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In a recent article, Adam Harmetz, Lead Program Manager for SharePoint Document and Records Management, explained how new document management features in SharePoint 2010 (news, site) build on SharePoint 2007.

In a follow-up to that article Harmetz and Quentin Christensen, Program Manager for SharePoint 2010 Document and Records Management, outline how a new component called Document Sets will help users organize multi-document worksets.

Document Sets In SharePoint 2010

So what are document sets? Document sets are components, similar to folders, that enable users to collaborate on related documents without having to create a new document library or site.

Their purpose is to help organize unmanaged documents and enable collaboration on documents that have all been invested with similar metadata.

Already in use internally in Microsoft and by some of the company’s clients who are doing proof of concept trials with SharePoint 2010 beta, Document Sets sit between documents and sites.

When you access a Document Set you get a web part page that displays the documents like they would be displayed in a document library view. The advantage is that the features that come with a Document Set makes working on a workset quicker and easier to track. Some of those features include:

  • Common metadata for documents in a document set
  • Automatic creation of default documents when document sets are set up
  • A web part page called a welcome page that displays all the content of the document set

Examples of projects where document sets are used include:

  • Research projects
  • Software development specifications
  • Knowledge management repositories
  • Usability studies

In fact, one of the examples cited is work on Microsoft Office. When working on it, each of the different parts of the project which finally became features were assigned to different teams. The features have specifications, development plans and test plans. Using Document Sets enabled more efficient collaboration between these teams.

Why Use Document Sets?

In a business context, use of document sets will depend on the company or vertical in which they are being used. Completely customizable, they can be adapted for many different processes such as case management or research projects.

Harmetz and Christensen cite the example of a company that regularly has to develop sales campaigns or proposals. Document Sets enable sales teams to create presentations, proposals, spreadsheets or contracts with shared metadata or which require the application of shared workflow processes.

Document Sets make it easy to use columns for metadata on the Document Set itself as well as the documents within the Document Set. And in order to make management of the document set elements even easier, the properties of that set are displayed on the web part page, or welcome page.

Document Sets Features

There are a number of specific features that come with Document Sets that make it easier to manage related documents. Let’s have a quick look.

Welcome Page

The starting point is the default welcome page that contains all the information a user needs about the Document Set and which can be customized according to users’ needs.

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An example of a non-customized document set welcome page with a few documents.

The default page includes a list of properties. However, this is customizable by specifying what document set columns show up here. The page also lists the contents and documents that have been included in the Document Set.

The welcome page is also shared by all content of a particular type and displays any changes that have been made to the Document Set.

Content Types

Users can specify exactly what kind of content can be included in the Document Set. It also allows them to specify documents that will be automatically created at the same time a Document Set is created. This effectively allows users to dictate what templates can be used.

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Because columns can be shared, metadata only has to be updated in one place for it to be applied to all the documents contained within the Document Set. This ensures metadata consistency and that all documents have required metadata.

Send Document Sets

Specified in central administration, this feature enables users to send Document Sets to a content organizer. Content organizers are new to SharePoint 2010 and enable users to send content to folders, sites or libraries based on metadata.

Customizable Ribbon

Document Sets have their own ribbons to carry out actions. There have been improvements to ribbons right across SharePoint 2010, which are now similar to those that are used in Office applications.


Workflows can be assigned to Document Sets rather than individual documents so that each document is subjected to that workflow.

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SharePoint 2010 Document Set workflow

There are a number of workflows specific to Document Sets and contained in SharePoint Designer 2010. Workflows include version capture, or start and approval processes amongst others.

SharePoint 2010 And Business Collaboration

In an analysis of some of the principal differences between SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010 we noted that one of the promises was that SharePoint 2010 would be less about technology capabilities and more about how these technologies support business and business collaboration.

In outlining one of the areas in document management, Harmetz and Christensen have demonstrated just how SharePoint 2010 will do that.

There’s still a lot more to say on document management and SharePoint 2010. If there are issues particular to this that you would like some insight into leave a message on the Microsoft Enterprise Content Management Team blog on download the SharePoint 2010 beta and have a look for yourself.