Content Types can be much more than just a way of grouping Site Columns together, they also offer basic settings for those groupings. You can save Content Types out as templates that can be used throughout your Site Collection. One example of that is a “new app” called “Team List” that is now available for all sites within our division’s site collection.
This “new app” isn’t really a new app at all – it’s a template created from the “Dept Contact List” Content Type. It allows all departments to use the same list with the same configurations, so that they can be used as a macro level later on. What’s also nice is that if we change the Content Type at the division level, the changes will automatically populate down to the site lists you have created, while not affecting your customizations.
Many different settings can be configured at the Content Type level. You can hide fields from the input screens.
Content Types Hierarchy
All Content Types are connected to some kind of “Master” or “Parent” Content Type – there are no “blank” or “wildcard” Content Types. At the very top level you have an “item” Content Type for lists, and a “document” Content Type for document libraries. The “New” and “Upload” buttons were put on lists and libraries for a purpose, and they follow certain rules. It is because they come from the “Parent Content Types” that SharePoint’s functionality is mostly predictable.
When you create a content type, you have to choose which Parent Content Type you want to create it under. This will make your content type inherit the Site Columns associated with the Parent Content Type as well.
Because lists and libraries act differently, Content Types that you create under “Document” won’t be available for lists, and vice versa – you would have to create one for each if you wanted similar column settings.
Advantages of Content Types
Content Types are necessary to organize reusable content and configurations within SharePoint, such as making sure that all Invoice libraries have the same settings for metadata and document templates. They also help you centralize all the configurations in one place, which makes management a lot easier. They are a lot more powerful than can be covered in these two posts, and with deeper exploration, you will find out how handy and useful they can be.
Disadvantages of Content Types
I would consider use of Content Types a more Intermediate or Advanced skill and it’s not for the faint of heart. They can be difficult to understand at first, and because they are so powerful they can also wreak some havoc in the wrong hands. They have a huge impact on our SharePoint architecture and need careful consideration before implementing.