Metadata Defaults in SharePoint Server 2010

SharePoint Server 2010 unleashes new features such as managed metadata and metadata navigation that make metadata even more important. But a big problem for many SharePoint projects is getting metadata onto documents. It is important to consider the tradeoff of metadata vs. user tax. As the number of metadata columns that must be filled in increases it becomes less likely that users will fill in metadata because it is that much additional work to go through and see which columns actually apply. If a large amount of required columns are used then user adoption may be slow because it is so taxing to upload content. In a very open and collaborative scenario this can be detrimental. But as the value of the content and effort to create that content increases, it becomes more likely that users will take the time to fill in the appropriate fields, especially when this operation is not frequent.

For any SharePoint project you should carefully consider what metadata will be needed to perform required operations and for users to find content. Evaluate how long it will take users to fill in that metadata, and evaluate the user impact. If lots of metadata is required but end users do not adopt the system because the overhead for creating content is high it will be difficult to have a successful implementation.

Metadata defaults help with this problem because you can automatically fill in metadata for users. If a particular field will have the same value 50% or more of the time then you should specify a metadata default to help users fill in forms faster. Metadata defaults can be specified for each column at the site level, list level, and folder level. Metadata defaults inherit from each other and the child default will always override. For example if a default is set on a folder and there are defaults for the list and the site column, the default for the folder will be applied. If there are defaults for a column and a list, but no default for a folder then when an item is added to that folder it will get the list default. When users create or upload a new item the metadata default will be applied and be displayed in the edit properties form. The user can then change the property as needed. By planning for and setting metadata defaults early it will be easier to evaluate what the metadata defaults should be and how they can be used to help make it easier to get metadata applied to items.

Metadata defaults are supported on the following column types:

· Single Line of Text

· Choice

· Number

· Currency

· Date and Time

· Yes/no

· Managed Metadata

Setting metadata defaults when editing columns:

When creating or editing a column at the site or list level there is a field to specify a default value. You can specify defaults at the site level, and then override them at the list level.

Setting metadata defaults with the tree control:  

In libraries you can use a tree control to set metadata defaults for the library and per folder. To do this go to library settings and click on the link “Column default value settings”. This will give you a tree control that you can use to navigate the folders in the library. You can set defaults at the root of the library as well as for each individual folder. Folders will inherit default values unless you specify a particular default value for the child folder.


Metadata defaults are a great way to help place metadata on columns. You can even use it to apply defaults on hidden columns so users never even have the option to edit the field, but they can use the metadata to navigate and retrieve content.


Quentin Christensen

Program Manager, Document and Records Management