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Plan content types (Office SharePoint Server)

Updated: February 26, 2009

Applies To: Office SharePoint Server 2007

Updated: 2009-02-26

In this article:

This topic describes content types and related features, and provides guidance on planning content types for your solution based on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007.

What are content types?

A content type defines the attributes of a list item, a document, or a folder. Each content type can specify:

  • Properties to associate with items of its type.

  • Workflows that can be launched from items of its type.

  • Information management policies to associate with items of its type.

  • Document templates (for document content types).

  • Document conversions to make available (for document content types).

  • Custom features.

You can associate a content type with a list or library. When you do this, you are specifying that the list or library can contain items of that content type and that the New command in that list or library will let users create new items of that type.

NoteNote:

Properties, workflows, policies, and templates can also be associated directly with a list or library. However, doing this limits these associations to the list or library and is not reusable across your solution.

Document libraries and lists can contain multiple content types. For example, a library can contain both the documents and the graphics related to a project. When a list or library contains multiple content types:

  • The New command in that list or library lets users create new items of all the associated content types.

  • The columns associated with all available content types are displayed.

You define custom content types in a site's content type gallery. A custom content type must be derived, directly or indirectly, from a core content type such as Document or Item. After it is defined in a site, a custom content type is available in that site and in all subsites below that site. To make a content type most broadly available, define it in the content type gallery of the top-level site in a site collection.

For example, if your organization uses a particular contract template, in the content type gallery of the top-level site in a site collection you can create a content type that defines the metadata for that contract, the contract's template, workflows required to review and complete the contract, policies that enforce auditing of actions related to the contract, a retention period for retaining the contract, and labels to insert in printed versions of the contract. Then, any document library in your site collection to which you associate the Contract content type will include all of these features and will enable authors to create new contracts based on the template.

In sites based on Office SharePoint Server 2007, each default list item or library item — such as Contact, Task, or Document — has a corresponding core content type in the site's content type gallery. When planning content types, you can use these core content type definitions as starting points, basing new content types on existing ones as needed or modifying the core types.

Content types are organized into a hierarchy that allows one content type to inherit its characteristics from another content type. This allows classes of documents to share characteristics across an organization, while allowing teams to tailor these characteristics for particular sites or lists.

For example, all customer deliverable documents in an enterprise may require a set of metadata such as account number, project number, and project manager. By creating a top-level Customer Deliverable content type from which all other customer deliverable document types inherit, you ensure that required information such as account numbers and project numbers will be associated with all variants of customer deliverable documents in your organization. Note that, if another required column is added to the top-level Customer Deliverable content type, the content type owner can propagate the changes to all content types that inherit from it, which will add the new column to all customer deliverable documents.

Properties integration with the 2007 Office release

In the 2007 Microsoft Office system, when a user is editing a document from a Office SharePoint Server 2007 document management server, a Document Information Panel is shown at the top of the document. The Document Information Panel displays an editable form that reflects the document's properties on the server.

Office SharePoint Server 2007 makes it easy to customize the property form for a content type. When you configure a content type, you can start Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007, which generates a default property form based on the properties of the content type. The default form includes the same controls, layout, and schema that 2007 Office system would use if no custom form were defined. You can then customize and deploy the form as you would any other Office InfoPath 2007 InfoPath form. For example, you can add your company logo, fonts, and color scheme to a form; connect it to a custom data source; add conditional logic; and design form features that are available to users based on their roles.

Along with editing properties in the Document Information Panel, authors using Microsoft Office Word 2007 can insert properties defined on the server into their documents. For example, if the document properties include an attorney name, this name can be inserted into the title page, the footer, or anywhere else the name is used in the document. If a new attorney is assigned to a particular case, the Attorney Name property can be updated on the document management server; this updated attorney name will be reflected in every instance of this property that has been inserted into a document.

About column templates

Each item of metadata associated with a content type is a column, which is a location in a list to store information. Lists or libraries in Office SharePoint Server 2007 are often displayed graphically as columns of information. However, depending on the view associated with the list, the columns can appear in other forms, such as days in a calendar display. In forms associated with a list or library, columns are displayed as fields.

You can define columns for use in multiple content types. To do this, create them in a Column Templates gallery. There is a Column Templates gallery in each site in a site collection. As with content types, columns defined in a site's Column Templates gallery are available in that site and in all of its subsites.

