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Plan content types (Windows SharePoint Services)

Office 2007

Updated: December 1, 2006

Applies To: Windows SharePoint Services 3.0

 

Topic Last Modified: 2008-10-10

In this article:

This topic describes content types and related features and provides guidance on planning content types for your solution based on Windows SharePoint Services 3.0.

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

  • Properties to associate with items of its type

  • Workflows that can be launched from 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, 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 could 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 content types in a site's content type gallery. After they are defined in a site, content types are available in that site and in all sub-sites 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, and workflows required to review and complete 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 Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, each default list item or library item, such as Contact, Task, or Document, has a corresponding content type in the site's content type gallery. When planning content types, you can use these out-of-box content type definitions as starting points, basing new content types on existing ones as needed or modifying the default 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.

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 Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 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, you 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.

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 Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 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 prepopulated with multiple files and documents based on templates stored on the server. This is useful, for example, to implement a compound document type that requires multiple files to contribute to a single deliverable document.

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 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 and list each document type in your solution to determine if there is an existing content type available for documents of that type. If a default content type, such as Document, is sufficient, you do not have to plan a custom content type.

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

  1. Enter the document type, such as "Product Specification."

  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 sub-sites 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 default content type (see "Default Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Content Types") 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 Windows SharePoint Services 3.0. You can associate any available workflow with a content type. The workflow could then be initiated on any document of that content type. For a full discussion of workflow planning, see Plan workflows (Windows SharePoint Services). 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.

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.

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 site in which they are defined and in all sub-sites 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 default content type (see "Default Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Content Types") 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 (Windows SharePoint Services). 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.

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

  • If you haven't already done this, in the Content Type column of the Document libraries 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 develop or acquire and install.

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