A library is a location on a site where you can create, collect, update, and manage files with team members. Each library displays a list of files and key information about the files, which helps members use the files to work together. You can choose from a number of ready-to-use libraries and library templates that provide a good starting point for organizing your files. After you create a library, you can customize it in several ways. For example, you can control how documents are viewed, managed, and created. Or, you can track versions, including how many and which type of versions. You can even create custom views, forms, and workflows to make your projects and business processes go much smoother.
In this article
Overview of libraries
Instead of your team hunting around for documents in different locations, such as personal computers, network disks, and e-mail folders, it's much more efficient to use a SharePoint library as a central location that everyone on your team can see and use.
What is a library?
A SharePoint library is a location on a site where you can create, store, update, and collaborate on files with team members. Each type of library — document, picture, form, and wiki page — displays a list of files and key information about the files, such as who was the last person to modify the file. You can choose from several types of libraries, depending on the types of files that you want to store and how you plan to use them. Once you are done with a library, you can archive files, delete the unused library, and save server disk space.
You can also customize libraries in several ways. You can control how documents are viewed, tracked, managed, and created. You can track versions, including how many and which type of versions, and you can limit who can see documents before they are approved. To streamline a business process, you can use workflows to collaborate on documents in libraries. To reduce clutter, you can specify information management policies to manage the handling and expiration of documents within libraries.
How does a typical team use a library?
A marketing team at Contoso needs to work together on project and group documents. The team members need a central location where they can collaborate on documents, keep track of their calendars and meetings, manage projects, and track team tasks. This team also has a contractor living in a remote location, so there is an added benefit to using SharePoint 2010.
The first step for them is to designate one member as the site owner and point person for managing their site. The site owner takes on the role of site administrator, obtains the Full Control permission for the library, and first ensures that everyone on the team has Contribute permission level to the Shared documents library on its team site. Next, the site owner renames it to "Marketing Documents" and then adds a detailed description so that all users, but especially first-time users, get a clearer idea of the purpose of the library and what content to view or add to it. The team has decided to use this library for managing press releases, budget files, contracts, proposals, and other pertinent team documents.
One of the site owner's first tasks is to locate and upload many important documents into the library to get the team focused on using the library as a central location. Then the site owner decides to do the following: set the library to require check out, so that no one accidentally overwrites changes to documents; and track versions, so the team has a history of how files have evolved and can restore a previous version if necessary. To ensure adherence to company standards, the site owner also adds standard templates for marketing reports, sales contracts, campaign plans, and budget worksheets to the library. Each template contains the company logo and mission statement. When members create a new file from the document library, they can easily select which template they want to use.
Over time as team members add files and collaborate on documents, they organize the library by adding columns and creating views that show content in multiple ways that are meaningful for their work. For example, the site owner adds a "Project Name" column so members can filter or sort by that column.
Other team members add public views that group by fiscal quarter, and filter for contracts that expire within six months. Each member also creates personal views to help them find information quickly and complete their work.
After much discussion at a staff meeting, the team decides to set alerts at the library level to report updates once a week. Each member can decide how to set up additional alerts or RSS feeds on specific files as necessary. The team also commits to an important "best practice" in this new world of collaboration. When members want to distribute a document in a library, they resist the temptation to attach it to an email message, and send the link in e-mail instead. Inserting a document link into an e-mail message is easy to do from the library ribbon, ensures folks are getting access to the latest version, and helps unclog the local network from unnecessary bits.
Occasionally team members and other users are blocked from accessing content because they don't have appropriate permissions. Certain documents are protected because they have sensitive content, such as a contract or budget information. But because the ability to request access from a site owner is enabled, they can conveniently request access from a page, and the site owner can grant the permission as appropriate to a document.
All the members of the Marketing team, but particularly the contractor, like the ability to take library contents offline, work with them from home or a remote site, and then smoothly synchronize changes when back online, all by using Microsoft Office SharePoint Workspace 2010.
