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A SharePoint content type pulls together an item and information about the item. The item might be one of many different kinds of files, a document, an excel workbook, or even a status indicator for a progress report. It could also 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, you can 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.

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. 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.

To understand how the built-in content types relate to each other, see SharePoint in Microsoft 365 default content type hierarchy.

See Add a content type to a list or library

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, Task

This is just a sample of the wide range of content types available. To see the default types that are available on your site, follow these steps:

See all default content types

  1. Select the list you want to work with on the Quick Launch, or click Settings Gear shaped settings button and then click Site settings.

  2. Click Site content types under Web Designer Galleries.

  3. On the Site Content Types page, you'll see the content types (such as report, image, or document), parent (like document, item, or Rich Media Asset), and source (usually your current site).

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

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

To create a custom content type, follow these steps:

Create custom content types

  1. Select the list you want to work with on the Quick Launch, or click Settings Gear shaped settings button and then click Site settings.

  2. Click Site content types under Web Designer Galleries.

  3. On the Site Content Types page, click Create.

  4. On the New Site Content Type page, fill in a Name and Description for your custom content type.

  5. Under Parent Content Type, select a parent, such as Digital Asset Content Types or Document Content Types. Under the parent content type, the dropdown box will change. Select a more specific parent content type. For example, if you selected Digital Asset Content Types, you can narrow it to Video or Audio in this box.

  6. Finally, specify a group to put the content type into, such as Custom Content Types, or Folder Content Types.

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. 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.

See Publish a content type from a content publishing hub for more info on publishing content types.

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See Also

Add metadata columns to a content type

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