SharePoint Online List App Options

By Rosemarie Withee, Ken Withee, Jennifer Reed

SharePoint Online comes with a collection of standard lists and libraries. Microsoft has already taken the time to develop these in order to make your life as a developer easier, so you may as well use them. The following list introduces the standard SharePoint list apps and provides brief descriptions:

  • Access App: This app is used to create browser based Access database applications. If you’re familiar with Microsoft Access then you will feel right at home using this web-based SharePoint app.
  • Announcements: This app is for brief news items, quick status checks, and other quick, informative stuff.
  • Calendar: This calendar is strictly business — deadlines, meetings, scheduled events, and the like. You can synchronize the information on this calendar with Microsoft Outlook or other Microsoft-friendly programs.
  • Contacts: If you’re a regular Outlook user, you may have developed a list of contacts. If you haven’t, here’s your chance to list the people relevant to your team (such as partners, customers, or public officials). You can synchronize the SharePoint Contacts app with Microsoft Outlook or other programs that play nice with Microsoft products.
  • Custom List: If you’re trying to develop a list app but none of the standard list app types does what you have in mind, you can start from scratch with a blank list and drop in the views and columns you want.
  • Custom List in Data Sheet View: Here’s a familiar twist on the blank list app: SharePoint shows it as a spreadsheet, so you can set up a custom list app as easily as you would in Excel, specifying views and columns as needed. Note that this list type requires an ActiveX control for list datasheets; fortunately, Microsoft Office provides such a control. (Coincidence? I think not.)
  • Discussion Board: If you’re a seasoned netizen from the heyday of the newsgroup, this list app will be a familiar place for online discussions. Naturally, you want to keep the discussion businesslike, so this list app type helps you manage those discussions (for example, you can require posts to be approved before everybody can see them).
  • External List: Use this list app type to create a list of data identified as an External Content Type. An External Content Type is a term used to describe groupings of data that live outside of SharePoint. An example might be data that lives in a backend system, such as SAP.
  • Import Spreadsheet: If you have data contained in an existing spreadsheet (created in Excel or another Microsoft-compatible program) that you want to use in SharePoint, you can import it into a list app of this type. You get the same columns and data as the original spreadsheet.
  • Issue Tracking: If you want to organize your project team’s responses to a problem associated with (say) an important project, this is the type of list app you use to set priorities, assign tasks, and keep track of progress toward resolving the issue.
  • Links: This list app type helps you organize links. The user can consult a list of web pages and similar online resources — and simply click to go to any of them.
  • Promoted Links: You can use this list app type to create a list of items using visual buttons instead of boring old text.
  • Survey: This list app type is for gathering information, specifically by crowd-sourcing. Here’s where you put a list of questions you want people to answer. A survey list app helps you formulate your questions and can summarize the responses you get back. The responses to the survey are stored in the list and can then be analyzed, charted, or exported.
  • Tasks: This list app type is essentially a to-do list for a team or individual.