How to Manage Content in a List in Microsoft Sharepoint

Peter Ward

February 2011


Microsoft SharePoint 2010 End User Guide: Business Performance Enhancement

Microsoft SharePoint 2010 End User Guide: Business Performance Enhancement

Taking the basics to the business with no-coding solutions for SharePoint 2010

  • Designed to offer applicable, no-coding solutions to dramatically enhance the performance of your business
  • Excel at SharePoint intranet functionality to have the most impact on you and your team
  • Drastically enhance your End user SharePoint functionality experience
  • Gain real value from applying out of the box SharePoint collaboration tools
  • Packed with useful tips, images and instructions to help you to be more productive as a SharePoint 2010 End User
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(For more resources on Microsoft Sharepoint, see here.)

How to add, view, edit, and manage content to a list

To perform these functions, the Ribbon can be the navigational method or you can click on the content itself. Either way is efficient; it is simply a personal preference.

The Ribbon method

To add a new item, click on the Items in List Tools and then click on the New Item shown in the following screenshot:

Microsoft Sharepoint 2010

If there is more than one content type in the list there will be additional items on the New Item on the ribbon.

To view or edit an item, click the checkbox next to the list item and then click the View Item/Edit Item from the ribbon.

Microsoft Sharepoint 2010

List method

To add an item, click Add new item located at the bottom of the list:

Microsoft Sharepoint 2010

Both methods will open a new form.

Microsoft Sharepoint 2010

For readers that are familiar with MOSS, the new form to edit or view an item opens as a pop up and it is not possible to obtain the URL or any parameters in the browser.

Content can be added to the fields by clicking the Save button on the form and saving the entered information.

To view or edit an item, click on the downward arrow on the item to display an item menu. Then, click on the View Item/ Edit Item to see the entire form.

The downward arrow is only displayed when you hover your mouse over the item.

Microsoft Sharepoint 2010

Managing content

In this section, you will learn how to manage content that is in a list. Managing content is about how to manipulate it so that it can be used for your business collaboration activities.

Microsoft Sharepoint 2010

The functionality to manage content can be navigated from the Ribbon.


Alerts are notifications on list or library items that automatically notify users when new content is added, changed, or deleted.

Alerts are useful in many business scenarios, such as:

  • Content owners who are responsible for a list\library and need to unconsciously monitor user activity in it. For example, if you use a list as a bug tracker tool for a software release and have subscribed to receive alerts when a new item is created in the list and you are not receiving any alerts, the team is probably not testing the software release; so, you can proactively inquire with the team rather than wait until the next status meeting.
  • An alert notification can be subscribed to on a single document, so if the requirements document changes you can be the first to know of this change.

To avoid your e-mail inbox being inundated with alerts, create a folder in Outlook and create a rule to copy all received alerts to this folder.

E-mail a link

There is the ability to e-mail a link to the list to someone else by clicking on the E-mail a Link option on the Ribbon. This is often used by a user as an informal approval or review process with other team members. Rather than e-mailing an attachment, an e-mail link to the document in the library is better because the e-mail link will always link to the same file even if the file is resaved.

We have observed that sometimes users are hesitant to use this SharePoint feature because they feel users will click on the link and edit the document and resave it in the list, thus overwriting the original document. This concern can be overcome by two approaches:

  • Set the permissions on the document to read-only for the rest of the team.
  • Check out the document prior to sending the link. Users will only be able to view the document in read-only mode.

Managing Permissions

The site permissions inheritance methodology is applied to lists.

By clicking on the List Permissions icon on the Ribbon, you have the ability to Manage Parent Permission and Stop Inheriting Permissions.

As with Site permission inheritance, there is the ability to manually break the inheritance of an item in a list.

Microsoft Sharepoint 2010

This can be done by clicking on the drop-down menu of an item and selecting Stop Inheriting Permissions in the Ribbon.

Microsoft Sharepoint 2010

You will be prompted with an information box, alerting you with what you are about to do.

By breaking the inheritance of an item, list, or even a site, it creates a security administration overhead in which you would have to create unique permissions, and this can cause confusion with users and administrators.
You can only manage permissions on the site, list, or item level. You cannot manage the permissions on a view in the list.

RSS feeds

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and is a web feed technology from blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video in a standardized, normally timely format. The benefit is that you can subscribe to different sources of information and aggregate the feeds into a single location, such as Outlook or another location on the SharePoint site.

To create an RSS feed from a list, click on the RSS Feed on the Ribbon.

Datasheet view

The Datasheet View provides the ability to edit items in a list as if the list was an online spreadsheet. You can tab across fields, paste between them, and sort and filter columns. This is useful if you need to edit multiple items at once.

