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Let’s face it – nobody reads employee handbooks! When I worked in a corporate world, the only time I referenced an employee handbook was when I needed to inquire about a vacation policy and wanted to know about the official holidays the company observed so I could plan my away-from-the-company time. Most employee handbooks remind me of “War and Peace” novel in terms of its volume. Finding something relevant is a pain in the ass! One thing that I became quite successful at lately with my clients is the conversion of these employee handbooks to SharePoint document library with metadata. This concept might not be novel but surely allows for a better way to organize such documents and most importantly, for end users to find them.  Let me explain the approach and technique behind this so that you can implement the same in your organization and successfully convert an employee handbook to SharePoint (or any other large document or manual for that matter).

The Approach to convert an employee handbook to SharePoint

The idea behind the conversion is that instead of burying information into one big employee handbook or policy manual, you break it apart into multiple documents. For example, you might have an employee handbook with 200 pages and a table of contents (TOS). Such a document might have sections and paragraphs related to vacations, medical insurance, benefits, computer policy, you name it.

The idea is that you split all of these sections into separate documents/files. Then, you load them all into a single document library with metadata. So your metadata would be used to categorize the different chapters and sections (files) and help users find exactly what they are looking for. And of course, since the document library is fully searchable, your users will be able to search and find relevant sections not just by metadata you define, but also by keywords/text search.

Below is an image that represents the proposed solution.

Let’s go ahead and build this together.  Let’s pretend we are converting an Employee Handbook.

Step 1: Create a separate document for each of the section

I suspect you know how to do this. It will help (though not that important) if you name each file what it is.  For example, if it is a vacation policy or Resignation guidelines, name them accordingly (i.e., Vacation Policy.pdf and Resignation Guidelines.pdf)

Step 2: Decide on metadata

This is the most challenging step. Most often, you have your employee handbook broken down into various chapters and sections and related to a particular topic. When converting to metadata, you might not necessarily utilize the same chapters and sections. Instead, you might want to ask yourself a question on how your employees may want to find a particular piece of content/information.

For example, here are the suggested metadata properties along with corresponding tags:

  • Chapter Name/Category (i.e., Overview, Employment Information, Attendance at Work, Benefits, etc.)
  • Chapter/Section Numbers (i.e., Section 1.1, 1.2, etc.) – this is not necessary, but if you need to maintain those – this can be a piece of metadata as well
  • Department Owner (i.e., HR, IT, Compliance, Finance, etc.)
  • Type (i.e., Policy, Guideline, Process, Form, etc.)
  • Target Audience (Full-Time, Part-Time, Contract Employee, Intern Employees, Summer students)
  • Effective Date

By the way, when getting ideas for the Employee Handbook Sections and Chapters, I referenced this excellent resource. Check it out.

Step 3: Build your document library with metadata

On a site where you want to build the library (i.e., Human Resources Site), create a new document library called Employee Handbook. Then build all the metadata columns. Here are a few tips for this:

  1. For most of the drop-down columns above, you can use a Choice Column Type
  2. For Chapter (Section) Names, I suggest that you use Term Store metadata. This will allow you to create subsections using the Term Store Term Hierarchy feature, as shown below. This will help users find relevant information for either the whole Section or just a subsection.
  3. For Section Numbers, I also suggest that you use Term Store metadata. This will allow you to create subsection numbers (i.e., 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.3.1). Such an approach will also allow users to filter documents by particular sections (i.e., just 1.2 & 1.3) or by the whole chapter (i.e., Chapter 1 and all the sections underneath)
Step 4: Create different views

While users will be able to filter documents themselves, it might help to create a few special views for them. For example, you can filter by Target Audience = Full-Time.

or Group by Document Type

These ready-to-use views can help users see the relevant documents within a click, without doing any filtering on their own.

You can also train users to utilize the Filter option themselves – with the amount of metadata we have – it is quite robust and useful.

I also recommend using Compact View to save some real estate on the screen.

This is it! We built it together! Mazel Tov! It is time for a drink – Lehaim!

Other types of documents that can benefit from the same approach

I think you will agree with me that the new way of organizing this information is much sleeker, more user-friendly, and easier for everyone. When a particular clause has to be updated in the Employee Handbook or a Quality Manual, you no longer need to revise the whole document, save it as PDF and maintain an accurate Table of Content (TOC). Instead, you can update a single document within the document library above.

