Column Types: Hyperlink or Picture

The hyperlink or picture column is used to display an image or provide a link. Used by picture libraries, links lists, and promoted links lists. Caveat for using the picture field is that the pictures must already be uploaded somewhere. It’s not a spot where you can upload an image to have it attached to a new list item. This means that there must be an asset or picture library present for these images to exist.

Here is what Microsoft has to say about the Hyperlink or Picture field:

Use this column field type to store a hyperlink to a Web page or to display a graphic on the intranet or Internet.

A Hyperlink or Picture column stores the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) for a Web page, graphic, or other resource. Depending on the display format that you choose, it displays either a hyperlink that can be clicked to access the resource, or a graphic instead of the URL for the graphics file.

To display the URL as a hyperlink, select the Hyperlink format. When people enter information about an item, they can enter the URL and descriptive text that appears in the column, instead of the URL. To display a graphic, instead of the URL for the graphics file, select the Picture format. When people enter information about an item they must enter the complete URL for the graphics file, such as http://www.example.com/image.gif, and they can optionally enter descriptive, alternative text for the graphic, which appears for people who turn off graphics in their browsers or rely on screen-reading software to convert graphics on the screen to spoken words.

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Column Types: Person or Group

The People/Group field is used to link specific people to a task or list item. This field looks within the Active Directory and within the SharePoint Groups, the information of which ultimately is updated through Banner. Through workflows, the information in this field can be used to email information from SharePoint directly to specific people. Most prominently, this field is used for the “created by”, and “modified by” fields for all lists, and for the “assigned to” field for task lists. One caveat with this field is that one cannot sort or group by this field if “allow multiple selections” is activated.

Here is what Microsoft has to say about this field:
Use this column field type to provide a searchable list of people and groups from which people can choose when they add or edit an item. For example, on a Tasks list, a Person or Group column named Assigned To can provide a list of people that a task can be assigned to. The contents of the list depends on how directory services and SharePoint groups have been configured for the site. To customize the contents of the list, you may need to contact your administrator.

You can customize a Person or Group column in these ways:

Allow multiple selections Allow people to select as many options as they like or limit the number of selections to only one option.

Include or exclude groups of people Specify whether the list includes only individual people, or additionally includes e-mail distribution lists and SharePoint groups. For example, on a Tasks list, you might want to include only individual people to ensure that a specific person is responsible for each task. On a Projects list, you might want to include e-mail distribution lists and SharePoint groups to ensure that a team is associated with each project.

Limit the list to site users only Specify whether the list includes all people and groups in the directory service or only those people and groups who have access to the site as members of a SharePoint group.

Specify which information to display Choose which information you want to display about people or groups. For example, on a Contacts list for a large organization, you might choose to display a person’s name, picture, and details such as skills and expertise. On a Contacts list for a small team, you might choose to display only a person’s name or e-mail address.

Column Types: Yes/No

If all you need is a simple checkbox to be checked for yes or unchecked no, then the Yes/No column type is your friend. We used this one for the Keystone Happenings list, where we wanted certain documents to be “promoted” to the top of the list, and other items are shown below that. That way all the instructions can be shown at the top of the list, and all the happenings can appear below. The completed field within a task item often acts as a Yes/No field as well. When you export the list out to an Excel file, it will show TRUE or FALSE in the column.

Here is what Microsoft has to say about this column type:

Use this column field type to store true/false or yes/no information, such as whether someone will attend an event. A Yes/No column appears as a single check box when people enter information about an item. To indicate Yes, team members select the check box. To indicate No, team members clear the check box.

The data in a Yes/No column can be used in calculations for other columns. In these cases, Yes is converted to a numeric value of one (1) and No is converted to a numeric value of zero (0).

You can customize a Yes/No column by choosing a default value for it. A default value is the selection that appears automatically when someone adds a new item. People can select a different value if they need to do so. For a Yes/No column you can specify whether the check box is selected automatically, indicating a Yes value, or not, indicating a No value.

Column Types: Date/Time

The date/time field allows you to show the date, the time, or both. You also have the option of choosing standard date display, or the “friendly” date, where SharePoint tells you about things that happened or will happen yesterday, tomorrow, Saturday, last Tuesday, etc. I personally prefer to see actual dates, so I generally turn off the “friendly date” feature and choose standard. However, if you find it useful, please use it in your SharePoint environment.

Every list has a date field for created or modified dates. Task lists have dates for start and due dates. The announcement list on the DSA Home site has an expiration date, linked to a filter so that old messages won’t continue to show. On that list, we added a calculation as the default value so that each announcement would have an expiration date and so the expiration date field is not blank by default.

Here is what Microsoft has to say about the date/time field:
Use this column field type to store calendar dates, or both dates and times. The date format varies based on the regional settings for the site.

