It’s a regular occurrence when I’m asked by a colleague, “Hey Wade, how do I add a link to a document library?” You’d think this would be an easy thing to do considering how common it seems to be to want to corral all of your content together in one handy library: documents, presentations, spreadsheets, databases, schedules, and why not links?
Thankfully the modern document libraries in SharePoint Online support links natively, but if you’re using any other version of SharePoint, no dice.
Well, it’s not that hard to set up your document library to do this. It’s just unfortunate that you have to do this for every library you create if you’re planning on having links co-mingle with files and folders.
True, Microsoft just rolled out built-in link functionality in Office 365 document libraries for systems using early rollout of new features, but those won’t help people who are using SharePoint 2016, 2013, 2010, or 2007 on local, on-premises systems. Until you move to the cloud or upgrade to, presumably, SharePoint 2019 (or whatever the next on-prem version will be called), you’ll still have to use this trick.
To turn this function on, you have to be a site owner. To use this functionality once it’s enabled, you just need to have contributor or member access to the document library (the ability to create and/or edit content in the library).
Instructions to turn this function on
- From the document library, go to the ribbon and click Library > Library Settings.
- In the Settings page, click Advanced Settings.
- Under Advanced Settings, toggle Allow management of content types? to Yes. Click OK.
- Back on the Settings page, scroll down and click Add from existing site content types.
- In the box under Available Site Content Types, click Link to a Document, click Add >, then click OK. At this point, you’ve turned on the ability to add links. And not just links to documents (even thought it’s called Link to a Document); you can link to anything.
Instructions to create a new link
Creating links once the service is turned on is super easy as a regular user:
- From the document library click New > Link to a Document. (This will look a bit different in SharePoint 2010 and 2013, but the functionality is roughly the same. You can also create new links from the ribbon through Files > New Document > Link to a Document.)
- In the window that appears, you have two boxes: In the first box, input the text you want to display in the document library; in the second box, paste the URL to the destination. An example is shown below. Then click OK.
The new link will now be displayed in your library, complete with the “Link to Document” icon showing the Internet Explorer logo on a blank document with an arrow. Click it, and it should bring you to your destination.
A word of warning about metadata
You can’t add metadata directly when you create a new link in a document library. Links cannot have metadata applied to them. However, there is a workaround, and it involves setting the content type of the link back to a document (which doesn’t actually effect how the link works). You do this from the Edit properties page. There are a few ways to get to the Edit properties page:
- To the right of the new link, click the ellipses > ellipses > Properties. (SharePoint 2010, 2013, 2016, Online)
- Click the checkbox to the left of the link, then click File > Edit properties in the ribbon. (SharePoint 2010, 2013, 2016, Online)
- Right-click the link > Properties. (SharePoint 2016, Online)
Once you’re on the Edit properties page, click the drop-down menu that says Link to a Document and choose Document instead. You’ll see the metadata options change. If nothing else, you’ll at least see a new Title field appear. Update any metadata you need to. (If there are required fields, you will need to provide some content to save the link with updated metadata.)
The link field will disappear, but the link will still remain active. If you need to update the link, change the content type back to Link to a Document, then change the URL and click OK. Now go back in and toggle the content type back to Document and update the metadata. In fact, you may have lost your metadata through this process, so be prepared for that.
This is an annoying work-around and hopefully with the introduction of native links in document libraries in SharePoint Online (and hopefully SharePoint 2016!), the metadata issue will no longer bother us all.