Understanding permission levels in SharePoint

After you have created a SharePoint site, you may want to provide or restrict user access to the site or its contents. For example, you might want to provide access only to members of your team, or you might want to provide access to everyone, but restrict editing for some. The easiest way to work with permissions is to use the default groups and permissions levels provided, which cover most common scenarios. But, if you need to, you can set more fine-grained permissions beyond the default levels. This article describes the different permissions and permission levels, how SharePoint groups and permissions work together, and how permissions cascade through a site collection.

Note: Want to go straight to the steps for changing or setting permission levels? See How to create and edit Permission Levels.

For a visual overview, check out Video: Understanding permissions in SharePoint.

If you work on a site, you are working inside a site collection. Every site exists in a site collection, which is a group of sites under a single top-level site. The top-level site is called the root site of the site collection.

The following illustration of a site collection shows a simple hierarchy of sites, lists and list items. The permissions scopes are numbered, starting at the broadest level at which permissions can be set, and ending at the narrowest level (a single item in a list).

A graphic that shows SharePoint Security scopes at site, subsite, list, and item.

Inheritance

An important concept to understand is permissions inheritance. By design, all the sites and site content in a collection inherit the permissions settings of the root or top-level site. When you assign unique permissions to sites, libraries, and items, those items no longer inherit permissions from their parent site. Here's more information on how permissions work within the hierarchy:

  • A site collection administrator configures permissions for the top level site or root site for the whole collection.

  • If you are a site owner, you can change permission settings for the site, which stops permission inheritance for the site.

  • Lists and libraries inherit permissions from the site to which they belong. If you are a site owner, you can stop permissions inheritance and change the permission settings for the list or library.

  • List items and library files inherit permissions from their parent list or library. If you have control of a list or library, you can stop permissions inheritance and change permissions settings directly on a specific item.

    It is important to know that a user can interrupt the default permission inheritance for a list or library item by sharing a document or item with someone who does not have access. In that case, SharePoint automatically stops inheritance on the document.

Default permission levels allow you to quickly and easily provide common levels of permissions for one user or groups of users.

You can make changes to any of the default permissions levels, except Full Control and Limited Access, both of which are described more fully in the table below.

Permission Level

Description

Full Control

Contains all available SharePoint permissions. By default, this permission level is assigned to the Owners group. It can’t be customized or deleted.

Design

Create lists and document libraries, edit pages and apply themes, borders, and style sheets on the site. There is no SharePoint group that is assigned this permission level automatically.

Edit

Add, edit, and delete lists; view, add, update, and delete list items and documents. By default, this permission level is assigned to the Members group.

Contribute

View, add, update, and delete list items and documents.

Read

View pages and items in existing lists and document libraries and download documents.

Limited Access

Enables a user or group to browse to a site page or library to access a specific content item when they do not have permissions to open or edit any other items in the site or library. This level is automatically assigned by SharePoint when you provide access to one specific item. You cannot assign Limited Access permissions directly to a user or group yourself. Instead, when you assign edit or open permissions to the single item, SharePoint automatically assigns Limited Access to other required locations, such as the site or library in which the single item is located.

Approve

Edit and approve pages, list items, and documents. By default, the Approvers group has this permission.

Manage Hierarchy

Create sites and edit pages, list items, and documents. By default, this permission level is assigned to the Hierarchy Managers group.

Restricted Read

View pages and documents, but not historical versions or user permissions.

View Only

View pages, items, and documents. Any document that has a server-side file handler can be viewed in the browser but not downloaded. File types that do not have a server-side file handler (cannot be opened in the browser), such as video files, .pdf files, and .png files, can still be downloaded.

Security Note:  Office 365 plans create a security group called “Everyone except external users” that contains every person you add into the Office 365 directory (except people who you add explicitly as External Users). This security group added to the Members group automatically, so that users in Office 365 can access and edit the SharePoint Online site. In addition, Office 365 plans create a security group called “Company Administrators”, which contains Office 365 Admins (such as Global and Billing Admins). This security group is added to the Site Collection Administrators group.

Permission levels work together with SharePoint groups. A SharePoint group is a set of users who all have the same permission level.

