The Document Set is a new feature in SharePoint 2010 Server that an organization can use to group related documents and files into a single unit that can be managed as a single SharePoint item. Grouping files into a document set solves a lingering yet common problem that business users have had with SharePoint out of the box. Custom development and third party solutions were the only options available to meet this need until now.
Some typical ways an organization can benefit from using document sets include:
- Aggregating groups of documents for recurring business reporting (monthly, quarterly, annual)
- Managing technical product specifications (requirements, design, test)
- Publishing product sales literature (datasheets, testimonials, reviews)
- Generating proposals (RFP, resource planning, pricing plans)
- Contract Management (contracts, change orders, support agreements)
A document set is a content type that you can add to a document library. The document library presents document sets with a custom web part page that displays and describe the document set’s contents. The web part page can be modified to suit specific business needs, for example, with the addition of a team contact list or task list.
Document sets are based on folders but can do things that regular SharePoint folders cannot. You can conduct many familiar SharePoint operations on a document set just as you would conduct with a single document or other SharePoint list item:
- Custom workflows
- Apply metadata
- Send To repository or Records Center
Custom document set workflows can now be created in SharePoint Designer 2010 to give your organization the ability to review, approve and publish with a repeatable team process for all content in a single document set. In earlier versions of SharePoint, you’d have to manually run a workflow for each document.
Within a document set, you can set up default documents as templates when starting a new project. With default documents in place, creating a new document set will also create all of the default documents, saving time and maintaining consistency.
Content owners and managers are painfully aware that when metadata tagging is skipped or incorrect, their content may not appear in page views or in search results. Creating and managing workflows on multiple related documents can become tedious, especially as the document count and number of metadata columns grow. SharePoint 2010 makes tagging a bit easier for document sets in two ways.
First, prepopulating document set fields with default metadata reduces tagging errors and speeds up the upload and tagging process for items in that set.
Second, document metadata is key to organizing and searching for content, and with a document set you can share metadata columns between documents in a set. If the document set is a monthly business report containing an Excel workbook, a PowerPoint deck and several word documents, you do not have to redundantly tag each file with the same metadata. Simply apply the metadata to the document set and any shared metadata columns will be synchronized with each document within the document set.
This is a new feature in SharePoint Server 2010, and there are some limitations your organization should keep in mind when considering using document sets:
- Requires at least SharePoint Server 2010. The document set feature is not available on SharePoint Foundation.
- Nesting document sets is not allowed.
- Cannot nest folders within document sets.
- Using a custom view “Show all items without folder” won’t show document sets because they are folder based.
- In-place records management feature is not available to document sets. Document sets can only be sent to Records Center.
- Aggregating documents from different libraries is not supported out of the box, but can be accommodated using link content types.
- Custom workflows for document set require SharePoint Designer.
- Document set welcome pages are not zipped up with the document set when sent to a Records Center.
Even with a version 1.0 feature set, document sets make it easier to publish and manage groups of similar content in SharePoint without a lot of custom development or reliance on third party tools.