Reviewing Metadata “Content Types” in SharePoint Server 2013 & Office 365

Posted by Errin O'Connor on Jan, 13, 2015 02:01

Reviewing Metadata “Content Types” in SharePoint Server 2013 and Office 365 | SharePoint Online

A content type is a reusable collection of settings and rules applied to a certain category of content in SharePoint.Content types define more granular attributes for documents, content, and library or list items. They allow you to associate information management policies to your SharePoint sites and site collections and play a key role in enforcing SharePoint governance.

Metadata in SharePoint is applied to content via an associated a content type with a list or library. Content types can be extremely confusing when first described to your project team because they can be applied to so many different aspects of your SharePoint configuration and overall strategy. Workflows, site templates, lists, apps, library templates and policies all have content types associated within them.

Your organization’s information management and related ECM or RM efforts should entail defining core custom content types in a top-level site’s content type gallery so that they can be applied to not only that site but inherited from all of the sites below that site.

Custom content types can be housed in a content type hub that is defined in the managed metadata service instance and then made available to other site collections that are part of web applications associated with that managed metadata service instance.

Out of all of the technical terminology used in a SharePoint Server 2013 or Office 365 SharePoint Online initiative, content type is the single more misunderstood or misused term.

Understanding the “Content Type Hub”

A content type hub, as shown in the image below, is associated with a site collection’s content type gallery and in conjunction with SharePoint’s managed metadata service instance, it can be made available to other site collections that are part of web applications associated with that managed metadata service instance.

Note: When you have shared content types from the content type galleries of multiple site collections, you must add a managed metadata service for each required content type hub. If your organization requires more than one managed metadata service, these must be documented in your information architecture governance strategyalong with the granular details of what each service’s term store will be utilized for within SharePoint.

Overview of the Content Type Hub within a SharePoint Server Farm

The “Content Organizer”

You can utilize SharePoint 2013’s content organizer to route documents and automatically manage important library rules, maintenance activities and other related tasks

To activate the content type organizer feature on a site, a user with the appropriate permissions can select the Site Settings options from the “gear” icon and then once on the Site Settings Page under Site Actions, select the Manage site features option as shown in the image below.

A SharePoint’s Site Settings Page

Once the user is viewing the features within the site or site collection, they should click on Activate next to the Content Organizer feature which will then activate this feature, as shown in the image below.

Activating the Content Organizer Feature

The content organizer can automate tasks such as:

  • Managing a governed quote for the number of items in folders
  • Automatically create a new folder when a specific number of items is reached within a folder

• Create and then utilize custom rules within Site Administration, as shown in image below, to determine and enforce where documents are routed or moved (To a specific library or folder). These rules can be based on a specific combination of content types and metadata for which meets the needs of your organization as shown in the second image below.

  • Note: In SharePoint Server 2013, this feature allows for content to be routed even if they are located in a different site collection

• Place all uploaded documents in a Drop-Off Library where an organization’s users can ensure metadata is applied or a custom process should be started and/or completed.

• Store audit logs regarding documents and continue to track the documents after they have been routed

• Enforce SharePoint’s version configurations by forcing a user uploading a document with a similar name to change the name or even automatically add new characters to ensure both versions are stored and content that is not supposed to be updated is not overwritten

Available Options within Site Administration to Manage the Content Organizer’s Rules and Settings

Configuring Settings within SharePoint 2013’s Content Organizer


Co-authoring in SharePoint Server 2013 or SharePoint Online enables multiple users to collaborate and work on a document without having to worry about each user possibly interfering with each other’s updates or modifications. Co-authoring works seamlessly with Office 2013 for Microsoft Word 2013, Microsoft PowerPoint 2013, Visio 2013 and Microsoft OneNote 2013.

When utilizing Office 365’s SharePoint Online or a stand along SharePoint Online instance, you are able to utilize a configured Web Apps Server for users to also co-author documents in Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Excel Web Apps. Detailed co-authoring support for Microsoft Office on the various versions of SharePoint is as I have detailed in the table below.

Co-authoring’s functionality allows for two or more users to work on different sections or parts of a composite document without interfering with each other’s work.

I have found this functionality to be extremely helpful in developing large PowerPoint presentations as several EPC Group team members can work on a composite slide show and add slides to the PowerPoint presentation deck in real-time without one individual having to merge several decks together for review and final edited.

It’s important to note Excel 2013’s client application does not support co-authoring workbooks in SharePoint 2013 or SharePoint Online. The Excel client application uses the Shared Workbook feature to support non-real-time co-authoring workbooks that are stored locally or on network paths. The co-authoring of Excel workbooks in SharePoint is currently only supported by using the Excel Web App, which is included with Office Web Apps.

Co-authoring Support for Microsoft Office on Various Versions of SharePoint

In table below, versions that are denoted by * support co-authoring functionality, even when Office Web Apps isn’t configured or enabled in your organization’s SharePoint environment.

Microsoft Office VersionSharePoint 2013 configured to use Office Web Apps ServerSharePoint OnlineSharePoint 2010 with Office Web Apps enabled
Excel 2013NoNoNo
Excel Web AppYesYesYes
Excel 2010NoNoNo
OneNote 2013*YesYesYes
OneNote Web AppYesYesYes
OneNote 2010*YesYesYes
PowerPoint 2013*YesYesYes
PowerPoint Web AppYesYesYes
PowerPoint 2010*YesYesYes
Word 2013*YesYesYes
Word Web AppYesYesYes
Word 2010*YesYesYes
Visio 2013*YesYesYes
Visio Web AppNoNoNo
Visio 2010NoNoNo
Office 2007 client applicationsNoNoNo

EPC Group will continue to add some new articles in the weeks and months to come on the experiences that the team here at EPC Group is seeing “from the trenches” as we engage on a number of SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 “Hybrid Records Management and ECM initiatives” Identity management, security and mobility are additional elements that come into play on these efforts and we will also focus on these key elements and how best to address them.

Errin O'Connor
About the Author

Errin O'Connor

With over 25 years of experience in Information Technology and Management Consulting, Errin O’Connor has led hundreds of large-scale enterprise implementations from Business Intelligence, Power BI, Office 365, SharePoint, Exchange, IT Security, Azure and Hybrid Cloud efforts for over 165 Fortune 500 companies.

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