You can customize a Date and Time column in these ways:

Include only the date or both the date and time Specify whether you want to include only the calendar date or both the calendar date and time of day.

Display a default value Automatically display a specific date or date and time when someone adds a new item, while also allowing people to enter a different value if they need to do so. A default value helps people enter information faster. For example, if the column stores the date when an expense is incurred and most expenses are incurred on the first day of the fiscal year, you can specify the first day of the fiscal year as the default value. As a result, that date appears automatically when a new item is added to the list, and team members do not have to enter the date.

A default value can be a value that you specify, the date an item is added to a list or library, or the result of a calculation, which is called a calculated value. Calculated values are helpful when you want to display a specific date or time automatically but the date or time might vary depending on the item. To use a calculated value, you enter a formula as the default value. The formula can calculate a value based on information in other columns or system functions such as [today], to indicate the current date. For example, if you want the column to display a date that is 30 days after the current date, type the equation =[TODAY]+30 in the Calculated Value box.

Column Types: Number & Currency

I don’t really use the currency field much, but then I haven’t had much cause to. I generally use the number field. Both of them have their uses, and apparently currency provides a slightly higher degree of accuracy. Each list will automatically have one number column called ID. This is so that SharePoint can differentiate one line of data to the next.

Microsoft has this to say about Numbers and Currency columns:

Tips for choosing a Number or Currency column

Both the Number and Currency column types store numerical values.

  • Use the number column field type to store numerical values that are not monetary values, or to store numeric data for mathematical calculations that are not financial calculations or do not require a high degree of accuracy.
  • Use a currency column to store numeric data for financial calculations or in cases where you do not want round numbers in calculations.

Unlike a Number column, a Currency column is accurate 15 digits to the left of the decimal point and 4 digits to the right. Both the Number and Currency column types provide predefined formats that determine how data appears.

You can customize a Number column in these ways:

Specify minimum and maximum values Limit the range of numbers that people can enter. For example, if the column stores the amount of work that has been completed for a task as a percentage, you can specify zero as the minimum value and one hundred as the maximum value. Similarly, if the column stores the number of attendees for an event and you want to limit attendees to a specific number, you can enter the maximum number of attendees as the maximum value.

Include decimal places Specify whether the numbers contain decimal places and the number of decimal places to store. If the column may need to store numbers that have more than five decimal places, you can choose Automatic when selecting the number of decimal places to include. Automatic is also a good choice if the column stores the results of calculations and you want the result to be as precise as possible. However, if you want to ensure that all values in the column have the same number of decimal places, it’s a good idea to limit the number of decimal places to zero, for whole numbers only, or another number of decimal places through five.

Display a default value Automatically display a specific number when someone adds a new item, while also allowing people to enter different numbers if they need to do so. A default value helps people enter information faster. For example, if the column stores the number of computers that each team member has and every team member has at least one computer, enter 1 as the default value. As a result, 1 appears automatically when a new item is added to the list, and team members do not have to enter the number.

A default value can be either a number that you specify or the result of a calculation, which is called a calculated value. Calculated values are helpful when you want to display a specific number automatically but the number might vary depending on who added the item, when the item was added, or other reasons. To use a calculated value, you enter a formula, instead of a specific number, as the default value. The formula can calculate a number based on information in other columns or system functions.

Format the number as a percentage Indicate whether to display and store the number as a percentage, and to treat it as a percentage when it is used to calculate other values.

You can customize a Currency column in these ways:

Specify minimum and maximum values Limit the range of currency values that people can enter. For example, if the column stores reported expenses for an event and your organization limits reporting to amounts within a specific range, you can specify those limits as the minimum and maximum values.

Include decimal places Specify whether values include decimal places and the number of decimal places to store. For currency values, you can choose two decimal places or, if you prefer to store only round values, you can choose zero. For non-monetary values used in calculations that require a high degree of accuracy, you can choose to limit the number of decimal places to zero through five or, for more precise values, choose Automatic to automatically use the appropriate number of decimal places for the result of the calculation.

Display a default value Automatically display a specific value when someone adds a new item, while also allowing people to enter a different value if they need to do so. A default value helps people enter information faster. For example, if the column stores expenses incurred for setting up new accounts and that expense is typically the same for all new accounts, you can specify that amount as the default value. As a result, that value appears automatically when a new item is added to the list, and team members do not have to enter the number.

A default value can be either a value that you specify or the result of a calculation, which is called a calculated value. Calculated values are helpful when you want to display a specific value automatically but the value might vary depending on the item, who added the item, when the item was added, or other reasons. To use a calculated value, you enter a formula, instead of specific text, as the default value. The formula can calculate a value based on information in other columns or system functions.

