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SharePoint Document Management

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HOW TO IMPLEMENT DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM IN SHAREPOINT USING CONTENT TYPES

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I have written a number of posts already on how SharePoint is a perfect tool to store and manage documents. With today’s post, I would like to explain to you, my loyal blog reader, how to build a simple, but versatile Document Management System in SharePoint (also known as SharePoint DMS).

WHAT IS A DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM IN SHAREPOINT?

Let me first explain what I mean by SharePoint Document Management System. I don’t mean that you would recreate your file share/network drives folder structure  and migrate 50 GB of documents into 1 document library. First, you can do this without this post. Second, dumping all files and folders into a single document library and essentially recreating the mess you currently have is not considered a wise SharePoint strategy.

What I mean by Document Management System in SharePoint is metadata based document library where users can upload and tag documents, search based on keywords and tags and not worry whether they are accessing a duplicate or latest version of the file.

Below is a quick preview of what we are going to build

WHAT DO WE NEED TO BUILD A DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM IN SHAREPOINT?

Below is SharePoint functionality and SharePoint features we will be using in this blog post to build SharePoint DMS:

  1. SharePoint Metadata (to tag our documents)
  2. SharePoint Content Types (to categorize different types of documents)
  3. Metadata Navigation (to help users find the documents)

Step 1: Determine the types of documents you want to store in your SharePoint DMS

As I indicated in previous posts, it is not a good idea to dump all your company files into one SharePoint Document Library. The major objective of SharePoint DMS is to organize documents that are somewhat related and share same security/permissions. An example of such SharePoint DMS would be you storing various financial documents like:

  • Invoices
  • Purchase Orders
  • Quotes
  • Estimates
  • Receipts

If you are thinking of storing documents that belong to different departments, have different audiences, permissions/security, you do not want to store them in the same document library/DMS. Instead, you want to split them up into multiple sites/libraries. Check out this post for more info.

Step 2: Define different types (categories) of documents you want to store

So for the purposes of this post and example, let’s create a SharePoint Document Management System to store financial documents mentioned above.So let’s assume we are going to build a SharePoint DMS to store the following categories of documents:

  • Purchase Orders
  • Invoices
  • Receipts

Step 3: Define metadata for each of the categories above

It is very likely that each of the categories above will have its own, unique metadata. For example, you might want to tag all Purchase Orders against PO#, Vendor Name, PO Date. Invoices might be tagged against Invoice #, Client Name, Date Received, Date Paid. Lastly, Receipts might be tagged against Vendor Name, Receipt Date, Description, Employee Name. So it might look like something like this:

Purchase Order

  • PO #
  • Vendor
  • PO Date

Invoice

  • Invoice #
  • Client
  • Date Received
  • Date Paid

Receipt

  • Vendor
  • Receipt Date
  • Description
  • Employee

Step 4: For each metadata property, define the type of that property/column

For example, free text field, choice/drop-down, date. We will need that when we create our columns in next step

Step 5: Create your metadata columns

In case you are not familiar with how to create metadata in SharePoint, you might want to check out some detailed instructions here. I will do one example below and you can repeat the procedure for all the other metadata/columns you have.

How to create Metadata Column in SharePoint:

  1. You can create your column at library level, but it is always considered best practice to create columns at the Site Level. This way, you can reuse your columns in other sites and libraries. In our case, having our metadata columns built at a Site level, will also allow us to create global content types down the road.
  2. To create a Site Level column, go to Site Gear Icon > Site Settings > Site Columns (under Web Designer Galleries) > Createsitecolumns1
  3. Create your metadata column according to the information we gathered in Step 3. For example, I will create Vendor Column, which will be a drop-down choice of all vendor namessitecolumns2
  4. Repeat above steps for all columns you have identified.

Step 6: Create Content Types

If you are not sure what the content type is, I suggest you reference this blog post. With this step, we will create content types defined in Step 2 and associate corresponding metadata defined in Step 3.

How to create SharePoint Content Types:

  1. Go to the root of the Site Collection (or same site where you created all your site columns in Step 5).
  2. Site Settings > Site Content typesContentTypes1
  3. Click on Create linkContentTypes2
  4. On the next screen – this is where we define the name and characteristics of our future Content Type. Fill in the name of the first Content Type from Step 3 (i.e. Purchase Order). In the middle of the page, in the 2 drop-downs, choose Document Content Types and Document respectively. Essentially by this we are telling SharePoint that we will be using our Content Types in a Document Library to manage Documents. At the bottom of the screen, in the Group section, choose the grouping for your Content Types (just like with Site Columns, you can use Custom group or create your own). Click OK buttonContentTypes3
  5. You will now be presented with the next screen that looks like the one below. This is where we associate our newly created Content Type (category) with corresponding custom metadata (columns). There are many other things we can do with customization of the content types, but for the purposes of this post, we will just focus on associating site columns. To do that, click on Add from existing Site Columns. If you notice, by default we have Title Column. We will now add the ones we created.ContentTypes4
  6. You will now be presented with a screen you see below. Under Select columns from drop-down, choose the group you used to organize all your site columns (i.e. Custom Columns). This will filter and only show you corresponding site columns from that group. Choose the site columns associated with the particular Content Type from Available Columns and using Add> Button, add them to the right side of the selection screen. In our case, these columns are PO #, Vendor and PO Date. Click OK at the bottom of the screen.ContentTypes5
  7. Your result should look like the page below, where the Content Type now includes the corresponding custom columnsContentTypes6
  8. So we are done with first content type. Repeat the above 7 steps for all the remaining content types

Step 7: Create a document Library on the site where your SharePoint DMS will reside

I trust that you know how to create a new site and add a Document Library to it. Do not use default document library (there are reasons for it which I will document in later posts).

Step 8: Prepare your document library for custom content types and custom metadata

Before we do the magic and add our site content types to it, we need to prepare our Document Library for “metadata”. Essentially we will need to tweak few advanced settings before we do the rest.