Here are other use cases that might benefit from the approach above.

  • Employee Handbook
  • Policy Manuals
  • Work Instruction Manuals
  • Quality Manuals
  • Any large document with a Table of Contents (TOC)

The post How to convert an employee handbook to SharePoint library with metadata appeared first on SharePoint Maven.

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If you are a fan of metadata, just like me, I am sure you heard about or use SharePoint Term Store. Term Store for Metadata is what a Cuban Cigar is for cigar lovers. Once you start using it, you won’t use anything else. I love Term Store and blogged about its many amazing features previously. One of the advantages of the term store is its flexibility to add and manage metadata (compared to a Choice Type Column). With this post, I would like to list several different options on how you can add terms to the Term Store in SharePoint.

Before you can use any of the options, make sure you add yourself as a Term Store Admin. Follow the instructions in this post (Step 3).

Option 1: Manual Entry

The most obvious choice is to manage the terms within a Term Store manually. To do this:

  1. Click on the little drop-down next to the desired Term Set
  2. Click Create Term
  3. Type new values one by one
  • A great option to add a small number of terms
  • Requires that a user is an Admin of the Term Store or a Group Manager of the Term Group (folder)
  • Not practical if you need to add hundreds or thousands of terms
Option 2: Excel Import

If you have lots of terms to add at once, you can import them using the Import feature. To do this:

  1. Download the sample Excel Import file from the Main Term Store Screen
  2. Fill out the terms according to the sample file example
  3. Click on the drop-down next to the term group where you want to import the term set to, then click Import Term Set
  4. Browse to the Excel CSV File, click OK
  5. You might get error messages if it does not like certain characters, but if all goes well, it just imports the Term Set
  • Great way to add lots of terms at once
  • Especially useful if you have hierarchies of terms (levels) as those can be easily defined in Excel
  • Only works for a new term set. If you have an existing term set and need to add values, this technique will not work
  • Requires that user is an admin of Term Store or a Group manager of the Term Group (folder)
Option 3: End User Manual Entry

The other cool option to add terms to the Term Store set in SharePoint is to allow end users to add new terms on the fly when they tag documents or other types of content. Here is how to set this up:

  1. Click on the Term Set that you want users to add terms to
  2. On the panel on the right, under Submission Policy, choose Open, then click Save
  3. In the list or library where the corresponding metadata column exists, go to list or library settings
  4. Click on the column, at the bottom, under Allow Fill-in, set it to Yes, click OK
  5. Now when users try to tag an item, and the particular tag does not exist, all they have to do is click on Add New Item and type the term in.
  6. Once the term is added by one user…
  7. …it now will become part of the Term set and be available for other users to use/tag against
  • Allows users to add their metadata on the fly without bugging site owners or IT Admin every time new tag needs to be created
  • Governance. Might lead to Wild West if users create erroneous or similar metadata with a slightly different spelling. Just like in the image above, a user added a new Fiscal Year on the fly, but failed to follow the same naming convention adding a space between FY and YYYY
  • Users can only add terms using this approach, not delete or modify. This means that erroneous tags must be removed from the Term Store by the Term Store Admins or Group Managers

The post 3 ways to add terms to the Term Store in SharePoint appeared first on SharePoint Maven.

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Did you know that every time you create an item in a SharePoint list or add a document to the SharePoint document library, it gets its unique ID number? This might become handy in specific business scenarios. With this post, I would like to show you how you can add a unique identifier to a SharePoint list or library for various business needs.

How does Unique Identifier work?

The idea is pretty simple. Essentially each entry in a SharePoint List or a Document Library gets a number (ID). The first entry gets 1, and then it is sequential from there (incremented by 1).

Benefits of the ID column
  1. The ID number is unique. If you delete a list item or a document, it is never used again
  2. ID Number (unique identifier) is auto-incremented for you automatically
Limitations of the ID Column
  1. ID Column is unique to the list or library
  2. If you use ID Column to track documents, this will only work as long as all documents being tracked are stored within the same document library. If you need to have a unique ID for a document across the board (all sites and libraries), you need to utilize a feature called Document ID. This is a topic for another post, though.
How to display a Unique Identifier (ID Column)

Some built-in lists, like an Issues Log, already have the ID column automatically displayed.

