Sharepoint Access Denied

We’ve had problems reported with some SharePoint sites recently where folks have been invited to view documents in a library and provide feedback.  The complaint is that lots of people simply get “Access Denied” messages.

A quick check of the permissions isn’t always the answer – sometimes it’s SharePoint doing exactly what it was told to do when the site was first set-up, even if that’s not immediately apparent.

In this latest case the ‘access denied’ messages were being generated because, when the site was designed, it had been decided that only a particular Project Team (with ‘Contribute’ access) should see interim versions of documents.  This seems very reasonable, doesn’t it?

Here’s what was happening:

Imagine you’ve started working on the next draft of your Communications Plan – the version may be 1.1 or 1.2.  To keep things simple for site visitors you set-up the site to only let them see the last major version. This makes your v1.2 document an interim version. Being an interim release it may perhaps have pending unapproved edits or spelling mistakes.

However this setting also means that your visitors, those who only have ‘read’ permission (or ‘restricted read’), will only be presented with the last major version – 1.0 in this case.

Here’s the gotcha:

If you have never actually produced a major version – you’re still working on versions  0.1 or 0.2 – then your visitors don’t get to see the document – it’s not a major version, after all.  What has confounded some who investigate this issue is that your close colleagues in the project team can see all the  files. The relevant permissions seem to be in place for the visitors too.

How does this happen?

When you set up your library you may have gone to Library -> Library Settings -> Versioning Settings and set it up like this:


Note the part which says ‘Who should see draft items?’. In this example it is ‘Only users who can edit items‘, not users who can only VIEW said items.

So, if a version of a document is still at 0.2, anyone with Read or Restricted Read access-permissions simply can’t see your document – by design.  If you’d produced documents beyond that crucial v1.0 milestone things would be a little better. You might be working on v1.2 but at least your read-only users will see something – in this case version 1.0.

This may well be what you wanted when you first set up the library but, if this is not borne in mind, has the potential to cause much visitor (and support staff) confusion.

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One Response to “Sharepoint Access Denied”

  1. Scott Palmer says:

    Almost two years later, and this just saved my ass on a site I’ve been working with. Thank you so much!