About folder content types

Folder content types define the metadata associated with a folder in a list or library. When you apply a folder content type to a list or library, the New command in that list or library will include the folder content type, letting users create folders of that type.

You can define views in a list or library that are available only in folders of a particular content type. This is useful when you want a folder to contain a particular type of document and you want views in that folder to only display columns relevant to the document type contained in that folder.

Using the Office SharePoint Server 2007 object model, you can customize the New command for a folder content type so that, when a user creates a new folder of that type, the folder is pre-populated with multiple files and documents based on templates stored on the server. This is useful, for example, for implementing a compound document type that requires multiple files to contribute to a single deliverable document.

Planning document content types

Plan document content types for your solution by using the Analyze document usage worksheet, which you filled in using the topic Analyze document usage. Use the Content type worksheet to record your decisions about each new content type.

Each document content type should inherit its settings directly from the core Document content type or from a content type that is descended from the Document content type. This will ensure that the basic columns for your document types, such as Title and Created By, are present and that you can associate a template with the content type.

The first stage in planning document content types is to review each document type listed in your Analyze document usage worksheet to determine if there is an existing content type available for documents of that type. If a core content type (such as Document) is sufficient, enter the content type name in the Content Type column of the Analyze document usage worksheet.

After reviewing your list of document types to determine which ones can use core content types, plan new document content types using the following steps. For each content type you plan, fill in a separate Plan a content type worksheet.

  1. Enter the document type from the Analyze document usage worksheet.

  2. Enter the site URL at which the new content type will be defined. Keep in mind that content types are available in the site in which they are defined and in all subsites below that site.

  3. Determine the parent content type   Enter the parent content type in the "Parent Content Type" field of the Plan a content type worksheet. This will be either a core content type or a custom content type that you have already planned.

  4. Determine the columns   In the "Plan Columns" table of the Plan a content type worksheet, do the following:

    1. Enter each column inherited from the parent content type. In the New? column, type No for each entry.

    2. For each additional column, enter the name of a pre-defined column or of a column that you will create. Keep in mind that the name of a column is important, because it can communicate the column's purpose. Therefore, even if a column of a type that you need is already defined in the Site Collection Column gallery, you might decide to define a similar column with a more relevant name for your application. Along with the names of the additional columns, enter their types and indicate whether or not they are new.

  5. Determine the template   In the Plan Template section of the worksheet, enter the name of the template to associate with this content type along with its type (such as .Docx) and a brief description of the purpose of the template. If the template is not inherited from the parent content type, in the "New?" field, type No.

  6. Determine the workflows   Workflows attach business logic to documents and list items in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. You can associate any available workflow with a content type; the workflow can then be initiated on any document of that content type. For a full discussion of workflow planning, see Plan workflows for document management. After reviewing workflows and determining which workflows are available, enter each workflow to associate with the content type in the "Plan Workflows" table of the Plan a content type worksheet. If the workflow is not inherited from the parent content type, enter that information in the New? column.

  7. Determine the policy   A policy is a set of rules for a type of content and is made up of policy features that provide the details of each rule, such as whether or not items of the content type can be printed or which actions on the item should be audited. You can apply a policy to any custom content type. Note that you cannot apply a policy to a core content type. For more information about policy planning, see Plan information management policies. After reviewing policies and determining which policy features and policy templates are available, in the Plan a Policy section of the Plan a content type worksheet, do the following:

    1. If the parent content type has policy settings, they will apply unchanged in the new content type. This ensures that policies, once set, are enforced in all relevant content types. If the current content type is inheriting its policy settings from its parent type, in the Plan a Policy section of the Plan a content type worksheet, answer Yes to the question, "Is the policy defined in the parent content type? Yes/No."

    2. If the current content type is inheriting a policy based on the parent content type, in the "Record the Policy Name" field of the Plan a Policy section, type the name of the policy template. Similarly, if the current content type does not inherit a policy and you want to apply a policy template, in the "Record the Policy Name" field of the Plan a Policy section, type the name of the policy template.

    3. If the current content type is inheriting one or more individual policy features from the parent content type, enter each policy feature in the "Feature" table in the Plan a Policy section of the worksheet. Conversely, if the current content type does not inherit a policy and you want to associate policy features with the current content type, enter those policy features in the "Feature" table. Note that you cannot associate both individual policy features and a policy by name to a content type.

