This post builds on a couple of previous ones that you may also want to refer to:
In SharePoint lists and libraries, you create columns to contain different types of data that help describe the item or document being stored in said list or library. Three in particular are useful if you are applying a taxonomy (hierarchy of terms) or want to tag your content
- Managed Metadata
All three provide a list of terms to select from. Each one has subtle differences and different pros and cons when using the columns to create filtered views.
The column type Choice requires you to specify the list of values direct within the column setting. This is less than ideal in many cases because you may want to let users maintain the lists of values and it is not the prettiest or most user-friendly interface. (It’s really quite awful.) Training is definitely required.
The column type Lookup lets you point the column at another list or library in the site, to look up the values in that list or library. This is great for users because they can add values to the list and automatically see them then displayed in dropdown menus. Much more user friendly and less training required.
The column type Managed Metadata lets you point to a term set within the Managed Metadata Service. Again, the lists can be managed separately by users given permission to do so. However more training is required to understand the whole concept of the managed metadata service (and term sets). More likely to be managed by specialist users, such as an information management team. Managed metadata has the added advantage of being ‘managed’. If you decide you want to change the label of any value, it will automatically update all items that have been tagged with that value. The other two column types don’t offer this service – if you want to apply the change, you have to manually go in and update everything. No prizes for guessing the user-friendliness scale.
The pros and cons when creating filtered views
The following table shows what does or does not work with the three column types
‘Older Office clients’ includes Office 2007 and Office 2003 but not older versions. Office 2003 was the first version to include SharePoint awareness.
The ability to use ‘contains’ instead of ‘equals’ in filtered views can only be applied against column types: Single Line of Text, Multiple lines of text, or Choice. It will not work with any other column types. i.e. if you want a column to contain multiple values from a taxonomy list and be used in filtered views, your only option is to use the Choice field. Example – documents tagged where applicable to multiple locations and you then want to create a filtered view per location.
You really do have to edit one item at a time if you want to apply managed metadata, you cannot use the datasheet view. This is a serious impediment to classifying content in SharePoint. If you want a managed taxonomy and you have a lot of content to classify, you are likely to be looking at third party add-ons to be able to do this.
If you can live without managed metadata, lookups are the next best option but ruined by their inability to be used in metadata navigation settings. If you want those key filters displayed in the library (very useful for users to navigate through large document libraries), this is a problem.
An added note with metadata navigation filters – if you use a column of type Choice, don’t allow users to add their own values because they won’t be available to filter using the metadata navigation filters. Individual values don’t then get added to the list of choices for re-use. If you want people to be able to add to the list you need to use managed metadata.
To conclude, you may still find yourself falling back on the most basic of classification options – the column type Choice – if you want the most flexibility in terms of classifying the content and then creating filtered views based on those classifications. The downside is the lack of automatic management. Changes to the list are harder for users to maintain and require all previously classified content to be manually updated.
Hope that helps. I’ve bumped into these different limits time and again when designing SharePoint solutions to classify content with the primary business and/or user benefit of automatically displaying filtered views.