If you have a Custom List, you have to add (display) ID Column manually. Here is how you do it:

  1. If you are using a modern list, click +Add column > Show/hide columns
  2. Click the checkbox next to the ID field, then hit Apply. You can also drag the column to the top if you want it to appear on the left side of the list
  3. Don’t forget to Save the view so that changes won’t be lost
  4. The column will now appear in the list
  5. If you use a classic list, you will need to edit the view as shown in the screenshot below
How to rename the ID Column

You can rename the ID field to a friendly name if you wish (i.e., Risk # or P.O. Number)

Use Cases for Unique Identifier (ID Column) in SharePoint lists and libraries
  • P.O. numbers: If you use a SharePoint custom list to track purchase orders, your ID number can serve as a unique identifier for a P.O. number
  • Help desk ticketing system: If you use SharePoint to track help desk tickets, each ID can serve as a unique identifier for a logged ticket[image]
  • Issue/Action Items Tracker: Anytime you use SharePoint list to track issues/tasks/action items/risks, you can use the ID number to identify each issue/row.

The post How to add a Unique Identifier to a SharePoint list or library appeared first on SharePoint Maven.

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The reason I decided to write this post is that I want to clarify for you, my loyal blog followers, how you can invite users to an Office 365 Group site. Unlike a regular SharePoint site, you have an additional option when it comes to sharing an Office 365 Group Site. So with this post, I want to explain the choices you have, as well as the consequences of each sharing option.

How to invite new users to a SharePoint Site

Let’s first revisit how Site Permissions work on a regular SharePoint site (a regular site not connected to an Office 365 Group).

  1. Gear Icon > Site Permissions
  2. You then click Share site
  3. Type the name of the user, specify permissions level you want the user to have and click Add
What happens when you invite new users to a SharePoint site

Depending on the permission you have given a user in the previous step, they are added to one of the three SharePoint security groups (Owners, Members, or Visitors).

What will the user have access to?

The user will have access to everything on a site – all web parts, pages, document libraries, etc.

How to invite new users to an Office 365 Group Site

Let’s go ahead and repeat the steps from above on a site that is connected to an Office 365 Group.

  1. Gear Icon > Site Permissions
  2. Click on Invite people. Ha! Look at what it says. It gives us two choices: Add Members to group and Share site only
What is the difference between Add Members to group and Share site only

If you add members to a group, the recipient will get access to all the components of the Office 365 Group (SharePoint site, Planner, Teams, Outlook calendar). By sharing just the site, you are just sharing a SharePoint site connected to the group – the recipient will not have access to Teams/Planner/Outlook.

How to invite users to an Office 365 Group Instructions
  1. Gear Icon > Site Permissions
  2. Click on Invite people, then Add members to group
  3. Click Add members
  4. Type the name of the user you are inviting and click Save
What happens when you invite new members into the group

Because Office 365 Group by itself is a security group, you will not see the names of the users if you click on Site Permissions. Instead, you will see Office 365 (security) Group being part of a SharePoint security group. The screenshot below should explain it. So when I added Mary as a member in the step above, she became part of the Sales Members (Office 365) security group, which in turn is part of Site Members (SharePoint) security group. Makes sense?

By the way, while we are on this subject, with Office 365 Groups, you only have two levels of security: Owners (Full Control) and Members (Edit). That’s why you only see Owners and Members in the screenshot above and no Visitors.

What will the user have access to once invited to the group?

The user will get access to all the elements that make up an Office 365 Group:

  • SharePoint Site
  • Email distribution list
  • Shared Outlook calendar
  • OneNote notebook (part of a SharePoint site)
  • Planner tool
  • MS Teams (if one exists)
How to invite users to just the SharePoint site

Now, there could be situations when you need to invite users to the site and not the whole group. Here is what you need to do this case.

  1. Gear Icon > Site Permissions
  2. Invite people > Share site only
  3. Type the name of the user and click Add. Since we are just sharing the site, you can also toggle between different permission levels (Read, Edit, Full Control), just like on a “normal” site.
What happens when you invite new users to a just a SharePoint site

Depending on the permission you have given a user in the previous step, they are added to one of the three SharePoint security groups (Owners, Members, or Visitors).