  1. Go to Library Tab > Library Settings to access all “administrative” functions of a document libraryLibrarySettings1
  2. Choose Advanced SettingsLibrarySettings2
  3. Under Allow management of content types? choose “Yes” radio button. This will allow us to add our custom site content types to our document libraryLibrarySettings3
  4. Scroll to the middle of the screen. Under Make “New Folder” command available?, choose NoRadio button. I like to disable folder creation for users anytime library uses metadata. You really do not want to mix the 2 together.LibrarySettings4
  5. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click OK button
  6. From the Library Settings page again, click on Versioning SettingsLibrarySettings5
  7. Make sure Create major versions option is chosen (it usually is, but just to make sure)LibrarySettings6

Step 9: Add custom content types to the document library

OK, now we are into some exciting stuff. We are now ready to add out custom content types from Step 6 to our document library. To do this:

  1. Scroll down to the middle of the Library Settings Page. In there you will see a section called Content Type. This is a section that appears in a document library once we enabled content types in previous step. By default it shows a single, default Content Type called Document. We eventually will remove it. Bit for now let’s add our custom content types. Click on Add from existing site content typesConfigureDocumentLibrary1
  2. On the next screen, choose custom content types you created. Just like with site columns, select the grouping you used to organize your Content Types from the drop-down. Then choose the custom content types and click Add> button to push them to the right side of the selection screen. Click OKConfigureDocumentLibrary2
  3. Your middle section of the page will look like this, with custom content types added next to the default document type (Document)ConfigureDocumentLibrary3
  4. Notice how not only the document types were added, but also all corresponding site columns were brought over as well. You can see them in the Columns section at the bottom of the screen. That section also shows you all the columns used and where they are used (which content types). Pretty powerful!ConfigureDocumentLibrary4
  5. Before we forget, let’s go ahead and remove that default content type as we won’t need it in our SharePoint DMS. To do that, click on the Document Content Type from Content Types section (middle of the screen) and click Delete this content type. You will get a warning message. Click OK.ConfigureDocumentLibrary5
  6. Another thing that is optional, but I personally like to do is Hide the Title Field. Title Field is added by default to every content type. Sometimes it means an extra entry for the user. I like to hide it. If you want to hide it, go to the content type, click on the Title ColumnConfigureDocumentLibrary6and choose Hidden radio button. Repeat this step for all the other content typesConfigureDocumentLibrary7

Step 10: Add metadata navigation

We are getting very close to completion of our SharePoint DMS. Just few more steps. One thing I love to see on any SharePoint document library or SharePoint list is Metadata Navigation. This really only makes sense when you use metadata. This allows you to search for files/documents/items in your list or library using the cool-looking filters. I always compare that experience to Amazon.com shopping, where you punch in filters on the left hand-side and results adjust accordingly on the main page. I have actually written a pretty detailed blog post on the topic and already provided detailed instructions on how to set it up. So I am not going to repeat them here. Instead, I recommend that you check out this blog post here and follow instructions as per that post. Once all is set and done, you will end up with something like this below

ConfigureDocumentLibrary8

Step 11: Optimize SharePoint DMS for 5,000 Item limit

I assume you would want to store lots of documents in your SharePoint DMS. In order to be able to do that in SharePoint, you need to optimize your document library accordingly. Once again, I have written a detailed blog post + published a slide deck with instructions on what you need to do. Please follow all of the instructions and take care of indexed columns, views, etc. Otherwise you will run into issues when you go above 5,000 files in your SharePoint DMS.

Step 12: Upload some documents

We are pretty much there. Now, go ahead and upload a document. You will notice that in addition to “regular” metadata properties, you also have a Content Type drop-down. As you toggle through the drop-down, your metadata choices will adjust accordingly. Below images show the difference

Upload1Upload2Upload3

Step 13: Enjoy your Document Management System in SharePoint!

 

That’s it! Once all is set and done, you will end up with a really nice SharePoint DMS and wonderful user experience. Check out this video which shows what you would end up with if you follow all the steps above. Enjoy!

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SharePoint Document Management

2 WAYS TO CREATE METADATA IN SHAREPOINT

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Those following my blog know that I am a staunch advocate of standardization and metadata. While metadata really is any additional information about a document or an item, like date created, author, etc., majority of the time you want to standardize metadata using a list of drop down choices (For example: department drop-down, document type drop-down, etc.)

WHAT IS METADATA?

Metadata is data that describes additional information about an item

HOW TO CREATE METADATA IN SHAREPOINT?

Method 1: Use Choice field type

The easiest way to create drop-down choice metadata is described below. To do this:

  1. Go to the list or library where you want to add metadata. For the purpose of this example, we will utilize a document library
  2. Go to Library Tabmetadatacolumn1
  3. Click on Library Settingsmetadatacolumn2
  4. Click on Create Columnmetadatacolumn3
  5. In the Column name field, type in the name for your Column (i.e. Department). Under the type of column, select Choice radio button. Once you do this, the page will refresh and allow us to customize our column further.metadatacolumn4
  6. Scroll down a bit. In the middle of the screen, go ahead and type in your drop-down choices, one-by-one (1 choice at each row, do not use comas or anything else to separate them). It might also be a good idea to make the column mandatory (this way the user will be prompted to enter metadata when uploading a document and will not be able to leave the document untagged).metadatacolumn5
  7. Scroll down a bit. You can default to a certain value of metadata when you upload a document, but I usually like to leave it blank. Click OKmetadatacolumn6
  8. That’s all – we are done! Go ahead and upload a document now to the library. You will be prompted to enter metadata (tag documents). Don’t forget to click Check-in, once you tag the documentmetadatacolumn7

Method 2: Use Managed Metadata (Term store)

Another great way to define metadata is via the functionality called “Term Store“. Sometimes this type of metadata is also referred to as managed metadata. In case you are confused by terminology, let me explain the concept here.

In order to utilize Managed Metadata or Term Store functionality, you need to follow a 2 step process:

  • Step 1: Create/Define your metadata (tags, labels, whatever you want to call them) in the Term Store
  • Step 2: Create your metadata column at a list or library level and associate it to the metadata you created in the Term Store

Hopefully I did not confuse you just yet. Think of the Term Store as 1 big box of metadata labels that can be references from any SharePoint Site or Site Collection. So the way it is setup is that you define all your metadata/taxonomy in the Term Store first and only after this you create your columns at a list/library/site level (and point them to the particular category (called Term Sets in the Term Store) of labels.

