How SharePoint views work
Now that we've talked about metadata, we can get into the next step, which is one of the best features SharePoint has to offer: views.
SharePoint document libraries and lists give you the ability to filter, sort, and group files and items, so you only see the stuff you want to see, how you want to see it. What makes it all significantly better is the ability to save the way you filtered, sorted and/or grouped your info into what's called a view.
Views require metadata. You can use the metadata that comes with a library/list, and you can use custom categories and tags that you implement in your library/list. The latter is basically a collection of categories relevant to your organization; branch office, department, document type, review status, and similar concepts are common uses.
Although you can create views in lists just as easily as in libraries, I'm going to stick with libraries for this post since that's usually the most relevant to the everyday SharePointer.
Playing with the default view
A brand-new document library will automatically sort its files alphanumerically by the Name field (note: not the Title), 1-0, and then A-Z. You don't have to do anything for that to happen.
But if you want to sort by, say, the modified date (placing the most recently edited files nearest the top since they're likely more relevant than other files), you can do that with two clicks, as shown below.
Note: The modern document library experience is currently limited to SharePoint Online, and only in systems where the administrator has turned it on. SharePoint 2013 and 2016 still use the classic document library experience, and so do many SharePoint Online systems, since moving to the modern document library experience requires a rollout plan.
So, if you sorted the files like shown above, congrats! You basically made a view! But, it's only temporary. The next time you load the page, it will once again display the files alphanumerically by the Name field.
Let's say you want the library to always load with the files most recently edited on top. Or, let's say you made lots of sorting and filtering options that take time to reproduce every time you go to the library. You can do that by saving the setup as a new view. Call it, say, "Recently edited?. Let's try that.
Create a view with "Save this view?
The simplest way to make a view is to sort and filter the available columns in the library the way you want them. You'll notice once you make any change in how the files are displayed, you'll gain the option to "save this view? or "save view,? depending on which document library experience you're using. Click that link.
If you're a Site Owner, you have the option to make this view a public view or personal view:
If you're not a Site Owner, you're not able to make it a public view. The difference is this:
Public view: Everyone who has access to the library can bring up a public view. This is useful if your team likes to have quick access to files based on various views. Making these views easy to find as opposed to making your colleagues sort and filter makes their lives easier. Consider asking your team if they have views they prefer and give a few example views to show them how it works and spark some creativity. They'll probably like the option and ask for others. Public views can only be created by a Site Owner.
Personal view: Only the person who creates the personal view will be able to see it (hence the name). This is handy when you have specific views that are applicable to you, but nobody else. You want quick access to the view, but you don't want to add extraneous views that get in everyone else's way. These are especially useful when you create a "My documents? view. Personal views can be created by anyone with read access to a library, but are only visible to the person who created that view.
Creating a complex view
The downside to a brand-new library is the lack of columns it shows you in the default "All Documents? view. Libraries actually come with some 20+ columns that SharePoint records information about (and you can take advantage of), but it only shows you four to start.
There are a bunch of other ones that you can use to sort, filter and group by. And that doesn't even count any custom columns that you've created (tags, metadata, whatever you'd like to call them).
Using these columns can make for significantly faster and more efficient use of your library when trying to find the right files.
Instructions on how to create a complex view will come out with a later post.
Views are easy to find, though they kind of hide in plain sight. All of the views available in a library can be seen in either of the two places shown below for SharePoint 2013, 2016, and the classic document library view in SharePoint Online. And you can see views in one place in the modern document library experience.
The two locations in the classic document library experience are:
In the library: Right below the library name, above the first file that gets displayed is a listing of the most recently accessed views. The library usually only displays three views, max, and you have to click the ellipsis to see the complete list.
In the ribbon: When in doubt, check the ribbon. If you select the Library tab and point to the "Views? section, there's a dropdown menu that will let you switch between the available views.
While it can be tempting to have a lot of views, you're probably already seeing the potential for this list to get long. As the list gets longer, it's harder to find the right view. And that kind of defeats the point of views saving time.
Sometimes it's quicker to sort/filter an already-existing view than to add another view to the list, just to minimize the clutter.
Views are useful because they not only help organize information, but they're easy to reference. Each view is actually its own page representing the library or list in its own way.
Continuing the example of a new document library, the default view is called "All Documents,? and the URL for this view always ends with .../[Library Name]/Forms/AllItems.aspx. However, if you went with the view called "Recently edited,? it would likely have a URL that looks like .../[Library Name]/Forms/RecentlyEdited.aspx.
You can easily grab the URL from the address bar, copy it, then paste it in an e-mail to point a colleague to that view of the library so they only see the files you want to show them.
Views are probably one of the most powerful aspects of SharePoint. They make your content findable, though maybe not searchable (accessed through a search engine), but findable using skimming methods.
They're also approachable: Anyone can create them as long as they have access to the library, and you can create many different variations, both public and private.