We often see users creating documents in MS Office and then uploading them into SharePoint. But you can also create your document directly in SharePoint. A client recently wanted to know the details, because they feared that their newbie users would otherwise never put their documents in SharePoint.
So how do you create documents in SharePoint, particulary in SharePoint Online?
Use the button ‘New’
To create a new document in SharePoint, you navigate to the site where you want to create your document. And in the Document Library you click the obvious button: New. Then you select the type of document you want to create, Word for example.
‘New’ button in a Document Library, to create a new document.
Create a basic document in Office Online
By default, this opens Word Online (or another Office Online, if you have selected another document type). Here, you can just start typing your document…
Write your document in Word Online
The system has not asked what you want to call your document. By default, it is called Document, which is not very helpful. So remember to change the filename: just click on the filename at the top of the screen, in the screenshot click Document, and type your own name.
And when you are finished, you do not have to click Save; the document is saved automatically. The actually is no Save button. When you click on the name of the site (in my example Operations), you go back to the Document Library where you started, and the document is saved automatically, by the filename you have entered at the top.
Please note: if you have not entered your own filename, the document is still called Document or Document1 or something similarly unhelpful. Edit the document again in Word Online, to change the filename.
Edit your document in Word Online.
Create an advanced document in Office
In some situations, we want more than to just type up a document. We may want to use a template, and add metadata to make it easier to find the document. In that case, the Site Owner should set up the Document Library differently.
Use a template for a Content Type
If there are templates for, for example, reports, then it is helpful if the Site Owner or the overall Administrator creates a Content Type for them and associates the template with it. For an overview of the steps, see Microsoft’s Create or customize a site content type.
The relevant part for the template is in the Content Type’s Advanced Settings:
In the Advanced settings of the Content Type, the Site Owner can upload a template.
When the Site Owner associates this Content Type with the Document Library, the user can select it under the New button:
Add an Opeations report, based on the custom content type.
Now, the problem is that such templates do not always work well in Office Online: images may float to the wrong place, dynamic fields are not filled properly. You may want to test this with your own template. But be prepared for the fact that the Site Owner may have to change the settings, to use Office on the desktop instead of Office Online. We will get to that in a minute.
Use metadata to structure the document collection and find documents
If you have a lot of documents, it is helpful to group them by category, for example. Or filter them by status. Sort them by End date. In order to do that, the contributor who creates the document needs to fill in these metadata.
In Office Online, this is a bit tricky.
When you upload a document, you are prompted to fill in its metadata. However, if you create your document directly in Word Online, you are not prompted to fill in anything but the text of the document.
So if you just write your document and let it be saved automatically the metadata won’t be filled in. And if some of the metadata are required (like a Report category) then the document will remain checked out. That means that it is a draft version of the document, which only the uploader can see and nobody else.
The required field ReportCategory has not been filled in, so the document is left checked out and invisible to other users.
The contributor then has to be aware of the situation, edit the properties, fill in the metadata and check in the document. The problem is that many contributors will forget that, and this will play havoc with the usefulness of the SharePoint sites.
This works a lot better if SharePoint opens the document in MS Word on your desktop, instead of opening Word Online. You are still working directly from SharePoint, but just in a different version from Office.
Opening documents on the desktop instead of in the browser
The Site Owner can determine where documents are opened, when you click on the title to read them or when you want to edit them. This is in the Advanced settings of the Document Library: in the section ‘Opening Documents in the Browser’ select Open in the client application instead of the default value ‘Use the server default (Open in the browser)’.
In the Advanced settings of the Document Library, the Sit Owner can select to open files in the client instead of in the browser.
The document then opens in Word, where you have all functionality at your disposal, including fully functional templates.
And part of that full functionality is the Document Information Panel: a panel at the top of the .document with fields for the metadata. Please note: this Document Information Panel (DIP) appears in Word 2013, but not in Word 2016.
The document opened in the client, MS Word, with at the top the Document Information Panel.
The Site Owner who manages the Content Type can configure it to “Always show Document Information Panel on document open and initial save for this content type”.
Content Type settings for the Document Information Panel
The Document Information Panel settings
So users can create documents directly in SharePoint, so that you do not have to worry about documents getting stuck on personal drives or local computers. How the Site Owner should configure the site to make things easy for the users, depends on the situation.
- For basic documents, without templating or metadata, working in Office Online meets the needs. In particular for users who do not have Office on their computers. Do not forget to tell users that they can change the filename at the top of the screen.
- For advanced documents, with templates and/or metadata, working in the Office client (MS Word on the desktop) is easier. For that purpose, the Site Owner should configure content types and change the advanced settings of the Document Library, to open files in the client.