What are Content Types?

For me, one of the coolest new features of SharePoint Server 2007 (or MOSS) is Content Types. In this article, I’ll aim to give a brief overview of what they are and why you should be getting excited about them (especially if you are from a SharePoint 2003 background).It is worth noting that this article is focused on the implications of Content Types in a document management scenario. Content Types are used throughout MOSS and have benefits throughout, but it was too much to cover in one article, so I decided to focus on DM.What is a Content Type then?
A content type is an object that is stored within MOSS that defines several elements of a piece of content, including:

  • Document Template that the content will be based on
  • Columns that the content will have associated with it (metadata)
  • Workflows that the content will use
  • Information Management policies that apply to the content
  • Conversion types for the content

You can view the entire list of site content types by following these steps:

  1. Navigate to the site collections main page.

  2. From a publishing page, click Site Actions, then Site Settings, and then Modify Site Settings, or from a standard page select Site Actions, then Site Settings.

  3. Under the Galleries section, select Site content types, which lists all of the content types in the site collection.

Creating Content Types

Many times companies will have their own definition of what describes data. In that case, you will want to create your own content types that can be part of the site collection. To create your own content type, use the following steps:

  1. Click on the Site Settings page

  2. Then under Galleries, click on the link that takes you to Site content types. Here, you will find all of the content types that you can use on the current site and its subsites.

  3. Click on the button available at the top left labeled Create to create a new content type.

  4. Enter a meaningful name and description, then select the parent type of List Content Types and the parent content type Item.

  5. Keep the group as Custom Content Type, and press OK.


Add Content Type

   1. Select List or Documents

   2. Click Settings -> Document Library Settings -> Advanced settings under General Settings section

   3. Tick ‘Yes’ to “Allow management of content types?

   4. Click OK then you will have below section to select content type


What does this mean for users?
This means that users can now create an expense report by simply choosing ‘expense report’ from the new item button on the library. Their new expense report will be created from the central content type with the document template and all the columns and workflow that are associated with the content type.

This pictures show the net result of content types; the ability for users to choose what type of content they wish to create

The important thing to note here is that the content will inherit all of the columns and workflow that comes with the content type – even if the library does not.

For example, if you have a standard document library that just has the ‘blank document’ content type associated with it (which is the default) it will not have any columns or workflows. However if you add the ‘expense report’ content type to the library, items created from that content type will have all of the columns and workflows that are required by the content type. These columns can be used in the same way as list-based columns.