Document management in SharePoint includes documents life cycle from their creation to archiving. The system allows to store and organize documents so that they can be easily found and shared by users thus enabling collaboration.
When organizations do not have any kind of formal document management system in place, content is often created and saved in an unmanaged and decentralized way on scattered file shares and individual hard disk drives. This makes it hard for employees to find, share, and collaborate effectively on documents. This also makes it difficult for organizations to use the valuable business information and data.
SharePoint supports your organization's document management needs by providing a broad set of document management capabilities that enable you to do the following:
- store, organize, and find documents;
- ensure the consistency of documents;
- manage metadata for documents;
- help protect documents from unauthorized access or use;
- ensure consistent business processes (workflows) for how documents are handled.
SharePoint sites are optimized for creating, using, and storing large numbers of documents. Documents are located in libraries which are part of SharePoint sites. Libraries include folders which contain documents. The structure of libraries and folders need to be carefully constructed to ensure that it is easy to navigate to documents.
You can sort and filter items in libraries and create customized views.
A library usually has versioning turned on. Versioning lets you track changes to documents, and it helps you manage content as you revise it. Versioning is especially helpful when several people work together on projects, or when information goes through several stages of development and review. With versioning turned on, you can restore an earlier version as your current document, or view an earlier version.
Versioning requires users to check out and check in documents. Requiring check-out helps prevent conflicts and confusion over changes, because only one user can change a file at a time. When you require check-out, a file is checked out when someone opens it for editing, unless another user already has it checked out.
While you have a file checked out, your changes are not visible to others until you check the file back in. When you check in a file, you are prompted to enter comments about your changes, and the comments become part of the version history. And because the documents library tracks major and minor versions of a file, you are prompted to choose which type of version you are checking in.
Minor revision is designated as a number with a decimal - 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, etc. It is a draft document. Use minor revision when you continue to work on the document. If you finished working on the document, choose major revision which is designated as a whole number - 1, 2, 3, etc. In other words, drafts are the minor versions of files or list items that have not yet become major.
By performing check out and check in functions the system keeps track of the document versions and assigns the next consecutive version with the check in function. This makes it possible to view previous version of the document or restore the document to the previous version.
If you set up a library to require content approval, then documents are not published until someone with the appropriate permissions approves the document for publication.
A content type is a reusable group of settings for a category of content that describe the shared behaviors for a specific type of content. You can use content types to manage the metadata, templates, and behaviors of items and documents consistently. Content types enable organizations to organize, manage, and handle content in a consistent way across a site collection. You can define a content type for each type of document that your organization creates to ensure that these different types of documents are handled in a consistent way.
For example, two content types called User Manual and Product Specification. When team members go to the Document Center to create a new document, each of these content types appears as an option on the New button in the document library. Each content type specifies its own template, so that all user manuals and product specifications share a common format.
Each content type also specifies its own custom columns, so that, for example, all user manuals contain metadata about which product models the manuals apply to. Each content type even contains its own workflows, so that the team can be confident that every user manual follows the same feedback and approval processes. And because product specifications are contained in a different content type, those documents can follow different processes and have columns that require different metadata.
Each document has metadata associated with it. This metadata in SharePoint is called columns. One of the primary ways that users find documents that are uploaded in a SharePoint library is by browsing or searching using metadata.
When you open or edit a document, you can edit the document metadata. If custom columns are added to the content type for that document or to the library where that document is saved, these column values are displayed as metadata fields.
To support common document-related business processes, SharePoint offers built-in workflows that organizations can use to manage tasks such as document review, approval, and signature collection. Workflow is defined as the automated movement of documents or items through a sequence of actions or tasks that are related to a business process. Workflows help organizations manage document-related business processes more efficiently, because they automatically track and manage the human tasks involved in these processes.
For example, instead of sending e-mail to reviewers, a writer can start a workflow on the current document right from Microsoft Word document. The workflow takes care of managing the process, including sending notification messages to reviewers, creating tasks for them, and tracking the status of those tasks. Reviewers can complete their tasks in Word 2007 or in SharePoint.
Additionally, by using SharePoint Designer or Microsoft Visual Studio organizations can develop custom workflows that manage business processes that are unique to their organizations.
SharePoint offers several ways for organizations to help protect documents that are saved to a SharePoint site from unauthorized access or use. Organizations can apply Information Rights Management (IRM) to an entire document library to protect an entire set of documents. IRM enables you to limit the actions that users can take on files that are downloaded from SharePoint lists or libraries.
IRM encrypts the downloaded files and limits the set of users and programs that are allowed to decrypt these files. IRM can also limit the rights of the users who are allowed to read files, so that they cannot take actions such as printing copies of the files or copying text from them. IRM can thus help your organization to enforce corporate policies that govern the control and dissemination of confidential or proprietary information.
Another way to protect documents is by configuring permissions for individual sites, libraries, or folders. If there is a document library to which you want to restrict access, you can edit the permissions for this library to define who has the permission to view or edit documents in this library.