Best practices on working with documents and SharePoint.

When you work with documents there are some best practices, and it will make yours and your colleague’s collaborative life a lot easier when you follow these simple guidelines. In this post I’ll try to explain what you better try to avoid when you work with documents and SharePoint. Whenever it is possible, I also advice you what to do

1. Give your document a reasonable filename, avoid long filenames.

Use the TITLE field in the office applications to give your document a title (and subtitle and keywords, .) The title column can be used in a view in a library. You can get to the document properties by clicking on Office Button/Prepare/Properties. (Office 2007). This is metadata that is stored with the document, and will remain in the document (even if you exchange this document via e-mail, via an external hard drive …)
The filename cannot be longer than 128 characters. (and that is IMHO far beyond reasonable)
You cannot use any of these characters: ” # % & * : < > ? \ / { | } ~ 

2. Don’t use spaces in your filename.

While it is allowed to use spaces in your filename (and maybe it seems even logical to do so), don’t use them if your file will end up (or is born on) SharePoint.
When you use the “download a copy” functionality, SharePoint will replace the spaces with an “_”. This might (will) result in inconsistency when you upload the “same” file again, since SharePoint will see this as a different file (since the filename is different).
I recommend using a filename with Capitalization style naming guideline. For instance: the document “Overall governance model.docx” would be named “OverallGovernanceModel.docx”

3. Don’t store the version as a part of the filename, but use the build in versioning functionality.

SharePoint has a built-in versioning system. You can work with major (published) versions, and minor (draft) versions. Of each of these two document types, you can store a numbers of versions that are kept. Watch out, each version is saved, not only the delta between 2 versions, and this counts to your Site Collection Quota. (Example: you have a Word document with a size of 2 MB. When you keep 5 Drafts this will result in storing (and consuming) 10 MB.
So, don’t call your document “NewUserAccountProcessDRAFTv1.docx”, but “NewUserAccountProcess.docx” and use versioning setting in your library.

  • You can enable views on your library to display the version number.
  • You can enable the version number to be displayed in a Word document.

4. Use SharePoint as a Document Management Platform.

And I mean Platform, not just a secondary file storage location.
The file stored here is the “one version of the truth”. This is your starting and ending point. DO NOT send this document to people, but send links to the document. This way you’ll keep just 1 version of the truth

Use the Out Of The Box workflows to

  • Collect feedback
  • Make sure your team knows how to work with documents (Check Out, put comment in the document directly (Track Changes), Check in), and that they can complete a workflow task from within the document
  • Get a document approved (Approval workflow) (same here, you can approve/reject the document from within the Office Client)
  • Publish major versions

5. Use Metadata

Use metadata to assign other properties to documents, so it can be easily identified, sorted- or grouped by. I would like to refer to a post on “When (not) to use folders”. (this post is currently not posted yet).

When you work with documents there are some best practices, and it will make yours and your colleague’s collaborative life a lot easier when you follow these simple guidelines. In this post I’ll try to explain what you better try to avoid when you work with documents and SharePoint. Whenever it is possible, I also advice you what to do

1. Give your document a reasonable filename, avoid long filenames.

Use the TITLE field in the office applications to give your document a title (and subtitle and keywords, .) The title column can be used in a view in a library. You can get to the document properties by clicking on Office Button/Prepare/Properties. (Office 2007). This is metadata that is stored with the document, and will remain in the document (even if you exchange this document via e-mail, via an external hard drive …)
The filename cannot be longer than 128 characters. (and that is IMHO far beyond reasonable)
You cannot use any of these characters: ” # % & * : < > ? \ / { | } ~ 

2. Don’t use spaces in your filename.

While it is allowed to use spaces in your filename (and maybe it seems even logical to do so), don’t use them if your file will end up (or is born on) SharePoint.
When you use the “download a copy” functionality, SharePoint will replace the spaces with an “_”. This might (will) result in inconsistency when you upload the “same” file again, since SharePoint will see this as a different file (since the filename is different).
I recommend using a filename with Capitalization style naming guideline. For instance: the document “Overall governance model.docx” would be named “OverallGovernanceModel.docx”

3. Don’t store the version as a part of the filename, but use the build in versioning functionality.

SharePoint has a built-in versioning system. You can work with major (published) versions, and minor (draft) versions. Of each of these two document types, you can store a numbers of versions that are kept. Watch out, each version is saved, not only the delta between 2 versions, and this counts to your Site Collection Quota. (Example: you have a Word document with a size of 2 MB. When you keep 5 Drafts this will result in storing (and consuming) 10 MB.
So, don’t call your document “NewUserAccountProcessDRAFTv1.docx”, but “NewUserAccountProcess.docx” and use versioning setting in your library.

  • You can enable views on your library to display the version number.
  • You can enable the version number to be displayed in a Word document.

4. Use SharePoint as a Document Management Platform.

And I mean Platform, not just a secondary file storage location.
The file stored here is the “one version of the truth”. This is your starting and ending point. DO NOT send this document to people, but send links to the document. This way you’ll keep just 1 version of the truth

Use the Out Of The Box workflows to

  • Collect feedback
  • Make sure your team knows how to work with documents (Check Out, put comment in the document directly (Track Changes), Check in), and that they can complete a workflow task from within the document
  • Get a document approved (Approval workflow) (same here, you can approve/reject the document from within the Office Client)
  • Publish major versions

5. Use Metadata

Use metadata to assign other properties to documents, so it can be easily identified, sorted- or grouped by. I would like to refer to a post on “When (not) to use folders”. (this post is currently not posted yet).