According to this article, it mention that the maximum number of columns allowed for a single document library is 2,000 while a single list is 4,096.

I would like to hear if anyone have design document library or list that exceed the maximum number of columns as I wish to know what behaviors that SharePoint will display if the maximum number of columns had exceeded.

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    Can I ask what kind of design you have that even goes near this limit? – Louis Feb 21 '12 at 3:29
  • @Louis, the reason for looking at the maximum number of columns is because I have too many forms (a total of 80+ forms). Each forms have around 15 to 25+ fields). I feel the urge to merge all the forms together as both customer and myself feel it quite hard to manage so many forms. However, I hope to hear from you on how to counter such problem too. Thanks. – Jack Feb 21 '12 at 3:57
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    All of these forms use fields distinct from one another? I would try to group them a bit and split them between a few libraries. Normally 1 form == 1 library. Also, consider if you need to have each field of each form as a visible column in SharePoint. Is there some processing done on each and every one of them? – Louis Feb 21 '12 at 4:05
  • @Louis, Yes, I agree that it would be better to have 1 form == 1 library but right now, I have so many type of scenarios such as 1 form are using more than 1 library and 1 forms depending on other forms library and library that is shared by many forms. To make things worst, I have forms with more than 10+ views in a single forms itself. It is so confusing. The workflow processing behind and the rules embed on the form is so complex and many. I feel like tearing down the whole building and rebuild a more optimized building. – Jack Feb 21 '12 at 4:15

As noted here, this is not a hard limit but breaking it will impact performance.

I have not ever encountered a design that breaks that limit (thank God!), but I would assume severe performance degradation just approaching it. I didn't even know that the limit was that high, it almost seems like an error. It's unclear why there would be different limits between lists and document libraries, as both ultimately lead to the same object (SPList) in the API.

Everything is probably much slower ranging from item form loading, rendering, list views, etc. SharePoint's object model is not optimal here in that by default it loads all metadata (i.e. all fields) when fetching items or iterating through an SPListItemCollection.

Side note, for SharePoint 2010 the limits are better described in this article. I am not aware that MOSS uses a different schema for SQL storage of Columns, but I'd guess it's not that far from SP2010.

See also here (SP2010 again) where it is noted : "Row wrapping causes a decrease in throughput of approximately 35 percent per additional row for most operations." (That is, each time you break the row-wrapping threshold for a given type). As you can see, the performance degradation is extreme.

In the same last link there is a short performance analysis. The article also states that the total size of all columns for a list cannot go beyond 8k bytes (each column's size in bytes is given). That is a hard limit, regardless of row wrapping.

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