Using SharePoint Document Views as a Quick Filter

Document management in SharePoint can be a hurdle when you have thousands upon thousands of documents to maintain. Let's simplify!

By Cathy Dew

Repeatable Filters on Document Libraries

Document management in SharePoint can be a hurdle when you have thousands upon thousands of documents to maintain. There are several things you can do to make matters a little simpler, from implementing a well-managed metadata system to breaking your documents up into multiple SharePoint document libraries.

Custom Views

You can also create custom views in SharePoint to control what you see and how you see it. When it comes to navigating an overstuffed document library and finding a specific file (or category of files), SharePoint views can help to simplify things significantly.

An Introduction to SharePoint Views

The simplest way to explain SharePoint views is to describe them as quick filters. In actuality, a custom view is more than just a filter. Instead, it’s a fully realized, customizable way of viewing and exploring files within a SharePoint library or list. With a custom view, you can choose which metadata columns you want to display, the order in which you want the columns displayed, and how the files in the view are sorted (e.g. by date, by title, or something else).

Multiple Views can be Public or Private, you choose

Best of all, you can create and save multiple views making it easy to immediately switch between different views depending on your document sorting needs at any given moment. Views can also be public – available to everyone with read access to the library, or private – for your own personal use. If you have multiple teams using SharePoint for document management and they all have slightly different requirements or preferences, views are a way to serve everyone’s needs without giving anyone preferential treatment.

Set up your metadata first

One important thing to note with views is that, if you want to use them, you will first want to configure the appropriate metadata for your SharePoint Library. Views rely on metadata to pull together documents in a meaningful way, so without it, a custom view isn’t going to do you much good. You can create views based on the metadata that comes default with a SharePoint document library or list, but you will get a lot more benefit out of the feature with custom metadata categories that apply specifically to your business.

Using SharePoint Views

As mentioned above, SharePoint views have two main capabilities. First, they let you manipulate your document library so that it shows you what you want to see. Second, they let you control how you see documents.

The first of these features is more straightforward and more universally useful, so let’s start there. Every SharePoint document library or list has a default or standard view. This view is pretty much what you would expect from a digital collection of files. In fact, it probably looks a lot like the document explorer on your computer. By default, the standard view sorts your files alphanumerically. Filenames that start with the letter A or the number 0 or 1 will appear closer to the top of the list than files that start with M or 7.

Improve views by customizing the sort order for document display

Now, say that you would rather sort your files based on the date that they were last modified. This type of view is more helpful in a lot of situations because it puts the most relevant files closer to the top of the view. Even a change as simple as sorting files based on the “Modified” column instead of the “Name” column counts as creating a custom view. In fact, as soon as you start manipulating columns in your SharePoint document library, SharePoint will give you the option to “Save This View.

Sort by last modified, it's the least you can do

Of course, there are plenty of cases where you might want to make a more complex view. After all, sorting by date modified is something you will be able to do from the moment you populate a document library with new files. You won’t even need to create a managed metadata taxonomy to enable that kind of custom view.

Each view can be modified to show exactly the columns that make sense

As you add new metadata columns to your files, you might wish to have those factor into your custom views as well. SharePoint also has more than 20 columns to choose from and only displays a few of them by default. You can tell SharePoint to display other columns, as well as the order in which you want them to appear in the library. Then, you can decide which one of those columns you want to use for sorting. A the Microsoft Office Library you can learn more about adding new columns to a custom view.

These kinds of configurations make document management in SharePoint easier because they allow you to decide which files you want to see closest to the top of a view. However, there are also view options in SharePoint that can change the way the software serves files to you. The standard view will work fine for most situations and users, just because it is so familiar (as well as relatively easy to customize).

If dates matter, consider a calendar or Gantt display

However, there are also other views that you might choose to enable. For instance, if you have a list that contains dates and want to sort files based on date, you might use a calendar view to lay things out day by day and week by week. Gantt view, meanwhile, is designed to help you organize documents based on durations and times—perfect for tracking tasks and deadlines.

Making Custom Views Part of Your Document Management in SharePoint

When using SharePoint for document management, it’s important to figure out the best way to fit custom views into your organization’s day-to-day processes. On the upside, everyone can create custom views. However, only an administrator can create “public views,” which are accessible and usable to everyone the moment you save them. “Personal views” are useful for displaying views that are only applicable to one person, and can still be shared via URL when necessary, but can’t be turned into public views without the assistance of an administrator.

As you can see, there are a lot of different angles to consider when implementing custom SharePoint views—from what kinds of views you want to create to which ones you should leave personal and which ones you should make public. Do you need help navigating the process of establishing and using views for document management in SharePoint? 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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