Navigate Through a SharePoint Site
Scenario/Problem: Information is the focus of a SharePoint site. Each site might contain different information in different places. You need to know how to navigate a site to find the information you need.
Solution: This section explains the different mechanisms that help you to navigate through a site. Most sites use the navigation ribbon (also known as the Browse ribbon) to show navigation controls on the top of the page—including a top navigation bar and the breadcrumbs. Often there is also a side navigation bar that shows more navigation options on the left of the page.
A site manager can change the navigation bars to show different links to different parts of the site. The navigation bars should be your primary source of information about what you can view in the site.
Figure 2.13 shows an example of a site that shows both navigation bars, along with the breadcrumbs. In this figure, the top navigation bar shows links to subsites that exist under the current site.
Figure 2.13. The three navigational aids: the breadcrumbs, the top navigation bar, and the left navigation bar.
Sometimes the navigation in a site is configured to display the pages and/or the subsites of the subsites, resulting in a hierarchy of sites that is displayed as fly-out menus. These menus show the subsites for a site when you hover the mouse over the link for that site, as shown in Figure 2.14.
Figure 2.14. The top navigation bar, showing fly-out menus for the subsites under the Human Resources site.
To navigate to a subsite, you can click on the links to that subsite in either navigation bar. Depending on how your administrator set up the navigation, the subsites might show the same top navigation bar but a different left navigation bar—one that is specific to the current site. However, the administrator can choose that a subsite will display the same left navigation as the top site, making it look as if you are still in the same site, except for the fact that the current site that you are on is highlighted in the top navigation bar.
Use the Left Navigation Bar
The left navigation bar is also known as Current Navigation. It is usually used to show content that exists in the current site and sometimes content from subsites. The content is usually (but not always) lists and libraries, and it is usually grouped so that document libraries are shown under a Documents header, lists under a Lists header, discussions under a Discussions header, and so on.
The left navigation bar highlights where you are in the navigation—but only when you are on a page that is shown in the navigation (see Figure 2.15).
Figure 2.15. The left navigation bar, with the current document library highlighted.
The left navigation bar is meant to be used as a quick launch bar—a useful list of links in the current site, and sometimes the sites under it. It might even contain links to content that isn’t in SharePoint (for example, an Internet site).
Use the Top Navigation Bar
The top navigation bar is also known as Global Navigation, and it is usually used to show links to sites that are at the top level of the site hierarchy. This allows you to quickly see what important sites the site administrator wants you to see that are available globally.
This menu bar supports fly-out menus. These menus become visible when you hover with the mouse over the parent menu item. You can sometimes tell when menus have fly-out menus because they are usually marked with a triangle pointing to the direction in which the fly-out menu opens.
Use the Breadcrumbs
The breadcrumbs mechanism is commonly used to navigate websites. It shows you where you are in the site, so you can go “up” the hierarchy all the way to the home page of the site. For example, if you are viewing a folder in a document library, the breadcrumbs will show you the list of folders that are above the current folder, and then a link to the document library’s root folder (as the name of the document library). To navigate back to the site’s home page, you can click on the site’s logo or name, which is usually to the left of the breadcrumbs (see Figure 2.16). Depending on the site’s configuration, the breadcrumbs might start in different places. By default the breadcrumbs in SharePoint 2013 show you where you are within a folder structure (which is usually in a document library).
Figure 2.16. The breadcrumbs navigation interface for the Expense Claims 2007 folder in the Documents library in the Expense Claims site under Human Resources.
In some cases (usually with pages in pages libraries), the breadcrumbs do not show that the page is under a library, but instead display as if the page is directly under the site itself.
As you go deeper into the folder hierarchy, the breadcrumbs by default show the parent folder of the one you are in, allowing you to navigate up one folder at a time. For example, if you navigate into the October folder shown in Figure 2.16—the breadcrumbs then show the name of the current folder (October) preceded by the name of the parent folder instead of the name of the library, as shown in Figure 2.17. Note that this is merely the default behavior, and it is possible for your site designer to change the breadcrumbs to show more information or behave differently.
Figure 2.17. The breadcrumbs in the October folder show the parent folder Expense Claims 2007.
To use the breadcrumbs, you just click on the link you want to navigate to.
Use the Navigate Up Breadcrumbs
In addition to the navigation bars and the breadcrumbs, SharePoint 2013 also has a button dedicated to navigation called the Navigate Up button. Although this button is not available by default, a site designer might enable it for you to use.
This button solves the problem of long breadcrumbs. As mentioned earlier, if you are in a folder in a document library with a lot of parent folders, the breadcrumbs might get too long to display the entire hierarchy.
You can usually find the Navigate Up button in the top-left site of the top navigation bar (see Figure 2.18). It appears as a rectangular icon with a gray arrow pointing up. Clicking on that button does not take you up but instead shows you a hierarchical view of breadcrumbs—showing you where you are on the site and allowing you to navigate up, the same as the breadcrumbs mechanism described earlier in this chapter.
Figure 2.18. Using the Navigate Up button allows you to follow the breadcrumb trail all the way to the top site.
The Navigate Up breadcrumbs differ from the normal breadcrumbs navigation mentioned earlier in this chapter in two major ways. First, they show the entire hierarchy all the up to the root site in the site collection, and not just to the current site. For example, if you have a site called Expense Claims inside the Human Resources site, the Navigate Up breadcrumbs show Human Resources above Expense Claims in the hierarchy. Figure 2.18 shows the Navigate Up menu for the October folder shown in Figure 2.17.
Second, compared to the regular breadcrumbs, the Navigate Up breadcrumbs offer more hierarchy detail for pages. Unlike the breadcrumbs mentioned earlier, the Navigate Up breadcrumbs display the entire hierarchy structure for the page you are viewing. For example, if you are viewing a web part page in a pages library, the normal breadcrumbs will show the site name as the parent for the page, while the Navigate Up breadcrumbs show you the library the page is in as the parent of the page. This allows you to go to the library as well as to the site, but it can make the hierarchy in this control very long if the page you are viewing is deep inside the hierarchy.