SharePoint Applied: Document Management in SharePoint 2010
SharePoint is good for many things! That is, perhaps, what makes this product so interesting and successful. However, when a Swiss knife is good for many things it can work as a screwdriver, but it isn't probably the best screwdriver you've ever used! SharePoint, while good for many things, is probably better at some than others. One thing companies
use SharePoint a lot for is Document Management. SharePoint 2007 has document libraries. In those document libraries, users have facilities such as checkin/checkout, versioning, item level permissions, workflows, etc. On top of document libraries, SharePoint 2007 supports things such as policies, content types, and recycle bin. SharePoint 2010 will be even more exciting as it adds numerous new facilities that make SharePoint an even more compelling document management product.
In this article, I will examine some of those facilities. But before I go too much further, I must mention the standard disclaimer, that SharePoint 2010, at the time of writing this article, is currently in beta, and may change before it is finally released.
Lists in SharePoint 2007 have an “ID” column that is an integer that constantly increases. An ID column is unique across a document library but not unique across an organization. Also, it is difficult to tell an ID to be anything else except an integer, which prevents you from applying custom document ID formats to any document. In reality, organizations have their own schemes for numbering documents, and especially when you have documents spread across many sites and site collections, you want document IDs to be more meaningful.
A Document ID in SharePoint 2010 is a pluggable identifier for a document, or a document set (described later). It also provides a static URL or a permalink that opens the document or document set associated with the ID, regardless of the location of the document.
Thus, Document IDs provide you with an ability to reference documents as permalinks-links that don’t change or break as the location of the document changes-even if the document moves between site collections. Also, the format and generation logic of the generated Document IDs is customizable.
Let’s see how this actually works!
In order to use Document ID’s you have to first activate the Document ID service under Site collection features as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Activating the Document ID Service feature.
After you’ve activated the service, go ahead and add a document in a document library in the site collection. The document now gets a unique Document ID (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Properties for a document in the site collection.
Note the URL for the Document ID, which is a layout page with a query string as shown below. DocIdRedir.aspx?ID=FPAA543DPY74-1-1
The above URL has no bearing on the document’s location! SharePoint 2010 remembers where that document is and since the ID never changes, you can always count on that permalink to work.
In a typical project where users are producing documents, frequently to accomplish one task, you may have not a single document but a set of documents that need to be treated as one. This is where document sets come into the picture. A document set is implemented as a site collection feature. Activating it gives you a special content type that allows you to group together multiple documents as a “set of documents.”
This gives you many interesting new options. For instance, a document set itself can have its own welcome page. This welcome page can tell users what the specific document set is all about. Since document sets are implemented as a content type, they get everything that a content type gets-versioning, workflows, policies, etc. Only this time around, the entire document set, i.e., multiple documents together, can participate in the business processes defined on the document set.
Let’s see how this works.
To use document sets, activate the site collection level feature called “Document Sets.” Then, in a document library, allow management of content types and add Document Sets as an allowed content type.
Now, you will be able to create a new document set from the “New” button under the “Documents” ribbon. Creating a new document set will simply ask you for a name and description. Now, using the welcome page, you can begin to add new documents in the document set (Figure 3).
Figure 3: The default document set welcome page.
You can customize the welcome page to anything you want. But for now, click on the “View All Properties” link and you’ll see properties as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4: Properties of a document set.
As you can tell, everything that you are used to seeing at a document level is now available at a document set level. Interestingly, the document set itself participates in the Document ID numbering as well. This truly lets you treat a set of documents as one entity.
Perhaps it is the simplest of the features that excite me the most. When you visit the ECB menu of a document set and choose to Download a copy, SharePoint 2010 automatically zips up the entire document set so you can download it as a single zip archive. How very thoughtful is that!?
By: Sahil Malik
Sahil Malik is a Microsoft MVP, INETA speaker, a .NET author, consultant, and trainer, and a well-rounded overweight geek. He has a passion for SharePoint, data access, and application architecture.
Sahil loves interacting with fellow geeks in real time. His talks are full of humor and practical nuggets. His talks tend to get very highly charged, fast moving, and highly interactive.
You should check out his blog at http://blah.winsmarts.com