A critical responsibility for this Marketing team is proposing marketing campaigns to drive sales and revenue. When team members develop a new campaign plan, they track minor versions of the file. If they make a mistake in one version, they can restore a previous version. When they finish the campaign plan, they can create a major version and then publish it for approval by their legal department and their manager. When the file is approved, other employees in the company can view the file. The site owner researches the online documentation, training, and blogs, and then figures out without using code how to set up a workflow, associate it to the library, and automate the process of gathering feedback, collecting signatures, and publishing the final document.
After three months of use, the Marketing library and site has become a critical component of the Marketing team and helped substantially improve their productivity and visibility throughout their enterprise. They can't imagine working without it, and are actively exploring other ways to use SharePoint 2010 to collaborate better.
Types of libraries
Some libraries are created for you when you create a new site, such as the Shared documents library in a team site. You can customize these libraries for your purposes, or you can create your own additional libraries. Each type of library has a specific purpose and some have a different set of behaviors and features.
Document library For many file types, including documents and spreadsheets, use a document library. You can store other kinds of files in a document library, although some file types are blocked for security reasons. When you work with programs that are not blocked, you can create those files from the library. For example, your marketing team may have its own document library for planning materials, news releases, and publications.
Picture library To share a collection of digital pictures or graphics, use a picture library. Although pictures can be stored in other types of SharePoint libraries, picture libraries have several advantages. For example, from a picture library you can view pictures in a slide show, download pictures to your computer, and edit pictures with compatible graphics programs, such as Microsoft Paint. Consider creating a picture library if you want to store pictures of team events or product launches. You can also link to pictures in your library from elsewhere on your site, such as from wikis, and blogs.
Form library If you need to manage a group of XML-based business forms, use a form library. For example, your organization may want to use a form library for expense reports. Setting up a form library requires an XML editor or XML form design program, such as Microsoft InfoPath. The form that people fill out is just an .xml file that contains the data (and only the data) that was entered into the form, such as the expense date and the amount. Everything else that makes up the expense report is provided by the form template. After people fill out forms, you can merge the form data or export it for analysis.
Wiki page library To create a collection of connected wiki pages, use a wiki page library. A wiki enables multiple people to gather routine information in a format that is easy to create and modify. You can also add wiki pages that contain pictures, tables, hyperlinks, and internal links, to your library. For example, if your team creates a wiki site for a project, the site can store tips and tricks in a series of pages that connect to each other.
Note: Depending on your site and configuration, additional system libraries, such as the style library, site assets library, and site pages library, are automatically created by SharePoint Server 2010. However, you cannot create these specific libraries through the user interface.
Ways to work with libraries
Here are some ways to work with libraries and make them more useful for your group:
Create views You can use a view to see the items in a library that are most important to you or that best fit a purpose. The contents of the actual library don't change, but the files are organized or filtered to make them easier to find and to browse in a meaningful way.
Require check-out of files When you require check-out of a file, you ensure that only one person can edit the file until it is checked in. Requiring documents to be checked out prevents multiple people from making changes at the same time, which can create editing conflicts and lead to confusion. Requiring check-out can also help to remind team members to add a comment when they check a file in, so that you can more easily track what has changed in each version.
Track versions If you need to keep previous versions of files, libraries can help you track, store, and restore the files. You can choose to track all versions in the same way. Or you can choose to designate some versions as major, such as adding a new chapter to a manual, and some versions as minor, such as fixing a spelling error. To help manage storage space, you can optionally choose the number of each type of version that you want to store.
Require document approval You can specify that approval for a document is required. Documents remain in a pending state until they are approved or rejected by someone who has permission to do so. You can control which groups of users can view a document before it is approved. This feature can be helpful if your library contains important guidelines or procedures that need to be final before others see them.
Specify permissions SharePoint groups and permission levels help you to efficiently manage access to contents. By default, permissions on libraries, folders within libraries, and documents are inherited from their parent site. Assigning permission levels to a specific item can help you to protect sensitive content, such as a contract or budget information, without restricting access to the rest of the site.
