M-Files Terminology

The following table describes daily M-Files terminology.

Term Definition

M-Files software

The M-Files document management software consists of the following components: M-Files Desktop, M-Files Admin, M-Files Desktop Settings, Show Status and M-Files Server. You can also use M-Files with a web browser (see Accessing M-Files Web) or a mobile device (see Accessing M-Files Mobile).

File vs. document

An example of a file is a memo created using Microsoft Word and saved on the C: drive. The file becomes a document only after you have associated metadata with it. Once you have installed M-Files and start transferring existing files to M-Files, you add metadata to the files to make them documents.

In addition to documents, an M-Files vault can also store other types of objects, such as customers, assignments, or project data.

Multi-file document

A multi-file document is a special M-Files document type that can contain more than one file. The files share one set of metadata.

Typical uses include linking of an electronic document with its signed and scanned counterpart, an email and all its attachments, or any such case where files need to be linked together and treated as one unit.


Metadata consists of information about the document's properties, such as the parties of a contract or the recipient of a letter. Metadata is used to, for example, search for and organize documents.

Document and object permissions

Each document can be assigned permissions to specify the access rights of a user or user group. The permissions can be either allowed or denied separately.

One user can have allowed or denied permissions in two different ways: the permissions have been specified for that particular user, or the user belongs to a user group for which the permissions have been specified. If no permissions have been specified for a user, the user cannot view the document or access it in any way. If certain permissions have been allowed, the user can perform the procedures determined by these permissions.


A vault is a centralized storage location for documents and other objects. Its physical location is on the server running M-Files Server. Regardless of the physical location, all users see the document vault as a directory on their local computer's M-Files drive. This means that using a document vault is similar to using a local hard drive.


Views are locations in which the documents and other objects are listed based on the metadata they contain.

Virtual folder

The objects and documents in the views include virtual folders (property folders). Virtual folders enable sorting documents in the view into categories.

Traditional folder

You can create traditional folders in M-Files. These folders do not have the additional properties provided by views. Traditional folders are comparable to, for example, folders on your C: drive and can be used for importing files to M-Files. Traditional folders allow you to retain the original folder structure of the imported files.


A client is the regular M-Files user's computer or mobile device and the software installed on it. The regular user performs operations like creating documents and exploring the document vault.

Object type

By defining object types, you can create different types of objects. Document is one of such object types, one that every vault contains. In addition, the M-Files administrator can create other object types for the vault, such as customer, contact, and project. This way, you can use M-Files to, for example, store the company's customer and project databases.


The term object refers to instances of various object types – that is, individual objects created using object types. For example, one contact person in the document vault is an object.

Most functions are identical for documents and for other objects. This user guide often represents operations as being performed on documents, but the same operations are available for document sets and other objects. An individual document can therefore also be thought of as an object.

Document collection

Document collections are collections of individual documents in the document vault. Each collection member document has its own metadata. In addition, the document collection has a collective set of metadata independently of member documents (compare with multi-file document).

Each document in the collection can still be accessed as an individual document but also through the document collection.


You can also define the relationships between objects. Using relationships you can, for example, indicate that two documents are related. Relationships enable easy tracking of all documents related to an issue.


You can use another object as a template for creating a new object. When you select a template from the list, the metadata card adjusts itself to the specifications of the template object.

Specify an object as a template by setting its Is template property to Yes.


The M-Files Workflow feature enables modeling object lifecycles according to real world processes. The workflow is grouped into states that correspond to the working stages of the document or other object. The M-Files administrator can easily define workflows to meet company requirements. For more information on workflows, see Configuring Workflows.


M-Files Server runs on a server computer. Clients connect to the server and retrieve data so that the contents of the document can be viewed on the clients. The server is the physical location of the document vault.

Login account

Login accounts are server-level (or in some cases vault-level) accounts that are used for authenticating users to M-Files Server. A login account can be associated with multiple users, but only one user per vault. Compare with users.


Users are vault-level objects that store user-specific settings and user history and that have permissions to perform specific operations in a vault. A user is linked to one login account. Compare with login accounts.

Intelligent Metadata Layer

Intelligent Metadata Layer, abbreviated as IML, is a repository-neutral approach to intelligent information management that unifies information across the enterprise based on context, not on the system or folder in which the information is stored. In addition, IML categorizes documents and records automatically and provides metadata suggestions with the aid of artificial intelligence.

See Intelligent Metadata Layer for more information.

Managed object

A managed object is either an internal M-Files object stored in a document vault or a promoted external repository object. Managed objects have metadata in M-Files and can be managed using various M-Files functionalities, such as version history or workflows. A managed external repository object can be demoted to an unmanaged object by removing its metadata.

Compare with unmanaged object and see Unmanaged and Managed Objects.

Unmanaged object

An unmanaged object in M-Files represents a file in an external repository. An unmanaged object does not have M-Files metadata and it cannot be managed with the M-Files version history or workflows. An unmanaged object can be promoted into a managed object by adding metadata to it.

Compare with managed object and see Unmanaged and Managed Objects.


A repository is any accessible place where information can be stored and accessed, such as an M-Files document vault, or an external location such as a network folder or a SharePoint site.

Compare with external repository.

External repository

A repository that is other than an M-Files vault and the contents of which are displayed and can be edited via the M-Files user interfaces.

Compare with repository.


A vault application that lets an external repository to be shown and accessed with M-Files.

See Connectors for more information.

Intelligence service

An intelligence service is a vault application that attempts to understand vault content the way humans do. They can, for instance, be used to analyze file content and existing metadata for automatically categorizing content or for providing end users with metadata suggestions.

See Intelligence Services for more information.

Vault application

Vault applications are pieces of software that are installed to a document vault to extend the functionality of the vault. See Installing and Managing Vault Applications for more information.

Quick view area

The area on the left side of the home screen, containing a number of quick views, such as Recently Accessed by Me, Assigned to Me, and Checked Out to Me.