From Views to Workflows: Tips to Manage a SharePoint Document Library

Two key features to Manage your SharePoint Document Library successfully are views and workflows. Learn here how to customize these two features.

By Cathy Dew

This blog was originally posted on July 6, 2016. It has been updated with new information including a link to a webinar on Information Policy Management.

Welcome to the third and final part of our blog series about managing SharePoint's document library. In the first part of this series, we looked at the basics of organizing document libraries and the different organization methods that SharePoint provides users. In the second part, we zoomed in a bit further and took a look at using security settings and naming conventions to make SharePoint document libraries safer and more user & search friendly.

Now, we are going to look at two more key features of SharePoint's document libraries: views and workflows. By learning how to customize these features, you will be able to get even more out of your SharePoint document library—and with much less effort. So, read on to take your knowledge of SharePoint document libraries to the "mastery" level.

Customizing Views for Your SharePoint Document Library

Every business has a different way of keeping files, data, and other content organized. To maximize efficiency, you need to be able to customize your SharePoint document libraries so they reflect your company's preferred organization techniques. We covered adding meta data and custom content types to support managing and finding your files. The next step is to filter your document libraries using the custom views feature. This feature allows you to standardize the way you sort, group, and filter your documents and folders within your library. Your saved custom views are accessible via the views dropdown, or set your new custom view as the default view for the library.

With custom views, you can:

  • Decide which metadata columns are visible in your library
  • Arrange the order of the metadata columns for your document library, to emphasize the most useful or relevant ones
  • Determine how to sort different columns (e.g. by date, from A to Z, from highest dollar amount to lowest dollar amount, etc.)
  • Filter your document library based on specific criteria (e.g. only show documents updated within a specific date range)

For instructions on how to perform each of the customization tactics listed above, click here to read Microsoft's support post on the subject.

The important thing to remember about custom views is that you can create and save many different views. You can set one general view as the default view of your SharePoint document library, you can provide multiple custom views as an option for your user base to quickly filter the available documents based on many different types of criteria.

Configuring Workflows to Archive Older Documents

There are several reasons to archive or delete old, out-of-date files from your SharePoint document library. On one hand, you might need to comply with industry document retention standards and applicable industry laws. On the other hand, SharePoint document libraries can get cluttered and difficult to navigate as they get larger. While you could go through and manually remove older files—or move them over into a special "archive" library—it's more convenient to use a SharePoint workflow to simplify (or completely automate) the process.

SharePoint has many built-in workflows, but nothing for archiving. Instead, the default workflows are targeted for setting up approval pipelines for individual items or documents. Therefore, if you want a workflow that can automate the file or document archival process you will need to build it yourself.

This post from does an excellent job of simplifying this type of workflow design into a basic step-by-step process. The good news is that you won't have to do any coding to create your custom workflow. With SharePoint Designer, Microsoft has made it very easy for SharePoint Administrators or Site Collection Owners to build custom workflows with just a few clicks.

The Kalstrom solution isn't an entirely automated fix for file archiving. Instead, it's mostly a manually activated workflow, where you set up an archive library and configure it to accept files that have been marked "Expired." Then, you set up a trigger for the workflow so that when you mark a file "Expired" in the original library, the file is moved to the archive library.

Even with this type of workflow, if you have a very large document library the process of archiving files to the archive library could be rather tedious. You could use a similar configuration to archive all files that were created before a certain date. However, this type of blanket process isn't perfect either, as it might end up archiving files that you still need. Therefore, a partially manual workflow is likely the best option for archiving old files—so long as you make a point of going through and archiving stuff every few months.

Some companies take the file archive option further and add meta data to every document that identifies the file retention rules needed for the target document. E.g. 5 years, 7 years, and 12 years. Then based on the last update date of the document, the file retention workflow automatically archives the files to the archive library or Records Management Center. If course if you are dealing with this level of archival needs you will also want an override for legal records holds via eDiscovery.

When it comes to Information Management Policies, the process is not linear. The design pattern for requires you to circle back on several of these parts to fully complete all the necessary steps to have a working policy. Additionally, some of the design decisions need to be well thought out and incorporated into your company’s DNA in order to ensure internal compliance with the new rules.

The components include:

Content Syndication Hub

Custom Content Types

  • Custom Meta Data
  • Retention Rules: Workflow or File Move Actions

In-Place Records Management or

Record Center

Setting Document Libraries & Document Centers with the new default Content Types

Corporate wide adoption

We have a webinar on Information Management Policies and Records Management Centers that covers the basics on setting up these automated pruning and harvesting file retention policies.


By taking these pointers into account—as well as the tips and advice provided in the first two installments of this blog series—you should be ready to venture into the frontier of SharePoint's document library system. Of course, we haven't covered all of the features and tricks that the document library has to offer. To get a fuller sense of how this system works and how to use it, you might do well to spend some time reading Microsoft's support resources and checking out a few of our more advanced articles.

With knowledge of how to organize and customize your document libraries, you and your organization will be one step closer to unlocking the many benefits of SharePoint. Designed to help simplify the equation and save time by automating the steps behind some of their standard processes, dig into details of SharePoint Workflows.

In the meantime, see how a SharePoint Document Center can elevate the level of your document managment. Or step back and get an intro to organizing your SharePoint Document Library with folders and metadata.

Go online to schedule a free consultation with our team or call 510-652-7700 today.

Cathy Dew
Cathy Dew – CEO + Information Architect
Cathy focuses the company on our mission – Real results. Every time. Information architect and strategist, Cathy is passionate about making software work well – the function, the feel, the result.
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