Saving Projects to SharePoint–and opening them again! Part 1


***Update 6/8/2016 - We issued a fix in the March 2016 Update for Project Professional 2013 -  https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3114843

When you open a Project file from a SharePoint document library, the file is sometimes opened as read-only when it should be read and write. In other cases, the project is sometimes opened as read and write but you can’t save changes.  Note To fix this issue, you also need to install March 8, 2016, update for Office 2013 (KB3114816). -

Thanks Francesco Bori for reminding me I needed to update this posting ***

*** Update 1/26/2015 - After continued testing I have seen the same read-only situation even with my domain credentials, both on opening using Edit, and also after opening read-write then trying to save some time later.  I overcame the initila read-only condition by closing and re-opening the browser - I only share here as it may help unblock someone, but shouldn't be necessary.  More information when I have it...***

*** Update 1/13/2015 - I don't often go back to my blogs and do much editing - but this one got particularly rambly - even for me, so following feedback (thanks Greg!) I am adding some structure and captions - nothing else changes ***

It turns out that those 4 words – saving projects to SharePoint - have so many meanings that before I go too far I guess I’d better explain where this blog series is heading.  Hopefully I will try and cover most of the variations on this theme, but with so many variables (browsers, clients, versions, document libraries, SharePoint task lists, on premises servers or in the cloud, Project Server, Project Online…) I am sure I will miss some out – so I quite expect the comments thread on this post may get quite active and animated.  I’ll cover common issues we see people having, and some potential workarounds or best practices to keep you on the happy path.  Some of the behaviors I describe could be considered bugs – or certainly different behaviors than you might expect to see from other Office applications such as Word or Excel – others may just be tagged with the dreaded ‘by design’ description.  If you haven’t come across this term it is often used to describe behavior where the way we deliver a feature in the product doesn’t match what a customer expects.  It sometimes means we may have been lacking in imagination with our design – more often it is one of the more mundane constraints such as time and money that left a feature short of what we might have hoped to deliver.  And there are times when we just think wow – we never expected anyone would want to do that!  A couple of examples of differences from Word, Excel and PowerPoint would be the Properties Panel – that allows additional columns in SharePoint document libraries to be surfaced in the application – neither Project nor Visio have this capability – and that would not be considered a bug.  Just like Word would consider it a bug that they don’t have the kind of Custom Fields that Project has.  Another difference – Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Visio will open a browser editing experience just from their native document formats – whereas for Project this only comes with Project Server/Project Online and not with mpp files (unless you think of the Sync to Task List as delivering this capability).  Anyway – on with the main topic – save to SharePoint.

Lets start with a list of the ways our mpp file can get to SharePoint – and I’ll come back to Project Online/Server later, but for now I will concentrate on the mpp file format.  I’ll also limit the blog to Project 2013 and SharePoint 2010 and 2013. 

1. Saving an mpp file using Save-as to a OneDrive for Business (SharePoint) document folder

I’ll start with a new mpp, created from the Marketing Campaign Plan template – then hit save-as.

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Figure 1.1: Save-as dailog in Project Professional 2013 or Project Pro for Office 365

Chances are that your save-as doesn’t look quite as crowded as this, but it might do.  The top option is Sync with SharePoint, and I will come back to that (Part 2), then the next 5 “Sites” options are all different SharePoint locations – and then the OneDrive – Microsoft is also a SharePoint location – my work OneDrive for Business account.  The other OneDrives for Contoso and LunchWithaLens are also SharePoint OneDrive for Business connections – each covered by a different Office 365 login account.  OneDrive – Personal is not SharePoint, but my Microsoft account cloud storage.  Other Web Locations can be SharePoint too and in my case includes some SharePoint 2010 sites. 

For this first example I will save into my OneDrive – Microsoft location and choose a recent folder called ____SyncTests.

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Figure 1.2: Choosing my save-as folder location

This will bring up a Save As dialog and the path will look like a local directory – but clicking on the down arrow will show the full path to your “My Site” where the SharePoint end of your OneDrive for Business stores files.

