SharePoint Online Content and Content Types

By Ken Withee, Jennifer Reed

One of the many cool features SharePoint Online offers is the ability for users to not only upload documents but also to create a new Word document right from the document library by clicking Documents from the Library Tools on the Ribbon and then clicking New. This action opens a new blank document in Microsoft Word that will be saved online after you give it a filename.

What most new SharePoint users don’t know is that you can actually “upload” a link to a document in another library or create new Microsoft Office documents other than Word. In the case of the former, this eliminates duplicate documents that could become a nightmare to sync. For the latter, it streamlines creation of form-based documents.

Uploading a link instead of a file is made possible by SharePoint content and content types features. Think of content as the Word document you uploaded or the new file you created from the document library. The way you defined the settings for your documents is the content type.

Keep one version of a document in multiple SharePoint Online sites

You manage two separate SharePoint sites and you have a document you want to share between the two sites. If you create two documents to upload one for each site, you have to update two documents when something changes. To avoid the extra work, you can upload one document in one site, and “upload” a link to the document in the other site. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. In the document library where you want to add the link to, click the Library tab from the Library Tools menu on the Ribbon.

  2. Click Library Settings on the Ribbon.

  3. Under General Settings, click Advanced Settings.

  4. Under Allow Management of content types, select Yes. Scroll down and click OK.

  5. Under Content Types you see that Document is already listed as the default content type.

  6. Click the Add from existing site content types link below the Document content type.

  7. On the Add Content Types page, select Link to a Document below the Available Site Content Types: box.

  8. Click the Add button in the middle to add the selected content type into the Content types to add: box on the right.

  9. Click OK.

    You are taken back to the Document Library Settings page.

Now that you’ve added Links as a content type, let’s see it in action. Exit out of the library settings view and go back to your document library. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Document tab from the Library Tools menu on the Ribbon.

  2. Click the New Document icon to display the available content types. Select Link to a Document.

  3. On the New link to a document window that appears, enter the document name and the URL.

  4. Click OK.

    You are taken back to your document library.

Viola! Now you can see the link listed as if it were a real document in the library. When you update the original file, the link will always open the latest version of the file it’s linked to.

Add an Excel template in the SharePoint Online content type

You want to be able to create not just Word documents from your library but also Excel files. The Excel file you want to use when you create new Excel files is a form template for an Invoice that you created. To achieve this, first you need to add your invoice template as a new content type in the site collection.

The second step is to then add this new content type to your document library following Steps 1 through 9 in the preceding section, but replacing Link to a Document with the new Excel form template.

To add your invoice template as a new content type in the site collection, follow these steps:

  1. At the parent site, go to Site Actions→Site Settings.

  2. Under Galleries, click Site content types and click Create.

  3. Give it a name (Invoice Template), enter a description if needed, and select Document Content Type under Select parent content type from.

  4. Select Document under Parent Content Type and choose from one of the existing groups or create a new group for your new content type and then click OK.

  5. Click Advanced under Settings, select Upload a new document template, browse for your template, and then click OK.

Your new template now displays as an option when you create new documents at your document library.