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any guess on why the standard permission level View Only is not available in modern sites? I have tried to create it manually but unlike a View Only in a normal site, it will not let me tick the box View History if I do not click Open Item as well.

In a normal non-modern site there is a checkbox on View History but not Open Item.

Beside the fact that it is probably better if the View Only user cannot see the file history, any guess why View only is not there and it is not possible to reproduce it exactly like the standard one?

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To be able to get the View Only permission in modern sites you need to activate the site collection feature called SharePoint Server Enterprise Site Collection features

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