Let me include some step-by-step instructions and hopefully this will be easier for you to understand.

  1. Before we can create labels/tags/metadata in the Term Store, we need to access it. Even if you have Full Control permission to site sand the whole site collection, you would not have access to the Term Store. It is controlled separately, via Office 365/SharePoint Admin Center. Once in SharePoint Admin Center, go to Term Store and make sure to add your name in there. You obviously need to have Office 365 global administrator or SharePoint Corporate Administrator role to be able to do this. Click Savemetadatacolumn9
  2. Back on the SharePoint site, Go to Site Settings > Term Store Management (under Site Administration)metadatacolumn8
  3. You will now see the Term Store. You will not have many choices there if it has never being used before. The screenshot below is what my Term Store looks like, but obviously I have already configured it with custom metadata (term sets).metadatacolumn10
  4. Let’s go ahead and create our first category (Term Set) in the Term Store. To do this, we need to create a Group first (it looks like a yellow folder in the Term Store, it is used to store and organize multiple categories of metadata (term sets)). Click on the drop-down arrow to the right of the Taxonomy root and choose New Group. Let’s call it Company Metadatametadatacolumn11
  5. Next step is to create a Metadata Category (Term Set). Let’s call it Department. Once again, click the drop-down button, then New Term Setmetadatacolumn12
  6. Once first category has been created, we can add our choices (metadata) to it. To do this, click on the small arrow to the right of the Term Set and from drop-down, choose Create Term. Type in the first entry. For example, Human Resources. Repeat these step as many times as you need to add all choicesmetadatacolumn13
  7. We are done Step 1 – we defined our metadata. However, we are not done yet – our list or library does not know yet about this Term Set we just created. Next, we need to create a column and associate it to the Term Store Term Set we just created. To do that, go to the list or library where you want to add a new column.
  8. Go ahead and create a new column. This time though, instead if Choice field, select the last radio button, Managed Metadata
  9. Once again, the page will refresh and you will now be prompted to specify the metadata term set for this column. Scroll down to the middle of the screen and under Term Set Settings, choose the Term Set we just created. By doing so, we associate our new column with the choice of labels (metadata)metadatacolumn15
  10. You can make the column required if you wish
  11. Click OK
  12. Go ahead and upload a document to the library again. This time, you will notice that because we used Term Store to identify our metadata, the choice drop-down looks different. Instead, we have the “tags” icon to the right of the term fieldmetadatacolumn16
  13. Clicking on that label, gives us a selection choice we needmetadatacolumn17

 

ADVANTAGES OF USING TERM STORE OVER THE CHOICE FIELD

While both methods achieve the objective, Term Store Metadata has some big advantages over the “conventional” choice drop-down. I will write another post down the road about all of the advantages, but would like to highlight a few here:

  • Type-ahead functionality for metadatametadatacolumn18
  • Ability to import metadata in bulk
  • Term Store Metadata can be shared/used between site collections (unlike conventional metadata that are unique to sites/site collections they were created in)
  • Ability to set owners to different metadata sets (i.e. HR can manage their own, IT – their own, etc.)
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SharePoint Document Management

WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER USE SHAREPOINT DEFAULT DOCUMENT LIBRARY

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Anytime you create a site from a built-in template in SharePoint (i.e. Team Site), SharePoint adds few default web parts to the site for you, like Document Library, Site Newsfeed, etc. (the web parts added depend on the site template you have chosen). Almost in all cases though, there is a document library web part that is being added. If you are after storing documents on your future site, it is always tempting to use the default document library and start uploading documents in there or configure it with metadataBuyer beware! Here are few reasons why you might want to break your habit and not use this default document library when you create sites.

defaultlibrary1

REASON 1: DOCUMENT LIBRARY NAME

Call me picky, but by default, the name of the “default” document library is Documents. If you click on it, the URL will say “Shared Documents“. While you can change the name from Documents to something more meaningful, like Project Documents or Legal Library, the URL for the default document library is fixed and cannot be changed easily.

This might not be a big deal to you, but I am a perfectionist and like naming things what they really are. The only way to do this would be by creating your own document library and giving it a custom name.

defaultlibrary3

defaultlibrary2

The only way to change the URL of the document library is via Windows Explorer (you can change the library name just like you are changing a name of the folder). This, in turn, changes the URL of the whole document library (thanks to my loyal blog follower, Nick Golding, for this tip). Please note that once you change the document library URL, in older versions of SharePoint this will affect the URL of the documents themselves (if you have shared the links with anyone). So be careful with the URL change!

REASON 2: MODERN PAGES

If you are using modern pages in your SharePoint Intranet, you have another reason to stay away from default document library. That is because when you upload a document using File View web part, it uploads it into the default document library (not Site Assets library).

So if you are using a default document library to say, store invoices and then decided to use File Viewer Web Part to upload and embed some cool document on the page, like a PowerPoint slide with Sales Update, you will then get an unwanted guest in your Invoices document library.

REASON 3: PUBLISHING FEATURES AND MYSTERIOUS COLUMNS

There is another reason why you need to stay away from default document library. It is a bit more serious. If you use default document library and later decide to enable SharePoint Publishing features, SharePoint will add 2 columns to your document library, without you knowing about this.

So to clarify, once you enable SharePoint Server Publishing Infrastructure at the Site Collection level (Site Collection Features)…

defaultlibrary4

… and then activate SharePoint Server Publishing at the site level (Site Features)…

defaultlibrary5

… next time you upload a document, you will see 2 new mysterious columns pop-up (Scheduling Start Date and Scheduling End Date)

defaultlibrary6

If you are using folders, you most likely will not encounter those columns (unless the user decides to rename a file (Edit Properties). If you use metadata in your document library, you will absolutely encounter those columns and they will appear next to your custom ones when a user uploads a document or tries to edit existing metadata.

