Read vs Restricted Read vs View Only Permission in SharePoint

I recently had a SharePoint admin assigning Restricted Read permissions to users and out of curiosity wanted to refresh my memory on what distinguishes Read from Restricted Read. While I was at it, I took a look at View Only as well.

Basically, Read and View Only are nearly identical. The only distinction is that Read can download documents, while View Only can only open them and view them in the browser.

Restricted Read is minimally permissive, and doesn’t include the ability to create alerts, view versions, download, or exercise some site abilities (see table below for specifics).

You’ll also notice in the table below that View Only can Open, but not Open Items like Read. According to documentation, the difference is this:

  • Open Items (list permission): “View the source of documents with server-side file handlers.” Requires Open permission:
  • Open (site permission): “Enables users to open a website, list, or folder to access items inside that container.”

In the table below, list permissions are blue and site permissions are red. Download Documents is not a listed permission, but added for clarity to distinguish Read and View Only.

View OnlyRestricted ReadRead
Browse User Information XX
Create Alerts XX
Download DocumentsX
OpenXXX
Open ItemsXX
Use Client Integration Features XX
Use Remote Interfaces XX
Use Self Service Site Creation XX
View Application PagesXX
View Items XXX
View Pages XXX
View Versions XX
Permissions comparison matrix for read, restricted read, and view only in SharePoint.

Source: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint/sites/user-permissions-and-permission-levels

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