How to Create SharePoint Content Types


This post is an updated and revised version of an article originally posted in February 2013.

After receiving many requests for a walk-through of how to create Content Types, I felt that it was necessary to revisit the subject in an educational way. This post is meant to provide a very brief introduction into Content Types, and a full walk-through of how to create them. For those looking for further discussion of Content Types, there is a secondary post that provides this. Content Types are crucial to building an effective SharePoint site. Content Types can be used to build work areas and capture important metadata. Even without Collabware CLM functionality, understanding how to create effective Content Types will aid any organization.

On top of this, Collabware CLM can utilize these Content Types and create a system that is not only more precise, but also more automated. We specifically built the CLM Content Rules Engine to enable users to leverage their custom Content Types and metadata columns.

Before any of this can begin, understanding a Content Type is of premiere importance. 

Document Types and SharePoint Content Types

Document Content Type Document Content Type

A Content Type is simply a pre-defined set of metadata columns that you want to use when saving your documents. Content Types are meant to represent the different Document Types an organization has. The Content Type can have lots of metadata columns for those documents that you want to describe in detail, or less metadata columns for more simple documents. There is a more advanced discussion of the finer points of what a Content Type is, but let’s move on to the more practical information of how to create Content Types in SharePoint.

Before you begin

Before you begin creating your Content Types, there are two pre-requisites that you must fulfill. First of all, you must be on the Content Type Hub. The Content Type Hub is the SharePoint site that has been defined by administrators as the central managing location for all Content Types. If you are not in the Content Type Hub while creating Content Types, then they will not be available to your other SharePoint sites. The best way to know if you are in the right location is whether or not your Content Type settings has the Manage Publishing option.

Admin Permissions 1 Admin Permissions 1

The second pre-requisite is that you have Full Control permissions in the Content Type Hub. If you do not have Full Control permissions, you will not be able to create your new Content Type.

Admin Permissions 2 Admin Permissions 2

At the lowest possible permission setting (having the specific Add and Customize Pages permission), you should be able to see these options under Site Settings before you can create Content Types.

Once you have both of the two pre-requisites fulfilled, you can start creating your Content Types.

SharePoint Metadata Columns

First, let us start with creating Metadata Columns. Metadata Columns are used when building Content Types, but they can be pre-defined separately.

You want to navigate to the Site Columns link under Web Designer Galleries.

Site Columns Site Columns

Once you are on the Site Columns page, you want to click the Create button at the top.

There are many different types of metadata Columns, and the first thing you want to do is define what type of column this is going to be. Different Columns have different options and configurations.

Column Type Column Type

Single line of text is the most common type you will encounter, but several others can be useful. Choice allows you to define the terms your users are allowed to enter. Date and Time is very useful for dates, and can be leveraged by CLM in different ways. Managed Metadata is best if you want a list of terms that can be easily modified and added to (although they must be managed elsewhere, in Term Store Management under Site Settings).

Once you have selected your column type, specific options will be displayed below. Most of them are straightforward, so let us move on to Content Type creation.

SharePoint Content Type Creation

Site Settings Site Settings

Content Type creation is done on the Site Content Types page under Web Designer Galleries.

SharePoint comes with a number of default Content Types to fit different needs of organizations. You are free to use these default Content Types, although it should be noted that it is almost always better to develop your own Content Types to fit your own unique needs. Once again, simply click the Create button at the top of the Content Types page to start.

Create CT Create CT

The first step is to name the Content Type. This name will be displayed to users, so ensure that it is easily recognizable. The most important thing to note on this page is the Content Type Parent. You must change this every time, as it will default to the first Content Type, which is not one that you want to use. It is recommended that you simply choose Document as the Parent Content Type, although if you are creating multiple instances of another Content Type, such as a Agreement, you would choose that as a parent.

Create CT 1 Create CT 1

Parent Content Type determines two things. First, it determines what metadata columns the new Content Type starts with. It will inherit all the metadata columns its parent has. Secondly, if the Parent Content Type is ever updated, these updates can be pushed down to all child Content Types.

Once you have named, chosen a parent, and defined the grouping of your new Content Type, you can move to the next stage.

CT Full CT Full

Adding Content Type metadata columns

Content Type creation can be divided into two different sections: adding Content Type metadata columns, and publishing the Content Type. Let’s start with adding metadata columns.

If you previously created your metadata columns, choose Add from existing site columns. If you need a new column, choose Add from new site column.

CT Columns CT Columns

This process is straightforward. If needed, refer to the previous section on Column creation for instructions. Once you have added all the metadata columns required for this Content Type, you can change the order in which the columns will be displayed to your users. You can also change the status of the column by clicking on the column name.

Making a column Required means that users will not be able to save any documents to SharePoint without filling in this column. This can be useful for ensuring that content is captured properly, although it can also be painful for users who are less familiar with some metadata values.

Once you have added all of your metadata columns, the complete Content Type should look something like this:

Content Type final Content Type final

Publishing the Content Type

Now that we have all the metadata columns attached to this Content Type, we can look to publishing the Content Type. However, before we do that, let’s highlight one of the more useful features you can apply to your Content Type. It is under Advanced Settings.

Advanced settings Advanced settings

Advanced settings allows you to set a template for this Content Type, or mark it as read only. A template can be extremely useful for your users, especially if they are repeatedly creating the same kind of form.

CT Advanced CT Advanced

Beyond this, there aren’t many other special settings you can apply to your Content Type. If you are satisfied that it is complete, it is time to publish it so that your site libraries can use it.

Content Type Publish Content Type Publish

Click the "Manage publishing for this content type" option and then publish the Content Type.

Publish Publish

Once the Content Type has been published, you must wait. SharePoint is run on a series of Timer Jobs, and Content Type Publisher is one of them. This job normally runs hourly, although it can be configured to run more or less often. Regardless, there is usually a wait before a published Content Type can be added to document libraries.

Applying Content Types

Now that we have created and published our Content Types, the last thing to do is make them accessible to your users. This means binding them to a library. Let's quickly walk through that.

Navigate to a library and click the Library Settings button.

Library Settings Library Settings

From here, you need to click the Advanced Settings button and enable Content Type Management.

Advanced settings Advanced settings
Library CT Management                    Library CT Management

Once you've enabled Content Type Management, go back to the Library Settings page and scroll until you see the new Content Type options. From here, it should be straightforward.

Add Content Types Add Content Types

Simply add the desired Content Types to the library so users can start leveraging the metadata fields for sorting and searching.

Library Adding CT Library Adding CT

This completes the short article on creating Content Types. For a more advanced discussion on the concept and use of Content Types, see my follow-up article. Look forward to future articles outlining how CLM leverages SharePoint Content Types to automate Records Management.

To read more on Collabware CLM and all its features,  download our Collabware CLM  feature sheet & brochure:


Access CLM Brochure



Tagged: SharePoint, Collabware CLM, Compliance, Records Management

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