Monday, 27 October 2008

Document Information Panel: A simple explanation

People seem to get so needlessly confused by this topic. I blame most of it on the lack of any reliable definitions.

Many articles discuss the use of InfoPath for this purpose - indeed even the option in the SharePoint UI for creating a custom template launches InfoPath! But unless your customisations extend to things that cannot be achieved OOTB it's actually so much simpler than that.

There are two fundamental pieces of information which can help explain all this and save you from a world of pain.

  1. Your customisations to the Document Information panel found in the big-3 Office apps are made in SharePoint - not the target application.
  2. The Document Information panel presented in documents created from a SharePoint library are nothing more than the fields defined in your content types (or an InfoPath form if you opted for this route).

If you're lucky enough to have InfoPath and feel like introducing more complexity then you can create a custom form to manage field validation and other advanced functionality.

For the rest of us, try the following:

  1. Add a custom column or two to one of your Document content types.
  2. Add the content type to a Document Library.
  3. Click the New tab to open a new document (Word by default) and view the Document Information Panel. (Office Button -> Prepare -> Properties. You can also set this to open automatically in your content type settings under Document Information Panel settings .)

You should see all your custom columns. Columns marked with a red asterisk (*) represent mandatory fields. Yes, it's that easy.

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