How to prevent the Scheduling Start Date and Scheduling End Date columns

The best way to prevent those columns from appearing is by not using a default SharePoint Document Library. Columns are only created in the default library. If you create a new document library – those columns will not appear (even if you enable Publishing Features). To create a new document library, follow these steps:

  1. Gear Icon > Site Contents > Add an Appdefaultlibrary7
  2. Select Document Library from list of available appsdefaultlibrary8
  3. Give the new library a name, click CreateREMEMBER: You can change the title down the road, however, whatever you type for the name first time, will be permanently part of the document library URL!defaultlibrary9

How to remove the Scheduling Start Date and Scheduling End Date columns

If you are reading this section, that means that you have already created sites with default document libraries. If you got those Scheduling Start Date and Scheduling End Date columns and need to remove them, you have few options.

Option 1: Disable Item Scheduling

  1. Document Library > Library Tab > Library Settings > Versioning Settings
  2. Select Yes Radio button under Require Content Approval. Then, select Create major and minor versions under Document Version History. Click OKdefaultlibrary10
  3. Document Library > Library Tab > Library Settings > Manage Item Schedulingdefaultlibrary12
  4. Click the checkbox next to Enable scheduling of items in this list. Click OKdefaultlibrary11
  5. Back to Document Library > Library Tab > Library Settings > Manage Item Scheduling, uncheck the box you checked in previous step (don’t ask me why). Click OK.
  6. The columns will be gone by now

Option 2: Hide the columns

  1. Document Library > Library Tab > Library Settings > Advanced Settings
  2. Click Yes radio button under Allow management of Content Types. Click OKdefaultlibrary13
  3. Scroll down to the Document Content Type, click on it (Document)defaultlibrary14
  4. Click on the first column you want to hidedefaultlibrary15
  5. Choose Hidden Radio button, click OKdefaultlibrary16
  6. Repeat above step for another column
  7. Both columns will no longer appear
 
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SharePoint Document Management

WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER USE SHAREPOINT DEFAULT DOCUMENT LIBRARY

no thumb

Anytime you create a site from a built-in template in SharePoint (i.e. Team Site), SharePoint adds few default web parts to the site for you, like Document Library, Site Newsfeed, etc. (the web parts added depend on the site template you have chosen). Almost in all cases though, there is a document library web part that is being added. If you are after storing documents on your future site, it is always tempting to use the default document library and start uploading documents in there or configure it with metadataBuyer beware! Here are few reasons why you might want to break your habit and not use this default document library when you create sites.

defaultlibrary1

REASON 1: DOCUMENT LIBRARY NAME

Call me picky, but by default, the name of the “default” document library is Documents. If you click on it, the URL will say “Shared Documents“. While you can change the name from Documents to something more meaningful, like Project Documents or Legal Library, the URL for the default document library is fixed and cannot be changed easily.

This might not be a big deal to you, but I am a perfectionist and like naming things what they really are. The only way to do this would be by creating your own document library and giving it a custom name.

defaultlibrary3

defaultlibrary2

The only way to change the URL of the document library is via Windows Explorer (you can change the library name just like you are changing a name of the folder). This, in turn, changes the URL of the whole document library (thanks to my loyal blog follower, Nick Golding, for this tip). Please note that once you change the document library URL, in older versions of SharePoint this will affect the URL of the documents themselves (if you have shared the links with anyone). So be careful with the URL change!

REASON 2: MODERN PAGES

If you are using modern pages in your SharePoint Intranet, you have another reason to stay away from default document library. That is because when you upload a document using File View web part, it uploads it into the default document library (not Site Assets library).

So if you are using a default document library to say, store invoices and then decided to use File Viewer Web Part to upload and embed some cool document on the page, like a PowerPoint slide with Sales Update, you will then get an unwanted guest in your Invoices document library.

REASON 3: PUBLISHING FEATURES AND MYSTERIOUS COLUMNS

There is another reason why you need to stay away from default document library. It is a bit more serious. If you use default document library and later decide to enable SharePoint Publishing features, SharePoint will add 2 columns to your document library, without you knowing about this.

So to clarify, once you enable SharePoint Server Publishing Infrastructure at the Site Collection level (Site Collection Features)…

defaultlibrary4

… and then activate SharePoint Server Publishing at the site level (Site Features)…

defaultlibrary5

… next time you upload a document, you will see 2 new mysterious columns pop-up (Scheduling Start Date and Scheduling End Date)

defaultlibrary6

If you are using folders, you most likely will not encounter those columns (unless the user decides to rename a file (Edit Properties). If you use metadata in your document library, you will absolutely encounter those columns and they will appear next to your custom ones when a user uploads a document or tries to edit existing metadata.

How to prevent the Scheduling Start Date and Scheduling End Date columns

The best way to prevent those columns from appearing is by not using a default SharePoint Document Library. Columns are only created in the default library. If you create a new document library – those columns will not appear (even if you enable Publishing Features). To create a new document library, follow these steps:

  1. Gear Icon > Site Contents > Add an Appdefaultlibrary7
  2. Select Document Library from list of available appsdefaultlibrary8
  3. Give the new library a name, click CreateREMEMBER: You can change the title down the road, however, whatever you type for the name first time, will be permanently part of the document library URL!defaultlibrary9

How to remove the Scheduling Start Date and Scheduling End Date columns

If you are reading this section, that means that you have already created sites with default document libraries. If you got those Scheduling Start Date and Scheduling End Date columns and need to remove them, you have few options.