Choose a currency format Ensure that all of the values in the column are based on the same currency by selecting a specific currency format for the column.

Column Types: Lookup

Lookup and metadata columns are probably my absolute favorites because they allow me to enter data in one place, and then reuse it in other places. You use the lookup column type when you want to take data from another list and use it in the current list. One place where I have used it, is in the Missions, Goals and Outcomes project for our department. I had 3 lists: Goals, Objectives and Tactics. Each of them uses a lookup column to refer to the one above it. So, Objectives includes a Goal column which is a lookup from the Goals list. Tactics has two lookup columns: one for Objectives, and one for Goals. There are other ways that we could have created this setup, but lookup seems to work quite nicely.

To learn more about this column type, let’s see what Microsoft has to tell us about it:
Use this column field type to let people choose values based on information that is already stored in the site. For example, if you want a column to store the names of customer accounts to which employees are assigned and the list of accounts must be limited to a Customer Accounts list on the site, you can create a Lookup column that displays the names in the Customer Accounts list. The list of choices in a Lookup column appear in either an expanding box, called a drop-down menu, or a list box, depending on whether you allow people to select more than one value.

You can customize a Lookup column in these ways:

Choose the source of the lookup values Specify which list, library, or discussion board contains the values that you want to store in the column. The source cannot be a subsite, workspace site, wiki, or blog. After you specify the list, library, or discussion board that you want, you can specify which column in that list, library, or discussion board contains the values that you want people to choose from.

Allow multiple selections Allow people to choose as many values as they like or limit the number of values that they can choose to only one value. If people can choose multiple values, all of the values appear in the column, separated by a semi-colon (;).**

Choose columns to display You can add one or more columns to show specific field values for this column type.**


** I wish they would tell you more about these two features. 

Just a quick tip with Allowing Multiple Selections, is if you allow people to choose more than one option, your ability to filter (and sometimes sort) will go away for that column. Sorting and filtering can only happen on single choice options.

Adding more columns to show can be a super useful feature, because you can then use that data in calculations elsewhere. For example, in the Community Site discussion board app, I wish Microsoft had included the Category ID as an additional column when it connected the Category name to the discussion list. Given our propensity for changing department names, it would have been helpful for us to have a Category ID number by which to filter our custom view. I am in the process of researching a workaround for that so we will not have to change our customized views each time a department name changes. Stay tuned!

Column Types: Choice

The Choice column type is probably one of my favorites. A common use for it is within tasks, where the task status field is a choice of Not Started, in Progress, Completed, etc. I also use them for when I ask people to pick months or days if I want them as strings. The choice column lets you give the user some options to choose from, while making sure that all the options remain the same, so that later you can run reports on it.

One way I used to use choice columns was for Departments, but we have that covered through the Metadata column type now, so when wanting to work with Departments, please use the metadata, which will be covered in a subsequent post.

Here is what Microsoft has to say about the Choice column type:
Use this column field type to let people choose from a list of options that you provide. This column type is an ideal choice in cases where you want to ensure that all of the data in the column is consistent because you can limit the values that are stored in a column.

TIP: To limit the values in a column to only those values that are stored in the site, use a Lookup column instead of a Choice column.

You can customize a Choice column in these ways:

Define the list of choices Provide an exact list of values that people can choose. To provide this list, replace the sample text in the Type each choice on a separate line box with the values that you want. Type each value on a separate line. To start a new line, press ENTER.

Choose a display format Specify whether to display the choices in an expanding box, called a drop-down menu, or as a set of option buttons, called radio buttons, or check boxes. If you display the choices in a drop-down menu or as radio buttons, people can choose only one value from the list. If you display the choices as check boxes, people can choose more than one value.

TIP: If you want people to choose only one value and the list contains five or more choices, a drop-down menu is typically the best format.

Enable additional custom choices To allow people to enter a value that is not included in the list of choices, turn on fill-in choices. Doing so is a good idea if you may not know all of the values that people need to enter about items. If you prefer that people use only the values that you specify, turn off fill-in choices.

Display a default value Automatically select a specific value when someone adds a new item, while also allowing people to choose a different value if they need to do so. A default value helps people enter information faster. For example, if the column stores the names of companies assigned to a project and your organization works with a specific company for most projects, you can enter the name of that company as the default value. As a result, the company name appears automatically when a new project is added to the list, and team members do not have to choose the name.

A default value can be either a value that you specify or the result of a calculation, which is called a calculated value. Calculated values are helpful when you want to display specific text in the column automatically but the text might vary depending on who added the item, when the item was added, or other reasons. To use a calculated value, you enter a formula, instead of specific text, as the default value. The formula can calculate a value based on information in other columns or system functions such as [today], to indicate the current date, or [me], to display the name of the person who adds or changes the item.