24 January 2017

The Puzzling SharePoint Title Field

SharePoint iconThe SharePoint 'Title' field has been there from the beginning, inherited from the Office applications. I have noticed that this field often is left empty in library files, which is a pity as it is important for the SharePoint search. On the other hand, if people don't use it, why have it there at all?

Today I will show how to hide the 'Title' field, but first I will give two suggestions on how to actually get data into the field instead.

Title in lists and libraries
When you create a new list item, you cannot save it until the 'Title' field has been given a value. Therefore most users learn to fill out the title field with relevant information in lists.

When you create a new file in a SharePoint library, there is however no such compulsion. On the contrary, the title field is rather hidden to users. To enter something in the title field, they actually have to edit the file properties and how many regular users do that?

SharePoint Search leading field
In SharePoint searches, the title field has the highest rank of all, so that is where SharePoint starts to search, and hits in the title comes first in the results. If the title field is empty, the file name becomes prominent. Imagine how the SharePoint library searches will work if users leave the title field empty and don't change the default file name, Document, Book or Presentation!

Change the display name
Sometimes people avoid filling out title fields, or fill them out badly, because they don't understand the meaning of the field. Therefore, the easiest solution to the title problem is to simply go into the library or list settings, open the 'Title' column and change 'Title' into something else. Use a word that is more explanatory, or rename the 'Title' column instead of adding a new column.

When you change the list column name in this way, only the name displayed to the users will be changed. The column name will still be 'Title' in flows and workflows. It works well in SharePoint lists, where something has to be written anyway and a relevant name gives relevant input.

In libraries, users might be more inclined to actually open the properties and fill out a field called 'Keywords' or something similar, but this method does not force them to do it.

Auto-fill the title
If we assume that users change the default file names when they create new files in SharePoint libraries, it is possible to let a workflow add the same text as in the file name to the 'Title' field. The solution is not optimal, but it is better to have the file name in the title field than having it blank. This workflow is also useful if you want to add titles to a lot of files where the field is empty.

Hide the title
As a last resort, you can create a new document content type where the 'Title' field is hidden. I would only do this when the 'Title' field is not used or is repeatedly filled out in the wrong way. In a new article in the Tips section, I have described how to hide the 'Title' field, and you can also see it in the demo below.

I have created multiple articles and demos where I have stressed the importance of using metadata. This new demo does not mean that I back away from that, but in special cases, when SharePoint Search is not important, hiding the 'Title' field can be the best option.

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

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