Luckily Microsoft came through with SPIN.EXE and SPOUT.EXE which exported all the version history from 2001 into XML and file formats and SPIN.EXE let you import it into WSS document libraries (or SPS areas if that's your thing). Architecture changes, heirachy changes and things are now organized differently in the new world. While the tools exported fine (although taking 4 hours to run over the network) the problem came when trying to put documents in the right place.

So there are some bugs with Explorer View, and quite frankly I recommend deleting that view until these things are resolved or someone comes along with a better implementation of it. As I understand it, it works using WebDAV to connect to the Document Library. There are three serious problems with the Explorer View which I'll get into more detail:

  1. WebDAV can only handle a certain path length and bombs on long URLs
  2. The Explorer View in your web browser is cached and never refreshed unless you explicitly do it yourself
  3. Copy and Paste is a nightmare in versioned libraries

Let's get into more detail about these.

1. If you've ever gone fishing in your SharePoint sites and then clicked on Explorer View only to be informed that the view requires Internet Explorer 5 or higher then you'll know what I'm talking about. It's an odd message because when I get it, I'm running IE 6. So that's not the problem. I've narrowed it down to the fact that the path gets too long. When you get into specific folders in Document Libraries and specific views, the URL gets pretty long. IE can handle anything but when it switches over to Explorer View it starts talking WebDAV to the back end. That's where the view fails and you end up with a cryptic error message.

2. Here's a screwy thing that took me a few minutes to figure out. Create a Document Library then go in and add a file. Great. Switch to Explorer View (assuming you don't run into issue #1) and behold your document. Flip back to All Documents view and add a folder. Delete a document. Do whatever you want. Now back to Explorer View in your browser. Hmmm. That's not right. It's the same thing I looked at a few minutes ago (sans the changes you just did). I think the Explorer View is cached and the browser is using that cached version. Hitting F5 doesn't work because that's only going to refresh the web page, not the folder view. You have to right click and select Refresh from the popup menu (yes, a different refresh from the browser one).

3. Okay, here's the grand daddy of them all (and it gets complicated so walk with me on this). DO NOT USE COPY AND PASTE IN VERSIONED LIBRARIES! Hmm. Got the message? Here's the rundown.

  1. Create two Document Libraries (“doclib1“ and “doclib2“) and set versioning on (can be in the same site, doesn't matter)
  2. Create a text file with Notepad or something (“ver.txt“) with the words “Version 1“ in it
  3. Upload “ver.txt“ to “doclib1“
  4. Check it out via the menu
  5. Edit your “ver.txt“ file on the hard drive and change the text to “Version 2“
  6. Upload “ver.txt“ (modified) to “doclib1“ (overwriting any current copy)
  7. Use the menu and check the file in

Looking at the version history, you now have two versions. Click on the first one and you'll see the text “Version 1“. Click on the second (and hit F5 in your browser) and you'll see “Version 2“. Also notice that there's a new path created for version 1 of the document (if you hover over the link in the document library).

Now the fun begins. Switch to the dreaded Explorer View in “doclib1“. Select your “ver.txt“ file and press Ctrl+C (Copy). Now go find “doclib2“ and switch to Explorer View (dual monitors makes this much easier). Press Ctrl+V (Paste). Voila. You now have “ver.txt“ in your new Document Library. Wait a minute. Something isn't quite right. The version comments (if you had any) all say the same thing as the last version. Click on the file to view the Version History. You'll notice the right number of versions (two in this example, but if you had 10 in “doclib1“ you'll have 10 in “doclib2“). However they're ALL THE SAME VERSION! Yup, SharePoint created multiple “versions“ of your document but they're all copies of the latest one.

There's actually two different behaviours here. Copy/Paste from one Document Library to another in the same site yields this result. However try this by Pasting into a Document Library on another site is a whole nuther matter. Try it and view anything but the latest version. SharePoint lists the versions but they don't exist. In fact, nothing does. It's odd. Clicking on the file produces a web page that goes to HTML Valhalla. There's no 404 error. Right click and View Source and there's a complete absence of anything. No HTML tags. Nothing. Very, very odd.

Anyways, as I said earlier your mileage may vary but if you can confirm item #3 I suggest you do one of two things. Do not using versioning in your document libraries or delete the Explorer View. Hopefully this will help, now I just have to figure out how to move all my version histories to the right places.

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