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SharePoint Terminology Part 4: Lists and other functionality

In previous posts I’ve already talked about Sites, Document Libraries and Views. Then in this final post I will look at Lists plus briefly mention some other functionality for both Lists and Document Libraries that you might consider using.


It might have been better to start describing a SharePoint List before Document Libraries because, in reality, a Document Library is just a special type of List that is used for storing Documents. But because storing Documents in Document Libraries is probably the most common and important thing SharePoint does, this series of posts covers that first.

The good news is that if you’ve understood Document Libraries OK, Lists should now be easy!

You can think of a SharePoint List as just storing data. It is much like an Excel Spreadsheet – the columns in Excel are the pieces of information to be stored and the rows are each individual item. Basically imagine a Document Library but without the Document! It’s just the Metadata.

A good example of a list might be a list of Companies. Each Company doesn’t need to have its own document so why would we use a Document Library? Instead we can create a list that includes data such as Company Name, Phone Number, Town, Business Type etc.

List of Companies in SharePoint

And the good news is that, just like Document Libraries, lists support Views too. So, for example we could create a View called “Computer Companies” that only shows items in the Company List that have the “Business Type” set to “Computing”


This is only a brief introduction to these topics for users who have never used SharePoint before. The information here barely scratches the surface of what’s possible. There are more subtle differences between Lists and Document Libraries, more you can do with both, additional features just for Document libraries etc.

Below is a brief list of some other often used functionality that you might like implement or read more about (or maybe I’ll do more posts describing some of these in more detail!)

  • Alerts – the ability to receive emails when items are added, changed or deleted in Document Libraries or Lists
  • Versioning – files in document libraries can be set to have automated version numbers associated with them. And you can have draft versions too. And you can control who can see and edit various different versions.
  • Check In/Out – much like a library, you can check items in and out to give you exclusive access to editing them whilst everyone else can continue to read them
  • Auditing – A log of who does what to each document
  • Tagging and social – Much like Facebook, users can tag and follow other users, Document Libraries, Lists, Sites. Even individual documents.
  • Retention – automated policies to manage documents over their lifetime, in particular enforcing compliance with industry regulations or other business processes.
  • Wokflows – defining processes for documents to help your company work more efficiently. For example, an often used workflow is getting managerial approval for a document before it is published for everyone to see.

Hopefully all of the information discussed covers the very basics and helps make SharePoint seem a bit less daunting when being used for the first time.

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