To switch from a Standard view to a Datasheet view, click on the Datasheet icon on the Ribbon.

In the Datasheet view, there is additional functionality available, featured in the following sections:

Show Totals

You can show the totals of each column in a list by clicking on the Show Totals icon on the Ribbon. The totals can be defined as Average, Count, Maximum, and Minimum.

Microsoft Sharepoint 2010

Adding columns

To add a column to a list, click on Create Column on the Ribbon.

Microsoft Sharepoint 2010

Type in the column name, and select the column type.

(Move the mouse over the image to enlarge.)

Column type Description
Single line of text A single value column, such as a Full Name.
Multiple lines of text Text Description: This field format has rich text capabilities, such as bold, and font sizes similar to Word, so it is ideal for entries that would perhaps be in an e-mail or Word document. If version control is enabled on the list, there is also the ability to append text to a previous submission. This is useful when there is a dialog between multiple people.
Choice (menu to choose from) Multiple Choice values: This is ideal when you require the fields to be predefined to the user. Also, if a view has categorized data in it, this column type should be used.
Lookup (information already on this site) Look up information from another list on this site: This column type can be viewed as a relationship data structure-one to many.
This is also useful when there are multiple lists using the same data.
Person or Group User look up from Active Directory By using a user's name from Active Directory, additional information about the user can be obtained, such as their department and manager. Also, by using this column type, workflow notifications to the value can occur.
Hyperlink or Picture URL address.
Calculated (calculation based on other columns) Ability to select other columns in the list and perform calculations from these, such as the number of days between two dates.
Full HTML content with formatting and constraints for publishing Ability for a column to display the contents of the HTML from an Editor Web Part. Snippets of HTML can be entered directly into the column.
Image with formatting and constraints for publishing Columns that store links to images defined in the item properties. Each column displays an image, with proportional sizing. This field type renders an image to the correct size on a web page when it is loaded.
Hyperlink with formatting and constraints for publishing Columns that store hyperlinks and display the names of hyperlinks defined in the item properties. Link formatting and constraints may apply. This field type renders an image to the correct size on a web page when it is loaded.
Rich media data for publishing A column that can store and display media files. Ideal for video content as it is streamed in the browser that could be stored in the Asset Library of the site.
Managed Metadata Centrally managed metadata to tag the item. By associating metadata to content, it is easier to search.


The Column Validation on a column provides logic validation on a form, which can provide a more descriptive validation message to the user. This can be based on either individual column value validation or an overall item validation based on multiple columns.

Under each new column there you have the ability to make the value a required field, give it a default value, and add it to the default view.

Sync to SharePoint Workspace

SharePoint Workspace, formerly known as Groove, is part of the Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010 edition. Therefore, it's important to note that SharePoint Workspace 2010 only works with SharePoint 2010. For older versions of SharePoint, the Groove software is required.

SharePoint Workspace provides the ability to use content offline on your desktop, and then synchronize into the SharePoint lists when you are back online. This functionality is ideal for those who are travelling and have limited Internet access to online information.

List Workflows

SharePoint Workflows consists of a sequence of connected steps that depict a sequence of operations performed by a person. By clicking on the workflow button on the Ribbon, you have the ability to add and review workflow settings.

The key benefits of using workflows are to facilitate business processes and improve collaboration, through managing tasks and steps and speed up decision making by helping to ensure that the appropriate information is made available to the appropriate users at the time that they need it.

Workflows also help ensure that individual workflow tasks are completed by the appropriate people and in the appropriate sequence, so users who perform these tasks can concentrate on performing the work instead of on the work processes.

A business scenario for a typical workflow could be with a document library to route a document to a group of people for approval. When the author starts this workflow, the workflow creates document approval tasks, assigns these tasks to the workflow participants, and then sends e-mail alerts to the participants.

When the workflow is in progress, the workflow owner or the workflow participants can check progress on the Workflow Status page. When the workflow participants complete their workflow tasks, the workflow ends and the workflow owner is automatically notified that the workflow has finished.

For a workflow to work with a business process, the business process must be understood, such as how it starts and ends, and who the approvers are.

Visio, Access, and Project

Applications such as Visio, Access, and Project have user functionality designed for certain business activity, such as Visio for process mapping, Access for reports, and Project for project management, but often this information is created centrally in a list. SharePoint has the functionality to copy list items to these desktop applications so users can work and prepare this content for another activity. By clicking on the application icons on the Ribbon, list content is made available in the Visio, Access, and Project applications.

