Content Formula

What is the difference between SharePoint Lists and Microsoft Lists?

Lists are one of the most longstanding and useful elements of SharePoint and the now the wider Microsoft 365 environment. Lists have multiple uses, are extremely flexible and are an easy way to store and manage controlled data and content that is frequently updated and needs to be displayed to many people, for example through an intranet or on Microsoft Teams. Here at Content Formula we’re long-time fans of lists and we regularly use them in projects for our clients.

In recent years, Microsoft has given lists some love and invested in new capabilities, effectively giving hem a bit of an upgrade. This attention has been welcome, but it has resulted in what appears to be two version of lists – SharePoint lists and Microsoft lists. From time to time we get asked what the difference between the two is. Are they the same thing? And if not, what are the differences between them? In this post we’re going to explore the differences between SharePoint lists and Microsoft lists.

What is a SharePoint list?

Our comprehensive beginner’s guide to SharePoint lists takes a deep dive into SharePoint lists where we cover what they are, the main benefits, popular use cases, different elements and characteristics of a SharePoint list and how to carry out some of the basics, such as creating and deleting Lists. In the guide we define a SharePoint List as:

“a way of storing and displaying data and content within SharePoint in a set of rows and columns, similar to a table or a spreadsheet. A list is a highly flexible way to both manage but also display structured information and content within SharePoint, with a variety of options relating to formatting, access rights and different types of content.”

What is a Microsoft List?

Microsoft themselves define a Microsoft List as a “smart tracking app in Microsoft 365” that allows you to “work with anyone, anywhere” and where lists can be configured to “better organise events, issues, assets and more.” In this way Microsoft lists are strongly identified as part of Microsoft 365 rather than as part of SharePoint.

However, a Microsoft list is essentially the same piece of functionality as a SharePoint List. It has more or less exactly the same capabilities and user interface but is delivered and packaged as a standalone app while a SharePoint list is directly part of SharePoint.

SharePoint Lists vs Microsoft Lists

While this separate branding might be a bit confusing, there is some logic behind it. In 2020 Microsoft added some key functionality to lists, including the ability to integrate some social features, extending formatting options and creating a number of very useful templates. They also wanted to emphasize that lists can be deployed within Microsoft Teams and were not just confined to being deployed within SharePoint sites. This new version of lists was branded as Microsoft lists to differentiate it. However, since then, the functionality of SharePoint lists and Microsoft lists has been synchronised, so they now share the same features.

If they are the same thing, why are they different?

Not everybody uses SharePoint but lists are highly versatile and can be used in their own right, particularly within Microsoft Teams and in integrations with PowerApps and the Power Platform.

The differentiation in branding does help to emphasise their independent use outside SharePoint but also some of the new formatting and power that has been brought to lists.

When Microsoft lists were initially launched, they had more features than SharePoint lists, but they now share the same feature set. However, there are some differences in where lists are stored. Microsoft lists are stored in the same place as OneDrive files – on a personal site – while a SharePoint List will be on the individual SharePoint site that its kept on.

What does the list app do?

Another major difference is that Microsoft Lists has its own dedicated web app and mobile app, that is available via Google Play and the iOS app store. The app can present an aggregated view of lists and help you to manage them. Can you move SharePoint lists to Microsoft Lists and vice versa?

There is a facility to copy lists from one place to another that would allow a list in a SharePoint site to be created as a Microsoft lists, and vice versa. There is also a workaround in copying SharePoint list into Excel and then copying that back a Microsoft list – a process that also works the other way around. However, there have been some reports that formatting can get lost when carrying out both these processes.

Still confused about lists? Get in touch!

Microsoft branding can be a bit confusing at times with so many different apps and services, and even different names for what is essentially the same functionality. The good news is that the feature set in Microsoft lists and SharePoint Lists are essentially the same, meaning that you can deploy a list with confidence in a SharePoint site or within Teams, or use lists effectively as a standalone app. You can also integrate with PowerApps and Power Automate and also leverage a library of helpful templates for key use cases, helping lists to become a highly useful feature within the wider Microsoft 365 digital workplace.

As we’ve often said, at Content Formula we love lists! If you’re still confused about the difference between SharePoint lists and Microsoft lists, or want to know how you can better use lists in your intranet or digital workplace, then get in touch!

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