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Figure 1.3: Naming my file

Clicking Save will then show a dialog like the following as the plan gets saved:

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Figure 1.4: Progress dialog - showing the save location

The above steps rely on a few different things being in place – such as getting authenticated correctly, having the webclient service running (or if you have a server operating system adding the Desktop Experience feature – which gets you the WebDAV client) but generally this part is the easy one – and can be the more reliable way to get mpp files into SharePoint.  Another way would drag and drop… 

2. Copying to a SharePoint document library using drag and drop

And here I dragged another mpp from my desktop into my OneDrive site.

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Figure 2.1: Web view of document library highlighting drag and drop option

3. Copying the file to a local drive mapped to the document library

Next option is to copy an mpp file into the local mapped folder for your OneDrive for Business service – in my case my D:\Users\BriSmith\OneDrive – Microsoft folder….

4. Options for opening the file - click on the filename in the web view

Now we will look at opening the mpp files again.  If I just click on the plan name in my OneDrive browser window:

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Figure 4.1: The view view of the document library - highlighting the file name

Then it will open read only – as noted in the heading and on the Info tab.  It also tells you how to overcome this – This project has been opened in Read-Only mode.  To edit, either re-open the project in edit mode or select an alternate project location by choosing save-as.  Also notice the %20 characters – this is perfectly normal as the web generally does not like spaces you will see any spaces substituted with %20 in the names (which may not display as such everywhere…)

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Figure 4.2: The File, Info view - highlighting the space encoding (%20) and read-only status

5. Options for opening the file - using the Edit option

So if you want to edit then click the ellipse and then click Edit:

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Figure 5.1: The Edit option - in the ellipses fly-out

And for me this opens the plan in read/write mode.  I say ‘for me’ as I know many reading this may well have experienced this still showing read only.  We do have an open bug on this one and investigations are ongoing, but it looks likely that any correction to this behavior would be quite a complex change and out of scope for our normal cumulative update releases.  The behavior is also different to how, for example, Word and Excel handle read-only – and we do have a work item to make the experience the same, but as the file handling and file format for these applications is quite different this may be a complex task, and again out of scope for a cumulative update..  I understand that many customers would appreciate the same behavior though.

6. Options for opening the file - open from the local mapped drive

Another workaround that will work for most people is to open from the local copy of the file in the OneDrive for Business folder, where clicking on the mpp opens it read-write.  Likewise, copying (downloading) the file from the SharePoint OneDrive folder is another workaround – but that always feels very lame even to suggest it.  Some feedback I’ve had on using the local OneDrive folder is around the reliability of the sync.  As I needed to repair my OneDrive sync to get my screenshots and scenarios working I can’t deny that it can be frustrating.

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Figure 6.1: The local mapped drive view of my document library

To get even more complex, we are aware of customers running into issues where they want to work with Master and Sub Projects in a document library.  In this case as long as all the projects that you wish to work with are opened read-write then things should be good.  This is really no different than when working against Project Server – if you don’t have the plans open for edit, then they can still be changed in the ‘open’ in-memory copy (maybe just because a calculated field gets updated) and then it will prompt to save – but if it is read-only it will suggest saving as a new project.  This I would certainly describe as ‘by design’.

7. Options for opening a file - from another document library that expects a different account than the logged on user

My next test jumped over to a different document library, on an Office 365 site that uses a different account to connect and a new document library that I had dragged a few documents into.  I was also using Chrome for these tests – not that the browser makes any difference – but different browsers make it easier to have different sites open with different authentication.  I used the ellipses and Edit option:

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Figure 7.1: The Edit option in my other document library

In this example I saw a few different dialogs coming up, saw my file being downloaded, and also saw a ‘Switch Accounts’ dialog that was looking for my login for this Office 365 site.  I assume it found it cached as I wasn’t presented with a login (and had the browser opened and signed in obviously…)  But it opened read-only.

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Figure 7.2: The File, Info page - showing this has opened in read-only even after selecting to Edit

This does appear to highlight the main issue with opening read-only – it works fine if you are logged in to your PC with the same credentials used for your document library – but struggles if you are using different sign-ins – even if those credentials are cached and obviously working (it lets you get to the document after all).  For on-premises installations this generally isn’t going to be a problem – but for SharePoint Online, Office 365 and Project Online unless you have single sign-on you will likely run into this.  I will be researching this more and may have some answers when I get to Part 2 and beyond – and I’ll certainly come back to this blog to update with any findings.

