Document Library Descriptions

Remember back in SharePoint 2003 and 2007? Probably not.  I barely remember it, and had to search the internet just to find an old screenshot because I didn’t even start blogging until SharePoint 2007.  There was something, at least one thing nice about those old versions.  The document library and list descriptions actually showed right there at the top of the page when looking at the list or library!

This… the description of a document library:


Showed here, at the top (the part circled in red), the description of a discussion board in SharePoint 2003.


Over the years, ever since this nice helpful description was removed from the top of the page, I’ve seen many different and creative ways that people have come up with in order to display some explanatory text along with their lists or libraries.  This usually entails someone creating a site page, typing text at the top, and then putting a web part of the library right on the page.  Sometimes they don’t even bother with a new page, they just directly edit the default view of the list, like allitems.aspx, and stick a content editor web part right at the top.  Of course, in anything 2010 or newer, this breaks the whole page sort of, because then it’s a lot harder to “find” the ribbon for that library.   Creating all of these special pages kind of drives me nuts, because other the part about the description being missing, just using the default views would accomplish all of the other requirements and save a ton of time and maintenance (such as calling me, the consultant just to edit a web part page to change some columns in a view because they made it so complicated from an end-user-site-management standpoint).  I like efficiency, and I like doing things in the best, out-of-box way possible in SharePoint.

With modern libraries in SharePoint Online, now we can sort of get that functionality back, in a way.  At least maybe we can prevent some of the inordinate page-creating.  There’s the ability to pin a file to the top of a library view.  You can pin any Office file and it displays nicely at the top of the view.  With PowerPoint files in particular, though, you can really make them stand out, and use pinning as a way to put a description up there.  Here’s my company policy library.  I created a PowerPoint file with just one slide, called “Company Policy Library Description”, and pinned it:


How is this done? Just select a file, and in the menu, choose Pin to Top. (3 is the max)


You can also pin different files to the top of different views.  I created a filtered view just for the HR policies, and another PowerPoint file, and then pinned it to the top of the HR view:



That was short and sweet.  Hopefully in your endeavors upgrading or migrating to Office 365, you’ll be able to use this little tip to save yourself some time in creating descriptive pages that have some files on them.


  • First experience with early SharePoint, took a year or two but got our team to embrace it. Saved hundreds of hours per year in Senior Management meets, to follow tasks and assignments. Big upside for no capital investment, was included no charge in Server software from Microsoft.

  • Where is the best place to get help for very simple SP questions?
    For example … in 365 when I “open a library with explorer” (under the library tab) I am able to move files (copy / paste) to another library, but it doesn’t show up in the SP site, even though they are there when I open the new library with the “open library with explorer”. So yay, I have moved files but I don’t know how to view them.

  • Thank you for this post! What an excellent low tech solution to creating a header or banner for a library that is visible.

  • Thanks for the post Laura. I’ve spent 1/2 the day searching for this? You think I could find anything relative on msft??? Ya right.
    When are they going to stop doing these nonsensical things? Instead of spending time and resources removing and/or arbitrarily changing things users dont appreciate, maybe time and resources would be better used to acutally complete some of their tech such as “real” cascading dropdowns, “Add new item” to lookup fields, filter managed metadata fields and on and on and on. I’m sure you get my drift.

    Love your videos, very concise and USEFUL!!


  • Thanks for the suggestion. But wouldn’t it be easier if they just returned the ability to display the list description at the top….

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