If you notice (and I hope it makes sense by now), since I invited Mary to the SharePoint site only, she ended up inside SharePoint Site security group (alongside an Office 365 Group which controls group membership).

What will the user have access to?

The user will have access to everything on a site – all web parts, pages, document libraries, OneNote notebook. The user will have access only to the SharePoint site and no other elements that are part of the group (Outlook, Teams, Planner).

Use Cases for sharing the Site Only

So I am sure you can see the benefits of sharing just the site and not adding someone into the membership of an Office 365 Group. Essentially anytime you want to share files and folders stored on a site, but not your Outlook conversations, chat in Teams or Tasks in Planner, you will be better off inviting users just to the site. Also, anytime you want to give recipient read-only access – inviting them to the site will be a smart thing to do. Because when you add a member to a group, they are automatically added to the Members security group which gives them add/edit/delete privileges. When you invite them to a site, you can toggle the permission level and give them read access if necessary.

The post 2 ways to invite users to an Office 365 Group Site appeared first on SharePoint Maven.

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Replicating SharePoint sites has been a no-brainer for many years now. You would build a site, save it as a template, then create a new subsite or site collection based on the template. A pretty painless and straightforward process that I document in this post. But now that we have Office 365 Group sites, how do you replicate Office 365 Group Sites based on a template? When you create a new Office 365 Group, you don’t have a template selection option. It just provisions a site based on a default Microsoft template.

But what if I want to save a particular look and feel and web parts and metadata and make sure all of my Office 365 Groups are consistent? This can be handy if I use Office 365 Groups for projects, for example. What complicates matters here is the fact that every Office 365 Group site is a standalone site collection, not a subsite. Luckily, there is a way around this. This article will explain how to replicate Office 365 Group Sites based on a template. So grab some wine and popcorn and enjoy the show!

Step 1: Create a site you want to replicate

The first step would be to create a site you want to replicate. I won’t spend much time here since I published posts previously on how to do this, so please check out this post if you want to create a nice-looking site. Go ahead, use your imagination, create the look and feel and metadata and anything you might need in your site!


  1. You can create your site as a brand new site collection or as a subsite in a site collection. Location does not matter since you will be saving this site as a template anyway
  2. If you choose to create a subsite, make sure NOT to create it in default (root) site collection. Create one in any other (custom) site collection. Otherwise, you will get an error message when you try to replicate that site later on.  Something has to do with various site collection features. Anyway, not something you should be worried too much here, create a site somewhere else, and avoid the trouble.
Step 2: Create a Site Template

Now that the site has been created, create a template out of it. Please reference this post for step by step instructions.

Step 3: Create a brand new Site Collection based on the site template

Once again, I have instructions in the same post from above. Make sure to create a separate site collection, not a subsite. Otherwise, you will not be able to connect it to an Office 365 Group in the next step.

Step 4: Connect Site Collection to a new Office 365 Group

OK, now the most exciting part! We are going to create a new Office 365 Group, but we are not going to create it the usual way (from Outlook or SharePoint Home). Remember, with those options, it will just spin up an out of the box template. Instead, we are going to rely on a feature that recently became available in SharePoint Online, and that is the ability to connect any existing site collection to a new Office 365 Group.

I have documented step-by-step instructions on how to connect a site collection to an Office 365 Group here.

That is it – nice and easy! And without a single line of code! SharePoint out of the box rules!

The post How to replicate Office 365 Group Sites based on a template appeared first on SharePoint Maven.

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Content roll-up and aggregation from multiple sites has always been a big Matzo Ball in SharePoint. If you wanted to achieve some content aggregation in old (classic) SharePoint, you had to rely on either a Content Query or Content Search Web Part. And while they allowed to aggregate data in one place, user experience was terrible. And oh yeah, did I mention that you had to have Ph.D. in SharePoint to set them up?

Example of Content Query Web Part (CQWP) setup screen

Example of Content Search Web Part (CSWP) setup screen

Thanks to Microsoft’s ongoing modernization of SharePoint, we now have a great way to roll up content from multiple sources. The web part that allows us to do this is called Highlighted Content Web Part (HCWP). With this post, I would like to explain what the HCWP web part is all about and how to use it to roll up content across your sites.

