Friday, July 31, 2015

Creating custom default templates in SharePoint Online

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Many people think that the only way to get documents into SharePoint Online is to upload them. Not so. You can actually create a new document directly in the Document Library.

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The most common way to do this is to select the New button just under the library name as shown above.

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This will then display a menu like you see above that allows you to create a range of Office documents as well as a new folder.

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If you select any of these, you will simply be taken to a new blank Office document as you see above.

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Another method of creating a new document is to open the Ribbon Menu by selecting the Files tab at the top of the page and then selecting the arrow under the New Document button at the left as shown above.

You will then typically see a single option New Document as shown above.

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If you select this you will be prompted to open you desktop Office application and when you do you will see a blank document again as shown above.

If you instead want to have your own document templates displayed in a Document Library you can do that a number of ways.

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If you simply want to edit the New Document template that you see from the Files tab you need to use SharePoint to edit this.

You will firstly need to select the Library tab in the top left (just to the right of the Files tab just shown). On the very right hand side of the Ribbon Menu that is now displayed locate and select the Library Settings icon.

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Select the Advanced settings option under the General Settings column.

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The second field now display shows you the template URL.

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You will also see an option to Edit Template, which will launch the Office program on your desktop and allows to make any changes desired.

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If you try and change the URL of the template to some other location in SharePoint you’ll be greeted with the above message basically telling you that this is not possible. So all you can really do here is edit the existing template.

There is however a further option that provides much more flexibility and that is using Content Types.

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You firstly need to create the Office document you want to use as templates. Best practice is to save these in dedicated Office template formats.

Next you need to go to the SharePoint Online Site Collection you want these new templates added to and select the Cog in the top right corner and then Site Settings from the menu that appears.

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Select the Site content types option from under the Web Designer Galleries section.

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You should then see all the default Site Content Types list as shown above. For more information on Content Types in SharePoint see:

Introduction to Content Types

Select the New option at the top of the page.

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Best practice is to create a new content type for each document template you want to use. It is also good practice to create a new Content Type Group to make it easier to identify the custom items that have been added.

Because Content Types are hierarchical you should select the option for Document Content Type as the parent content type to inherit from. You should select Document as the Parent content type in the field below.

As suggested you should also create new Content Type Group for new items you add.

When all these items are complete select OK.

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You should then see a summary of the new Content Type as shown above. Select the Advanced settings option.

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In the Document Template area at the top of the page you can select the file to be used. Best practice would be to locate this in another Document Library that everyone has read access to so you can change it easily. However, in this case we’ll select to upload the template files we previously created.

Once these options have been selected, update the Content Type by selecting the OK button.

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Repeat the same process for every template file you want to use. The only different with subsequent files is that you will add them to the new Content Type Group you created with the first template.

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If you now look at the list of content types in your Site Collection and use the Show Group filter option on the left to only display the new Content Type Group you created, you should see the Content Types you just created (here one for Word, Excel and PowerPoint).

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You now need to go to each Document Library in your Site Collection where you would like these new templates to be available and then select Library Settings.

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You then need to select Advanced Settings again.

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At the top of the page you need to select Yes to Allow management of content types and save this change.

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Now in the Settings for the Document Library you should see an additional section called Content Types as shown above. In there you will find one existing Content Type on which this library is based.

Select the option Add from existing content types.

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Select the new Content Type Group name you created at the top of the page. This should filter the total list of Content Types down to the new ones you just created (this is ability to filter is why creating new Content Type Groups is best practice).

Add the new Content Types from the box on the left to the right and save the changes by clicking OK.

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Back in the Setting for the library you should see that you Content Types are now listed as shown above.

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Now select the link Change new button order and default content type.

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Best practice is generally not to delete the default Content Type but just hide it.

Save your settings when complete.

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If you now select the New button in the library you should only see the your template files and the New Folder option.

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Likewise, if you also select the arrow under the New Document button you will again only see your new file templates.

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If you then select one of these options, you’ll be prompted to download the Office document, which will open in the desktop version of the application and allow you to create a new document based from this template.

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If you wish to remove the option New Folder in the list, return to the Advanced Settings in Library Settings and locate the Folders item and set this to No.

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If you again return to the library and select the New button you will see that the New Folder item no longer appears.

Site Content Types are the best way to customise injecting your own default documents into libraries in SharePoint. They take a bit longer to set up but once they are they are easy to use anywhere within the site.

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They also provide the bonus of when you update the actual file used as the template it will give you the option to update everywhere where that template is being used throughout your Site Collection. Content Types have a lot more functionality but that is for a future post.

Hopefully this show you firstly how to create your own custom library templates but also how powerful SharePoint is when it comes to managing content.