Seems that SharePoint provides multiple ways to manage information, and I am confused on when to use metadata, dropdown or lookup column.

Now I have these requirements:-

  • Inside our document library I want to add “Document type”, so I implemented this as a dropdown as follow:-

  • Inside our team site I need to define our external customers, and then I am referencing them inside a meeting item. So I am saving the External Customers inside a custom list, and I define a lookup column which reference the external customer as follow:-

  • Finally we have a wiki library and we need to categorize the wiki pages so I added 6 metadata fields, such as document type, internal or external, related customers, etc.

So can anyone advice on when to use lookup over dropdown over metadata column? Now for me using lookup when I need to store additional info about the data such as the external l customer, where I need to store their email, telephone, etc, and not just referencing from other lists. while meta data allow me to filter and navigate the wiki pages using the terms. And for the dropdown it is not clear when to use it over the metadata?

Can anyone advice on these points


My general rule of thumb, if it is one off, I use a choice column. If it might be used in more than one place in my collection, I create a lookup site column column. If it is a company wide selection, I'd put it into Managed Metadata and use a column derived from that termset.

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    but i think you are assuming that there are not any major differences between the three options other than the from where you are using them (site scropt, company level, etc). but there are other major differences for example using choices will not allow you to have filtering and navigation (meta data navigation), also if you need to create a list let say list of customers,, then if you use custom list + lookup column,, then you can manage the customer info such as telephone, location, etc unlike just adding customers inside a drop-down list... this was my question .. – john Gu Jun 5 '15 at 12:35
  • one other note, is that even if i use a dropdown i can define the dropdown as a site asset and use it all over the sites,... so are these three options meant to be used on the same business scenarios ,, i do not think so ?what do u think ? – – john Gu Jun 5 '15 at 12:46
  • Metadata and sheet view don't play nicely together. – StupidOne Jun 5 '15 at 13:16
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    That is why I said general rule of thumb not a hard fast rule I abide by. – Eric Alexander Jun 5 '15 at 13:17
  • so is my current approach of using the three types considered valid ? – john Gu Jun 5 '15 at 13:38

This may seem like resurrecting an old thread, but this answer will be useful to others who wander in with the same question:

It all depends on how you are going to display the information, what type of customizations you want in the future, and whether or not you will be designing workflows for the data. I say that because managed metadata in SP13 and onward comes with many caveats, one being that you cannot (easily) manipulate the data in workflows without jumping through hoops. Additionally, if you ever decide you are going to want to use custom InfoPath forms for your new/edit/display pages, you will find that MM fields are not supported. You will need to build a custom solution with VB Studio for that.

Lookup columns from the same list are very easy to manipulate in both InfoPath and workflows. But when you start branching lists (lookup column in a separate list) you will find the same issues exist when trying to use InfoPath forms. Additionally, you will not be able to use the sorting feature for views on 2nd generation lists.

I've struggled for a long time with managed metadata for the use of contact cards even using the shared properties only because when I want to display my data in a neat fashion (name, demographics, etc) the workflow has WAY to much to do in regards to stripping out the MM headers to just concatenate the data in a pleasant looking form, at least when using out-of-box features.

Again, if you are not focusing on the need for workflows, Infopath forms, or special sort/filter views, Eric's answer is a good rule to follow.

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