The way this works is that you put related permissions together into a permission level. Then you assign that permission level to a SharePoint group.

Site permission dialog under Site Settings/Users and Permissions/Site Permissions

By default, each kind of SharePoint site includes certain SharePoint groups. For example, a Team Site automatically includes the Owners, Members, and Visitors group. A Publishing Portal site includes those groups and several more, such as Approvers, Designers, Hierarchy Managers, and so on. When you create a site, SharePoint automatically creates a pre-defined set of SharePoint groups for that site. In addition, a SharePoint admin can define custom groups and permission levels.

To learn more about SharePoint groups, see Understanding SharePoint groups.

The SharePoint groups and permission levels that are included by default in your site may differ, depending on:

  • The template that you choose for the site

  • Whether the site is an internal site or a public website

  • Whether a SharePoint admin created a unique permissions set on the site that has a specific purpose, such as Search

The following table describes the default permission levels and associated permissions for three standard groups: Visitors, Members, and Owners.

Group

Permission level

Visitors

Read    This level includes these permissions:

  • Open

  • View Items, Versions, pages, and Application pages

  • Browse User Information

  • Create Alerts

  • Use Self-Service Site Creation

  • Use Remote Interfaces

  • Use Client Integration Features

Members

Edit    This level includes all permissions in Read, plus:

  • View, add, update and delete Items

  • Add, Edit and Delete Lists

  • Delete Versions

  • Browse Directories

  • Edit Personal User Information

  • Manage Personal Views

  • Add , Update, or Remove Personal Web Parts

Owners

Full Control     This level includes all available SharePoint permissions.

Site permissions apply generally across a SharePoint site. The following table describes the permissions that apply to sites, and show the permission levels that use them.

Permission

Full Control

Design

Edit

Contribute

Read

Limited Access

Approve

Manage Hierarchy

Restricted Read

View Only

Manage Permissions

X

X

View Web Analytics Data

X

X

Create Subsites

X

X

Manage Web Site

X

X

Add and Customize Pages

X

X

X

X

Apply Themes and Borders

X

X

Apply Style Sheets

X

X

Create Groups

X

Browse Directories

X

X

X

X

X

X

Use Self-Service Site Creation

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

View Pages

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Enumerate Permissions

X

X

Browse User Information

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Manage Alerts

X

X

Use Remote Interfaces

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Use Client Integration Features

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Open

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Edit Personal User Information

X

X

X

X

X

X

List permissions apply to content in lists and libraries. The following table describes the permissions that apply to lists and libraries, and show the permission levels that use them.

Permission

Full Control

Design

Edit

Contribute

Read

Limited Access

Approve

Manage Hierarchy

Restricted Read

View Only

Manage Lists

X

X

X

X

Override Check-Out

X

X

X

X

Add Items

X

X

X

X

X

X

Edit Items

X

X

X

X

X

X

Delete Items

X

X

X

X

X

X

View Items

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Approve Items

X

X

X

Open Items

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

View Versions

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Delete Versions

X

X

X

X

X

X

Create Alerts

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

View Application Pages

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Personal permissions apply to content that belongs to a single user. The following table describes the permissions that apply to personal views and web parts, and show the permission levels that use them.

Permission

Full Control

Design

Edit

Contribute

Read

Limited Access

Approve

Manage Hierarchy

Restricted Read

View Only

Manage Personal Views

X

X

X

X

X

X

Add/Remove Private Web Parts

X

X

X

X

X

X

Update Personal Web Parts

X

X

X

X

X

X

SharePoint permissions can depend on other SharePoint permissions. For example, you must be able to open an item to view it. In this way, View Items permission depends on Open permission.

When you select a SharePoint permission that depends on another, SharePoint automatically selects the associated permission. Similarly, when you clear SharePoint permission, SharePoint automatically clears any SharePoint permission that depends on it. For example, when you clear View Items, SharePoint automatically clears Manage Lists (you can't manage a list if you can't view an item).

Tip:  The only SharePoint permission without a dependency is Open. All other SharePoint permissions depend on it. To test a custom permission level, you can just clear “Open”. This automatically clears all other permissions.

The following sections contain tables that describe SharePoint permissions for each permission category. For each permission, the table shows the dependent permissions.