Option 1: Disable Item Scheduling

  1. Document Library > Library Tab > Library Settings > Versioning Settings
  2. Select Yes Radio button under Require Content Approval. Then, select Create major and minor versions under Document Version History. Click OKdefaultlibrary10
  3. Document Library > Library Tab > Library Settings > Manage Item Schedulingdefaultlibrary12
  4. Click the checkbox next to Enable scheduling of items in this list. Click OKdefaultlibrary11
  5. Back to Document Library > Library Tab > Library Settings > Manage Item Scheduling, uncheck the box you checked in previous step (don’t ask me why). Click OK.
  6. The columns will be gone by now

Option 2: Hide the columns

  1. Document Library > Library Tab > Library Settings > Advanced Settings
  2. Click Yes radio button under Allow management of Content Types. Click OKdefaultlibrary13
  3. Scroll down to the Document Content Type, click on it (Document)defaultlibrary14
  4. Click on the first column you want to hidedefaultlibrary15
  5. Choose Hidden Radio button, click OKdefaultlibrary16
  6. Repeat above step for another column
  7. Both columns will no longer appear
 
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SharePoint Document Management

6 WAYS TO BUILD A SUPER SECURE DOCUMENT LIBRARY IN SHAREPOINT

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One of the biggest concerns many organizations have when they store files and document in SharePoint is the security and integrity of their content. I have no doubt Microsoft goes above and beyond to keep files secure and encrypted in SharePoint. However, at the end of the day, SharePoint is used by humans. And humans are prone to errors. So what can you do as the the site owner or SharePoint administrator to help make the content secure and prevent any wrong-doing or accidental loss if important information?

Maybe you want to build a secure library for company executives. Or a policies library for the whole organization, or some confidential library used by HR personnel. Are there additional steps and checks you can do (as a site owner) to make the content even more secure? The answer is yes, there are few things you can do to make your document library with very important documents even more secure and turn it into a somewhat of a secure vault. Let me list those steps with you.

STEP 1: IMPLEMENT THE 10 STEPS TO SECURE A SITE

The first step to a secure library is the secure site. I have published a very comprehensive guide on how to secure a SharePoint site. I suggest that you first review that post and implement all the 10 steps on a site where the super secure document library will reside on.

STEP 2: ONLY ADD PEOPLE WHO NEED ACCESS

I know this might be pretty obvious, but you won’t believe how many times when I access client sites,  it looks more like a flea market in terms of security. Only add users/groups who need to have access. Also watch out for those Domain groups like “Everyone” and “Everyone except external users“. Many times they are used for convenience to add everyone at once, but might also inadvertently grant access to those who don’t need it. Also, if you are using Active Directory (AD) Groups in SharePoint, make sure those AD Groups only contain those who require access.

STEP 3: DISABLE SHARING

I listed this as a technique in my Site Security post (Steps 7 and 8). However, it is worthwhile repeating it here again. This is really crucial. If you do not disable sharing for a site, anyone in the members group (those with Contribute privileges) will be able to freely share the whole site, files and documents with anyone else in the organization without the site owner or an IT Admin knowing about this.

STEP 4: DISABLE SYNC

Another thing you can do in cases where content is confidential and represents your Intellectual Property (IP) is prevent offline synchronization of the document library to users’ computers. This will ensure that the content (entire document library) will not end up in the wrong hands should the laptop be stolen. To disable sync, please follow instructions in this post.

STEP 5: DISABLE FILE DELETION

Another mechanism to prevent accidental loss of data is to prevent file deletions. By default, any user with Contribute access can Add, Edit, Delete the files. So if you want your (regular) users to only be able to add and edit documents, and not delete, you can do that. The easiest way to achieve this is to create a custom Permission level. I explain how this works in this blog post.

STEP 6: SETUP ALERTS

If you are really a control freak and want to know what is happening to documents in the library at any point of time, you can setup an alert on the document library. Depending on your alert scenario, you will be notified instantly about everything that is happening to the documents from additions, to changes, to deletions. This will allow you to react to changes and address accordingly.

 
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Sharepoint

CO-AUTHORING DOCUMENTS IN SHAREPOINT

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One of the great capabilities of SharePoint is the ability for multiple users to work on the same document at the same time (also know as co-authoring). This functionality enhances collaboration, improves user experience and adoption of SharePoint.

WHAT IS CO-AUTHORING?

Co-Authoring in SharePoint is a formal name for multiple (2 or more) users collaborating together on the same file/document at the same time.

WHAT TYPE OF FILES CAN YOU CO-AUTHOR?

As of the writing of this blog post, you can co-author the following MS Office files:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • OneNote

HOW TO ENABLE CO-AUTHORING?

You do not need to enable it. In SharePoint Online, co-authoring is enabled by default.

HOW DOES CO-AUTHORING WORK

Word

Co-authoring works best with Word documents. It behaves a little bit differently in Word Online vs. native Word Application, but it works! When 2 or more users edit the document at the same time, they get to see “each other’s presence” and changes as they happen live.

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

Live changes as they happen in Word Online

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

Notification in the upper-right-hand corner of Word Online when another user edits at the same time

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

Notification in the upper-right-hand corner of Word native application when another user edits at the same time

Excel

Co-Authoring in Excel works with both the native Excel app (desktop app) and Excel Online. Just like with Word, you get presence notifications in the upper-right-hand corner. When edits are made to cells, they happen live and changed cells are highlighted with user indicator.

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

User experience when co-authoring in Excel Online

User experience when co-authoring in Excel Desktop App

NOTE: In the past, when you tried to co-author and edit a document using Excel native application, the second user trying to edit a document would get a notification message below. In other words, co-authoring in Excel native desktop app did not work before. That has been addressed by Microsoft as of August 2017. If you still encounter co-authoring issues using Excel, assure you run the latest and greatest version of the Office suite.

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

PowerPoint

Co-authoring works well with PowerPoint. Just like with Word, you see another user’s presence in the upper-right-hand corner. It works both with PowerPoint Online (edit in the browser), as well as the native PowerPoint application.

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

Notification in the upper-right-hand corner of PowerPoint Online when another user edits at the same time

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

Live changes as they happen in PowerPoint native application

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

Notification in the upper-right-hand corner of PowerPoint native application when another user edits at the same time

OneNote

OneNote also works well with co-authoring. It provides a very similar notification mechanism as well when multiple users change same OneNote page. Changes take place live as well. Co-authoring with OneNote works well with both browser editing and native application.

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

Notification in the upper-right-hand corner of OneNote Online when another user edits at the same time

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

Live changes as they happen in OneNote Desktop (native application)

HOW DOES VERSIONING WORK WITH CO-AUTHORING?

Great question. When 2 or more people are editing the file at the same time, it saves file  everyone once in a while (every minute or so – nobody knows for sure an exact formula), and whoever is the last one to make changes at the time of “save” – that name is registered in the version history. In the example below, you can see changes to the file done by two users co-authoring in the span of 1 minute.

