Managed Metadata Intro

Metadata is information about information. For example, a book’s title and author is metadata. Metadata can be many kinds of information — a location, a date, or a catalog item number. When you use SharePoint products, you can manage the metadata centrally. You can organize the metadata in a way that makes sense in your business and use the metadata to make it easier to find what you want.


A taxonomy is a formal classification system. A taxonomy groups the words, labels, and terms that describe something, and then arranges the groups into a hierarchy.

People construct taxonomies for almost any kind of information, from biological systems to organizational structures. For example, biologists group living organisms into four major classifications: animal, plant, fungus, and microbe. Each of these major groups has many subdivisions. Together, the whole system is a taxonomy.

Organizations create taxonomies in too many ways to list. They create Chart of Accounts taxonomies to manage accounting systems, organization charts and job classifications to manage employees, product catalogs and so on. All these taxonomies are structured hierarchies of information; formal classification systems that help people handle information.


A folksonomy is an informal classification system. It is evolves gradually as web site users collaborate on words, labels, and terms on a site. Originally, folksonomies developed from popular applications such as bookmarking.

If you have ever seen a tag cloud on a website, then you have seen a visualization of a folksonomy. The following figure shows a tag cloud on a SharePoint site.


A folksonomy-based approach to metadata can be useful. It creates a way to share the knowledge and expertise of site users. By using a folksonomy, content classification can evolve together with changing business needs and user interests.

Term Set

A Term set is a group of related terms.

Terms sets can have different scope, depending on where you create the term set.

  • Local term sets are created within the context of a site collection, and are available for use (and visible) only to users of that site collection. For example, when you create a term set for a metadata column in a list or library, then the term set is local. It is available only in the site collection that contains this list or library. For example, a media library might have a metadata column that shows the kind of media (diagram, photograph, screen shot, video, etc.). The list of permitted terms is relevant only to this library, and available for use in the library.
  • Global term sets are available for use across all sites that subscribe to a specific Managed Metadata Service application. For example, an organization might create a term set that lists names of business units in the organization, such as Human Resources, Marketing, Information Technology, and so on.

In addition, you can configure a term set as closed or open. In a closed term set, users can’t add new terms unless they have appropriate permissions. In an open term set, users can add new terms in a column that is mapped to the term set.


A term is a specific word or phrase that you associated with an item on a SharePoint site. It is a single item in a term set. A term has a unique ID and it can have many text labels (synonyms). If you work on a multilingual site, the term can have labels in different languages.

There are two types of terms:

Managed terms    Managed terms are terms that are pre-defined. Term Store administrators organize managed terms into a hierarchical term set.

Enterprise keywords    An enterprise keyword is a word or phrase that a user adds to items on a SharePoint site. The collection of enterprise keywords is known as the Keywords set. Typically, users can add any word or phrase to an item as a keyword. This means that you can use enterprise keywords for folksonomy-style tagging. Sometimes, Term Store administrators move enterprise keywords into a specific managed term set. When they are part of a managed term set, keywords become available in the context of that term set.

Create and manage terms in a term set:


In SharePoint products, group is a security term. With respect to managed metadata, a group is a set of term sets that all share common security requirements. Only users who have contributor permissions for a specific group can manage term sets that belong to the group or create new term sets within it. Organizations should create groups for term sets that will have unique access or security needs.

Set up a new group for term sets:

Term Store Management Tool

The Term Store Management Tool is the tool that people who manage taxonomies use to create or manage term sets and the terms within them. The Term Store Management tool displays all the global term sets and any local term sets available for the site collection from which you access the Term Store Management Tool.

Managed Metadata column

A Managed Metadata column is a special kind of column that you can add to lists or libraries. It enables site users to select terms from a specific term set. A Managed Metadata column can map to an existing term set, or you can create a local term set specifically for the column.

Create a managed metadata column:

Enterprise Keywords column

The enterprise Keywords column is a column that you can add to content types, lists, or libraries to enable users to tag items with words or phrases that they choose. By default, it is a multi-value column. When users type a word or phrase into the column, SharePoint presents type-ahead suggestions. Type-ahead suggestions might include items from managed term sets and the Keywords term set. Users can select an existing value, or enter something new.

Social Tags

Social tags are words or phrases that site users can apply to content to help them categorize information in ways that are meaningful to them. Social tagging is useful because it helps site users to improve the discoverability of information on a site. Users can add social tags to information on a SharePoint site and to URLs outside a SharePoint site.

A social tag contains pointers to three types of information:

  • A user identity
  • An item URL
  • A term

When you add a social tag to an item, you can specify whether you want to make your identity and the item URL private. However, the term part of the social tag is always public, because it is stored in the Term Store.

When you create a social tag, you can choose from a set of existing terms or enter something new. If you select an existing term, your social tag contains a pointer to that term.

If, instead, you enter a new term, SharePoint creates a new keyword for it in the Keywords term set. The new social tag points to this term. In in this manner, social tags support folksonomy-based tagging. Additionally, when users update an enterprise Keywords or Managed Metadata column, SharePoint can create social tags automatically. These terms then become visible as tags in newsfeeds, tag clouds, or My Site profiles.

List or library owners can enable or disable metadata publishing by updating the Enterprise Metadata and Keywords Settings for a list or library.

Add an enterprise keywords column to a list or library:


In a general sense, tagging refers to the act of applying metadata to an item, whether the tag is managed metadata or a social tag.