Document Control in SharePoint Part 1

Content Types and Metadata

In this 5 part series of posts, I wanted to show how we can take a requirement, specifically for document control and apply it in SharePoint Online.

Generally speaking, whenever I see, meet or hear from clients in regards to SharePoint, there are always document control systems in place that involve users in some form or another filling in an Excel Spreadsheet, that contains all the information pertaining to documents, support, invoicing and many other types.

SharePoint has got inbuilt controls that allow us to perform the same document management tasks using Content Types (Document Templates) and Metadata (document properties). In the part, I will go through what these are and how we plan to use them.

Our plan

To create 3 x new Document Templates:

  1. Welcome Letter
  2. Sales Quote
  3. Invoice

They will all have various properties, listed below:

  1. Welcome Letter
    1. Name
    2. Address
    3. Account Number
    4. Account Manager Name
  2. Sales Quote
    1. Quote Number
    2. Name
    3. Address
    4. Account Number
    5. Account Manager Name
  3. Invoice
    1. Quote Number
    2. Invoice Number
    3. Name
    4. Address
    5. Account Number
    6. Account Manager Name

As you can see, there is a lot of shared information, so Metadata can be re-used throughout the templates.

Creating the Site

So, to start we need a SharePoint site to put it into and share amongst the team.

In this site we get the usual, a document library, home page, notebook etc. We are really interested in the document library for this, so let’s go in there.

Creating our content types and templates

Cool, so let’s add some Columns of Metadata and create some Content Types, then link them together to make some nice templates.

We add the columns to the document library on top of the ones that are there:

Then we enable content types in the document library:

And then add the 3 content types to the site, then link to the document library:

In the document library, we have left the default in case the end users need to create something other than the specified types:

We then make sure that the content types have the columns from the document library in them. In a lot of cases, you would create the columns as site columns for re-use, but in our case, we are happy the will not be re-used, so will use list columns:

Adding our templates to the content types

Now to add the templates. We need initially to put the templates into the document library so they receive the metadata, so we can add the fields into the document directly

I found that syncing the library made this process easier:

Then I add the fields into the template using the insert -> Document Property feature. This makes it so that when you update metadata, it automatically updates in the document and Vice versa.

Do all three documents and make sure to save your changes. Autosave is your friend here!

Then add the templates to the content types.

Now we can create new welcome letters, quotations and invoices using the SharePoint menu!

To sum up, with a bit of work, we can move the metadata of a document back into the document. We can also make the process of content creation that much simpler. We can also now make it so that searching for content is much simpler.

In Part 2, we will create some views in SharePoint and make the interface a little more ‘ours’!