The Document Information Panel is great – it allows you to surface metadata to be filled in about a Word 2007 document in the client.
This is great, but I had a bit of a puzzling problem. I’ve set Libraries up to use this features many times now, and it’s pretty straight forward – I’ve added columns to the library, and then the template document for the library has included those columns. Thus, you just go into your document library, click new, and you get a blank word document with the correct document information panel thing. Sometimes I’ve modified that template, but that’s pretty straight forward through the Library Settings pages (Document Library Settings > Advanced Settings > Edit Template).
This time, though, I was using content types (i.e. setting up the library properly), rather than just adding columns directly to a list. Content Types encapsulate (amongst other things) their own set of metadata to be captured – so in other words, they define columns to be added to a list. That’s fine (and very useful).
However, when I went to my document library, clicked ‘New’ and selected my Content Type, I got a blank word document with only one field in the document information panel – title. The blankness was expected (I’d not defined my own template) but none of the other bits of metadata I’d defined for my content type were there. This was a bit of a puzzle. What was different?
Well, after much thinking, I realised something – Content Types ‘inherit’ from each other. My Content Type derived from the Document content type, which specified just one field of metadata – Title. Then it hit me – content types themselves have document templates. My new content type was inheriting from Document, and it was still using the Document content type’s template document. I specified my own template document for my content type and suddenly I had all of my fields available in the document information panel.
It is interesting that there is this difference between the document information panel fields being defined by the library when just using the default ‘Document‘ content type and no others, and the fields being defined by the content type you’ve created if you’re using other types (I.e. you’ve enabled ‘Allow management of content types’ on the Document Library Settings > Advanced Settings page).
Related to this, then, is the question of what happen if you add a column to a list. However, I’ll cover this in another post.