Introduction to content types and content type publishing

A SharePoint content type pulls together an item and information about the item. What kind of item? It might be one of many different kinds of files: a document, an excel workbook, or even a status indicator for a progress report. Or, it might be a list or a folder. A content type associates this item with key metadata or other information such as a template or a retention policy.

For example, suppose that you define a Sales Contract content type, and add it to the library that your team uses. Then, any time someone wants to create a sales proposal, they just choose Sales Contract from the New Document menu.

Drop down from New Document menu showing a Sales Contract content type.

A document content type like this Sales Contract might have these attributes:

  • The template for the document
  • Columns associated with the content, where each column represents an item of metadata. For example, the following list shows some frequently used document metadata:
    • Sales person
    • Client company
    • Purchase order number
      and so on…
  • A requirement to automatically display the Document Information Panel and collect required information every time a user creates a new file of this type
  • Information Management settings that spell out the retention policy, whether it can be audited, and so on
More about content types


Default and custom content types

By default, SharePoint includes many content types. In fact, every piece of content in SharePoint is created from a content type. You can use the pre-defined content types, such as Blank Document or Announcement, without any change, or you can create custom content types.

Default content types

Here is a short list of just some default content types in SharePoint. There are many more, which you can see by looking at the Site Settings page on a SharePoint site.

  • Digital assets content types   : Audio, Video, and Image
  • Document content types   : Basic page, Document, Form, Link, and Wiki Page
  • List content types   : Announcement, Contact, Blog Post, Task

Custom content types

Even though there are many built-in content types, you might want to create custom content types for your organization. Every organization has unique requirements and different kinds of content. For example, there might be formal contracts, reports, sales proposals, design specifications, company procedures, and so on. You can create separate content types to help you manage this variety.

Custom content types can make it easier for users to be consistent.

To create a custom site content type, you always start from an existing content type. You can choose from the large collection of pre-defined site content types in the Web Designer Gallery. The new site content type inherits all the attributes of its parent content type, such as its document template, read-only setting, or columns. After you create it, you can change any of these attributes. For example, you might want to use a different template than is specified in the parent.

Content types can be defined for almost any item in SharePoint. This includes documents and other files, list items, media files, and folders. You can specify the following attributes for each content type. These attributes are automatically associated every time that someone creates a new document or other file of a particular content type,

  • The document template, if it is a document
  • Information Management policies that state retention and audit policies
  • Columns (metadata) that are associated with the content
  • Workflows that items of this content type can use
  • Custom features

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Content type publishing

Content types are defined for a site, and apply at that site and its subsites. But sometimes, you want to use a particular content type on multiple sites, or across site collections. For example, your organization might use a standard template for documents that requires standardized metadata. Because you want all users in the company to use this content type for documents, it is good candidate to publish across all site collections. Or, perhaps the engineering department creates a content type for design specifications, and wants to publish it to just the engineering site collections.

Because content types include metadata, content types and metadata are very closely linked. In fact, a Managed Metadata service in SharePoint makes it possible to publish a content type to the sites where it is used. Sites and site collections that are part of the Managed Metadata service are called “subscriber sites”.

A Managed Metadata service must be explicitly created and configured. To include content type publishing, the administrator specifies a specific site collection as a hub. Connected applications and site collections can subscribe to the content types on the hub. By configuring Managed Metadata services, you make it possible to centrally manage content types. Content types are created at the hub site, and any updates can be automatically distributed to the subscriber sites.

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Applies to:
SharePoint admin center, SharePoint Foundation 2013, SharePoint Online Enterprise (E1), SharePoint Online Enterprise (E3 & E4), SharePoint Online Midsized Business, SharePoint Online operated by 21Vianet - Enterprise (E1 & E2), SharePoint Online operated by 21Vianet - Enterprise (E3 & E4), SharePoint Online operated by 21Vianet - Midsized Business, SharePoint operated by 21Vianet - admin center, SharePoint Server 2013 Enterprise, SharePoint Server 2013 Standard