Stay informed about changes Libraries in SharePoint 2010 support RSS technology, so that members of your workgroup can automatically receive and view updates, or feeds, of news and information in a consolidated location. You can use RSS technology to alert you of any changes to a library, such as when files that are stored in the library change. RSS feeds enable members of your workgroup to see a consolidated list of files that have changed. You can also create e-mail alerts, so that you are notified when files change.
Create workflows A document library or content type can use workflows that your organization has defined for business processes, such as managing document approval or review. Your group can apply business processes to its documents, known as workflows, which specify actions that need to be taken in a sequence, such as approving or translating documents. A SharePoint workflow is an automated way of moving documents or items through a sequence of actions or tasks. Three workflows are available to libraries by default: Approval, which routes a document to a group of people for approval; Collect Feedback, which routes a document to a group of people for feedback and returns the document to the person who initiated the workflow as a compilation; and Collect Signatures, which routes a document to a group of people to collect their digital signatures
Define content types If your group works with several types of files, such as worksheets, presentations, and documents, you can extend the functionality of your library by enabling and defining multiple content types. Content types add flexibility and consistency across multiple libraries. Each content type can specify a template and even workflow processes. The templates act as a starting point, for formatting and any boilerplate text and for properties that apply to the documents of that type, such as department name or contract number.
Client integration Certain compatible client programs, work with SharePoint features directly from the client. For example, when you use Microsoft Word 2010, you can manage check in and check out more easily. From Microsoft Office SharePoint Workspace 2010 or Microsoft Outlook 2010, you can take library contents offline, work with them from a remote site, and then smoothly synchronize changes when you come back online.
Audit Tracking If you have a group of sensitive files, and it would be helpful to know how the documents were being used, you can define a policy that allows you to enable 'Audit' tracking of events, such as file changes, copies or deletion.
Organizing libraries on a site
The way that you organize your files in a library depends on the needs of your group and on how you prefer to store and search for your information. Some planning can help you set up the structure that works best for your group. Libraries have several features that help you work with multiple files in one library. However, multiple libraries may suit your group better.
Storing documents in one library
You may want one library to serve diverse needs. For example, you might have several projects within the same group, or multiple groups working on the same project. Consider using a single library when:
Your group needs to see summary information about, or different views of, the same set of files. For example, a manager may want to see all files grouped by department or by due date.
People want to search for the files in the same location on a site.
You want to apply the same settings to files, such as tracking versions of files or requiring approval.
The groups that are working with the library share similar characteristics, such as the same levels of permission.
You want to analyze information about the files in a spreadsheet, or to receive consolidated updates about the files.
To work efficiently with documents in one library, you can organize files in a library by adding columns, defining views, or creating folders.
Storing documents in multiple libraries
You may want to create multiple libraries when there are distinct differences among the sets of files that you want to store and manage, or among the groups of people who work with the files. Use multiple libraries when:
The types of files that you want to store and manage are distinct, and you don't expect people to frequently view summaries of the files or to search the files together.
The groups of people who are using the files are distinct and have distinctly different permission levels.
You need to apply different settings, such as versioning or approval, to different sets of files.
You do not need to analyze the files together or receive consolidated updates about the files.
You want to provide different sets of options for creating new files, or you want the options on the New menu of a library to appear in a different order.
The following are some ways that you can work efficiently with multiple libraries.
Set up site templates and columns If your organization wants to establish some consistent settings across its libraries, it can set up site templates and site columns. You can share the settings across multiple libraries so that you don't have to recreate the settings each time.
Send files to another location If you want a file to be available in multiple libraries, you can store it in one library, and then send a copy to other libraries. You can choose to be reminded to update any copies of the document when you make changes to the original.
Create library templates If you want to establish some uniform settings for libraries or reuse characteristics across libraries, you can save a library as a template. Library templates are available as an option in your site when you click Create on the Site Actions menu.
