SharePoint Metadata | An Introduction

by | MS SharePoint

In this blog, we’ll show you how to organize your files through folder structure. We’ll also talk about the benefits of SharePoint metadata for organizing and locating our files easily compared to using folder hierarchy. 

SharePoint metadata is the additional information about your files, not the content of the files. It helps users to easily locate, retrieve and organize your content.

Organizing our files properly helps us locate them correctly which is crucial for our productivity. On our computer, we usually group our files through folder structures or hierarchy.

Using The Traditional Folder Structure On SharePoint

Some people still prefer to organize their files using folders. For this example, we have a folder named Expenses – TRADITIONAL.

SharePoint Metadata

Inside this folder are the sample expenses reports from the different departments of our company. The initial organizing that we did on these files is by renaming them.

E stands for expense, followed by the department name, what the expense is for, then a random number code at the end. In a large company, there might be a hundred of these reports every day. Hence, organizing them through names won’t be that helpful. 

SharePoint Metadata

The first thing that we can do to organize them is by creating folders and separating them by their departments.

SharePoint Metadata

So, we moved all of the accounting expense reports to the accounting folder, HR expense report to the HR folder, and so on.

SharePoint Metadata

So, that’s the traditional way of organizing our files in our document libraries. 

Using Folder Hierarchy Instead Of SharePoint Metadata

However, using folders or directory systems limits us by having only one way of grouping our files. For this instance, it only allows us to organize based on one category, which is the department. So, if we want to look at all the travel, or supplies related reports, we need to look for them on each of the department folders. That’s not really efficient and makes locating files still difficult. 

Another problem with only using folder hierarchy for organizing files are file duplicates. We might want to group our files by departments and also by their expense type. With these, we might intend to save a copy of the same file but within each folder.

We can also search our files on SharePoint via the search field. However, some users might spell their file reports incorrectly. 

Benefits Of SharePoint Metadata For Organizing Files

SharePoint metadata gives additional information on our files such as file name, creation date, who created it, file size, file type, and many more. This helps us organize, retrieve, and locate our files easily.

In the example image below, we can see the metadata through the Name, Modified, Modified by, Department, and Expense Type columns. There are a lot of ways to utilize these metadata columns like creating Views, Grouping by, and Filtering

We can create more metadata columns and customize them based on our needs. Some metadata columns such as Modified and Modified by are automatically populated which means that we can’t change them. 

For our example file, we created the Department and Expense Type column together with filter and group by feature. 


Therefore, we can easily group or find the files by department or by their expense type.

We can also use SharePoint metadata for information security like blocking users from viewing or editing some files. With this, we can safely store files that are private or sensitive within our organization. 

***** Related Links *****
Adding SharePoint Files To Your Computer
SharePoint Templates For Document Libraries
SharePoint Document Library | Beginners Tutorial


To sum up, we’re able to understand the difference between organizing files through folder hierarchy and using SharePoint metadata. Keep in mind that SharePoint metadata is the information about your files, not the content of the files.

It’s completely customizable depending on your roles and industry. The most powerful feature that metadata provides us is by having the ability to group, sort, or find our files easily. You will learn more about this once you understand how to add metadata columns. 

All the best,


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