Document Sets in SharePoint 2010 – A Creative Use of Content Types

Another new feature of SharePoint 2010 is the introduction of document sets. I know a lot of people have been looking forward to this functionality.

Basically, a document set is a container for multiple documents (doh!) to which you can assign certain metadata and treat as a single entity in many ways. For example, you can utilize the new SharePoint 2010 Document ID feature to keep track of where a document resides in a site collection, you can use the new managed tagging solution to assign keywords to the document set, and you can move or copy the entire set rather than the individual files.

So, how is this piece of magic accomplished? Well, ladies and gentlemen, give a big round of applause for the genius at Microsoft who came up with the idea of content types.

Content Types?

Document sets is just another content type. In fact, its a folder content type, meaning it inherits from the 0x0120 content type, meaning that other items can attach to the document set, meaning, well, it’s a really creative use of content types.

Oh, you didn’t know folders were just content types? Well, now you know. Nothing magic, no container functionality really, just an item to which other items can attach.

Back to the document set content type. As you will see, or have seen if you check this out after the SPC2009 conference, document sets have a pretty neat user interface called the Document Set homepage. When you click on a document set in a library you get to see (no, I’m not going to post screenshots) an overview of the set in question and have the option of uploading new documents, edit existing documents, set properties for the document set, etc. This is done by setting a custom form for the content type, a form that displays the content of the document set as well as the neat overview page.

However, this is just the literal surface of the document set feature, and there is so much more you need to know.

Custom Document Set

This all makes sense when you create a custom document set, however, and of course, since the document set is a content type, you can in fact add your own custom document set types.

First, document sets sport an entirely dedicated page for setting up the behavior of the set, available from the content type setup page through the link. You can select which content types are allowed in a document set. This allows you to create a set of financial documents, applications, or multimedia files and disallow adding other content than what you intend.

You can also share metadata columns for items in the set. If you add a new column to the document set itself, that column becomes available for sharing with the contained documents. For example, you may want to add a Customer column on the document set to store documents related to a customer, and any documents inside the document set can then get the Customer column inherited from the set.

You can also define which columns are displayed on the document set homepage. You can even edit the homepage layout, design, and contents.

Finally, you can perform actions on the entire set. For example, Microsoft has included a ‘Download set’ feature which compresses all the files in a set into a single zip file for download.

Once the public beta hits the shelves, I’ll post images and more detailed walkthroughs…

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Bjørn Furuknap

I previously did SharePoint. These days, I try new things to see where I can find the passion. If you have great ideas, cool projects, or is in general an awesome person, get in touch and we might find out together.

5 thoughts on “Document Sets in SharePoint 2010 – A Creative Use of Content Types”

  1. You mentioned "document sets have a pretty neat user interface called the Document Set homepage"

    I googled for the text "Document Set homepage" found nothing. Can you please post a screen shot of this page if possible.

  2. Hmm, so what's so magical about those document sets? I mean as for the inheriting column from the set to the individual document, this could also be done via inherting content-types in the current release of sharepoint. Well, actually this is most likely what's happening behind the scenes with those document sets anyway. So the inheritance things does seem to be so new.

    Thinking about it – so what differs a document set from a folder++ in sharepoint? I mean it might have some new capabilities, but basically it's just improving folder functionalities, why give it a new name?

  3. Thanks for the introduction to Document Sets in 2010.

    I don't know if I have missed out something in the Allowed Content Types for a Document Set. What is the point of this function if when documents, without their Content Types specified or checked, can be uploaded to a Document Set?

    Did I miss something obvious here as I have not tried out 2010 yet?

    Thanks

  4. I used Document Sets hoping to allow users a way of eailsy assigning the contetn type – ie drop all the “invoices” into a document set in the master library called “invoices”.
    Works with single file upload, but WebDav or multiple file it completely ignores the document set and uses the master library default. Another example of Microsofts so close, and yet…

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