By Cathy Dew
You can do a fair amount with SharePoint right out of the box. For instance, if you are planning on using SharePoint for document management, you can set up document libraries and start uploading files immediately. However, if you want your documents—and every other piece of content on your SharePoint intranet—to be easily searchable, navigable, and discoverable, then you will need to spend some time setting up SharePoint content types.
SharePoint is the Document Library expert. To learn the fundamentals, check out our topic page "SharePoint Document Libraries: The very heart of the SharePoint experience."
This is the second article in our two-part series on Content Types. In the first article, we discussed what are Content Types, why they are helpful and then showed how to apply them to managed navigation for your target library. In this post, we’ll cover hierarchies, inheritance, and content syndication.
Just as metadata navigation will enable you to reap the benefits of your content types better, navigation hierarchies will allow you to get more out of your metadata navigation. As we discussed previously,SharePoint’s metadata navigation tool uses a tree or hierarchical view to display different content types.You can then select content types from the hierarchy to filter your search and revise your view of a document library or list. In addition to content types, you can view and use a few other filters, such as the person who authored the file and the creation date and time.
You can revise what displays in this tree by navigating to the library where you want to use metadata navigation, clicking the Library tab in the ribbon, selecting “Library Settings,” and then finding “Metadata navigation settings” under the “General Settings” section. Here, you can choose “ConfigureNavigation Hierarchies” to decide what the navigation tree will display. By default, the tree displays folders. You can change the default view to Library, Custom Folder, Document Set, or Custom Document Set, depending on how you want to view and search different libraries or lists. In most cases, viewing based on Folder will be okay. However, having the other options gives you the freedom to play around with different settings and figure out what works best for your purposes. Click here to read about alternate navigation views in greater detail.
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Content Type Inheritance
To simplify the use of content types (and metadata navigation) throughout your SharePoint environment, you should understand how content type inheritance works. Just like the permissions settings you can use to secure your SharePoint document libraries, content types can be inherited from one level of SharePoint hierarchy (the parent) to the next (the child). This inheritance saves you from having to reconfigure content types for every individual list or library in your intranet.
With inheritance in mind, SharePoint lets you configure content types at the site collection level. These SharePoint content types (called “site content types”) are useful because you can apply them to every list or library throughout that site collection. So, if your enterprise only has one site collection, you can configure all your content types at the top level and then use them throughout that site collection. The content types will automatically apply to all the sites in the site collection. Those content types will then be inherited by subsites, which will be inherited by lists or libraries, which will then apply those content types and their metadata requirements to every document that one of your team members uploads.
You can also implement content types at the list or library level. These SharePoint content types are known as “list content types.” If you have a content type that only applies to one site or one document library, then it might not make sense to implement it across your entire site collection. That decision is up to you, but you can always create list content types if you prefer.
Content Type Syndication
Now, what if you have multiple site collections in your SharePoint environment? It’s possible that the SharePoint document libraries on each site collection store similar documents and require similar metadata columns. However, there is no level above the site collection, which means that creating SharePoint content types that inherit down through multiple site collections isn’t exactly an easy task.
With that said, though, there is a workable solution. With content type publishing, you can apply your content types across multiple site collections. You will need to use a Managed Metadata service to publish content types across your SharePoint farm, setting up your Managed Metadata services requires a bit of work but the process is possible. You can also push content types to your SharePoint web applications, through the use of a tool called the SharePoint Content Type Hub. This special site collection essentially “syndicates” your content types across all the applications and site collections across your SharePoint intranet.
The key to a successful implementation of a Content Type Hub is the building of the basic custom content types needed corporate wide. You want to build your content types with the company wide shared meta data columns first, and then build out the specific departmental and division needs using the new custom content types as the parents. Once syndicated, you can extend the custom content types further, if needed, at the departmental site collection level.
As you might expect, content type publishing and content type syndication are relatively complex processes. Inheritance is a bit easier to manage with site content types, but can still be confusing for first-timers. If you need assistance with these processes—or with any of the other tactics described in this article, from content type creation to metadata navigation enablement, all the way to navigation hierarchy changes—2 Plus 2 can help. In the meantime, get an intro to organizing your SharePoint Document Library with folders and metadata. Our SharePoint experts can assist you with all questions pertaining to SharePoint content types. Go online to schedule a free consultation with our team or call 510-652-7700 today.