Creating a "Departments" Dropdown using a Lookup Column

Columns are the basic building blocks of SharePoint and are part of every SharePoint List or Library application. In the image below, the Name, Modified By, and Modified labels are columns. Columns are used to store additional information (such as Department owner) about the document and provides the ability to sort, filter, and group our documents by these column values.

Columns

Columns are created using one of the various built-in column types, which are shown below.

Built-in Column Types

In this tutorial, I will teach you how to create a dropdown column of Departments using a Lookup column type. A Lookup column is connected to a SharePoint list for its set of values. If a new department is added to the Departments list, the values in the connected lookup column are updated automatically. Using this approach provides SharePoint users with a consistent and relevant set of values.

IMPORTANT: To perform the steps in this article, you will need to be an administrator on the site that you are working on. This article also assumes that you are familiar with uploading a new file to a document library.

Go ahead and navigate to the site that in which you will be working in. I'm going to be using my Training site. There are three steps to creating and using the Departments column. They are:

  1. Create the Departments List
  2. Create the Departments lookup column
  3. Add the Departments column to Shared Document library

Creating the Departments List

Use the steps below to create the Departments list. This will be a very simple list and will have a single column, Title, which will be used to store our department names.

On the site, click the "gear" icon in the upper-right corner to reveal the Site Actions menu, highlighted in the red box in the image below:

Access Site Actions Menu

From the menu, click Add an App.

Add an App Menu

On the Site Contents screen, select Custom List from the list of available apps.

Custom List of Apps

On the Create App page, type Departments in the list name field, then click the Create button.

Create Custom List

Your list should be created successfully and appear in the list of available apps.

List of Available Apps

Now we need to add department values to our new Departments list. Open the Departments list by clicking on the icon. On the Departments list page, click the List tab, then select Quick Edit on the left side of the ribbon.

Quick Edit

Quick Edit mode provides you with an Excel-like interface to quickly add values into the list. Click in the first box under the Title and add your department values.

Quick Edit Mode

I added the following values to the Departments list:

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Information Technology
  • Human Resources
  • Benefits
  • Payroll
  • Marketing
  • Corporate Communications
  • Engineering
  • Sales
  • Legal
  • Project Management Office

Go ahead and add the values above to your Departments list. When complete, click the Stop editing this list link right above the list view/search box. The Stop editing link is shown below, boxed in red.

Stop editing this list

Now that the Departments list is created and you finished adding values, we are ready to create the Departments lookup type column. Go ahead and click the gear in the upper right corner of the SharePoint window and select Site Settings.

Site Settings under Trainer

On the Site Settings page, click the Site Columns link, which is located on the left column, under the Web Designer Galleries heading

Site Settings, Site Columns menu item

Click the Create button in the upper left. This will open the Create Column page.

Create Column

Type Departments in the Column name box and select Lookup (information already on this site) for the Type of Information in this column selection.

Column Lookup

Scroll down the page to the Addition Column Settings section. In the Get Information from: dropdown, click the arrow and select Departments

Get Information from Column Lookup


Now choose Title from the In this column: dropdown and click the OK button.

Choose Title from Column

We have now successfully created the Departments column and are ready to put it to use in our Shared Documents library app. Click the Gear in the upper-right corner again and choose Site Contents from the menu.

Choose Site Contents

On the Site Contents page, click the Documents app

Select Site Documents App


On the Documents page, click the Library tab and then click Library Settings on the right side of the ribbon.


Click Library Settings on Documents Page

On the Library Settings page, scroll down to the Columns section and click Add from Existing Columns

Add from Existing Column

On the left side of the column picker, scroll down the list until you find Departments in the Available site columns list, Click on Departments and then click the Add button

Column Picker

The Departments column will be added to the "Columns to Add:" list. Click OK to add this column to our Documents library.

Columns to Add

Click the Documents breadcrumb link to return back to our Documents library.

Documents Settings

Upload a file to the document library. When you upload a single file, the properties dialog appears providing you the opportunity to tag the document with a department. I chose Marketing and clicked Save.

Sample Document

You can now see the tagged Marketing document in the document list.

New Document from Library

Go ahead and experiment. Add a new department to the Departments list, upload a new document to the document library and choose the new Department value in the Departments dropdown. Lookup columns are a terrific way to tag your documents with consistent metadata values.


Author: Eric Stepek, one of Accelebrate’s SharePoint instructors

Next: Projecting Additional Columns in SharePoint



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