Differences between native and external lists

A SharePoint list comes in two flavors, native and external:

  • A native list has all its features and data built into SharePoint Products. There are a variety of default lists, such as Announcements, Calendars, and Tasks, custom lists that you can start from scratch, and the widest variety of features available.
  • An external list also has its features built into SharePoint Products, but the data is stored in a data source outside of SharePoint Products, such as a database. Someone, such as a business analyst, must first create the external list. Once created, an external list has many of the same features as a native list, but there are some differences that you should know about. They are listed in the following sections.

For more information, see Find content about external data.

In this article


Comparing list feature differences

Native List Feature Supported in External Lists? More information
Basic operations
  • Edit list name and description and navigation
Yes
  • Control navigation in Quick Launch
Yes
  • Do a local filter or sort operation by using column headers
Yes
  • Create and manage views 
Yes For more information, see Comparing list view differences.
  • Configure per-location views
No
  • View menu, Save View button, and Search box
No These features only work with client-side rendered list views
  • Add, edit, and delete items with SharePoint forms and InfoPath forms
Yes
  • Enable or disable dialog forms
Yes
  • Add, edit, and delete items with Quick Edit
No
  • Share with others
Yes
  • Set list permissions
Yes
  • Set item-level permissions
No
  • Subscribe to Alerts and RSS Feeds
No A developer can create an alert in the external data source by using the Event Framework.
  • Work with user ratings, tags, and notes
No
  • E-mail a link
Yes
  • Work with large lists
Yes The list limits and thresholds are different.
  • Display data in the List Web Part
No Use the Business Data Web Parts instead.
Column operations
  • Use formulas and calculated values 
Yes
  • Add a new column
No Can be defined in the external data source and the external content type.
  • Validate columns
No Can be defined in the external data source.
  • Add, modify, and delete index columns
No Can be defined in the external data source.
  • Create lookup columns
No Alternatively, you can associate two or more external lists when you define an external content type.
  • Create unique columns
No Can be defined in the external data source and the external content type.
  • Enforce list relationships
No Can be defined in the external data source.
  • Use content types and add site columns
No
  • Create external data columns
No
  • Add managed metadata columns
No
Client operations
  • Synchronize data with Excel
Yes
  • Synchronize data with Visio
Yes
  • Synchronize data with Access
Yes
  • Synchronize data with Outlook
Yes
  • Synchronize data with Project
No
  • Use the Open with Access command
No
Additional operations
  • Use the Send To Command
No
  • Check-in and check-out items
No
  • Associate a workflow with a list
No
  • Create folders
No
  • Require approval
No
  • Attach files
No
  • Versioning (Content approval, item version history, draft item security)
No
  • Use target audiences
No
  • Add list data to Site Search
Yes Making external list data appear in search results requires advanced configuration.
  • Integrate e-mail with the list
No
  • Set information management policy
  • Generate a file plan report
No
  • Save the list as a template
No
  • New Quick Step
No

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Comparing column type differences

Native List column type Supported in External Lists? More information
Single line of text Yes
Multiple lines of text Yes
Number Yes
Currency Yes
Date and Time Yes
Yes/No Yes
Choice No
Lookup No
Person or Group No
Hyperlink or Picture No
Calculated No
Managed Metadata No
Full HTML Content with Formatting and Constraints for Publishing (Publishing HTML) No
Image with formatting and constraints for publishing (Publishing Image) No
Hyperlink with formatting and constraints for publishing (Publishing Hyperlink) No
Rich media data for publishing No
Summary Links data No

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Comparing list view differences

Native List view option Supported in External Lists? More information
All View types No In an external list, only the Standard View and Custom View in Designer is supported.
Select or clear columns to display Yes In the external content type of the external list, you can also specify the Title column.
Define a view audience (Public and Personal) Yes
Define a local filter operation Yes External lists may also have one or more Data Source Filters defined in the external content type that filter the data at the external data source to help improve performance.
Define a local sort or filter operation Yes External lists may also have a pre-defined sort operation in the external content type that pre-sorts the data at the external data source to help improve performance.
Define a Tabular View Yes
Create a Group By operation Yes
Define Totals Yes
Update a Style Yes
Item Limit Yes External lists may also have a Page Number defined in the external content type that limit the data at the external data source to help improve performance.
Create Folders No
Create a Mobile view Yes

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Applies to:
SharePoint Foundation 2013, SharePoint Online Enterprise (E3 & E4), SharePoint Online operated by 21Vianet - Enterprise (E3 & E4), SharePoint Server 2013 Enterprise