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SharePoint Blog

November 20
Folders - NO! Document Sets – YES!

The first blog post in this series, A World Without Folders​,  was about why (and how) NOT to use folders in SharePoint.  In this blog I’m going to bend the rules slightly.  I still recommend that you not use folders in a SharePoint document library.  However, I want to recognize that in some instances it is logical to group documents and to keep them together in a way that makes it easy for users to tag them and ultimately to find them.  What I’m talking about here are situations where you need to keep a bunch of documents bundled because they are part of something larger.

Examples of documents you might want to be sure are stored together include things like vendor agreements/contracts, on-boarding documents, event planning documents, special project documentation, etc.  This could be any collection of documents that have common metadata. The common metadata and need to bundle documents are the keys here.  When those two conditions exist, it’s likely that you will benefit by using a Document Set.​

Benefits of a Document Set:

  • All metadata assigned to the Document Set is automatically attached to any documents in the set – enter the metadata only once.
  • Allows for a customized Document Set cover page

Let’s work through an example. 

BUSINESS PROCESS:  Hiring a new vendor

Examples of DOCUMENTS we will collect for it:

  • Vendor Proposal
  • Vendor contract(s)
  • Project/business justification
  • Vendor References

METADATA to collect for each vendor and their contract documents:

  • Vendor name*
  • Vendor number*
  • Contract value*
  • Contract expiration date*
  • Internal program code that vendor is working on

*required fields

Set Up Steps

STEP A:  Turn on Document Sets

1. Go to Site Settings
2. Select Site Collection Features
3. Check that Document Sets is Active.  If not, Activate it.


STEP B:  Create Document Set Content Type

1. Go to Site Settings

2. Select Content Types
3. Click on Create

4. Complete the New Site Content Type form being sure to select the parent content type as Document Set.

STEP C:  Check for Site Columns

Make sure that the site columns to collect the metadata for the content type exist.  If they are not already there, you will need to add them to the site to make them available.

STEP D:  Configure the Document Set Content Type

Now that you have the content type created and the site columns for it, you need to attach the two.   

​1. Go to Site Settings

2. Select Site Content Type

3. Find the Document Set content type you just created and select it

4. Add the metadata columns that it needs and order them as you would like them.

5. Select Document Set settings

6. Add any document content types that you are anticipating that could be added to a vendor document set.  You will see that the Document content type is already added. In our example I’ve added an NDA also.

7. Select the Shared Columns that will be associated with the content type and be added to all documents added to the set.
8. Select which columns you would like viewable on the Document Set welcome page.  In our example, I’ve added only the VendorName and ContractExpiration

9. Click OK​

STEP E:  Add the Document Set Content Type to Document Library

1. Navigate to the document library where you will be storing the vendor documents

2. Select the Library Settings in the Library tab of the ribbon.

3. Check Advanced Settings and make sure that Allow management of content types is set to Yes

4. On the Library Settings page, in the Content Types section, select Add from existing content types

5. Find your new Document Set content type that you created. Select it and click the Add button.

6. Click OK.  It should now appear in the list of Content Types for this document library.


STEP F:  Create a New Vendor Document Set

1. In your Documents library, under the Files tab select the New Document drop down menu.  Select your new Vendor Document Set.
2. Fill out the form to identify the metadata that needs to be associated with the new Document Set.
3. Click Save.
You are now presented with the Document Set welcome page.  You can see that our VendorName and ContractExpiration appears as expected from when we configured the Document Set settings.


      4. Now add documents to your document set.

When you upload a document, you will see that the metadata columns that were populated when you created the Document Set are pre-populated already for the new documents. 


The Document Set will look something like this after you add documents to it:


Your Document Set now has made it super easy for documents to be added to it and insure that the appropriate metadata is attached related to the vendor.  The most important information is available quickly at a glance.

Document Sets are easily identifiable from their icon that looks like a magazine holder in your Documents library.


Now go out there and use Document Sets instead of folders!​

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