It would be difficult for the functionality of Visio, Access, and Project to be replicated in a web-based form in SharePoint, so Microsoft has complimented these desktop applications with SharePoint by allowing information to be stored in a list and be accessed from the applications. Also, users can be very familiar with a certain application such as a project manager and Microsoft Project, and would rather work with Project and publish information to SharePoint than work in a SharePoint list to enter information.

The advantages of this approach are that information can be stored in a SharePoint list, with the benefits, such as centralization, version control, and security.

Export to Excel

By clicking on the Export to Excel link on the Ribbon, the items in the view are exported to Excel. There are a number of benefits in exporting content to Excel, which include Excel's reporting capabilities such as graphs and pie charts, and if users do not have access to the list information then it can be e-mailed to them.

You may be thinking to yourself, "I thought the whole idea of SharePoint is to centrally store information in a single location where it is accessible to everyone".

Yes, it is, but there are certain scenarios where exporting data to Excel is the most appropriate approach, such as:

  • Users who require to review the data are external to the organization and do not have access to SharePoint.
  • It is not unknown that senior management will prefer to review the information in an Excel file, rather than clicking on a link in an e-mail. Old habits die hard!

This is an export of data from a list, rather than another application to edit data and sync back into the list.

View navigation

To navigate to different views in a list, click on the View drop-down menu on the Ribbon.

Front loading

For lists to be truly utilized you must think about your current tasks and how you want them structured in SharePoint. This is called front loading of information. Questions that you should think of are:

  • What tasks require better collaboration and with whom?
  • Which is the most appropriate out of the box list template to use?
  • What other SharePoint functionalities are required? alerts, workflow, and permissions?
  • What information is going to be migrated from Excel into a list, and what column types should be used and processes established such as alerts, workflows, and retention.



        Read more about this book      

(For more resources on Microsoft Sharepoint, see here.)

Advanced list features

In this section, you will be introduced to advanced features of lists.

Form Web Parts

When a list item is opened, the field columns are displayed in a form style page. There is the ability to add web parts and apply a mobile device page to the form. This functionality provides a richness to the form as list views can be added to a form page, which is useful if list information needs to be compared.

List settings

By clicking on the List Settings icon on the Ribbon, you have the ability to manage the setting of a list.

Microsoft Sharepoint 2010

Under General Settings, the following list of functionalities can be applied or changed:

Title, description, and navigation

The name, the description of the list, and the option to display the list on the Quick Launch is available.

Versioning settings

The versioning setting provides two main functions: the ability for content to be approved before it is visible to users, and allowing version control of items. This provides you with the ability to determine who can see draft content based on the Draft Item Security setting.

Microsoft Sharepoint 2010

Versioning is really rarely used in lists and is more often used in document libraries, probably because the content is being edited more often. However, it's an important functionality to mention in this context.

To view the version history of an item, click on the downward menu arrow.

The Version History setting in a list can increase the storage capacity of the SharePoint server if multiple versions of items are saved. Often, users request that they need version control for their content, but it is often viewed as a rarely used feature.

A compromise between the requested feature and actual user behavior is to select a version limit of a few items.

Advanced Settings

The Advanced Settings allows further customization to a list such as Content Types and Permissions.

Content Types

Content types were introduced in SharePoint 2007 and are content templates that can be reused in another list. Content types range from an expense document to a custom list, with defined fields relating to client information. When a list is defined to have multiple content types such as expense forms, contract, and URLs, there are user ability benefits as multiple contents can be stored in the same list. There is also a set of defined content types that are available. By using predefined content types, deployments of lists are quicker because fields are already defined, workflows already associated, although with information management policies, and document templates.

For example, suppose you defined a content type named Contract. This content type might include the following:

  • Columns named Customer, Amount, and Final Effective Date
  • An approval workflow
  • A retention policy linked to the Final Effective Date field
  • A Word template for a contract document

Content types are defined and managed at the site level, but they are typically defined at the root site in a site collection. In order to use a content type you must associate it with a list or a document library. You can associate a content type with multiple lists or libraries, and each list or library can host multiple content types.

This is useful in scenarios where different types of document share similar metadata—for example, you might store expenses and contracts in the same document library because both share similar fields, but might differ in terms of approval processes or retention requirements. The ability to associate behaviors with a content type, such as workflows and event receivers, is comparable to the concept of triggers on a database table.

Because the content type can be applied to multiple locations, you can use content types to define a contract, purchase order, or invoice that has the same metadata and the same behavior across the entire organization.

When you associate a content type with a list or library, the content type is attached to the list, together with the site columns, workflows, and policies for that content type. These policies and workflows will apply to any item of that content type in the list.

Content Types add huge value to a successful SharePoint implementation.

E-mail Notification

This provides the ability to e-mail content into a list. This functionality is useful to allow users to forward content from their mailbox into a list, particularly if the content is generated by e-mails.