Step 1: Add Highlighted Content Web Part to the modern page
  1. Edit the page
  2. Hit the “+” sign, then choose Highlighted Content
Step 2: Configure HCWP Web Part
  1. Click the pencil icon to edit its properties
  2. First, you can configure the sources (which sites you will collect info from). In case you use Hub Sites, you can aggregate info from the whole Hub!
  3. You then can specify the type of content being aggregated. Most of the time it will probably be documents, but you can also choose other types as well
  4. Next, you can set your filters and the sort order (both optional). you can get pretty advanced, with filtering by managed properties as well (as depicted in the example below)
Use Cases for using Highlighted Content Web Part (HCWP) web part
  1. Display recently modified documents on a site or the whole Hub
  2. Roll up of documents based on a specific piece of metadata (managed property)
  3. Roll up of Pages, based on metadata for a company Wiki

The post How to roll up content from SharePoint sites using Highlighted Content Web Part appeared first on SharePoint Maven.

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File sync to the desktop has become a common feature these days. That’s understandable as it is far more convenient to work out of personal C: drive in a very familiar File Explorer environment rather than logging in to SharePoint every time. Moreover, Wi-Fi is not always present, and users want continuous access to their docs. That said, syncing files to user’s desktop presents a set of challenges for an organization and the user. So today, let me explain how to disable sync in SharePoint.

Issues with sync Missing out on all SharePoint document management features

If you rely on synced files and folders, that means you are not utilizing all the incredible SharePoint document management features like metadata or versioning which are not available in Windows Explorer!

Accidental deletions

When you delete a file or folder in SharePoint, you get a warning. When you delete a folder from the synced SharePoint document library, it is removed without any warnings. And because it is a two-way sync, your files are automatically deleted in SharePoint as well. Yes, you can still restore those files from the Recycle Bin, but you don’t want to get that far. You may want to read this post to learn how to stop sync to prevent accidental deletions.

Intellectual Property all over the place

Perhaps the biggest issue with OneDrive sync is that now you will now have Intellectual Property all over the place. With sync, the data is not just in one place in SharePoint; it is on everyone’s laptops. And you know well what can happen when users take laptops to coffee shops and airports, and those laptops are stollen. Now you got your company files in someone’s hands.

So while the sync is undoubtedly a nice convenience feature, think twice before allowing your users to use it. Sync is turned on by default in SharePoint. So if you want to disable it, there are a few ways for you to do it.

How to disable sync in SharePoint Option 1: Disable sync at the library level

If you want to generally allow synchronization in your environment, but restrict specific libraries from being synchronized, you can disable sync locally, for a given document library. Here is how to do this:

  1. Navigate to the library where you want to disable sync, then click Gear Icon > Library Settings
  2. Click on Advanced Settings
  3. Scroll down to the middle of the page, and under Offline Client Availability, select No (default is Yes)
  4. Click OK at the bottom
  5. You will now notice that the library lacks a Sync Button
  6. And by the way, if the user synchronized this library before sync-de-activation, he/she will see the following message pop-up on their screens. They will still retain the data they synchronized previously though
Option 2: Disable sync at the Site level

You can go one step further and disable sync for a given site. Very important to note, I am talking about sites and not site collections here. Click here to understand the difference. This trick might be useful if I am a Site Owner and have several document libraries on my site.

  1. Navigate to the site where you want to disable synchronization. Click Gear Icon > Site Information
  2. Click View all site settings. If on the classic wiki page, you can click Gear Icon > Site Settings instead of these two steps.
  3. Click on Search and offline availability under Search
  4. Under Offline Client Availability select No (default is Yes)
  5. Click OK at the bottom of the page
  6. Just like with Library changes above, you will see the Sync button disappear from the library (or all libraries located on this site).
How to disable sync of user’s OneDrive

You can also prevent synchronization of the user’s own OneDrive for Business. This way users won’t be able to access their files unless they log in to OneDrive via a website. To do this:

  1. App Launcher > Admin
  2. Navigate to OneDrive Admin Center
  3. Click Sync, then uncheck Show the Sync button on the OneDrive website checkbox (it is checked by default), then click Save
  4. Wait a few hours (it takes a while to propagate through tenant)
  5. You will now notice that the Sync button in user’s OneDrive has disappeared

The post How to disable sync in SharePoint and OneDrive appeared first on SharePoint Maven.

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