Build a Custom SharePoint List

Build a Custom SharePoint List

We’ve covered a lot about SharePoint lists in this course.  You’ve learned that a SharePoint list is a collection of pieces of information– all of which have the same properties.  Let’s move on to what kind of lists SharePoint has built-in.

Built-in lists

  • Announcements
  • Contacts
  • Custom List
  • Custom List in Datasheet view
  • External list
  • Links
  • Promoted Links
  • Issue Tracking
  • Tasks
  • Import from Spreadsheet

You can use any of these right out of the box, as they are some of the most commonly used apps in the SharePoint world.  They are already setup and ready to use in your site immediately. Most of them are self-explanatory, but by just creating one and playing around with it you should be able to understand the functionality the offer.


Making a custom list
You probably weren’t too surprised to find that a Grocery List was not one of the built-in lists.  This is fine, we’ll just have to create a Custom List.

  • Click on Custom List
  • Give your list a name (Shopping List), and if desired click “Advanced Options”, and enter a description

You’ll be taken to the list, and you will see that you have a column (Title) created for you.

  • Click “+ New item”
  • Enter a title, “Eggs”

We’d like to create more columns to capture specific information about these items.

  • Click “edit” in “edit this list”
  • A grid will pop-up where the list was.  This is the datasheet view mentioned above.
  • Hover your mouse over “Title” and in the column header.
  • Click “Rename Column”
  • Change “Title” to “Item Name”
  • Then Click the “+” symbol on the left.
  • This displays 4 common column types, and an option for “More ColumnTypes…”, click More column types.
  • A window comes up with every column type that you can add.
  • Enter “Price” in the column name and select the “Currency” option.
  • We can make the field require input, enforce a unique value, min-max, and number of decimal places.
  • Select the option to make the column required
  • Click “OK”
  • Click “Stop” in Stop editing this list
  • Click “Eggs” under the item name column, and on the next page click on “Edit Item” in the top-left of your screen.
  • Enter a price for eggs.

Go ahead and add a few more items to the list with the “+ new item” link.  This way when we import and export in the next step we’ll have some data to work with. Feel free to add more columns in the same way.  Play with the options you have.  You can add a choice field for the name of the store, a yes/no box for coupon, and a text field for description—if you want.

Exporting a SharePoint list to Excel 
Now that we have our grocery list created in SharePoint with some columns and data, let’s see how we can export the list to Excel.

  • Click the GEAR symbol and click “Site Contents”
  • Go to your Shopping list.
  • When you open the list, you should see a “Ribbon” at the top of your screen with three tabs
    • Browse
      Hides the ribbon, and lets you browse through the site easily.
    • Items
      Contains commands that pertain to an item selected in the list
    • List
      Contains commands that pertain to the entire list.
  • Click the “List” tab.
  • Look for and click “Export to Excel” around the middle of the ribbon.
  • You’ll be asked to open or save the file.  Just open it for now.
  • Click “allow” or “enable” on any pop-ups you see. (You may need to enter your password as well)
  • You will now have a local copy of the list you can perform analysis on.

Remember, this is just a copy of the list.  If you edit the spreadsheet, you’re just editing the file, not the list.

Importing a Spreadsheet
One of the built-in list types we can use is Import a Spreadsheet.  I’ve created a sample spreadsheet you can save to your computer Here.  Download it and save it to a convenient place on your computer.

  • Go to the site in which you’ll be adding the list
  • Click the GEAR symbol in the top-right of your screen
  • Select “Add an App”
  • Select “Import Spreadsheet” from the available apps
  • Enter a name for your list, “My List”, and optionally, a description
  • Click “Browse” and select the file you saved earlier
  • Excel will ask you to select the range type and range. Leave the option as “Table Range”, and select the range listed in the box.
  • That’s it!  You’ll be taken to your imported list and be able to add items and columns immediately.

This was a long lesson, so have a coffee break, stand up and stretch, and when you’re ready, watch the video to review and see how it all works.


SharePoint List and Library Views

SharePoint List and Library Views

Now that we’ve covered the two most common SharePoint apps (Lists & Libraries) and we understand what they do and how they store and organize information into columns, the next thing to understand is how the information stored in the list or library is presented to users: views.

SharePoint uses views to display different information while maintaining the look and feel of an app.  So let’s use our grocery list again, only this time I’ll show you all of the information that list contains.

Store Item Name Section Description Price On Sale Coupon
Market St Bread Bakery Whole Wheat 3.99 No No
Market St Milk Dairy 2% Half-Gallon 2.49 No No
Market St Eggs Cold Foods Cage-free Organic 4.85 No Yes
Market St Dog Food Pet Supplies Purina Healthy Weight 12.69 Yes No
Target Towel Linens Egyptian Cotton 15.99 Yes Yes
Target Pillow Bedding Down Throw 24.99 No No


You might be saying “That isn’t the same list! There are two other columns, and two items have been added!”  Well, you’re partially correct.  Let’s pretend we entered the above list into SharePoint.

I would create a view (it’s really easy) which filters the items in the shopping list by the following criteria:

  • Only Show items from Market Street
  • Only Show the columns
    • Item Name
    • Description
    • Price
    • Coupon

Here’s what the shopping list in SharePoint would look like. The information is still stored in the list, but it’s filtered by certain criteria in the view I created. Pretty simple right?

