25 Limitations of External Lists in SharePoint

We can’t compare external lists with standard lists where data is stored inside SharePoint. Since the data is stored outside SharePoint, there are many Limitations in External Lists. Many of the Ribbon features will not be available for external Lists.

  1. Datasheet view is not available
  2. Export to Excel option is not available
  3. Workflows cannot be configured for External Lists
  4. Cannot create Information Management Policies (bar codes,  auditing, retention, or labels)
  5. No version or version history
  6. Inline Editing is not available
  7. No Rating widget
  8. Can’t create Visio Diagrams
  9. Open with Access/Open with Project is not supported
  10. REST access via ListData.svc to External Lists is not available (All WCF services like RSS feeds are not available)
  11. No Lookups – No Content Types
  12. No Context Menu (ECB) Send To operations.
  13. Events handlers are not supported.
  14. LINQ to SharePoint spmetal.exe does not support external lists
  15. No Item Level Permissions
  16. No item or field level validation or Formula supported
  17. Document templates are not supported.
  18. Alerts are not supported
  19. Attachments will not be available
  20. Additional data connections in InfoPath 2010 list forms not supported
  21. My favorite Utility: U2U CAML Query builder doesn’t work!
  22. No Check In / Check Out options 
  23. Drafts of items are not supported.
  24. No write support for BLOB 
  25. Metadata based navigation is not supported

Tail: You cannot mix the SharePoint columns with External List columns since they are coming from external source.

Update: In SharePoint 2013, following improvements are made:

  1. Sorting & Filtering for External lists is improved
  2. Export to Excel option included
  3. Event Receiver on external lists is introduced.
  4. Supports OData

Salaudeen Rajack

Salaudeen Rajack is a SharePoint Architect with Two decades of SharePoint Experience. He loves sharing his knowledge and experiences with the SharePoint community, through his real-world articles!

8 thoughts on “25 Limitations of External Lists in SharePoint

  • September 5, 2013 at 5:36 PM

    I am working with SharePoint 2013, and I have issues with External List.

    I created a lookup field that get data from external list. I am not able to retrieve more than 200 records from external list. I get an error which says that data is truncated. Does anybody has a similar problem?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • September 8, 2013 at 9:10 AM

      Yes, That’s a known issue!

      More info on MSDN : http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/d0d3d0c9-8180-40f6-a886-be08c1a56a24/external-data-column-pick-list-sort-order-and-remove-limit-constraint

      Reply
    • November 24, 2016 at 1:24 PM

      Hi Salaudeen,
      I am unable to export more than 2000 records to excel from SharePoint external list. External list has 5000 records but only 2000 records getting exported to excel.

      Could you please let me know if you the solution for this issue

      Thanks and Regards,
      Girish.

      Reply
  • July 15, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    Another great tool to bring external data to SharePoint is Overcast http://overcast-suite.com
    This tool installs in your SharePoint and enables you to introspect backends such as SAP, Oracle, SQL, Salesforce.com directly from your SharePoint UI (no installation on the backend).
    Data transfer is bi-directional and uses native lists in SharePoint.

    Reply
  • May 8, 2013 at 7:05 AM

    External list dont support .Net types int64, uint64, uri ,guid.

    Reply
  • January 31, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    You can overcome all the limitations by using data synchronization of external data with native SharePoint lists and libraries with tools like this:

    http://www.layer2.de/en/products/Pages/Cloud-Connector-for-SharePoint-2010-Office365.aspx

    or this:

    http://www.layer2.de/en/products/Pages/SharePoint-Business-Data-List-Connector.aspx

    It all has its pros and cons. But if you don’t need real-time data, you are on the safe side with replication regarding the list or library Features that might be required at any time.

    Reply
  • November 26, 2012 at 12:58 AM

    What do you suggest we use instead of the External Content Type / Lists?

    Reply
    • November 27, 2012 at 9:14 AM

      Depends on what features you are looking for! Hope to see some of these limitations removed in Upcoming versions of SharePoint.

      Reply

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