Managed metadata is a hierarchical collection of centrally managed terms that you can define, and then use as attributes for items in SharePoint Server.

  • Managed terms, which are usually pre-defined, can only be created by users who have the appropriate permissions, and are often organized into a hierarchy.
  • Enterprise keywords, which are merely words or phrases that were added to SharePoint items. All enterprise keywords are part of a single, non-hierarchical term set that is named the keyword set.

Both managed terms and enterprise keywords are stored in a database known as a term store.

Reference: Overview of managed metadata in SharePoint Server 2013

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