Introduction to Document Libraries

Instead of hunting around for files in different locations, such as personal computers, network disks, and email folders, your team can save files in a library where everyone can find them.

A library is a location on a site where you can upload, create, update, and collaborate on files with team members. Each library displays a list of files and key information about the files, such as who was the last person to modify a file. Most sites include a library when you create the site. For example, a team site has a Documents library where you can organize and share your documents.

As you need more libraries, you can choose from several ready-to-use library apps and add those to your site. You can customize libraries in several ways. For example, you can control how documents are viewed, managed, and created. Or, you can track versions of files, including how many and which type of version. You can even create custom views, forms, and workflows to help you manage your projects and business processes.

Let's use the Press team in our example of how a typical team uses a Document Library.  

Someone on the Press team that creates a team site where they plan to manage projects and documents. They pick a site owner to manage the site. The site owner gets the Full Control permission level when she is added to the Owners group for the site. She shares the site and gives everyone permission to contribute to it. The team decides to use the Documents library for managing press releases, talking points, memos, and other team documents.

The site owner uploads important documents to get the team started using the library as a central location. Then she turns on versioning, so the team has a history of how files evolve and can restore a previous version, if necessary. The site owner also adds standard templates to the library for memos, press releases, and talking points. Each template contains the office logo and a format that everyone has agreed to use. When members create a new file from the document library, they can easily select which template they want to use.

As team members add files and collaborate on documents, they organize the library by adding columns and creating views to help them find documents quickly. For example, the site owner adds a "Topics" column so members can filter or sort by that column. Other team members add public views that groups by document type, and filters by congress. Each member also creates personal views to help them find information quickly and complete their work.

After much discussion at a staff meeting, the team decides to set alerts at the library level to report updates once a week. Each member can decide how to set up additional alerts or RSS feeds on specific files, as necessary.

Alert Me and RSS buttons

The team also commits to an important "best practice" in this new world of collaboration. When members want to share a document, they resist the temptation to attach it to an email message, and instead email a link to the document. Emailing a link is easy to do from the library and points people to the latest version on the team site.

A critical responsibility for this team is drafting press releases to get their message out on point.  When team members develop a new release, they co-author documents and track minor versions of the files. Co-authoring lets multiple people edit a document at the same time, without having to worry about reconciling changes. If they make a mistake in one version of a document, they can restore a previous version. When they finish, they can create a major version and then send it for approval by their manager. When the file is approved, other staffers in the office can view the file.

The site owner researches the online documentation and training, and learns how to set up a workflow, associate it to the library, and automate the process of gathering feedback, collecting signatures, and publishing the final document.

After three months of use, the Documents library and site have become critical to the press team and helped improve their productivity and visibility throughout their enterprise. They can't imagine working without it, and are exploring other ways to use SharePoint technologies to collaborate better.

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