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Sharepoint

6 WAYS TO SAVE FILES TO SHAREPOINT

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I had an interesting and trivial question being asked the other day by one of my clients. “How do I save files to SharePoint?” I almost responded, “You must be kidding.” I thought, just like breathing and eating – this was intuitive and common knowledge. But then, as I was explaining the options, I realized that there are way too many techniques to save files to SharePoint, each with its pros and cons. So, to answer my clients’ question and for my own sanity, I decided to write this post and document all the options for you. Here we go.

METHOD 1: UPLOAD BUTTON

The most basic and intuitive option would be to use the Upload button on the library. For those who are in SharePoint Online, you can upload multiple files and folders. Those living with older versions of SharePoint or those who run SharePoint on-premises or those still running classical look and feel of a document library – you can only upload one file at a time using this method.

save files to SharePoint

METHOD 2: DRAG AND DROP

This is the new feature that became available with SharePoint Online/SharePoint 2013. The convenience factor here is that you can drag and drop multiple files and folders from any location right onto your browser. Please note that just like with previous option, you cannot drag and drop folders unless you have SharePoint Online and use modern experience for a document library.

save files to SharePoint

METHOD 3: SAVE AS FROM WORD, EXCEL, POWERPOINT

March 2018 Update

Since I have written this post, Microsoft has implemented a change which allows for a very smooth and different user experience than described below. So for the latest instructions on this particular technique, please reference this post. The technique described below still works but is not as user-friendly as the one mentioned in the link above. You might still need to utilize below technique if you run older versions of MS Office suite. So keep reading!

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If you are authoring a brand new document in Word, Excel, PowerPoint or OneNote, you can save documents directly to a specific SharePoint site/library. This might prove very convenient, as you don’t need to save a document to the desktop first and then upload to SharePoint, eliminating an unnecessary step.

Here is how you do this:

  1. Copy the URL of a SharePoint site you want to save a document tosave files to SharePoint
  2. From Word, Excel, PowerPoint or OneNote, do File > Save As > Browse. In the window that pops up, paste the URL of the SharePoint Site in the address window. Make sure to not include the full path though. For example, if your site address is https://companyname.sharepoint.com/sites/intranet/accounting/SitePages/Home.aspx, only paste the part up to /Sites/Home.apsx(https://companyname.sharepoint.com/sites/intranet/accounting). Otherwise, it won’t resolve, and you will get an error message.
  3. Once you do the above, you will see contents of the site. So just navigate to a library and specific folder where you want to save a document to and click Opensave files to SharePoint
  4. The document is now saved directly to SharePointsave files to SharePoint

NOTE:

In Step 2 above, you could also paste the URL of a document library itself, not the whole site. However, just like described in Step 2 above, make sure to paste the URL of a library itself, do not include the path to a specific view. For example, if the full path to a library/view is https://companyname.sharepoint.com/sites/intranet/accounting/Shared%20Documents/Forms/AllItems.aspx, the path you need to paste in the address bar of the pop-up is https://companyname.sharepoint.com/sites/intranet/accounting/Shared%20Documents (without /Forms/AllItems.aspx).

Otherwise, the location will not resolve, and you will get below error message:

save files to SharePoint

METHOD 4: CREATE NEW OFFICE ONLINE DOCUMENT

Another way to save files to SharePoint is to create them from SharePoint! 🙂 Instead of creating new documents in Word or Excel on your desktop, you can use the “New” drop-down button and choose the file you want to create. You can choose from Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

save files to SharePoint

The beauty of this method is that files created this way are getting automatically saved into the document library/folder where you clicked the “New” button from! Moreover, no need to be paranoid about hitting the Save button – document is auto-saved for you, courtesy of Office Onlinecapabilities.

METHOD 5: UPLOAD VIA WINDOWS EXPLORER (FILE EXPLORER)

Another option for you to save files to SharePoint is via Windows Explorer. When you open a document library via Windows Explorer, it opens up a regular File Explorer window, and you can drag and drop your documents and folders, just like you are moving/copying files in Windows. This is not my favorite option, and I actually published a post on why you no longer need this. You might resort to this option only if you have a classical document library, run SharePoint on-premisesor have non-Microsoft Office files (i.e. AutoCAD or Photoshop files). If you use modern library experience, use any of the above options instead.

METHOD 6: UPLOAD VIA ONEDRIVE SYNC CLIENT

Another option for you to save the files to SharePoint is by using OneDrive sync client. What that means is that you Save your files to the OneDrive sync folder on your C: drive, to a previously synchronized document library and the sync does the rest by syncing (copying) the files to SharePoint Online. To read more about this feature – click here.

Other options:

Peter Kalmström of kalmstrom.com Business Solutions has a great video describing some of the above options + few additional ones, so feel free to check out his post here.

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SharePoint Document Management

DO YOU REALLY NEED TO CHECK OUT A DOCUMENT IN SHAREPOINT?

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In an earlier post, I explained the concept of Co-authoring in SharePoint. Co-authoring allows multiple users to work on the same document simultaneously. The concept of check-in/check-out is a total opposite of co-authoring. In this article, I would like to explain what it is all about and whether you need it at all.

Co-authoring is all about collaboration between multiple users. Check-in/Check-out, on another hand, is a total opposite of co-authoring. Check-in/Check-out is for control freaks like me, who want to control the document they are working on without anyone else messing it up. Essentially, check-out prevents other users from making any changes to the document until you check the document back in.

HOW TO CHECK OUT A DOCUMENT?

