I am following Wrox Book Sharepoint 2010 Professional Development.

In chapter 9 (Electronic forms) they told me to create a training list with some columns - done.

On chapter 12 (Workflows), they told me to create a content type with the same columns, and then associate the list with the new content type.

So, whats the deal here? whats a content type? What happens when I associate a list with a content type? what happens if I dont associate them?

The item content type was already there, can I delete it and leave only training content type?

What else can I do with content types?

2 Answers 2


Content Types are a big subject and could fill pages of material. The short answer is that a Content Type is a reusable schema for the attributes of an object. When you define a Content Type it can be defined and managed centrally and then applied to the different types of lists and libraries that are valid. For example, you might define a Customer Content Type with a standard set of fields and then apply it to multiple lists and libraries.

When you define custom fields within a specific list it is unique to that list. That is fine for one-off type requests but not for common reusable content definitions.

  • 1
    So I create a content type called customer and then I use it on multiple lists, it means that each of those list will have the columns of that content type, right? So it means that for those lists I wouldnt have to create the columns by hand because they are inherited from the content type right? Aug 24, 2010 at 2:13
  • @Mike-Great Answer. @Luis-You are correct. Something else to keep in mind is that a list can have more than one content type associated with it. So let's say you have residential customers and commercial customers. They would be two different content types (inherited from customer). They would likely have some common fields and some unique. Each content type would have its own new/edit/display forms, but the list view could display what is common across both types, for example.
    – Rob Wilson
    Aug 24, 2010 at 2:35

Another very useful/powerful thing to point out is that Content Types support cascading updates. So if you modify a Site Content Type, such as adding or removing a column, all lists which use that content type have that column added or removed.

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