03 November 2015

SharePoint Views and Metadata Columns

SharePoint iconThe possibility to create different views is a powerful and popular SharePoint feature. Combine meaningful views with the use of columns for relevant metadata, and your SharePoint lists and libraries will be very informative.

In a series of Tips articles in the SharePoint Online from Scratch series, I show how to create columns and show their metadata in calendar and Gantt views and views with filters, grouping and totals. I use a library in the demonstrations, but what I show is also applicable to other SharePoint lists. The tutorials are suitable for SharePoint 2013 on-premise too, as most functions work in the same way as in Office 365 SharePoint.

The folders limitation
When moving files from a file server to SharePoint, it is possible – but not recommended! – to put all the files in a big document library with lots of folders within folders. The main argument for folders is that users will feel at home and the move to SharePoint will be very fast.

FoldersHowever, you will quickly experience that folders have some major drawbacks. Imagine if a site such as was organized in folders. It would start out rather well, I could click my way into the Europe folder and then into the London folder, but then I would quickly realize that once I get into deeper categories it gets complex.

Where will I find the hotels that both have both the “Free breakfast” and the “Free wifi”? In one of those folders or both? As you see at a certain level of complexity the folder way of storing information breaks down, and most likely your information is that complex too.

Use columns and views instead
A bit more complicated but a lot better when it comes to categorization is creating list columns and combining them with views, so that your information can be sliced and diced in many ways.

If we continue to use the hotels example from above I would create a country column based on the choice, managed metadata or lookup column type and then I would create two yes/no fields for the breakfast and the wifi.

If I filled in the column values for my hotel description documents correctly, it would be very easy for anyone to find hotels with free wifi and breakfast in London by applying a filter. To make such a filtering permanent I could create a permanent public or personal view that includes the filter values looked for.
SharePoint views

23 categorization articles
My colleagues and I have so far created no less than 23 articles about categorization in the Tips section, and I have already introduced some of them in two earlier blog posts: about folders, columns and libraries and about rates and keywords.

Now we have released more articles, and this time we focus on the use of views. At first we discuss views more generally and describe how to make a filtered and grouped view, how to create a views landing page and how to calculate the values in a numbered column.

SharePoint Gantt view

Then we take a Quotes library as example and show how it can be enhanced with new metadata columns and a calendar view and a Gantt view. I also give a workflow that sets titles to documents, because I have found that the Gantt view works best with titles.

I hope you will find the categorization articles useful. Most of them include a step by step instruction and a short demo, so it will not take too long to go through them all.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

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