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Monday, June 1, 2009

Leveraging the use of Site Columns – Part I

Site Columns is a topic that is not discussed nor mentioned very much, in my opinion it should be discussed more often because by leveraging Site Columns throughout a Site or Sites; you can standardize, create, maintain and share the data in those List Columns easily. This is a two part series posting, make sure you check later for the second part.

Most of the time, when the design and creation of SharePoint Lists occurs some columns are needed to be of the Type: Choice. This is a very nice way of limiting the user input, while allowing the designer to determine the display choices ( Drop-Down Menu, Radio Buttons or Checkboxes ). SharePoint Sites are created and most of the time the Columns in the Lists of that Site can or will be created from scratch on another SharePoint Site. This process repeats itself many times through the portal; it happens frequently between Site Administrators due to the lack of communication or simply because it is not known that there is the possibility of using central repository of Columns that can be shared across sites.

This is where using Site Columns becomes a Site Administrator's best friend, for example most companies will at some point in time have a SharePoint List Column that contains all the departments. The most common approach is to just create the SharePoint List with a Column of the Choice Type and add those values manually. This is a valid approach, but can you imagine how much easier it would be if you simply chose a pre-existing Column that contains those values already? Take it a step further and for a moment imagine how many times this type of Column might be duplicated with a Site or throughout the SharePoint Portal itself. Makes you wonder, does it not?

Before creating a Site Column it is important to determine which Sites it will be shared with. If you would like it to all the sites under a Top-Level site or just within a specific Site. After that has been determined we can move on and start creating a Site Column.

Creating a Site Column is accomplished with the following steps:

  • Click on the Site Actions link on your site

  • Click on the Site Settings option

  • Click the Site columns link in the Galleries Group

  • Click the Create Link

  • Set the Column name to Company Departments

  • Set the Type to Choice

  • Either choose Custom Columns from the Existing Group Drop Down or set the name for the New group, for this example we will use the Company Wide group name

  • Decide if it is Required to contain information

  • Enter your Companies Departments, in this case:

    • Finances

    • Human Resources

  • Choose the Display choices

  • Click OK Button

Your Site Column is ready to be placed in action!

To use a Site Column on any SharePoint List you create, it must be added by clicking on Add from existing site columns link as shown below:

From Doug Ortiz's Blog

Once clicked, you will see the following screen:

From Doug Ortiz's Blog

  • Select the Custom Columns group or the name you assigned to it from the Drop Down

  • The Company Departments Site Column will be display in the Available site columns ListBox

  • Click the Add Button

  • Click OK Button

After you have created your Employee List that references the Company Departments Site Column it will be displayed as a DropDown, as shown below:

From Doug Ortiz's Blog

You are probably wondering: How does the Site Column really help? It helps by simplifying the process of maintaining the choices that exist in the Site Column that was created. For some reason, you forgot to add the IT Department as a choice in your Site Column. So you go back and add it:

  • Navigate to the Site where the Site Column was created in

  • Click on the Site Actions link on the site where the Site Column was created

  • Click on the Site Settings option

  • Click the Site columns link in the Galleries Group

  • Scroll down and Locate the Company Wide Group

  • Click on the Company Departments Site Column Link

  • Scroll down to the Additional Column Settings section

  • Add the Information Technology as another Choice

  • Click OK Button

Go to the Employees List and Add a New Employee, the newly added Information Technology choice is included.

From Doug Ortiz's Blog

Summing it all up

Briefly, Site Columns will propagate automatically without the need of updating each and every list that references the Site Column(s) in use. That is where the usefulness of Site Columns comes in handy; it will make life easier for a SharePoint Administrator.

Stay tuned for Part II, we will take the Site Column we just created a step further!


  1. Nice informations, thanks for sharing with us.

  2. Great information, you have written it very nicely, it clarifies my few doubts.

  3. Excellent post. The way you have explained all these things is really good and useful for me. I found a lot of worthy things from this post. Thanks a bunch for sharing such an informative post with us. Keep blogging.

  4. You have no idea how long I have searched for a built-in solution to this problem! Thank you thank you thank you!!!