How to use Recently Shared Items in SharePoint 2016

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Even with hundreds of “What’s New in SharePoint 2016” articles on the internet, one cool feature seems to not have gotten any love. This feature is called “Recently Shared Items” or simply “RSI.”  Let’s first look at the problem it solves.

What does Recently Shared Items Do?

The SharePoint Server 2016 OneDrive for Business includes a really useful view called “Shared with me.”

Shared With Me Vlad Catrinescu

This view allows you to see all the documents in other user’s OneDrive for Business to which you have access. For example, if John Smith has a document in their OneDrive for Business and they gave you permissions to it, you would see it here and not have to remember John Smith’s OneDrive for Business URL to see it. Pretty cool feature!

But how does it know I have access to a document? It relies on the strong SharePoint search engine to know what user has access to which documents, and only displays those.

The disadvantage is that, when John Smith shares that document with you, you will not see it in the “Shared with me” list until the search engine successfully crawls that document, which can take from 5 minutes up to an hour, depending on your organization’s search configuration.

That is where RSI comes in. If you enable the recently shared items feature, as soon as John Smith shares a document with you, it will appear in your Shared with me folder. That way, you instantly know what files you have access to, and don’t need to wait for the crawl for that page to be useful. Let’s see how we activate RSI.

Activating Recently Shared Items

Activating the RSI feature is pretty straightforward.  You simply need to run this PowerShell cmdlet on any SharePoint Server in your farm, and specify the URL of your MySite Host.

Enable-SPFeature "RecentlySharedItems" –Url “MySiteHost Url”

If you want it to be even easier, you can simply find the site with Template ID 54 (MySiteHost) and activate it there, so you can simply copy paste the script below and it will work.

$MySiteHost = Get-SPSite | where {$_.RootWeb.WebTemplateId -eq 54}

Enable-SPFeature "RecentlySharedItems" -Url $MySiteHost.url

You have successfully activated Recently Shared Items! Now, as soon as a user shares a document in their OneDrive for Business with one of their co-workers, that coworker will immediately see the document in the “Shared with me” view.

2 Vlad Catrinescu

If you are like me, you think this feature is pretty awesome and can offer business value to users. Then you wonder, how come this feature is not enabled by default? Let’s see how it works in the backend to find out more.

How does Recently Shared Items work?

In order to show files that are shared instantly, SharePoint logs those “shares” in a hidden list stored in your MySiteHost called “Recently Shared Items.” This list can be access at http://<MySiteHostUrl>/_layouts/15/start.aspx#/Lists/Recently%20Shared%20Items. (Note: This the MySiteHostUrl will be different for every user.)

Inside the list, you have one folder per day that is in the format YYYYMMDD, and in that folder, you have items that include the title of the document, as well as the persons that it is shared with.

3 Vlad Catrinescu

Inside each list item, you can view more information about the document that was shared as seen in the Screenshot below.

4 Vlad Catrinescu

So, what is the problem with RSI? The problem is that the person who has access to your MySiteHost root doesn’t necessarily have permissions to view those files, or to even know they exist.

The RSI list would enable MySiteHost admins to see information about files in other user’s OneDrive for Business, as well as who they shared that information with. This could be a security/privacy risk for some organizations, and that is why I think Microsoft decided to leave it turned off by default.

What’s your opinion about Recently Shared Items? Is it something you would enable in your organization?

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