  8. Determine document conversions Office SharePoint Server 2007 supports installing document conversion components on the server that transform documents from one format to another. For an overview of document conversions, see Planning document conversions, below.

    You can associate one or more document converters with a content type. For example, if a content type is associated with a template of type .docx, you can associate the From Word Document to Web Page converter that is included in Office SharePoint Server 2007 with the content type. This lets authors write documents of the content type in Microsoft Office Word 2007 and then convert them to Web pages for publication.

NoteNote:

In the Office SharePoint Server 2007 Central Administration pages, administrators can enable a document converter so that it is available in any document library in a Web application. When a converter is enabled in this way, it is not necessary to associate it with content types in any site in the Web application.

In the Plan Document Conversions section of the Plan a content type worksheet, record each document converter to associate with the content type, specify if the converter is new (and requires installation), and add optional notes.

Planning list content types

The elements of a list content type include the columns of metadata associated with the content type along with workflows that can run on items of that list content type. Use a list content type to define a type of list item unique to your solution. For example, in a customer call center solution, in which support professionals investigate and resolve customers' technical issues, a list content type could be used to standardize the data for each support incident and to support tracking the incident using a workflow.

Worksheet action

Plan new list content types using the following steps. For each list content type that you plan, fill in a separate Plan a content type worksheet. In the "Document Type" field of the worksheet, enter List.

  1. Enter the site URL at which the new content type will be defined. Content types are available in the site in which they are defined and in all subsites below that site.

  2. Determine the parent content type   Enter the parent content type in the "Parent Content Type" field of the Plan a content type worksheet. This will be either a core content type or a custom content type that you have already planned.

  3. Determine the columns   In the "Plan Columns" table of the Plan a content type worksheet, do the following:

    1. Enter each column inherited from the parent content type. In the New? column, type No for each entry.

    2. For each additional column, enter the name of a pre-defined column or of a column that you will create. Along with the names of the additional columns, enter their types and indicate whether or not they are new.

  4. In the Plan Template section of the worksheet, type None.

  5. Determine the workflows   If there is an available workflow that is relevant to the list content type, you can optionally associate it with the content type. The workflow could then be initiated on any list item of that content type. For a full discussion of workflow planning, see Plan workflows for document management. After reviewing workflows and determining which workflows are available, enter each workflow to associate with the content type in the "Plan Workflows" table of the Plan a content type worksheet. If the workflow is not inherited from the parent content type, enter that information in the New? column.

  6. In the Plan a Policy section of the worksheet, type None.

Planning document conversions

Office SharePoint Server 2007 supports installing document conversion components on the server that transform documents from one format to another. Conversions can be run either from the user interface or programmatically, such as from a custom workflow. The relationship between source documents and their transformed counterparts is maintained. Office SharePoint Server 2007 includes converters that create Web pages from Microsoft Office Word 2007 documents and from Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007 forms.

Along with providing the infrastructure on the server to install and run document converters, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 includes a load balancer service that you can configure to optimize the use of your server resources. Part of planning document conversions is tuning your server farm to optimally balance the load as documents are transformed.

To be available to users, a converter must be installed on the server farm and then enabled by a server administrator. After a converter is enabled for a server, it is available to run on source documents on that server.

You configure document converters using the following steps:

  1. In the document usage analysis that you perform in Analyze document usage, identify candidates for document conversion — that is, documents that are written in one format but that should be published or archived in another.

  2. For each conversion needed, locate converter programs to implement the needed conversions on your servers.

  3. If needed, install the conversion programs on application (middle tier) servers in your farm.

  4. Configure the launcher and load balancer services, either on the Web servers or application (middle tier) servers.

  5. Identify the points in your document flow at which conversions take place.

  6. Identify how conversions will be implemented — either manually or using custom solutions that launch them.

After planning content types: next steps

After planning document and list content types, here are some suggested next steps:

  • If you haven't already done so, in the Content Type column of the Analyze document usage worksheet, record each content type that you planned.

  • Sort your "Plan a content type" worksheets by site URL, and identify the new columns to define for each site.

  • Identify new templates to design.

  • Identify new workflows to plan and install.

  • Identify new policy templates to plan and new policy features to plan and install.

Worksheets

Use the following worksheets to record the information discussed in this article:

Download this book

This topic is included in the following downloadable book for easier reading and printing:

See the full list of available books at Downloadable content for Office SharePoint Server 2007.

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