There are 3 ways for you to check out a document:

  1. Manual check-out
  2. Automatic check-out
  3. Missing required column check-out

Manual Check-out

To manually check out a document, right-click on the file you want to check out, and choose More > Check-out

check out a document in SharePoint

Automatic Check-out

Automatic check out means that users will be forced to check out a document from a document library before they can make any edits. To enable automatic check out, go to Library Settings > Versioning Settings and switch  Require documents to be checked out before they can be edited? to Yes. Click OK

check out a document in SharePoint

Next time anyone tries to edit any document in the library – they will be forced to check out a document.

check out a document in SharePoint

Message users get when they try to edit (Word) document in the browser

check out a document in SharePoint

Message users get when they try to edit (Word) document using Word desktop application

Missing Required Column Check-out

This is not really an official name or anything. I call it “a very annoying type of check-out“. It happens when you make your metadata columns required and users upload the file, but exit metadata screen before metadata is filled. SharePoint, in this case, makes the document checked-out. The user then manually needs to fill in required metadata and manually check the file back in. In the meantime, the file will not be visible to anyone else, until the user who is uploading the file fills in the required metadata and checks it in. It is important to note that this type of behavior only occurs in the classic document library. The issue has been addressed with the modern document library. Modern document libraries do not require “required” metadata, so you can upload documents and leave metadata fields blank, and documents will not be checked out by default! Instead, users are able to fill in “required” metadata via a new feature called “attention view“.

check out a document in SharePoint

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE DOCUMENT IS CHECKED OUT?

Once the document is checked out, there is a little green arrow that appears over the file type icon. If you hover over it with your mouse, it will tell you who the document is checked out to.

check out a document in SharePoint

WHAT WILL OTHER USERS EXPERIENCE?

When you check out a document, users will still be able to access the latest version of the document in SharePoint document library, but only in Read mode. They will not be able to make any edits or save the document back to the library until the original document is checked back in.

HOW TO CHECK THE DOCUMENT BACK IN?

Check in your own document

Once you are done with all the changes and are ready to make the document available for others to modify, you can check it back in by choosing Check-in

If you are making changes from within Office Apps, usually it is smart enough to remind you to check in when you exit the application.

check out a document in SharePoint

Check in on behalf of others

As an Administrator, you can also take over the checked out documents and check them in on other’s behalf. Go to Library Settings, then Manage files which have no checked in version

Then, choose the files you want to take over and choose Take Ownership of Selection

This will allow you to check the file in as if this is your own file (using instructions above).

HOW TO DISCARD CHECK OUT?

If you wish, you can also discard the check-out altogether. Just choose Discard Check Out from the menu.

DO YOU NEED CHECK-IN/CHECK OUT?

Back to the original subject of this post. Do you really need to check out a document before making any changes? Here is my advice:

Try to stay away from the check-out feature unless it is absolutely necessary

For most usual types of document libraries, you do not need to check-out a document or enable automatic check-out. It adds a lot of unnecessary overhead and complexity for end users (i.e. hidden documents). If you have a highly collaborative environment, you do not need to slow the users down by making them check out the file every time they click “Edit”. Moreover, any changes that are made to the document are controlled via version history, so you can always go back and restore a previous version if need be. So to summarize, stay away from check-out, you don’t need.

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SharePoint Document Management

7 REASONS YOU CANNOT FIND THE DOCUMENTS IN A SHAREPOINT DOCUMENT LIBRARY

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You know that feeling when you cannot find your car keys or wallet in your house? You know they are there, somewhere, but, yet, you spend the whole day searching for them. The same phenomenon applies to SharePoint document libraries. You have seen the document before, and now it is …gone. This post will try to shed some light on the mystery and will help uncover some common culprits of why you can no longer see and find the documents in a SharePoint document library.

REASON 1: FILE OR FOLDER-LEVEL SECURITY

One of the reasons you or your users might not see certain files or folders (while others can) is because those files and folders might have unique security and permissions set at file or folder level. While the best practice is to set and manage security at the site level, you can break inheritance at the document library or even file/folder level. If a certain folder has unique permissions – it (along with its contents) will not be visible to anyone else. To check whether or not you have unique permissions at the folder level, click the checkbox next to a file or folder and then click on the “i” Document Information Panel on the right-hand-side of a document library. There you can see who has access to the given file or folder.

find the documents in a SharePoint document library

After you click Change permissions, you can add/remove users.

find the documents in a SharePoint document library

REASON 2: VIEW FILTERING

Another common reason for missing files could be the fact that those files are filtered out via a view. That could especially be the case if you are using metadata. Check your views to make sure the documents are not filtered out via any of the columns/metadata fields. By the way, another reason not to touch default views in SharePoint lists and libraries!

REASON 3: REQUIRED METADATA AND CHECK-OUT FEATURE

This used to be one of the biggest reasons for missing files. With the arrival of the modern new document library, this is not so much of an issue anymore, but you can still encounter it if you set up your library in the classical mode. This happens when you set some of the metadata columns to “required” in the document library and instead of uploading and tagging, you upload but do not tag. This also happens when you drag and drop multiple documents into the library with required columns. Both of these scenarios will cause the files to be checked out since required metadata fields are not complete. While the files uploaded during the initial load are checked out, they are invisible to the rest of the organization, until mandatory fields are filled in, and files are checked in. I talk more about check-in and check out in this post.

REASON 4: CONTENT APPROVAL FEATURE

Another reason you might have “missing files” is because you enabled Content Approval feature. If you did, the files uploaded or being revised (with Status = Pending) are only visible to those who uploaded the files and those with permissions to Approve the files. Also, if under Versioning, you opted for draft versions, you can hide draft versions from users altogether. More on this in this post.

REASON 5: SEARCH INDEXING

Out of the box, SharePoint indexes all of the files uploaded and makes them searchable across your Intranet. When you execute a search via a Document Library Search Box or SharePoint Site Search Box (read more about it here), the files show up because they are indexed. You can turn off indexing at the library or Site level. While indexing is turned off, it won’t make the files “disappear” from the document library like in above cases, but they will not be searchable/discoverable via the search box. Here is how to check whether or not indexing is on or off:

Library Level

Document Library Settings > Advanced Settings > Search

find the documents in a SharePoint document library

Site Level

Site Settings > Search and Offline Availability (under Search) > Indexing Site Content

find the documents in a SharePoint document library

REASON 6: MOVED

OK, it is quite possible someone just moved the file (or copied and deleted) to a different document library/site altogether, now that it is so easy to move files!

Since you would not know where to find the file now, I suggest you execute a global search from the top-level site of the root site collection. This will ensure that it goes after all the site collections and sites you have in your environment! You can read more about how this search works here.

