You are visiting the High Monkey blog archive. Posts prior to 2016 may not meet accessibility standards. Please visit our current blog area at to view accessibility compliant blog posts published since January 1, 2016.

A list can be used by the Chart Web Part and it can also do this…

Written By: High Monkey
Posted: 8/3/2014

(From the mind of Peter Serzo, Previously VP of Consulting Services at High Monkey)

There is no debate, one of the core components of any successful SharePoint implementation is the use of a list. The issue becomes not one of use, but over use – too many items in a list. At the end of this article I will show you how to address this pain point positively making users and SharePoint happy out of the box!
PART I - Features
It always starts with features. Almost everything we are talking about in regards to lists also pertains to libraries. Let’s take a look at five features that you can utilize with a list.

  1. Custom Columns. A user can create their own columns with the attributes they wish to utilize.
  2. Content Types. By default, a custom list uses the Item Content Type; however, you should create a custom content type and then utilize that. Extremely powerful.
  3. Every custom list has three forms associated: New form, edit form, and display form. Using SharePoint Designer one can modify these forms to include extraordinary functionality and to change the look of the forms.
  4. A stellar use of a custom list is to import an existing spreadsheet right into SharePoint. This creates a custom list which could render the spreadsheet null and void.
  5. A custom list can be an RSS feed. Let your RSS reader keep track of new items and read them directly in the reader without having to navigate to the site(s).

PART II - Pitfalls
These features are great but there are some potential pitfalls to be aware of when using these. If these features are not used properly, mayhem and unhappiness will occur.
The first item to be aware of are custom columns. Thought should be put into the usage and naming of this metadata. The first thing you should check before you create a new column is determine if there is one that exists already. If there is not, the column should be created at the top level site – preferably the site collection level. Doing this will minimize duplicate columns.
Making too many columns is another pitfall. I see this in the case where the custom list was imported from Excel. This causes other issues including usability of the list. When adding data the pain point becomes filling in all columns.
Additionally, if you want to create a dashboard from this list using something like the CQWP, there is a “cost” to configuring and executing.
Configuring forms via SharePoint Designer is fantastic, but it takes a thorough knowledge of the list infrastructure including XSL and HTML. You could inadvertently corrupt your list.
PART III – A Happy Ending
By far the most asked about question I get in regards to lists (including libraries) is what is the max number of items? We all know there is a “limit” to how many items we should have in our list or library. I will leave raw numbers and limitations to MSDN.
We will focus on information piling up quickly and massaging that data in a list to keep it useful. This becomes job #1 for users. Retention of data in a list over the years can cause issues such as list usability and lethargy. Inevitably the question becomes how to archive items.
Enter the little used Information Management Policy setting called Retention. This is found on the list (or Library) settings as the last item under Permissions and Management. When clicked you will see the content types for which you can set a policy. Please use a custom content type here. In most cases (99.99%) you do not want to set a policy for every item of Content Type Item.
After you click on the content type you will see a check box by Retention. When clicked a properties box appears like below: List Retention Workflow

Now you have the option to create a custom workflow:

  1. Event – this sets the initiation of the workflow
  2. Action – This tells the workflow what to do with the item. There are several choices including moving the item to another location (like a list called archive) or starting an existing workflow.
  3. Recurrence – How often does this workflow run?

A Retention workflow is an easily overlooked or forgotten about feature which I hope you will now implement. Pruning your lists with this functionality makes SharePoint happy and your users happy. And there is nothing better than a happy ending for all.

Chad's Bio Coming Soon!

More About Virgil

Virgil Carroll is the owner and president of High Monkey – based in Minneapolis Minnesota. Virgil also wears the multiple ‘hats’ of Principle Human Solutions Architect and SharePoint Architect.

Virgil is one of those rare individuals who can dive deep into technical topics while speaking clearly to the business owners of a project and never forgetting that the end user experience has the highest priority. He calls it using both sides of his brain. Virgil is passionate about leveraging technologies ‘out of the box’ as much as possible with a focus on the strategic use of content to create websites that deliver the right content to the right audience on the right device at the right time. Virgil brings high energy, an ironic wit, and a sense of grounded perspective whenever he speaks to an audience. Virgil regularly speaks at conferences and user groups throughout the United States and occasionally in Europe.

Posted: 8/3/2014 12:00:00 AM by Brian Haukos | with 0 comments