#Office365Challenge – Reusable Metadata in SharePoint – Site Columns. Yesterday we spoke about Single Lines of Text, Choice columns and Lookups. Today we’re taking a look at Site Columns. With these you will have to step up your game a bit, as these affect the whole site (plus sub sites), not just your own site. So take your time, make sure you know what you’re doing and PLAN!!

Day: 93 of 365, 272 left
Tools: SharePoint
Description: Reusable Metadata in SharePoint – Site Columns

First I’ll recap for those who might have missed yesterday’s post:

In the previous couple of posts I covered adding columns to libraries and by now you should understand Single Line of Text and Choice columns. Now I have nothing against those – but horses for courses if you know what I mean. If we want people to use the same categories across sites / applications, then single lines of text or even choice columns is not the way to go. These are my rules when it comes to “reusable metadata”:

Single line of text – if you want to allow them to type whatever they want.
Choice column – if you’ll never use that dropdown on another application or site again.
Lookup – if you want to reuse it on the same site in different applications.
Site Columns – if you want to reuse it on the same site and sub sites in different applications.
Term Store – if you want to use it everywhere.

So…. Site Columns can be setup to then be used as dropdowns across your site and sub sites in all the applications. There are two different ways of creating Site Columns. My way and the way everyone else is doing it (just kidding – but I do have an opinion about this).

To create a Site Column – navigate to your top site. Settings > Site Settings > Site Columns.

SharePoint already has quite a lot of Site Columns setup, which are categorized by groups. Click on “Create”:

Here you can pick the type of column you would like to create (careful of using a name that already exists) and make sure you create a new group to be used for your site. Just makes it easier for future reference.


If you wanted a Department dropdown that could be used across sites and apps, you would create a Choice column here. The problem I have with this, is that normal End Users don’t have access to update Site columns and this then stays and Administrator / IT Function.

I would rather, create a Custom List at the top level site called Departments (refer to yesterday’s blog) and then in the Site Column do a lookup to it. What this means, is that a normal user can have access to update the custom list used for Departments, and the Site Column will use this list. Voila!!

To add a site column to your library or list, go to List / Library Tab > List / Library settings > Add from existing Site Columns:

Now you’ll understand why your new group name was important as it’s easier to find your site columns. Pick your group, click on the column you wish to add and click on “Add”.

So my tip is to always lookup Site Columns to Custom Lists, so you don’t have to maintain it in the Site Column itself.

Overview of my challenge: As an absolute lover of all things Microsoft, I’ve decided to undertake the challenge, of writing a blog every single day, for the next 365 days. Crazy, I know. And I’ll try my best, but if I cannot find something good to say about Office 365 and the Tools it includes for 365 days, I’m changing my profession. So let’s write this epic tale of “Around the Office in 365 Days”. My ode to Microsoft Office 365.

Keep in mind that these tips and tricks do not only apply to Office 365 – but where applicable, to the overall Microsoft Office Suite and SharePoint.