Finding content in SharePoint 2010 with Managed metadata

Considering SharePoint from the very first version (SharePoint 2001) to SharePoint 2010, one of the best features in my opinion is the ability to organize content using metadata.  It is probably one of the hardest things for users to adapt to i.e. storing documents in documents libraries and being told not to use folders and instead fill in fields with values.  However, once metadata is understood, there are no end of improvements when it comes to finding your content again.  Not only would the SharePoint search be able to find it, but you could also find  your content using Views, Sorting,  Filters and even web part connections to filter web parts.  The only problem that I came across was the fact that there was no uniformity to the data.  for example if you assign a Proposal document to a customer, each user may type that customer name in a different way.  Lightning Tools for example is often abbreviated or misspelt. One way around that in SharePoint 2007 would be to use the Business Data Column, but that only works if you are looking up from a Line of Business system.

SharePoint 2010 has made this functionality even better.  We now have something called Managed Metadata.  Managed Metadata allows users to select values from a term store rather than type the value.  for example, Lightning Tools has 3 main departments: Operations, Sales and Marketing.  Under Sales you will find Corporate Sales, and International Sales, under Operations you will find Products, and under Products you will find Tools and Web Parts, and under that is products such as BCS Meta Man, DeliverPoint, Lightning Conductor web part etc…

So, imagine storing a document in a document library such as instructions on how to use DeliverPoint.  In order to find that document more easily in the future we can simply select the value: Lightning Tools > Operations > Products > Tools > DeliverPoint.  Users no longer have to think that hard about what to type, and can simply select the appropriate value(s) using a taxonomy which is familiar to them.  Below is a screenshot of the Taxonomy Term Store where the terms and term categories are created.

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Within SharePoint Lists and Libraries, this Taxonomy Term Store is used by creating a column of type ‘Managed Metadata.  You can then choose the Term Set that you intend to use within the list or library. Below is a screenshot of the Managed Metadata column properties.

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When the user uploads or creates a document within the document library, they will be prompted to enter a value within the appropriate columns.  Within the example below, the user is assigning the value ‘DeliverPoint’ which is selected from the term store.

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Now that this value has been selected, finding the content is vastly improved both through the search centre, uniformed data for creating views and filters as well as the ability for users themselves to tag these documents using terms within the term store.  Below is the new refinement feature of the SharePoint Server Search allowing users to refine by the terms in the term store.  The values in the green ring are Tools:DeliverPoint.

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Tagging in SharePoint 2010 is very powerful, and the term store makes it even better.  Notice below that a user is tagging a task within a task library.  The task is to release DeliverPoint 2010. So the user is tagging it with the term tools:deliverpoint which in turn will allow that user and other users to find the content more easily.

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One way of making sure that Managed Metadata custom columns are used throughout your Site Collections is to use the Enterprise Content Types which is also something new to SharePoint 2010.  Content Types are now available across Site Collections using Enterprise Content Types.  This allows a Content Type Hub to be created to host the Content Type, which in turn is then published to other Site Collections that want to use it.  One of the problems with this though is the ability to roll up such content from across multiple site collections.  The Content Query Web Part from SharePoint Server 2010 only allows aggregation from a single Site Collection.  Our Lightning Conductor Web Part 2010 can aggregate from multiple Site Collections and will therefore allow you to use the Managed Metadata column to rollup your content from anywhere within the Web Application.

More information can be found on Managed Metadata within the SDK:http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee424402.aspx

Please let us know if you have any comments regarding this article.

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