Projects SharePoint's hierarchical metadata model onto a relational one for fast exploratory queries.
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SharePoint's API isn't optimized for dynamic queries on structural metadata across web applications, site collections, and webs. In this context, structural metadata refers to any piece of information accessible through the SharePoint API and which may help answer questions like the following:

  • Which items are checked out and by whom?
  • When was an item in a list last modified?
  • Which content types are associated with which document libraries?
  • Which features are enabled where?
  • Which security groups are in effect where?
  • Which pages host which web parts?

While each answer provides valuable insight into how SharePoint is actually used -- particularly useful in migration scenarios or validating governance -- answering each question may take hours of query runtime in a large farm.

Instead of running multiple queries against the SharePoint API directly, this project contains a skeleton exporter/importer to project SharePoint's hierarchical metadata model onto a relational read model stored in a SQL database (via an intermediate XML read model -- effectively an Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) process). Using standard database tools and techniques, most queries can then be answered in a matter of seconds.

Writing the export/import logic ourselves has the added benefit of providing feedback on the source platform and help better understand why the results come out the way they do.

In communicating answers to questions like the ones above, tabular output may suffice. Alternatively, PowerBI visualization on the basis of parameterized SQL queries may come in handy.

How to compile

In order to compile the exporter, first grab a copy of Microsoft.SharePoint.dll from a SharePoint 2007 server and place it in the lib folder. License restrictions preclude the redistribution of this Microsoft server-side library.

Because of the importer's use of the FSharp.Data.SqlClient type provider, a database with a schema matching the code is required to compile the importer. Running the build script creates the database and compiles the exporter and importer:

% .\build.ps1

The LocalDB database generated by the script is solely intended for compilation purposes. To import larger datasets into it, adjust the script's values accordingly.

How to use

Limited by the web services of SharePoint 2007, the exporter connects to SharePoint through the server-side API. This implies the exporter be run on one of the farm's SharePoint servers. A server likely not equipped with the latest in operating systems and .NET frameworks. The server may not even have Internet access.

Thus, the exporter is compiled against .NET Framework 3.5 and runs on .NET runtime 2.0, which is what SharePoint itself runs on. To invoke the exporter, provide the web application name as shown below. Remember to surround the argument with quotes if it contains spaces:

% .\Bugfree.SharePoint.Analyzer.Exporter.exe <web-app-name>

The exporter outputs an XML read model to <web-app-name>.xml. This file must be transferred to another computer running more up-to-date software for import into the SQL database. Multiple XML files may be imported into the same database as long as their web application names are unique.

XML file in hand, the importer is run as below, applying the same rule of surrounding arguments containing spaces with quotes:

% .\Bugfree.SharePoint.Analyzer.Importer.exe <web-app-name>.xml <connection-string>

The importer has been tested against LocalDB and SQL Azure. With LocalDB, the connection string follows this pattern:

Data Source=(LocalDB)\MSSQLLocalDB;AttachDbFilename=<absolute-path-to-mdf>;Integrated Security=True

How to query

To order the list of site collections within a web application by last list item modification date descending, the following query is needed. It provides a skeleton query for how to traverse the hierarchical structure of SharePoint when represented relationally:

select sc.Url, max(LastModifiedAt) LastModifiedAt from
    (select w.SiteCollectionId, LatestLists.LastModifiedAt from 
        (select l.Title, l.WebId, ListId, LastModifiedAt from
            (select li.ListId, max(li.ModifiedAt) LastModifiedAt
    	     from WebApplications wa
             inner join SiteCollections sc on sc.WebApplicationId = wa.Id
             inner join Webs w on w.SiteCollectionId = sc.Id
             inner join Lists l on l.WebId = w.Id
             inner join ListItems li on li.ListId = l.Id
             where wa.Title = '<web-app-name>'
             group by li.ListId) as LatestItems
             inner join Lists l on l.Id = LatestItems.ListId) as LatestLists
             inner join Webs w on w.Id = LatestLists.WebId) as LatestWebs
    inner join SiteCollections sc on sc.Id = LatestWebs.SiteCollectionId
    group by sc.Url
    order by LastModifiedAt desc

To list documents checked out by users across all imported web applications:

select wa.Title, w.Url, dli.Url, dli.CheckedOutDate, dli.CheckedOutBy, dli.MajorVersion, dli.MinorVersion
from DocumentLibraryItems dli
inner join DocumentLibraries dl on dl.Id = dli.DocumentLibraryId
inner join Webs w on w.Id = dl.WebId
inner join SiteCollections sc on sc.Id = w.SiteCollectionId
inner join WebApplications wa on wa.Id = sc.WebApplicationId
where CheckedOutDate <> '1900-01-01 00:00:00.000'

How it works

The exporter constructs an XML representation of the projected metadata. The XML is kept entirely in memory during construction and may require GBs of memory, depending on the size of the web application. The exporter is therefore compiled as a 64 bit executable.

Exporting involves traversing SharePoint's hierarchical structure in a depth-first manner, starting from the web application and moving toward list items. Similarly, the importer contains a recursive descent parser which does a depth-first traversal of the XML model, emitting SQL statements as it progresses.


The exporter and importer started out with a type-based domain model of WebApplication, SiteCollection, Web, List, and ListItem. Those types were then annotated with DataMember and DataContract attributes to aid the DataContractSerializer in XML serialization and deserialization. For some reason, .NET wasn't able to correctly serialize and deserialize the XML back into objects across .NET versions. Instead, serialization and deserialization is now handcrafted.

If the SharePoint 2007 farm would guarantee an empty database with write access or an Internet connection to SQL Azure, we wouldn't need separate exporting and importing tools. But creating an extra database in a legacy environment or enable Internet access from a server isn't always straightforward. Unfortunately LocalDB isn't supported with the .NET 3.5 framework. Hence the introduction of the intermediate XML model.

In place of XML, SQL insert statements could've been emitted to a file. The file could then be moved to another machine and the SQL replayed against a database. On the downside, this would tie both the exporter and importer to SQL. In principle, we may wish to query the intermediate XML directly and forgo the relational database.

Placing Microsoft.SharePoint.dll inside the lib folder enables compiling the solution on a machine without SharePoint 2007 installed. Running the exporter on a SharePoint server, the .NET runtime will load SharePoint server assembly from the Global Assembly Cache.

Supported platforms

SharePoint 2007 for export, LocalDB or SQL Server, SQL Azure for import, Visual Studio 2015 for building.