REASON 7: DELETED

You know what they say, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” If all else fails, check the Recycle Bin. It is quite possible that the file you are looking for has been deleted and ended up in a Recycle Bin. You need to be a Site Collection Administrator to see everyone’s Recycle bin, so make sure you have proper access or ask your IT to check out the Administrative Recycle Bin or secondary-stage recycle bin. You have 90 days to restore files from the Recycle Bin.

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SharePoint Document Management

WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER ATTACH DOCUMENTS IN A SHAREPOINT LIST

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I see this happening again and again – users attach documents in a SharePoint list. Yes, you can do it – but that is not what SharePoint list was designed for. It is like making pancakes with an iron. As a matter of fact – there are some very strong reasons for you not to continue this poor business practice. Let me explain.

Just to set the stage for what I am talking about, in SharePoint, there is a concept of a list and a library. In case you require clarification on the difference between the two, check out this post.

SharePoint Document Library, by default, allows to store and organize, you guessed it, documents (files). If you have a document to store – you would just upload one (or many) into a document library. And of course, you can organize them via folders or metadata.

SharePoint List, on another hand, is used for storing non-document information (think of it as Excel in SharePoint) – table of rows and columns of some information. This could be a list of events, properties, clients, projects, tasks, etc.

The thing is that SharePoint lists also allow you to attach documents (files) to a given list item. Say you have a list of projects or clients in a SharePoint list, you can attach the file(s) to a given item.attach documents in a SharePoint list

Attachment option in a “classical” SharePoint List

attach documents in a SharePoint list

Attachment option in a “modern” SharePoint List

Eventually, you can also end up with an item that has multiple attachments associated with it.

attach documents in a SharePoint list

Now that we are clear on the difference and the mechanism of the two, let me explain why you should not use SharePoint lists to store attachments.

REASON 1: LACK OF DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT FEATURES

By default, SharePoint list is not a document library and, as a result, lacks all the document management features of a document library, like versioningcheck-in/check-outco-authoringability to open and edit documents in the browser, etc.

REASON 2: LACK OF VERSION HISTORY ON THE ATTACHED FILES

While you do have a version history functionality on the item in the list itself (if you enable versioning on the list), it does not carry over to the attached files. For example, if you have an item at Version 1 with two attachments, then make a change to an item and delete one of the attachments, if you decide to go back (restore) Version 1 again, it will only have 1 attachment, not the 2 it had originally. You would need to remember to go to the Recycle Bin and restore deleted attachments from there!

REASON 3: NO WAY TO ORGANIZE ATTACHMENTS OR APPLY DOCUMENT SPECIFIC METADATA

Since attachments just sit together attached to an item, there is no way to organize them in folders or apply file-specific metadata (like you can in the document library). I hope this is obvious!

attach documents in a SharePoint list

REASON 4: CAN’T UPLOAD MULTIPLE ATTACHMENTS AT ONCE (CLASSICAL LIST ONLY)

This depends on whether you use classical SharePoint list or a modern one. In classical SharePoint custom lists and other “classical” web parts like Calendar, TasksIssuesAnnouncements, etc, you can only attach one file at a time. With the modern SharePoint lists (think Custom List), this is not an issue, you can upload many at once, no problem.

attach documents in a SharePoint list

REASON 5: LIST ATTACHMENTS ARE IGNORED BY SEARCH

This other reason is here because of my loyal blog follower and fellow SharePoint Consultant Ellen van Aken from Holland. She advised me about it once she saw an original post, so I added it here now. That has got to be one of the primary reasons against list attachments – the fact that those attachments are ignored by search! Let me explain.

When you upload documents to a document library, the SharePoint search engine crawls the documents and indexes them (just like Google does), so you can later search by keyword and find the documents in your site or library. Well, if you upload your documents as attachments into a list item, none of this happens! They are just ignored by search! So, whether you conduct a search at a list level or site level – these documents are “invisible” to SharePoint Search. The search will only find text and metadata you have on a SharePoint list itself (columns). Oy Vey!

HOW CAN I PREVENT PEOPLE FROM UPLOADING ATTACHMENTS TO A SHAREPOINT LIST?

Option 1: Training

Education, my friend, education. Knowledge is power! While you can turn off attachments on a list (like I describe below), you won’t remember to do it on every single list you have in your environment. So make sure to properly educate your users (share this post with them) and educate and train them before they screw it up for you!

Option 2: Turn off attachments in a list

It is very easy to disable attachments on a SharePoint list. And something I do every time I configure a list for my clients. To disable attachments in a list:

  1. Go to List Settings > Advanced Settings
  2. Scroll to the middle of the page to Attachments section and choose Disabled radio button
  3. Click OK

SHOULD I NEVER USE SHAREPOINT LISTS FOR STORING DOCUMENTS?

Just like with any other situation in life, it depends. In most cases, it would be wise to not use SharePoint lists for storing files and working documents. However, there are certain situations where this might be beneficial. Say, for example, you have built a Help Desk system in SharePoint, and it is, of course, a SharePoint list (say, Issues log). So when users submit a ticket, you might want them to also attach screenshots to help IT solve the helpdesk request. So leave attachments on in that case.

However, anytime you need to store MS Office documents or other files for say a client or a project, and especially when you wish to store multiple documents, you are better off using good old SharePoint document libraries.

WHAT IF I NEED TO STORE BOTH THE LIST INFORMATION AND DOCUMENTS, WHAT DO I DO?

Use Document Sets!

In case you have one-to-many sort of relationship, where, say, you have a client list and some documents that need to be associated with a client, the option I would highly recommend is Document Set.

Document Set functionality allows you to create folder level metadata (your SharePoint list metadata essentially) and attach files to each document set (i.e., Client). In a way, you end up with a folder (document set) for each client or project and then corresponding documents inside of each folder. On top of that, all files stored within a document set inherit metadata from the folder! So it is almost like having a SharePoint List with attachments, except, done properly!

List of folders (document sets) with metadata (in place of a SharePoint List metadata)

Contents of a Document Set. Files are organized using metadata and benefit from all the available document management capabilities

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