Columns, Site Columns, or Content Types?

Office 365 / SharePoint Blog

This will be another 3-part series, to explain columns, site columns, and content types – three similar, but quite different features of SharePoint.

The difference lies mostly in reusability. When you’re developing your SharePoint site, think about columns or types of data that you would want to reuse throughout your site, or even data you might find useful for the whole division.

In the next three posts I will go through these three topics in more depth, but here are some basic differences:

Columns

These columns are created at the list or library level. To recap: lists and libraries are more or less “Excel spreadsheets on the web”. We create a list or a library and then we can add columns to the list/library to which we can add any kind of data we wish.

Site Columns

These are reusable columns that can be used in a number of different lists on the site. You can create these in the “Site Settings” portion of your website, or from within a “list setting” screen. As you are creating your new lists, think about whether you would want to use this same information in other lists. Team Members or Locations (for those departments who have multiple locations), for example, might be good candidates. And for those who have sub-departments, a site column containing those names might also be helpful.

As you create lists and you find you are reusing data from another list, consider turning that column into a site column and repopulating the data within both lists.

Content Types

Content Types takes site columns to another level. It’s essentially a grouping of columns that will be reused over and over again. For example, if we used SharePoint to handle invoices, we could group the site columns Invoice#, Customer, and Related Product together into an “Invoice Content Type” or in the case of our division, we implemented a “Department Contact List” Content Type that can now be used throughout the entire site collection, and all of the lists would contain similar structures, making it easier to manage.

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