Organizing files in a library
There are several ways to organize files in a library. You can add columns, define views, and create folders. Each approach has its own advantages, and you can combine each approach together to fit the unique needs of your library and your team.
By default, libraries track the name of a file, as well as information about the status of a file, such as whether it is checked in. But, you can specify additional columns that help your group to categorize and track files, such as a campaign name or a project number, or other information that's important to your team. You have several options for the type of column that you create, including a single line of text, a drop-down list of options, a number that is calculated from other columns, or even the name and picture of a person on your site.
Columns provide column headers that make it easy for people to sort and filter documents. When you display files in a library, you can temporarily sort or filter the files by pointing to the name of a column, and then clicking the down arrow beside the name. This is helpful if you need to see the files in a certain way, but you have to repeat the steps the next time you view the library.
Will users often want to see: all the documents related to a specific project, all documents that belong to a particular department, or group the documents by the month they are due? If you expect to view the files in a certain way frequently, you can define a view. You can use this view any time that you work with the library. When you create a view, it is added to the Current Views drop-down list located in the library ribbon.
A library view is a selection of columns on a page that displays items in a library, and often defines a specific sort order, filter, grouping, and custom layout. Libraries can have personal views and public views. Anyone who has Contribute permission level can create a personal view to see the files in a certain way or to filter for only the files that they want to see. If you have permission to design a library, you can create a public view that anyone can use when viewing the library. You can also make any public view the default view, so that people automatically see that view of the library.
If members of your group view the libraries on a mobile device, you can even create mobile views that provide limits, such as number of items displayed in a view, that are optimal for the bandwidth and limitations of the devices.
Folders (also called containers) provide another way to group and manage content in a library or list. If folders are enabled for the library, you can add folders to most types of libraries. If your library contains many items, folders also improve the efficiency of accessing those items. When you create a folder, behind the scenes you are creating an internal index. This internal index is also created for the root folder, or top-level of a library or list. When you access items in a folder, you are effectively using this internal index to access the data.
If a library contains many items that can be grouped in a particular way, you can use folders to organize content within the library. Good examples of groups include projects, teams, departments, product categories, age ranges, alphabetical listings, and alphabetical subgroups (A-C, D-F, and so on). Folders can help people to scan and manage lots of files in a familiar way.
By default, a library with folders enabled displays folders in the default view of the library without any filters. This is useful because users can choose the appropriate folder when they insert new documents. Displaying all the folders also makes it less likely that items will be incorrectly added outside the folders in the library. You can easily reorganize documents into different library folders by using the Open with Windows Explorer command available on the library ribbon.
Note: A library view can be defined, Sorting as-is, in which case the folders do not display first before any items in the view. You may not want to use this view sort option if you want users to easily locate the correct folder.
Although library folders do not display in the Documents section of Quick Launch, the site owner or a user with permission to design a site can enable the Tree View, which displays the Site Hierarchy section in Quick Launch, and lets you expand, collapse, and easily navigate folders of libraries.
Combining the use of columns, views, and folders
All three approaches can work together. The same columns you use to track projects in the default view of a library can be used to create a view with several filter criteria. A view can also be sorted and filtered dynamically by clicking the column headers to further isolate and identify content needed at the spur of the moment. If a folder structure has been defined in the library, you can "flatten" a library view by setting the Show all items without folders option in the Folders section when you create or modify the view. Each approach can complement the other to get the right content at the right time and in the right way for you.
Now that you have the big picture of libraries, the following are common and useful tasks that you can do with libraries.
Create or delete a library, or a folder in a library
Add, open, and delete files in a library
Add columns to a library and create library views
Work with library templates and content types
Synchronize a SharePoint library on your computer with client programs
Move and copy documents between libraries
Use workflows with a library
Set permissions and advanced settings on a library
Use picture libraries
Manage a library with many documents
Find more information about these tasks in the See Also section.