Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Document library discovery

When you come to Sharepoint from a files and folders background you tend to simply replicate the same structure within Sharepoint document libraries. In many cases this is probably not your best option.

 

Case in point. My external Sharepoint site Supportweb has a Document Library called Documents. In here you’ll find all sorts of documents I’ve created and uploaded. Many are available for free but there is also a whole swag that are only available to subscribers. Initially, when I started uploading to the document library I created a whole lot of sub-folders and placed the relevant documents in these folders. For example, I had folders for Exchange, SBS and so on.

 

Now the problem was when I wanted to find a document that was about Exchange server on SBS. Was it in the Exchange Folder or the SBS folder? Also, people more versed in Sharepoint than me suggest that the best idea with document libraries is to dump everything into a single location (no sub-folders) and then use Sharepoint’s in built filtering capability to find what you are looking for.

 

Now this made a lot of sense to me so I was considering relocating all my documents from their sub-folders to the top level folder. This wasn’t going to be an easy task and may have involved re-assigning the rights to each document again. BUT I found a better way!

 

I simply created a new Sharepoint view called Complete that displayed all the files, even those from sub-folders in a single page! I then made that view the default view so it is what you see when you first enter the document library now. The original All documents view is still there (simply change the view name in the top right of the Documents library and change the view to All documents to see how it used to be).

 

How easy was that? Geeze, I love Sharepoint. No re-keying, moving files and so on. Simply create a new view of your data. I added an additional column to the entries so that the documents can easily be sorted by using Sharepoint (just click on the column heading to bring up the filtering options for that column). Even updating the records was a piece of cake. I simply changed the view to Datasheet view (like Excel) changed the records for that column and returned to the Standard view. Geeze, I love Sharepoint!

 

So image a Sharepoint document library like a phone book, full of data. If you create a view of this phone book (say just family and friends) everything except the records matching your criteria are not displayed. The records are still there in the phone book but you don’t need to see them. Now image you create another view for all your business contacts. You can easily swap between views to display exactly what you need without the need to see irrelevant data. Bottom line is that phone book data is always there. Whenever you update or change something, the record in the phone book also gets changed. One set of data but many ways to view the data. You can even have different views for different people, but the underlying data remains the same.

 

So if you are thinking about creating folders underneath a document library don’t bother, just dump all the data into the one location and use filtering to find what you want. If you already have a document library that is full of sub-folders, create a new that allows you to view all the files together without sub-folders. Again, same data, different view.

 

Geeze I love Sharepoint!