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Is there any way to add categories/heirarchies to sharepoint discussion boards without using coding or modifying 14 hive?

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You didn't specify whether you're using 2007 or 2010 but adding a column to the list is a valid solution in either version. If you're looking to establish hierarchies then this may be preferable to a keyword-type solution anyway.

I use discussion boards to feed an FAQ/knowledgebase scheme and always extend the discussion boards with additional columns. If the metadata choices in the columns aren't subject to a lot of change then a Choice column might suffice, but if the metadata is more fluid then I'd suggest a lookup. If the scope extends to more than one discussion board (especially in more than one site) then you might also want to consider using site columns (in 2007) or managed metadata (in 2010).

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Its in sp 2010. yeah, this is roughly what i've implemented (using a lookup). But the thing is, the levels of nesting will vary greatly between teams. In my design, I'm using three levels (3 lookups: Forum>Category>LOB>Team) but that's not always the case. that's why I'm looking for a more fluid solution (something like the 'real' forums out there) that gives me form categories like as if I was just putting discussions into folders. – Mel Oct 20 '11 at 6:11
If you're looking for more fluidity then I'd probably take the "real" forum approach and just use tags instead of a more hierarchical approach, but I understand the challenge as it's hard to combine the two. Guess that's essentially repeating tarjeieo's answer above. – SharePointEric Oct 20 '11 at 18:19

You can for example use Enterprise Metadata and Keywords. Go to list settings -> Enterprise Metadata and Keywords Settings -> Select 'Add an Enterprise Keywords column to this list and enable Keyword synchronization'

Another alternative is to add a column to the list. Under Columns, select Create column, and create a new Metadata column, or perhaps choice/lookup column if it's only used in one/few lists.

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I've tried this but I'm having difficult with the presentation (tried using filterfield querystring and CQWP). How do you think this can be presented to users? – Mel Oct 20 '11 at 6:15
I've would have modified the view and maybe put on some 'taggish' style on the category data. – tarjeieo Oct 20 '11 at 6:24

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