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I am working on a SharePoint site with very basic privileges. No access to central admin, unable to create a term store, no SharePoint designer, etc.

All I need to do is create a bunch of document libraries. These document libraries will contain Word docs and PDFs mostly.

The users want an ability for them to add multiple keywords and associate them to the documents they upload so that they can search for those documents using those keywords. They don't want to be restricted to a set of keywords so I can't use a check box and I cant use drop downs either because they want to be able to associate multiple keywords to one document. They will also have to add new keywords when they upload new documents.

Keeping in mind all these conditions and restrictions. I created a column called Tags that allows multiple lines of text. The idea is to let them enter the key words they want separated by a semicolon. Will the out-of-the-box be able to search on those keywords entered in the Tags column? Is there an entirely different approach that will work better?

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The "right" approach would be to use either an Enterprise Keyword field (associated with the document library) or a Managed Metadata Column bound to an open term set. Since you say they are tying your hands and not letting you use the features of SharePoint. I would start with Enterprise Keywords.

Failing that, you can also use a choice field with "Allow users to enter values" selected.

I would not use your approach with a text field (though search will find the values it's not what the field was meant for.)

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