Email to SharePoint List: A Product Comparison

Emailing to a SharePoint list or document library in SharePoint online is not currently available. Below we’ve put together a product comparison table to easily compare some of the options you have to solve this issue. Enjoy.

In the early days of SharePoint Online, there was a great effort by the team at Microsoft to make sure that there was feature parity to the on-premise version with every incremental release of the online version. However from the early days it was clear that the on-premise version and online version wouldnt entirely move in the same direction. There were the struggles originally with the customisation of SharePoint but slowly that moved away from the on-premise version as it went more client-side Javascript first.

Incoming Email Timer Job for enabling email to SharePoint functionality?

We saw other major differences, most notably was the omission Timer Jobs that did wonders for the background processes in SharePoint. And one of the hardest working timers jobs? This one here:

In this timer job, SharePoint, or at least the on-premise versions, allowed incoming email. So we had the option have having incoming email for every list and library. I know I configured it many times. Fast forward a few years, and with the timer jobs no longer, we no longer have this option in SharePoint Online.

What are the options then?

There are a few options now in 2018, as a result of this obvious need. We examine some of them below:

1. Site Mailbox app

(This option has been removed in SharePoint Online as of March 2017)

Site mailbox app

This one I found doing some research, and I felt it was worth pointing out. Essentially this boils down to creating a new mailbox on the Exchange server and this app is really just a link to it. Which means its really just a mailbox, in a site and doesn’t really cover the scenario of email in a list or more specifically, sending an email to a SharePoint list or library. Which really means that you get none of the niceties of metadata, workflow and document management options you get with document libraries and lists:

Pros

  • Provides a nice way to collaborate on both document libraries and mail in the same interface.
  • Capture email and email attachments on a project basis, meaning all communications and documents sit in one place. Like Office 365 groups
  • Site Mailbox has it’s own unique email address
  • Emails sit in Microsoft Exchange, whilst documents sit in Microsoft SharePoint

Cons

  • The email is NOT in SharePoint. It actually sits in Microsoft Exchange – therefore no benefits of document management features like workflow etc
  • Both Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft SharePoint need to be setup by administrators
  • You need SharePoint 2013, Exchange 2013 and Outlook 2013

2. Office 365 Groups

Office 365 Groups is the cross-application membership service in Office 365. At the basic level, an Office 365 Group is an object in Azure Active Directory with a list of members and a loose coupling to related workloads including a SharePoint team site, Yammer Group, shared Exchange mailbox resources, Planner, PowerBI and OneNote. You can add or remove people to the Group just as you would any other group-based security object in Active Directory.

Office 365 is a great tool to collaborate a project, or manage a specific client. We’ve used them a lot here at Parserr. And best part is you can include external clients in the conversation.

Office 365 groups documents

Image courtesy of https://blogs.office.com/en-us/2016/09/08/introducing-guest-access-for-office-365-groups/

Files in groups

Image courtesy https://blogs.office.com/en-us/2016/11/17/introducing-a-new-file-experience-for-groups-in-outlook-on-the-web/

Pros

  • Store emails and documents side by side in one place
  • Collaborate on email and documents in one place
  • Access to Office 365 groups from IOS and Android apps

Cons

  • SharePoint Document libraries features like versioning, metadata, workflow or views arent available.
  • No metadata available from the email – eg. Email subject or data within to sort your document library documents
  • No custom lists

Email to SharePoint Product Comparison Table

Site Mailbox App Office 365 groups Drag & drop from desktop Onedrive Sync Microsoft Flow Parserr
What is it? A Microsoft Exchange inbox which sits within SharePoint but isnt directly tied to a SharePoint List Office 365 Groups is a group of users, packaged together with a Document library, calendar, Yammer group, Planner, PowerBI and OneNote See example image above. Drag and drop the email directly from Outlook to SharePoint Two-way sync between a local folder and a SharePoint Document Library Cloud based tool that allows employees to create and automate workflows across multiple applications and services without the need for developer help Our third party product assists customers in extracting data from email and email to SharePoint functionality
Pros
  • Get a great view of content in SharePoint and Outlook in one “outlook based view”
  • Store emails alongside documents in one place
  • Groups of people can receive emails
  • Emails are stored as .msg files
  • No configuration required
  • Two-way sync will keep files in sync
  • Groups of people can receive emails
  • Automatic process – setup an autoforward for certain emails and be done
  • Upload email (.eml) file to SharePoint document library
  •  Automatic process – setup an autoforward for certain emails and be done
  • Upload email (.eml) file to SharePoint document library
  • Extract email data and use as metadata in SharePoint Lists and Libraries
  • Free plan available
Cons
  • The email and content is stored in Exchange, not SharePoint which means no searchability or workflow
  • No metadata available from the email – eg. Email subject or data within to sort your document library documents
  • No custom list support
  • No metadata available from the email – eg. Email subject or data within
  • Manual process
  • Desktop only process
  • No custom list support
  • No metadata available from the email – eg. Email subject or data within
  • Manual process – drag and drop email into the
  • Sync downloads entire SharePoint document library locally
  • No custom list support
  • No metadata available from the email – eg. Email subject or data within without some knowledge of basic code
  • Anything more than 15 emails per month, you require a paid account
Price Included in Office 365 Included in Office 365 Included in Office 365 Included in Office 365 Included in Office 365  Free account. Plans start at $22.99/month
Email into SharePoint List/Library

Does the email actually end up in a list or library?

✔ (Library only) ✔ (Library only) ✔ (Library only)  ✔ (Both)
Time Spent per Email NA NA 1 minute 1 minute None  None
Email attachments into a SharePoint List/Library ✔ (Library only)  
Use extracted data from email as metadata in Lists/Libraries ✔ (Requires programming concepts)  
Use extracted data from email attachments (PDF, CSV, XLSX) as metadata in Lists/Libraries