Windows Explorer View and the Web Client Service

This is a follow up to my previous post of January 22, 2008, about Exposing More Columns in Windows Explorer. That post showed how you could show in Windows Explorer additional SharePoint metadata (document library fields). One of my readers tried this and it didn’t work. So I tried it again, in a new VM I had just built, and it didn’t work. We compared a few things – were both environments MOSS? Were we using Office 2007? Yes and Yes. (Not that MOSS is a requirement – I suspect this works in WSS too). So what was the difference? Why did it work in one environment and not the other?

The answer is the WebClient service.

Here’s a screenshot of it in the Services MMC. Note that in Windows Server 2003, THIS SERVICE IS DISABLED BY DEFAULT. That explains why the metadata fields didn’t show up in the newest VM I had built – I hadn’t turned the service on sur ce site.

When I am in a Document Library, and I use the Actions menu to open the document library in Windows Explorer, that service adds functionality.

When the WebClient service is on, I see lots of columns available to display in Windows Explorer. Also, the folder is opened as a UNC path.

(Again, Choose Details is on the View menu.)

When the WebClient service is off however, the results are quite different:

The folder is opened as a WebFolder, and the details available are minimal.

Credit where credit is due: I had no idea that the WebClient service was the culprit. Fortunately I work with other smart people that also have extensive SharePoint experience, and two of them (Derek and Mark) happened to know the right answer.