Also, external parties such as vendors and customers who do not have access to the SharePoint server or even your organization's network environment can submit content to a list via e-mail.

We have seen this functionality used for customer inquiries, where a customer submits an e-mail ( and the e-mail recipient is a list, which automatically triggers a workflow to a sales associate who re-routes the workflow to the relevant person, based on the e-mail's request.

This type of activity could be done with a sales e-mail account and a sales associate could monitor any incoming e-mail. However the value that SharePoint provides in this business process is that there is viability to see the request is in the workflow and who is assigned to the task, so e-mails do not get lost, particularly from customers.


Attachments provide the ability to upload multiple attachments to an item.


Folders give users the ability to create folders in a list. This is useful to group items in a list, similar to files in folders on a network drive.

With MOSS 2007, the use of folders was not recommended, but with the 2010 release, they now are.

With SharePoint 2010, folders may also be configured to allow inheritance of metadata values to documents or items in that folder. This could be useful if there is a requirement to tag content of many files that have slightly different metadata.

It is important to understand when it is appropriate to use folders or not.


The Pros are as follows:

  • Ability to apply multiple item security to items by applying security at the folder level
  • Ability to apply metadata to multiple items at once
  • Easier to migrate files from the network drive, to a library folder structure to a library, with a simple cut and paste approach


The Cons are as follows:

  • Can have duplication of files in multiple folders.
  • Can be difficult to search for contents if you do not know which folder it is in. The folder structure of storing content does not really encourage users to use SharePoint's search capabilities, which is a quicker way to find content.
  • If there are sub folders within the file structure, users can become frustrated with the drill-down approach to finding content.

We believe the folders approach works better for the contributor of content as they can upload content more easily, but it does not benefit the receivers of the content who work with the information because content is more likely to not be stored in the correct location or have metadata applied to it, which makes it less searchable.

Folders are rarely used in lists and are most common in libraries.


Search allows items to be searchable on the site. SharePoint's search feature is a powerful tool to search across an entire site.

There is the ability to set a library or list to be non-searchable, but we'd encourage you to make everything searchable in order to promote collaboration. Just because content is not searchable does not mean that it is hidden from other users as might be your motivation for doing so.


This allows for a Datasheet view to be displayed from a Standard View. This makes it easier for users to navigate between views with fewer steps. If the information is sensitive, you may not want the datasheet option available as users will have the ability to cut and paste entire rows and columns at once.


Dialogs determine if the New/Edit/View Item forms will be displayed in a dialog window or the entire page. This is a personal preference in user interface aesthetics. We prefer the dialog window as when this window closes, the user is returned to the page where they opened the form.

Validation settings

When a form is saved, you will have the ability for the form to perform content verification on the form prior to it being saved. This is useful if dates or numbers need to be compared.

Rating settings

You will have the ability to rate an item in a list. By selecting this option, a rating column is displayed in the list where users can rate an item. This is a Web 2.0 feature.

Audience targeting settings

By selecting the checkbox, a Target Audiences field is added to the form in the list, and the user submitting the form can select an AD or SharePoint group, distribution list, or an individual that can view the item. This personalization feature is useful because information is targeted to users or a configured audience.

Metadata navigation settings

There is the ability to configure navigation of a list based on associated metadata using Navigational Hierarchies and Key Filters. This Web 2.0 navigational feature displays navigation links to users based on certain content that is stored in a list.

Per-location view settings

This is the ability for a view to be used to display content based on a folder level within the view or a certain Content Type. It is not uncommon for a user to navigate to a list of items and have a desire that they are displayed in a certain way from within a folder. This feature allows content to be displayed differently depending on the folder level within a view.

This feature is useful as you require users to drill-down into the folders and at a certain sub folder level only want to show certain views.

Permissions and management

Under the permissions and management there is the following list functionality that can be applied or changed:

Delete this list

Delete the list and its content.

Save list as template

Save the list and its content as a template so the defined columns can be used elsewhere in the site collection. A template can be copied to another SharePoint server.

Generate file plan report

This creates a summary of the list's design, such as content types, permissions, number of items, routing rules, and retention policies. This is useful if you need to troubleshoot between two different lists on a site, and need to compare and contrast the design. For example, if you wish to identify which content types or permission setting were in a list, this report would provide this information.

Information management policy settings

This allows rules and policies to be applied to content in a list.

Under Communications, the RSS Setting can be applied or changed. The RSS setting provides the ability to choose which fields are displayed in an RSS feed from the list.


This article helped us understand how to track information and learn efficient ways to store this information for business activities.

Further resources on this subject:

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