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SharePoint Terminology Part 2: Document Libraries

In Part 1 of this series of blog posts I discussed the concept of a SharePoint site and why it was useful to organise information into a series of different sites and sub-sites. This blog post covers one of the key building blocks for storing information in SharePoint: Document Libraries.

Document Libraries (and Metadata)

More often than not, the first thing most people want to look at is storing documents in SharePoint and this will likely have previously have been done using folders either on a centralised server or on a user’s local machine (or a combination of both).

In SharePoint, documents are stored in Document Libraries. You will often see a list of these in the left hand navigation (this navigation can also contain other things as well). A site can have many different Document Libraries for storing different types of documents. For example a Finance site might have Document Libraries for Invoices, Purchase Orders, Contracts, Other Correspondence etc.

This information will likely have previously been stored in Folders on a PC or server, probably with a Folder for each type of document. So in this case the SharePoint Document Library is roughly the equivalent of the classic Folder. For example, Invoice files previously stored in the Invoices folder would now be stored in the Invoice Document Library.

The disadvantage to storing files in a Folder is that it’s hard to find files when you are just presented with one big list. Sure, the Folder could have more folders within it to help. For example, maybe the Invoice Folder also contains Folders for each Company. But that would only help you find an Invoice by the Company name. What if you wanted to find and Invoice that was overdue? Or by the person who created the invoice? Or all invoices from last year?

This is where SharePoint can do things better and it uses something called Metadata to do it.


Metadata may sound all technical and complicated but really it’s not. In a SharePoint Document Library Metadata is just additional information about a document. So, using our example above, useful Metadata for an Invoice in the Invoice Document Library might be information like Due Date, Company Name, Who Created the Invoice, Invoice Amount, Paid/Unpaid etc.

Document Library and Meta Data

When a new Document is added to a Document library, users can fill in all the Metadata and it is then stored with that Document in the Library. The Metadata can be also edited at any time too.

Different Document Libraries can have different Metadata too – the person who has created the Document Library will have already set up all the possible pieces of information they think needs to be stored for that type of Document. Thus most users simply only need to be concerned with adding that Metadata to the Document when it is first created or updating it as necessary.

In SharePoint, this Metadata is simply shown as columns of information when you view a list of Documents in a Document Library.

But how does this Metadata help you find the information you want? Well, at its simplest level, a user can sort and filter a SharePoint Document library by clicking on the column headings. Or there is a handy “Search” box to search for Documents.

But more powerful than this is the concept of Views, which will be covered in the next blog post.

Rob Leverton

Rob has worked as an IT technician and project manager with Connexion for 14 years before moving into his current role as head of the technical services team.

Although Rob comes from a technical background he’s very much a people person and he is exceptionally good at building excellent working relationships with our customers and his technical team to deliver service excellence to our clients.

Rob Leverton

James Stratton

James is passionate about technology and how it can transform business.  Having worked with hundreds of businesses in many different sectors over the last 25 years he has a huge amount of business IT knowledge that he enjoys imparting to Connexions customers.

James is responsible for Connexions strategic development and also still enjoys a role in consulting and sales and marketing