How to Create Columns in Lists and Libraries to Categorize and Classify

Justin AntczakWed, 10/09/2019 - 14:24

SharePoint is a great tool for sharing and collaborating on documents.  There are several features that you can use to organize information so that it is easy to find and share content.  One way to classify information is to use metadata in your lists and libraries.  First let’s look at a custom list of clients and see how we can use columns to categorize them.

From the list, select Add column.

How to Create Columns in Lists and Libraries - Add Column

There are several options of column types to choose from.  One common type for categorizing is a choice column.  This is useful when there is a limited number of choices.  For example, if all clients are in the continental U.S., then we could create a column for time zones using Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific.

How to Create Columns in Lists and Libraries - Choice Column

How to Create Columns in Lists and Libraries - Create a column

Now the clients can be classified by time zone.  You can use the Quick Edit to quickly assign metadata to items just like an Excel spreadsheet.

How to Create Columns in Lists and Libraries - Quick Edit

Now, what if you want to classify items using a choice column but the choices may change frequently?  You could just update the choice column in the list, but better way would be to use a lookup column.  That way, other lists and libraries can use the same set of choices.  First, you need to create a list that has the values you want to point to.  In this example, we will create a list of companies.

How to Create Columns in Lists and Libraries - Create a list

Now, in the client list, click Add column and select More…

How to Create Columns in Lists and Libraries - Add column

Enter the column name and choose the Lookup radio button as the column type.  Under Additional Column Settings select to get information from the Companies list.

How to Create Columns in Lists and Libraries - Lookup

At the bottom, decide if and how you want to enforce relationships between the lists.  If you wanted related items to be deleted when an item is deleted in the target list, then you would select Cascade delete.  While this may be good in some cases, in this case, we don’t want that.  We want to prevent the deletion of a company in the company list if it has a corresponding item in the Client list so that we maintain the record.  Click OK when done. 

How to Create Columns in Lists and Libraries - Enforce relationship behavior

Now we can add the values in the Client list just like the choice column, but the options will be from the company list and will update automatically as new companies are added.

How to Create Columns in Lists and Libraries - Add values

Since we can’t delete companies from the company list now, it would be helpful to have a column indicating when a company is archived.  Let’s add a column to the company list to do that.  Navigate to the Companies list, select Add column and choose Yes/No.

How to Create Columns in Lists and Libraries - Add column

After entering in the Name and Description, be sure to change the Default value to No.  We don’t want companies to be archived by default!  Click Save when done.

How to Create Columns in Lists and Libraries - Save

Now we can use this field to indicate when a company is archived.  Views can be used to hide items based on column values. These same steps can be used to add columns to a document library.  For example, you could create a column for “Document Type” as a choice column with values such as meeting notes, proposals, statements of work, etc.

Now that you know how to set up your lists and libraries to organize your content, the next step is using the metadata to display the information with views, but that is a topic for another blog post!