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Working Successfully with Excel Files and the Term Store Management Tool to Build Useful Taxonomies for SharePoint 2010

This post includes comments on most of Mike Doane’s video course, “Integrating Taxonomies in SharePoint 2010 — Part One.

One of the reasons for building taxonomies for SharePoint 2010 is to use Term Sets, and, as required, to create custom term sets that can be applied to Document Libraries by selecting a set of terms from the overall taxonomy.

This video course, once again, makes use of the term set “Animals”, which has been used throughout the earlier courses of this curriculum.

In this course, Mike demonstrates a recommended procedure for importing term sets from .csv files. In this procedure the user will save the .csv file prior to importing the data from the file to the Term Store Management Tool. The .csv file, of course, was originally exported from a sample file provided with the tool; therefore, with the columns preserved in the order with which they were exported, the data is imported, successfully, with the term set and term hierarchy properly positioned for ease of use as terms are added, etc. By entering either “true” or “false” for the column titled “Available” in the .csv we indicate whether or not the term will be available for tagging, or not, once the .csv file has been imported to the Term Store Management Tool.

By including multiple worksheets in the .csv file it is possible to import separate term sets. It must be understood that SharePoint will import each separate worksheet as a separate term set, complete with a unique GUID as well as a unique identifier. Any hierarchical relationships between parent and child terms, despite appearing linguistically identical, will nevertheless, in fact be discrete, wholly separate data elements to SharePoint. As Mike Doane notes, these separate data elements, that, nevertheless, appear linguistically identical, are “taxonomically incorrect.” Further, “what we’ve got here [with this method of importing term sets to the Term Store] is a potential huge problem, coming up,” where personnel responsible, for tagging, may erroneously select the same duplicate tag, albeit from a completely incorrect term set.

The solution, as we noted in earlier posts to this series, is to exercise governance over the taxonomy, itself, to ensure that this problem does not arise. As far as process is concerned, as we note in this video course, ” . . . Once your taxonomies have been built out 80-90% in your .csv file, import them into the Term Store, and then never import them again.” Any further work should be done in the Term Store, moving forward, where ownership, stakeholders and policies can be added as properties to term sets. These properties cannot be added via the .csv file through an import.

Ultimately, the best solution to the problem depicted in this video course is taxonomic. By adding the terms on a second and third worksheet from the .csv file as hierarchically higher level term sets, which are, nevertheless, still hierarchically subordinate to the parent term set, (for example, “Animals,” as used in this video course) we can ensure that terms are hierarchically added in a correct, subordinated manner that removes any chance of erroneous duplication of terms.

Therefore, a best practice approach includes setting up term sets for each and every category within a planned taxonomy. With categories correctly isolated from one another in this manner, any changes made to specific categories can be properly limited in scope, thereby ensuring that a taxonomy is structural sound.

The .csv file constitutes a record of the overall taxonomy; therefore, each line of business (LOB) unit and/or departmental function within the organization should be represented with a separate worksheet. Nevertheless, to repeat, once 80-90% of the work required to put together term sets has been completed, then they should be imported to the Term Store where any additional work required can be performed with comparatively greater safety.

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