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Catching a glimpse of how structured and unstructured data are managed, together, in SharePoint Online document libraries

This post is another in a set of posts arising from my review of a video tutorial on SharePoint Online Documents and Lists. This tutorial is published on the Microsoft Virtual Academy web site. The tutorial can be viewed by the public at no charge. I’ve included a link to the video tutorial in the post, below. “McAllister” refers to Mr. Jamie McAllister, who leads the tutorial.

The architecture of a document library in SharePoint Online (or, for SharePoint on-premises) calls for each document to be depicted by a dedicated row (McAllister claims SharePoint Online lists are neither spreadsheets, nor tables. But this added information, when considered along with the role columns play for items in a list, lead me to conclude lists, at a minimum, are deeply dependent on columnar data management architecture).

McAllister claims the terms “column”, “metadata” and tags are all synonymous. Each of these is closely associated with document libraries in SharePoint Online. He goes on to summarize the purpose of these elements as methods of “describ[ing] the document in greater detail. We don’t want to look into the content of the document, necessarily, to understand what it’s all about”. All of this information is included in a video tutorial available for public viewing, at no charge, on Microsoft’s Microsoft Virtual Academy web site. The title of McAllister’s video tutorial is Manage SharePoint Online Documents and Lists.

But what if looking into the content of the document could be problematic? Like, for example, if the document is actually an ASCII/text web page made up of mark up language, or a set of JavaScript functions intended to produce mark up language (HTML 5)? It would be very difficult, would it not, to pour this content into a binary object like a SharePoint Online list? Wouldn’t it?

So this section of McAllister’s video tutorial is also likely to be worth a look for SharePoint app developers, to ensure they develop some cognizance of the role structured data solutions (which lend themselves to SQL tools) still play for SharePoint Online (and certainly still play for SharePoint on-premises). Yes, the Office App Model and, in turn, the SharePoint App Model are designed to be built, entirely, with HTML, JavaScript and CSS. But the apps work along side other methods completely designed for working with structured data, as well.

Finally, McAllister refers to document version control as a method of “controlling the visibility of what editors of [a] document can see and what readers can see”. So readers may want to consider his use of the term “visibility” as another allusion to the role “views” play for SharePoint Online lists. McAllister presented the concept of SharePoint Online views for lists in the first few moments of this video tutorial.

©2014, Ira Michael Blonder & Rehmani Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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