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SharePoint 2010: Using Taxonomy & Controlled Vocabulary for Content Enrichment

The semantic enrichment of content through the application of metadata tagging is a critical activity in the creation of a well managed and usable information environment. SharePoint 2010 brings a number of key features to this domain. Here's the how and why of SharePoint content enrichment.

There are a number of reasons why tagging is so important to enterprise information, including the enhancement of navigation (filtering/sorting mechanisms, guided navigation), improvement of search (relevancy, faceted search and best bets) and personalization (suggestions for related content, job role, location or department).

Tagging in SharePoint 2010 is approached from two perspectives, with the first originating from controlled vocabularies via Metadata Terms. Controlled terms are managed in a Term Set and surfaced as part of a document’s properties using the Managed Metadata column. The field itself is directly bound to a Term Set — or subset thereof — and enables users to easily browse available Terms for tagging. Important functionality appearing as part of the user interface includes:

See related article: Overview: SharePoint 2010 Metadata and Taxonomy Management


As characters are entered into the Managed Metadata field, type-ahead functionality offers Term suggestions along with Term Hierarchies to the user. Suggestions originate from the taxonomy and are presented in a flat list.


Hover Tooltip

Defined Term attributes are displayed to the user when the mouse hovers over one of the suggested items.

Hover Tooltip

Attributes for terms displayed include:

Preferred Term — Identified as the Default Label, this is the preferred word or phrase that should be used for tagging (“Contract Management”).SP2010_PreferredLabel.jpg
Preferred Term

Term Hierarchy — For Managed Terms, the word or phrase location within the hierarchy is also displayed as part of the Term presentation to provide additional insight for the user. Term properties, listed beneath the Member Of label, display all locations where the Term is in use. (“Topic: Administration”).

Term Hierarchy

Description — A statement intended as a message to taggers that provides instructional text on how the Term should be used. (“Use this tag to identify official documents that are binding legal agreements enforceable in a court of law.”).


Synonyms — Identification of words, phrases or abbreviations with meaning the same or similar to the preferred term (“Contractual Agreement; Vendor Licensure”). Synonyms are displayed in the hover tooltip, but cannot be selected themselves for tagging.


To the far right of the form field is a tags icon that when selected, displays a popup window containing a hierarchically browsable list of terms that includes the functionality and attributes described above. Depending on the Term Set properties, users can then apply one or more Terms and metadata to an item.

Browsable Terms

Caveat: The ability to search a Term Set for specific words or phrases as part of the tagging interface is not present in SharePoint 2010. For large taxonomies containing hundreds or thousands or terms, it can easily become overwhelming and time consuming to browse through a potentially seven level hierarchy to locate the best Term — particularly if the user is unfamiliar with the structure and content of the Term Set itself.


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