The Content Organizer feature is a new routing feature that extends, enhances, and makes more broadly available the routing engine used in the Records Center site template from SharePoint 2007. It not only allows you to automatically route documents to different libraries and folders within those libraries, it can also be used for mundane housekeeping type activities such as making sure that no folder within a document library contains more than 5000 items, for example. When item number 5001 is added to the library, the Content Organizer can automatically create a new folder and put the document in that folder. All of this routing and folder creation can be handled automatically without further user intervention. After a document is uploaded and the required metadata applied, the upload form displays a Url to a document that has been routed so the user knows where to find it in the future.
Unfortunately the Content Organizer will only work on content types that are or derive from the Document content type. So it does not work for automatically organizing large lists.
This requires the Content Organizer feature be enabled. It is installed and shows up in the Site Features by default (NOT the site collection features) as the “Content Organizer” feature, but is not activated.
After you activate the feature there are two new menus added to the Site Administration section of your site settings: Content Organizer Settings and Content Organizer Rules. Content Organizer Settings is where you configure whether to route documents that are added to the site collection based on rules. Any changes made here affect routing for the entire site. Content Organizer Rules is where you go to create the rules that are used when routing documents. Any rules created here are used to route individual documents based on metadata attributes that you choose.
In addition, there is also a document library that is created when the feature is activated, called the Drop Off Library. It is:
· A library that users or custom code can use to submit new items that need to be routed
· Where all uploads may be temporarily routed if so configured in the Content Organizer settings (more info on that below)
· A temporary staging area for items that do not have all required metadata. For example, when multiple items are uploaded to a document library they will go into the Drop Off Library by default, in a state where they are waiting to be checked in. You need to edit the properties on the item, fill out any required properties and submit the changes in order to have the routing rules applied.
Content Organizer Settings
The Content Organizer Settings page is the home for settings that impact the entire routing experience in the site, and not just an individual rule. Here’s a quick run through of the settings on this page and their impact on routing:
Redirect Users to the Drop Off Library: if this property is checked, then all uploads are automatically placed in the Drop Off Library. When an individual document is uploaded, the document properties window for Drop Off Library is displayed, at which point metadata properties can be filled in and the submission process completed. After submission, the routing rules are applied to route the document appropriately and the user is shown the final Url for the item.
This may make for an unexpected user experience. For example, as will be discussed in the post on Content Organizer Rules, all rules are based at least initially on a content type. When you create a new rule, it looks to see if the Drop Off Library already has the content type upon which the rule is based. If it doesn’t, the content type is added to the Drop Off Library. A user may start in document library “Foo” and upload a document. The properties window is going to be based on the Drop Off Library, so it will show every content type associated with that library, not doc lib “Foo”. As a result, the user may pick a content type that routes items to doc lib “Bar”. Thus even though they started the upload process in doc lib “Foo” their document ends up getting routed to doc lib “Bar”. While this is good from the perspective of routing documents to the correct location, end users that are unfamiliar with how routing works in general or the rules that have been set up in particular may be confused by this experience.
This also affects the metadata that is displayed in the properties window after upload. For example, if site collection content types are used, then all of their fields and required field information will be shown in the properties window. However, if the content type definition has been modified in a particular document library (such as additional fields are marked as required), or if custom fields are added to the content type, those changes will not be captured because they are local to that document library, not the site collection content type. So if changes are made to a content type within a document library, or even fields are just added to a document library (which under the covers affects the Document content type in that document library by default), then those changes won’t be reflected in the properties window. The document will still get routed appropriately, but it can wind up in a document library without having had all of the properties that are required for that content type in that document library filled out.
If this property is not checked, routing is still possible in the site – however, you have to upload items directly to the Drop Off Library directly. If you upload items to other documents libraries then they will be placed where ever they were uploaded. If you upload it to the Drop Off Library then the routing rules process will move the document according to the rules.
