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Fundamentally, what is the difference between the two? I'm in the really early stages of working out what's what with sharepoint and I can't seem to tell the difference between the two.

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Hardcode in mind : A Library is a List, but all lists are not libraries. – Nikhil Jangle Apr 1 '14 at 1:48
A library stores your data; a list IS your data – user25474 Apr 29 '14 at 19:20
The answer doesn't really help to understand the difference. Maybe you can improve the answer by providing links to MSDN that explain the difference between document libraries and lists. – Amadeo Gallardo Apr 29 '14 at 23:49
up vote 29 down vote accepted

Although in most of the UI and API they can be manipulated the same way, there are some significant differences between Lists and Libraries. The latter is a specialized type of the former.


  • Can have attachments
  • Have major versions only
  • Do not have Check-in/Check-out features


  • Cannot have attachments (files are directly in the library)
  • Have both minor (draft) and major (published) versioning
  • Have Check-in/Check-Out
  • Publishing Libraries can use Page Layouts
  • Have Unique Document Ids out of the box

In code, you can always obtain an SPList from a SPDocumentLibrary but not the other way around.

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A library is "just" a special type of list where the focus is on the File linked to the listitem

Anything you can do with a list you can do with a library and then some

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Thanks a lot Per. – JᴀʏMᴇᴇ Apr 20 '12 at 8:53

Great Info! In an attempt to make a more exhaustive comparison (because none exist!) here are a couple of things left out:


  1. list attachments are not indexed. This has a lot of implications. When searching, you cannot use the refiners to narrow down the doc type
  2. List attachments will not work with the eDiscovery feature
  3. No location based default column value settings
  4. Cannot have a document set
  5. No "Send to" functionality. Similarly, transfer to another location does not seem to work with a list content type, but I have not actually tried it
  6. No Open with explorer (which is obvious)


  1. Does not have the "Read Access" setting (list settings-advanced settings)

Really they are quite a bit different. Libraries are for documents. It is a good idea to disable adding attachments on your list so that your lists are purely for tabular data, otherwise you may come across ECM features that do not work.

Please add more if you find them

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Here in this article we have discussed in details about what is the difference between list and document library. follow the article it will help you.

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Lists can have a document attachment AND the benefit of many associated preset and/or unique metadata fields. Libraries have a document but only a limited number of only preset metadata fields.

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