blog.frederique.harmsze.nl my world of work and user experiences

October 31, 2012

Multiple options for multiple lines of text

Filed under: SharePoint — Tags: , — frederique @ 22:32

Working with the business to facilitate their processes using SharePoint Online, we see that they have different needs for capturing and presenting information. For example, some teams need to efficiently edit the information in different items in one go, in a supplier list for instance. Other teams really need to track who said what,  in comment fields in an incident log for instance.

Fortunately we have different solutions, even with something as basic as a multiple lines of text field in a list.

Options in a multiple lines of text field

When I create a multiple lines of text field in a list, I have different options:

  • Formatting options: plain text, rich text (with fonts, lists and links) or enhanced rich text (which can include pictures and tables)
  • Versioning: append text yes or no.  
    If you switch on versioning in your list, you can use versioning on your multiple lines of text field: append text to the old text instead of risking you overwrite it.

Field with these different options look like this in the individual list item:

The list overview the looks as follows:

Editing the list in the datasheet view does not work for the enhanced fields where you enter images. But you can edit the rich text fields in the datasheet, if you know shortcut keys for it, as the ribbon does not apply to the cell in the datasheet.

What option for what purpose

Looking at the standard options for a multiple lines of text field in a list, we see the following pros & cons and uses:

  No append text Append text
Plain text + Simple, so best chance of success in other browsers
+ Edit in datasheet
+ Name and date & time stamp shown for version
+ No version added if nothing is changed to the field
+ Edit in datasheet works (but behaves differently: previous comment not cleared from the field)
  - Only capital letters and starting a new line to structure text in the field
- If you need see when you said what, add your initials and the date manually
- Only capital letters and starting a new line to structure text in the field
- Not visible in list view (only :”View Entries”)
 Use for: Efficient adding and editing (in datasheet) of basic information: simple descriptions or one-off comments that do not require versioning Short comments in e.g. an incident log where different roles have different fields and where it is important to record who said what when.
     
Rich text + Structure your information easily via a field ribbon (e.g. bulleted lists, bold)
+ Edit in datasheet (but without ribbon, so hit ctrl b to make a word bold for example)
 + Name and date & time stamp shown for version
+ Edit in datasheet works (but without ribbon and behaves differently: previous comment not cleared from the field)
  - If you need see when you said what, add your initials and the date manually - Version added and name and date displayed even when that person did not add anything to this field
- Not visible in list view (only :”View Entries”)
Use for: Structuring your information via layout (e.g. bulleted lists, bold font) Capturing what participants do or don’t say in e.g. a shared comments field when managing an issue.
     
Enhanced rich text + Opportunity to structure and enrich at will + No version added if nothing is changed to the field
  - No edit in datasheet
- A bit less clear how to edit: No ribbon directly with the field, so use the full ribbon at the top of the item.
- No edit in datasheet
- Not visible in list view (only :”View Entries”)
- History may take up a lot of space in the display form
Use for: Free text description of an item that may contain pictures etc. (If the description gets very big and the other fields get less important, use a page for it) Rich updates in e.g. an incident log where different people as descriptions and pictures of what they have seen at different stages.

How to configure it

So how do you configure this? Create a multiple lines of text field and select the type of text to allow and if you want to append changes (i.e. have versioning in the field) yes or no:

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