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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

What Is a Content Type?

As mentioned earlier in this chapter, lists and document libraries can store different kinds of content, known as content types. A site manager can create and manage the content types in a site. The content types are then available in that site and in all the sites under it. The different types of content may have different site columns and/or different settings, such as policies and workflows, associated with them.

Content types can use site columns only for column definitions. This means that to create a content type, you must choose what site columns should be included in that content type.

A simple example of a content type is a list of contacts that stores two types of contacts—an internal contact and an external contact. The Internal Contact content type is used for a contact inside the company—and as such does not need the company property because all internal contacts are from the same company. However, the External Contact content type does require the company property because every contact may be from a different company. Hence, a single list has two different column requirements.

As another example of the use of content types, consider a document library where you store many different types of documents. Some documents are presentations, and some are financial reports, while others are user guides and product whitepapers. The differences between those content types are possibly more than just different columns: The content types can also specify different templates that users should use when creating documents of these types. For example, when creating a presentation, a Microsoft PowerPoint template will be used. When creating a financial report, a user will get a specific Microsoft Excel workbook as a template from which to start. User guides may be from a certain Microsoft Word template, while product whitepapers may be PDF documents. Some of these examples are shown in Figure 1.25, which shows the content type options for creating a new document in a document library.

Figure 1.25

Figure 1.25 Choosing a content type when creating a new document in a document library.

Content types can be created in each site, and every subsite under that site can then use the content type. The subsites can either use the content type as it is defined in the parent site or create their own content types.

Content types are hierarchical, which means they can inherit from other content types. For example, the External Contact and Internal Contact content types can both inherit from the Contact content type. This way, if changes are made to the Contact content type (for example, if a property birthday date is added), both child content types may get the update (depending on whether the person who applied the update to the Contact content type chose to apply the update to content types that are inheriting from that content type).

Because the content type of an item or file says a lot about what the item actually is, it is a very important piece of data associated with an item. This makes it very important that authors (that is, people adding information to SharePoint) choose the right content type when creating data in SharePoint. However, sometimes content types are not used. A list may use the basic content type Item or a library may use the content type Document and add columns to the list itself—not impacting the content type itself. This means that all the columns are defined in the list or library and are added to all the items or files in it.

Content types use site columns to define the properties that the files or list items of that content type will have. Site columns are explained later in this chapter, in the section "What Is a Site Column?"

Chapter 7 show how to add and remove a content type to a list or document library.

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