Item Name Description Price Coupon
Bread Whole Wheat 3.99 No
Milk 2% Half-Gallon 2.49 No
Eggs Cage-free Organic 4.85 Yes
Dog Food Purina Healthy Weight 12.69 No


Views can be used with all libraries, lists, and most apps in SharePoint.  I’ll show some examples and give you an idea of exactly how creating views and switching between them works in the video.

SharePoint Versioning

SharePoint Versioning

I once worked for a client that would save every document with a time and date stamp in a big folder.  They told me they did that to know what the latest, most up-to-date version of it was.  When we implemented SharePoint, he found versioning once of the most useful features available. It also allows you to publish major and minor versions, with comments on each version available, as well as the date and time of the edits, and which user made the edits.  You can also browse the version history and even restore a previous version.  This actually saved my bacon many times when files would get corrupted on a client’s computer.  We simply pulled the last version from the library or their OneDrive and were back in action in seconds!

Which came first, the chicken or the Egg?
When you add a document to a SharePoint library, initially they’re stored in as a standard file.  If you open and edit the file, you’ll write over the original file with the changes. This setup can make keeping track of changes tricky. 

If you go into the libraries settings, you can turn on Versioning.  This will allow you to go into the Document Versions section of the context menu and see what was added, changed, all major and minor versions, as well as revert the document back to a previous version.

It is important to remember that when you enable versioning, each time a document is edited, it will create another copy.  Each version stored is another copy of the document and will count against the site quota (amount of space allowed for the site to use).  So it is best to set the amount of versions kept to be 3-5.  This feature is enabled by default on OneDrive, and is accessible in the context menu on a document one your OneDrive app launcher. 

SharePoint Document Libraries

SharePoint Document Libraries

In SharePoint, a library is a list where each item in the list refers to a file stored in SharePoint. Remember I mentioned that most of the built-in apps in SharePoint are based on the concept of lists?  A library is a list that holds documents as well as columns of information.

Check-in, Check-out—No late fees!
One of SharePoint’s biggest features is file-sharing and collaboration.  Users can work a single document in a library at the same time and SharePoint will keep the file updated as the users input information.  But there could be some situations where a user may need the file to be “off-limits” to others until they have finished working with the document.  SharePoint allows documents in libraries to be checked out to users, and keeps those files locked for editing until they’re checked back in.

Forms, Images, and Documents—Oh my!
Document libraries are the most-commonly used App, but there are other libraries to be mentioned.  Here’s a listing of some other types of libraries:

  • InfoPath Form Library
    Users can build a form with Microsoft InfoPath and then publish the form to a form library.  Other users can fill out the form and a copy will be saved into the form library.
  • Picture Library
    This is similar to a photo album, you can add columns to store more information on the images.
  • Media Library
    These libraries let you save audio and video files in SharePoint.
  • Site Pages
    A library specifically for storing pages from the website.  Created with every site/sub site
  • Site Assets
    This library is created along with the site pages library, and stores images and media that are referenced in the page.

Libraries are simply another kind of list within SharePoint.  I’ll give some examples and explain further in the video for this lesson.

SharePoint Lists

SharePoint Lists

When was the last time you went to the grocery store?  For me it’s a weekly thing.  Anytime I go, I’ve got a shopping list.  It’ll usually look something like this:

Item Name Description Price Coupon
Bread Whole Wheat 3.99 No
Milk 2% Half-Gallon 2.49 No
Eggs Cage-free Organic 4.85 Yes
Dog Food Purina Healthy Weight 12.69 No

Using the grocery list as an example, we can see that there are four columns to this list (Name, Description, Price, and A coupon field).  Each column in the grocery list above captures a specific type of information, whether it’s a small amount of text, a number, or a Yes/No.  The list item details are captured in the columns.  We wouldn’t put a person’s phone number and address into a shopping list– we would put it into a directory, or contact list.

SharePoint lists work exactly the same way. A SharePoint list is a collection of pieces of information– all of which have the same properties.    In the same way that sites are created for the express purpose of achieving a specific goal, lists are a way of capturing related information in a specific-fashion.  SharePoint lists have “Column Types” that specify what information you’re capturing in a list.

Column Types

  • Single line of text
  • Multiple lines of text
  • Choice (menu to choose from)
  • Number (1, 1.0, 100)
  • Currency ($, ¥, €)
  • Date and Time
  • Lookup (information already on the site)
  • Yes/No (check box)
  • Person or Group
  • Hyperlink or Picture
  • Calculated (calculation based on other columns)
  • Task Outcome
  • External Data
  • Managed Metadata

This may seem like a lot of information and you may not recognize some of the terms in the column types list, but, chances are if you don’t know what it is, you probably wont have to use it.  I’ll go into more detail on column types in the video.

Good News…
Here’s some uplifting news, any built-in “App” in SharePoint will be a slight variation on the concept of a list.  So if you understand the concept of a list, you’ll comprehend about 60-80% of what SharePoint does.

Did Someone Say Excel?
Also, lists can also be exported and opened in Microsoft Excel—with a button right on the screen!  Later on, I’ll show you how we can use lists and all of the features within them to make some powerful tools to help you work more efficiently!