Sending to another site: if this property is checked, rules can be created that direct uploads in the current site to be sent to another site that also has the Content Organizer feature installed. If this option is selected, when you create a new rule there will be a drop down list that contains all the destination locations items can be routed to. In order to add a new destination to the drop down list, you need to add the configuration information in Central Admin. You can do this by going to Central Administration, click on General Application Settings, then click on the Document and records centers link under the External Service Connections heading.
The list of document and record centers is maintained on a per web application basis. For example, if you have a web site on port 80 and you want to add a new destination document library in a web application that’s on port 81, you would add the Url to the library’s Official File web service to the list of Send To Connections for the web application on port 80. The web service Url is entered in the URL to router edit box and takes the form http://myserver/mysubsite/_vti_bin/OfficialFile.asmx. Note that if you try to add a site in which the Content Organizer feature has not been activated, it will not work – you are prevented from adding the site. As you add new destinations on this page, they should show up immediately when you create new routing rules.
Folder Partitioning: this is possibly one of the greatest new aspects of this feature. Like previous versions of SharePoint, this version also has suggested thresholds that should be maintained in terms of the number of items in an individual container. In SharePoint 2007 it was 2000 items; in SharePoint 2010 it is 5000 items, and farm administrators can configure that number up or down on a per web application basis with throttling rules to prevent users from selecting or otherwise acting upon more items than that threshold number. From a maintenance perspective, that’s always been a real headache to deal with – how do you subdivide your content? How do you make sure you don’t add too many items to a container? Who wants to write this code to effectively deal with it?
Well the good news is that in SharePoint 2010 we do that for you. When you select the Folder Partitioning option, you get to provide two additional parameters: the maximum number of items per container before a new one is created, and part of the name that should be given for each new folder. For example, you can turn on this property and configure it so that no folder contains more than 5000 items. When item #5001 comes in, SharePoint will automatically a) create a new folder, b) route the item to that folder, and c) tell the user final Url to the item that was just uploaded.
The name of the new folder is based upon the value entered in the Format of Folder Name: edit box. You can type in just about anything you want, with a %1 at the end. When a new folder is created, a date/time stamp is substituted in the name for the %1. For example, if you typed in “Additional Content Received After %1”, and a new folder was created for you at 3PM on January 15th, the folder name would be something like “Additional Content Received After 2010-01-15T15 00 00”.
Duplicate Submissions: this option controls what happens when an item is submitted that has the same name as a document that’s already in the destination library. You have the option to either use SharePoint versioning or append unique characters to the end of duplicate filenames. So if versioning is turned on in a document library that contains a file called steve.docx, and a new steve.docx is received, the new steve.docx becomes a new version of the same document if the SharePoint Versioning option is selected. If versioning is not turned on in the document library, or if the “append unique characters” option has been selected, then steve.docx will become steve.docx[something unique added here]. (NOTE: this was not working in a pre-beta 1 build but hopefully will be by the time you get the bits).
Preserving context: if this property is checked, then the original audit logs and properties for a document are kept with it after the item is routed. This is generally especially important when using Records Center sites so that you have all of the historical information about an item retained with it. If it is retained, you can click on Compliance Details from the View Properties page of an item.
Rule Managers: you will want to add users here in order to allow them to manage rules used by the content organizer. Even if they have management rights in the site, if they haven’t been added as a rule manager then they won’t be able to modify the organizer rules. Anyone that you do add here must also have the Manage Web Site permission in order to modify rules.
Assuming these users also have email addresses associated with their account, you can also configure in this section whether to email the Rule Managers either when content has been added to the drop off library and not moved out of it, or if an item was moved there during upload but an applicable rule was not found to route it. In that case, after it sits in the drop off library for x number of days (where x is 3 by default but can be any number you configure), it will send an email notification to all Rule Managers letting them know there are items still in the drop off library.
In the next posting we’ll look at the rules for the Content Organizer feature, which is really the heart of the system.