Site permissions and dependent permissions

The following table describes the permissions that apply to sites, and show the permissions that depend on them.

Permission

Description

Dependent permissions

Manage Permissions

Create and change permission levels on the website and assign permissions to users and groups.

Approve Items, Enumerate Permissions, Open

View Web Analytics Data

View reports on website usage.

Approve Items, Open

Create Subsites

Create subsites such as team sites, Meeting Workspace sites, and Document Workspace sites.

View Pages, Open

Manage website

Perform all administration tasks for the website, which includes managing content.

View Pages, Open

Add and Customize Pages

Add, change, or delete HTML pages or Web Part pages, and edit the website by using a Windows SharePoint Services-compatible editor.

View Items, Browse Directories, View Pages, Open

Apply Themes and Borders

Apply a theme or borders to the whole website.

View Pages, Open

Apply Style Sheets

Apply a style sheet (.css file) to the website.

View Pages, Open

Create Groups

Create a group of users who can be used anywhere within the site collection.

View Pages, Open

Browse Directories

Enumerate files and folders in a website, by using an interface such as SharePoint Designer or web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning (Web DAV).

View Pages, Open

Use Self-Service Site Creation

Create a website by using Self-Service Site Creation.

View Pages, Open

View Pages

View pages in a website.

Open

Enumerate Permissions

Enumerate permissions on the website, list, folder, document, or list item.

View Items, Open Items, View Versions, Browse Directories, View Pages, Open

Browse User Information

View information about users of the website.

Open

Manage Alerts

Manage alerts for all users of the website

View Items, Create Alerts, View Pages, Open

Use Remote Interfaces

Use Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Web DAV, or SharePoint Designer interfaces to access the website.

Open

Open*

Open a website, list, or folder to access items inside that container.

No dependent permissions

Edit Personal User Information

Allow a user to change personal information, such as adding a picture.

Browse User Information, Open

List permissions and dependent permissions

The following table describes the permissions that apply to lists and libraries, and show the permissions that depend on them.

Permission

Description

Dependent permissions

Manage Lists

Create and delete lists, add or remove columns in a list, and add or remove public views of a list.

View Items, View Pages, Open, Manage Personal Views

Override Check-Out

Discard or check in a document that is checked out to another user.

View Items, View Pages, Open

Add Items

Add items to lists, add documents to document libraries, and add web discussion comments.

View Items, View Pages, Open

Edit Items

Edit items in lists, edit documents in document libraries, edit web discussion comments in documents, and customize Web Part Pages in document libraries.

View Items, View Pages, Open

Delete Items

Delete items from a list, documents from a document library, and web discussion comments in documents.

View Items, View Pages, Open

View Items

View items in lists, documents in document libraries, and web discussion comments.

View Pages, Open

Approve Items

Approve a minor version of a list item or document.

Edit Items, View Items, View Pages, Open

Open Items

View the source of documents that use server-side file handlers.

View Items, View Pages, Open

View Versions

View past versions of a list item or document.

View Items, View Pages, Open

Delete Versions

Delete past versions of a list item or document.

View Items, View Versions, View Pages, Open

Create Alerts

Create e-mail alerts.

View Items, View Pages, Open

View Application Pages

View documents and views in a list or document library.

Open

Personal permissions and dependent permissions

The following table describes the permissions that apply to personal views and web parts, and show the permissions that depend on them.

Permission

Description

Dependent permissions

Manage Personal Views

Create, change, and delete personal views of lists.

View Items, View Pages, Open

Add/Remove Private Web Parts

Add or remove private Web Parts on a Web Part Page.

View Items, View Pages, Open, Update Personal Web Parts

Update Personal Web Parts

Update Web Parts to display personalized information.

View Items, View Pages, Open

Now that you have learned about permissions, inheritance, and permission levels, you may want to plan your strategy so that you can set guidelines for your users, minimize maintenance, and ensure compliance with your organization's data governance policies. For tips on planning your strategy, see Plan your permissions strategy.

Was this information helpful?

How can we improve it?

How can we improve it?

To protect your privacy, please do not include contact information in your feedback. Review our privacy policy.

Thank you for your feedback!