SharePoint MetaData – 2

This week I’m back to finish my look at metadata as an alternative to using folders in not just your document libraries, but in any library or list.  If you missed the exciting first part of this discussion, just go back to the blog from December 15, 2012.

So to pick up from my last example, if all I could do was display my documents with metadata columns, I would not be that excited about switching from folders to metadata.  Sure I can use the metadata columns to sort and filter my view using the options in the view definition, but did you know that you can define ad hoc filters for any view by using the dropdown menu associated with most column headings.  Simply hover your mouse over a column heading and if a dropdown arrow appears, click on it.  The figure below shows the dropdown for the column named: Grant.


The dropdown displays a list of all the unique values in the selected column.  If more than one item has the same metadata value, that value only appears.  After selecting a specific grant, the list displays only the documents associated with that grant within the definition of the current view.  That could mean one or more documents, but by definition must include at least one document.

To take it a step further, I can also hover over the category column and select a document type.  When I select a document type, SharePoint adds this filter to the grant filter to display all documents of a specific document type for that specific grant.  Note that adding filters does not replace previous filters.  To clear a filter for any column, you must go to that column’s dropdown menu and select the Clear Filter from option.

One limitation of this method is that you can only define a single filter criteria for any one column.  In other words, it is not possible to define a filter on two or more different grants.  One possible solution to this limitation is to define another metadata column that groups grants in such a way that selecting values from this new column displays documents in multiple grants.

If I find myself filtering on the same criteria often, I usually consider creating a view for that filter.  Views can either be Public or Private.  Anyone who has at least view permission to a library can use a Public view when they access to the library.  On the other hand, Private views can only be used by the person who creates them.  Each library or list must have at least one public view to serve as the default view.  Once defined as a default view for the library/list, that view cannot be deleted.  Non-default views can be deleted.  Therefore, to remove a default view, first create a new public view or promote one of the other public views to be the new default view.  Then you can delete the view that previously served as the default.

A  library/list can have many different views associated with it.  Each view can have a different filter on the documents, a different set of metadata columns displayed, a different sort, a different style and even a different set of groupings.

Groupings are like another set of sort levels in some ways.  A view definition only supports two levels of sort.  However, groupings provide two additional levels that appear above the regular sort fields.  The primary advantage of groupings over sort fields is that I can expand or collapse each group individually using the small box with a plus or minus sign to the left of each group name thus showing or hiding documents to focus on only the ones of interest.

In the following figure, you can see how the grant named 21st CCLC Southwest/West was expanded along with the document type Application to show individual documents.  Everything else is compressed conserving screen real estate.  This is similar to the way filters help users focus on only the documents that are important at the moment.


One of the best values of the metadata approach for me can be illustrated by what happens when you need to add another year to the structure.  In a typical folder approach, I would have to go into each grant and then each category in each grant to create a folder for the new year.  In the metadata approach I simply add the year in the text field for the Year column when I add a document for the new year.  If I defined the Year column as a Choice column, a quick edit of the library’s column settings to add the new year value to the possible values for the Year column gets the job done.


Furthermore, if the values for the Year column come from a lookup table, I can simply add a new record in the lookup table for the new year value.


Given a list like the one below, any user with member rights (edit) can go into the list to add new values.  However, values should never be deleted from a list.  In fact, there are ways in SharePoint 2010 to define referential integrity so that values in a lookup list cannot be deleted if they are referenced by another list or library.


Anyone with Edit permission to the list can just click Add new item found at the bottom of the list to display a dialog to add a new item.

So using metadata provides greater scaling abilities as my document library grows with easier maintenance, easier search support for finding files, the ability to include identifying data in the document list to help users select the correct file and a variety of ways to display my document list including public and private views.

And speaking of supporting multiple views, check out the final image for this blog entry.  This figure shows an example of a single library that has multiple views available.  Of course, the same would apply to a list.


That is all for this Saturday.  Of course if you are reading this, we made it past the end of the Mayan calendar and you are just going to have to go out and buy those Christmas presents you were hoping not to have to buy. And if you already bought a bunch of Christmas presents thinking that you will not have to pay for them since the bills would not get to you until after the end of the world, guess again.  Oh, and to Congress, you really do have to worry about that fiscal cliff now.  If you are not reading this, oh well… I should have use the time for something else.

C’ya next time.


One comment on “SharePoint MetaData – 2

  1. You’re such an awesome guy. This is a great enjoyable read! Many thanks for sharing your experience in such an entertaining and really useful way. I aim to become more like you when it comes to writing about technology on my blog (

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