Basic Content Management Skills Every User Should Have

Managing Documents and Content on SharePoint - Skills Every User MUST Have

This article seeks to give some guidance on the Document Management features available on SharePoint, which should prove very useful in your day to day work.

Many organizations have been creating new Intranets based on SharePoint. One of the strengths of this new platform is the tools that are included for managing documentation stored on the network.

It's possible to become a career specialist in the field of Document Management, but thankfully it only takes five minutes to master the basic features of Document Management in SharePoint that will make your life a lot easier. This article aims to show you how to use those basic but essential features.

First of all, it's nice to have some idea what this term "Document Management" means. This is what Microsoft has to say about Document Management;

"Document management controls the life cycle of documents in your organization — how they are created, reviewed, and Published, and how they are ultimately disposed of or retained."

The "created, reviewed, and Published" part is what interests us here. When thinking about documents, there are three roles that people commonly perform;

Reader - someone who reads documents, the majority of people in any organization.

Contributor - someone who writes and edits documents.

Approver - someone who states that a document is in a suitable state for the Readers to see it.

We are all Contributors to documents at times. Sometimes we edit a document someone else wrote, sometimes it’s a new document. The document may contain sensitive information, or a message that needs to be approved before being issued.

When working on documents, there are several features you might need to safeguard your work;

  • The ability to lock a document whilst you are working on it
  • Hide the Document from Readers until it’s ready
  • Keeping versions of the document automatically
  • Requiring that a document is approved by someone in authority before being available to Readers
  • A folder structure or other information to help organize​ the content Security 

As end users, we don’t need to understand Folders or the Security model right now, though they'll be covered in a future article. For now we’ll concentrate on the first four bullets. Let’s look at how we can use these features on a SharePoint intranet.

Assuming you have Contribute Access on your Intranet and can try out the concepts when writing page content we'll look at the menu options. Below you can see part of a typical article page in a SharePoint Publishing site (well the ribbon buttons anyway!);

​​​SharePoint Edit Button

The top left area has an edit button, which when clicked opens out a Ribbon, just like in the latest version of Word or Excel. Once clicked, we get to see some of the features we’ve been talking about;

1. Locking a Document for Editing

One of the most useful functions on the ribbon surrounds the concepts of Check In / Check Out. This is the concept of locking our document while we work on it, and unlocking it when we’re done.

Check Out

Check Out locks the document for us to be the sole editor.

Check In unlocks the document, and saves a new version.

Discard Check Out unlocks the document without saving changes.

Override Check Out is used by Administrators to allow editing to documents when a user has forgotten to unlock them and left for a three week vacation in The Seychelles.

2. Hide the Document from Readers until it’s ready (Versioning and Approval play a part)

Hiding the document from Readers is linked to Versioning which needs a brief explanation here. If you get this, you are ahead of 90% of new users of SharePoint, and perhaps 50% of the veteran users!

There are three types of versioning you can apply to the lists that hold your documents;

i. None – one copy of the document is stored

ii. Major – multiple versions are stored with version numbers like 1.0, 2.0 etc

iii. Minor – the default version number increments like 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 whenever a Contributor Checks In the document. These ‘minor versions’ are not visible to Readers, and allow Contributors to work on documents without Readers emailing them to point out errors. When the document is Published, it assumes a ‘major version’ such as 2.0 which is then visible to Readers.

The versioning and approval needed is configured by whoever owns the list the document resides in. (The majority of users never have to touch those settings and so it need not be covered here.)

To Publish your document to a Major version, you click the Publish tab on the ribbon, and the options below will be presented;


Publish – Create a major version of the document so everyone can read it. Not everyone is allowed to do this, if Approval is required for the Publish (i.e. the document is sensitive) you may need to Submit for Approval.

Submit – Submit for Approval. This starts a built-in Workflow that asks an Approver if it’s OK to Publish the document to a Major Version.

Cancel Approval – Withdraw the request for Approval.

UnPublish – Withdraw the current Published Major Version back to a minor version so the document can be worked in. This is for when the Readers spotted that big mistake that both you and the Approver missed.

The major beginners mistake with SharePoint is to Publish the document too often, when a Check In would be the appropriate way to save your work. If a document has fifty major versions, you may have identified a SharePoint newbie who is way too fond of the Publish button.

If you understood this section, you are miles ahead of the average SharePoint User. Follow the flowchart below to be sure;

Success Self Assessment Flowchart

That’s it. The above two sections explain most of the concepts you need to do Document Management in SharePoint. Happy Contributing!

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with no warranties of any kind. The entire risk arising out of the use or
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