Introduction To Site Columns


In the previous article, I have explained Managed Metadata columns type. Along with that, we have completed all the available column types in SharePoint. So now, we will be moving up one more level and we will be exploring SharePoint in more detail. In today’s article, I will be covering,

  • Background
  • Limitations of List Columns
  • Introduction to Site Columns
  • Creating Site Columns
  • Summary


Consider a scenario where you have created a site collection and now you are creating many subsites based on the departments. The structure of sites is the same for all departments. The structure includes lists, libraries etc. Now, what you will do? You will create a list in the main site collection and then, create your columns into the lists and libraries, as shown in List Columns in SharePoint and then, you will save this list as a template as shown here Save list as a template in List Setting and your problem is solved. Yes, the problem is solved. Here, you have used the list columns. But is it a feasible solution? If you think yes, then here comes some trouble for you.

Imagine that you have added one column as Number but that column was supposed to be Single Line of text. Now, what you will do? You have several solutions, like

  1. Save the list as a template again and delete from all the lists from existing sites and recreate it. But it is not possible if the lists have data.

  2. Go to every list and update the column setting and convert the Number column type of Single line of text.

Both of the above solutions are correct but they are too time-consuming as you have used the list columns. And the list columns have certain limitations. Let’s explore the limitations of list columns first.

Limitations of List columns

List columns cannot be reused

List columns is a limitation to the list on which you have created. You cannot use the list columns to another list. Although if you want to use the list columns in the same site collection, you cannot reuse the list columns.

The scope of List columns is limited

The scope of list columns is up to the list only in which it is created, for example, you have created a List Column 1 in List 1. Then, you cannot use List Column 1 in List 2. You have to create a new column into the List 2. Although you can use the same name as List Column 1 to create a column in List 2.

You cannot have a lookup with another site. If you want to take the value from the parent site list, then also, you cannot take reference of parent site list into the list columns.

Introduction to Site Columns

So now you know what list columns are and what are the major limitations for the list columns. The columns which are created at a site or site collection level that can be reusable in multiple lists in the same site or subsite are called as site columns. If we compare the structure of list columns and site columns, both are identical. The only difference is that the site columns are hierarchical in nature. In other words, we can inherit the site columns to the multiple lists and libraries from to the same site or in subsites.

In order to understand the hierarchical nature of site columns consider the following figure.


So here, there is a Top Site collection. There, I have created a Site Column A so that Site Column A can be used in any of the subsites and subsites of subsites. The hierarchy will always flow from top to bottom level. For example, you can use Site Column A into the third level subsite also but you cannot use Site Column B into the top level site as it is created in the lower level of the hierarchy.

Also, you cannot use the site columns in the same level sites. For example, Subsite A and Subsite B have a common site collection as Site Collection A. The list columns created in Site Collection A will be reused in Subsite A and Subsite B, but if I create site columns in Subsite A, then that column I cannot reuse in Subsite B.

Creating Site Column

In order to create a Site Column, please follow the below steps.

Step 1

Open the site in which you want to create a site column. Click on the Settings gear icon and then click “Site Settings” menu.


If you are using a modern layout of SharePoint, then in that, you have to follow the below steps to open the Site Settings page.
Click on the Settings gear icon and then click on Site Information link.
And then, click on View All Site Settings link.

Step 2

Under Web Designer Galleries option, find and click on Site Columns.


Step 3

Here, you will see all the existing site columns list. In order to create a new column, click on Create link from the top.


Step 4

This will open up the Site Column creation window and from here, you can select the type of columns you want to create.


Here, you can see that there are several extra columns which I will be discussing in upcoming articles.

All the properties of the columns will be the same as we have seen in the previous articles of this series. The only option which will be new while creating site columns is Group.

Group is a logical collection which is used to classify the site columns from other existing site columns. By default, it will be created under Custom Columns. But you can select New group and add the group as per your name. In order to see how groups look, please see the below figure.



Here, every highlighted box is a group. These are created by default when you create a site.

Once you have created your column that will be listed under Custom Columns group, as shown in the below figure.



In this article, I have explained the basics of Site Columns, when should we use Site columns and when we should avoid using list columns. Also, I have discussed how to create site columns and groups of site columns. In the next article, I am going to cover the following topics. The next article will be in continuation of this article.

  • How to assign Site Columns to List
  • Editing of Site Columns
  • Deleting site columns
  • And the basic difference of Site Columns and List Columns.

Any question or feedback or suggestion, please do comment and let me know.


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