In Part 2 (and there may be a Part 3) I will cover the behavior with SharePoint 2010, and also look at the Sync to SharePoint Tasks – which can also suffer from this read-only issue.

Comments (18)

  1. anonymouscommenter says:

    Thanks for the update. I appreciate your open and non-defensive tone. It sounds like "Edit in Project" from SharePoint (2010 or 2013) working consistently (opening in edit mode when you expect it and opening in read only when you expect it) is not going
    to happen anytime soon. This is disappointing as this seems to me as the most basic Project + SharePoint functionality. Now I have the challenge of supporting PM’s and telling them that it may or may not work for you and I don’t know why.

  2. Thank you for posting this, glad to see we are not alone on this one 🙂

  3. I’ll certainly be following up with the product group to try and make these fixes happen Greg – I can totally defend some differences in behavior like the properties panel – which would be nice to have in Project, but would be a real design change – but
    in my mind the basics should just work. Thanks for your patience.
    Brian.

  4. anonymouscommenter says:

    We are experience same issue, so 2 questions.

    1. Has this been resolved yet?

    2. Will subscribing to project server solve this?

    Thanks.

  5. anonymouscommenter says:

    Did the Part II of this ever get written, I have the read only issues for a user from a SharePoint 2013 Task List? It works fine on my machine, we are both using the same Windows 8.1 and IE11 with Project 2013.

  6. anonymouscommenter says:

    The same is also affecting our very large user base in a big way.

    I’m interested in knowing if there are any updates to this issue.

    1. Hi Vishal – this is still under investigation – seems to be an issue getting a lock on the file and not releasing it correctly. Sorry this is dragging on.

  7. Robert says:

    Brian,
    Just wanted to FYI my experience that I just ran into with this issue today. On two of our SharePoint project site’s task lists I found by going to the site assets and opening either via the button or Project 2013 and saving fixes the read only issue opening via the task list. My one caveat is in both instances the users had remoted in from home and when they came back to work, had to reboot their pcs because they could not log in. I think in this instance that they had not closed their vpn connection from home and this caused some sort of a credentials issue.

    1. Hi Robert – thanks for the feedback – and I from our investigations we have seen part of this can be credentials but also some locking that we are not releasing. But some good news too – we have made some changes which we think should overcome some if not all of the conditions that people have been running into – we expect we can release this in the March update – due out March 8th 2016.
      Best regards,
      Brian

      1. pdr007 says:

        Hi Brian,
        Sounds like great news ! Are you referring to a MS Project Pro 2013 update or SharePoint ?
        Thanks.

        1. Hi Philippe, the fix has two parts – Project 2013 – https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3114843 and Office 2013 – https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3114816.
          Best regards,
          Brian.

          1. Jose C says:

            Dear Brian, I am experiencing the same issue with MS Project 2016 and Sharepoint (Office 365). When I open the Project file in SharePoint, it only opens as read only. When using the riboon in SP and FILE, edit, the issue persists. Is there a fix for this? Thank you.

          2. Lars Morten Nygaard says:

            I also have this issues on Office365 and Project 2016. Any help available?

  8. I have been going APE for the past two hours trying to figure this out. This blog helps me realize that I am, once again, a capable human being. That being said…I have Office 365 and this is still a problem. Any suggestions or help would absolutely rock!!!

    1. Suzanne Jones says:

      I’m having this same issue again only in MS Project 2016. When opening the project from SharePoint online, the MS Project file opens in Ready-only. Using save as to save it back to the SharePoint site does not resolve the issue. Are there fixes for 2016?

  9. Hi All, just to keep this post tracked, I also have the same issue with Office365 and Project 2016.
    Looking forward for any fix update or workaround.
    Many thanks

  10. Emma says:

    Why are Project file changes lost? Different users seeing different versions of the file, seems like some changes are lost.

    1. There shouldn’t be any changes lost Emma – but if you are using resources in the plan that are not known to SHarePoint then they may be lost. Also the mpp should not be opened from the Site Assets folder – but opened from the ribbon option in the task list. If you are seeing changes being lost then I’d suggest opening a support incident.
      Best regards,
      Brian.

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