A content type is a reusable collection of metadata (columns), workflow, behavior, and other settings for a category of items or documents in a Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010 list or document library. Content types enable you to manage the settings for a category of information in a centralized, reusable way.
Content Types consist of the foundation of information architecture planning in SharePoint and are one of the primary building blocks. A Content Type is a collection of reusable settings and metadata for the category, item or document in Microsoft SharePoint that can be applied to a certain categories of content. Content Types may represent groups of items like documents, lists, or calendar entries.
Businesses constantly churn out content on a daily basis in the form of proposals, specifications, legal contracts, statements of work, etc. Information produced has some amount of value, if it can be relocated later. But many businesses lack an effective, systematic way of storing and retrieving their content. Thankfully, SharePoint offers a unique way to organize and manage such content in a systematic manner across your site through Content Types.
Content Types work by organizing information that largely shares the same set of behaviors. For instance, HR documents like employee enrollment documents, employee induction documents, employee manuals, and HR policies. Although these documents are different, there is a small set of metadata that applies to all of them so they can be reused, shared, and retained for future use.
As we see, all these documents are Human Resource documents. It would be logical to create 5 content types in this situation. Primarily, we can create ‘Human Resource’ content type that can contain characteristics that are common to all Human resource documents. The other four content types that we create afterwards, can inherit common elements of human resource documents. Additionally, each content type could be defined with their unique characteristics like, document template, meta data, a new item or a workflow for processing an item.
Content Types and Metadata
Content Types are defined and identified by their metadata – information about data. Generally, metadata describes context about document, such as title, author, date of creation, format, size, associated department, or even the font size. Metadata exists in SharePoint columns to identify and find content. Managing, organizing and linking documents, determining access controls, moving between categories of information, refining search results, and , most importantly, classifying information is primarily dependent on this metadata.
Site and List Content Types
Content Types can be organized in a hierarchy to allow one content type to inherit characteristics from its parent content type. These characteristics are mainly document template, read-only settings, workflows, or columns. Content Types can be defined and managed at two levels in the hierarchy:
- Level 1 – Site Level – Content Types defined at the site level that are also available to the site collection. New and existing Content Types can be found in the Galleries section of Site Settings or achieved programmatically. Site-Level Content Types can also be added to lists or libraries individually where they can be further customized.
- Level2 – List Level – Content Types that are added to a list or library. List-Level Content types inherit all properties of Site-Level Content Types. Hence, Site-Level Content Types act as parents to List-Level Content Types in the hierarchy. Multiple Content Types can be added to a list or library.
The Structure of Inheritance
Site Content Types can be used globally within the site collection, while List Content Types are localized. Since a List Content Type is a child of a Site Content Type from which it is created, it inherits all attributes from its parent. When the attributes of a Site Content Type are changed, you can choose whether its child Content Types should inherit the change or not.
List Content Types can also be further customized for use in the list or library. This customization does not affect the parent. If new changes are pushed from a Site Content Type, any customizations on the List Content Type are not overwritten.
Content Types are an integral part of SharePoint that enable organization to better manage and handle their content in a consistent way. This makes these organizations more efficient, accurate, and better able to function. The information covered here is just the basics of working with Content Types. We will cover more aspects of Content Types in future articles.
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