Tuesday, January 31, 2012

SharePoint - Content Types

One of biggest success stories of the last few years is the overwhelming adoption of Microsoft's collaboration and content management platform SharePoint. Because it is so popular and important, I thought that I would post series of topics about SharePoint. In my today's post, I am going to describe content types.

A content type is a group of settings that describe the shared behavior of a specific group of documents. Content types make it possible to organize and manage documents in a consistent way across a site. In the course of a single project, a company might produce several different kinds of content, for example SOPs, Work Instructions, White Papers, Articles. Although these documents might be stored together because they are related to a single project, they can be created, used, shared, and retained in different ways.

To define content types review your documents and divide them by categories: SOPs, Work Instructions, Specifications, White Papers, etc. Each document category would be a content type. You can also define content types by the requirements that each document category needs to have. For example, SOPs might be controlled documents and if so they would need to go through the approval workflow. It would be a good idea to define SOPs as the separate content type.

Content types are organized into a hierarchy that allows one content type to inherit its characteristics from another content type. This allows categories of documents to share attributes across an organization, while allowing teams to customize these attributes for particular libraries or lists.

Content types are first defined centrally in the site level for a site. Content types that are defined at the site level are called site content types. Site content types are available for use in any sub-sites, libraries, and lists of the site for which they have been created. If a content type has been created in a site collection level, it is available for use in lists and libraries in all of the sites in that site collection.

When you define a new custom site content type in the Site Content Type Gallery for a site, you start by choosing an existing parent site content type in the Site Content Type Gallery as your starting point. The new site content type that you create inherits all of the attributes of its parent site content type, such as its document template, workflows, and metadata. After you create this new site content type, you can make changes to any of these attributes.

Site content types can be added individually to lists or libraries and customized for use in those lists or libraries. When an instance of a site content type is added to a list or library, it is called a list or library content type. List and library content types are children of the site content types from which they were created.

If a child content type has been customized with additional attributes that the parent content type does not have (for example, extra columns), these customizations are not overwritten in the parent content type when the child content type is updated.

If you assign metadata, workflows, and policies to a site content type, all libraries will inherit this metadata, workflows, and policies.

When you create libraries, select the site content type for this library – metadata, workflows, policies, any other settings will apply to all libraries where you selected this content type.

If you need to change settings for many libraries, change it on the content type level. If you need to change settings for one library only, change it on the library level. You can customize any library, this will not affect the parent content type.

Below are few screenshots on how you create content types.

1st step: in the site settings, click on the Site Content Types under Galleries heading:
Click "Create" in the next screen:
Enter the metadata about your new content type:
Next screen shows your new content type. From this screen you can set up metadata for this content type, workflows, and change any other settings:
When you populate the metadata for an item in a list or a library, select your content type and metadata will be populated automatically:
Now you can have consistency in your documents!

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