When users work with documents, there are occasions where more than one document is related to a particular task or project. In the past a user might group these together within a folder in a SharePoint document library. However there are some drawbacks to using folders:
- Users can sometimes find folders to be unwieldy and confusing, particularly when deeply nested.
- Folders do not permit the documents to be acted upon as a group, but rather serve simply as a container.
SharePoint 2010 introduces a new feature, known as Document Sets, to address this situation. As the name implies, a Document Set is a special content type that allows the grouping of related documents.
While a Document Set is similar to a folder conceptually, it holds some distinct advantages over folders:
- Document Sets appear as a single item in a library, and thus represent a user-friendly alternative to multiple levels of nested folders.
- Document Sets support versioning, and may be versioned independently of the documents they contain.
- Document Sets support metadata columns that can convey information about the set, such as the current state in a submission process.
- Document Sets can be manipulated by workflows, permitting the entire set of documents to be treated as a single entity.
Before Document Sets can be used the Document Sets site collection feature must be activated. In order to use Document Sets in a particular library, the library must allow management of content types and must include the Document Sets content type.
The default behavior for the Document Set content type is to permit the user to add multiple documents to an instance of the type. However, the sets can be customized so that a specific number and type of document are automatically included in the set. As an example, a Document Set for a sales proposal might always include a spreadsheet for sales numbers, a presentation to pitch the proposal, and a document outlining the terms of the proposal. You can create a custom content type that inherits from Document Set and tailor it to meet the exact number and kind of documents needed.
Each Document Set has a welcome page associated with it. You can customize this page via the browser and SharePoint Designer to make it easy and convenient for users to consume.
This post is an excerpt from the online courseware for our Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Enterprise Content Management course written by expert John Underwood.
John Underwood is a technical evangelist for a SharePoint consulting company, with 30 years of programming experience, including 20 years on the Microsoft platform and 10 years with .NET. John also has extensive experience using, configuring, and programming SharePoint.