Content types enable organizations to organize, manage, and handle content in a consistent way across a site collection. By defining content types for specific kinds of documents or information products, an organization can ensure that each of these groups of content is managed in a consistent way.
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What is a content type?
In the course of a single project, a business might produce several different kinds of content, for example, proposals, legal contracts, statements of work, and product design specifications. Although these documents might be stored together because they are related to a single project, they can be created, used, shared, and retained in different ways. A business might want to collect and maintain different kinds of metadata about each kind of content.
Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 enables organizations to define these different sets of documents as content types. A content type is a group of reusable settings that describe the shared behaviors for a specific type of content. Content types can be defined for any item type in Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, including documents, list items, or folders. Each content type can specify:
The columns (metadata) that you want to assign to items of this type.
The document template on which to base new items of this type (document content types only).
The custom New, Edit, and Display forms to use with this content type.
The workflows that are available for items of this content type.
The custom solutions or features that are associated with items of this content type.
Content types provide organizations with a way to manage and organize content consistently across different lists and libraries in a site collection, and they also make it possible for a single list or library to contain multiple item types or document types.
How content types work at the site level
Content types are organized into a hierarchy that allows one content type to inherit its characteristics from another content type. This allows categories of documents to share attributes across an organization, while allowing teams to customize these attributes for particular sites or lists.
Content types are first defined centrally in the Site Content Type Gallery for a site. Content types that are defined at the site level are called site content types. Site content types are available for use in any subsites of the site for which they have been defined. For example, if a site content type is defined in the Site Content Type Gallery for the top-level site in a site collection, it is available for use in lists and libraries in all of the sites in that site collection. Site content types can be added individually to lists or libraries and customized for use in those lists or libraries. When an instance of a site content type is added to a list or library, it is called a list content type. List content types are children of the site content types from which they are created.
How inheritance works for site content types
When you define a new custom site content type in the Site Content Type Gallery for a site, you start by choosing an existing parent site content type in the Site Content Type Gallery as your starting point. The new site content type that you create inherits all of the attributes of its parent site content type, such as its document template, read-only setting, workflows, and columns. After you create this new site content type, you can make changes to any of these attributes.
Whenever you make changes to site content types, you can specify whether you want these specific changes to be applied to any other child site content types or list content types that inherit their attributes from these site content types. Only the attributes that the child site content types or list content types share with a parent site content type can be updated. If a child site content type has been customized with additional attributes that the parent site content type does not have (for example, extra columns), these customizations are not overwritten when the child site content type is updated. The changes that you make to a site content type do not affect the parent site content type from which the site content type was created.
How site content types support content management
By defining site content types, you can ensure that entire categories of documents are handled consistently across your organization. For example, all customer deliverable documents in an organization may require a specific set of metadata, such as account number, project number, and project manager. You can help ensure that account numbers and project numbers are associated with all of the customer deliverable documents in your organization by creating a Customer Deliverable site content type that has required columns for each of these items of metadata. All customer deliverable document types in the site collection that inherit from this site content type then require users to specify information for these columns. If you need to track additional metadata that is related to these customer deliverable documents, you can add another required column to the Customer Deliverable site content type. Then you can update all child list content types that inherit from this site content type, adding the new column to all customer deliverable documents.
How content types work in lists and libraries
If you have a list or library that is set up to allow multiple content types, you can add content types to this list or library from the group of site content types that are available for your site.
When you add a content type to a list or library, you make it possible for that list or library to contain items of that type. The New command in that list or library lets users create new items of that type. One of the key advantages of content types for lists and libraries is that they make it possible for a single list or library to contain multiple item types or document types, each of which may have unique metadata, policies, or behaviors.
How inheritance works for list content types
When an instance of a site content type is added to a list or library, it is a child of the site content type from which it was created. This list content type inherits all of the attributes of its parent site content type, such as its document template, read-only setting, workflows, and columns. A list content type can be customized for the specific list or library to which it has been added. These customizations are not applied to the parent site content type. If the parent site content type for a list content type is updated, the child list content type can inherit these changes (if the person who maintains the site content type chooses to apply the updates to all child content types). If any of the attributes that the child list content type shares with the parent site content type were customized for the list content type, these customizations can be overwritten when the list content type inherits the changes from the parent site content type. If the list content type has been customized with additional attributes that the parent content type does not have (for example, extra columns), these customizations are not overwritten when the child list content type inherits changes from the parent site content type.