SharePoint basics

For those who are going to use SharePoint, there are a lot of new terms and a specific terminology that they should learn. I am going to explain SharePoint basics and fundamentals in this post. This is very important that you understand and apply these terms. I prefer to explain SharePoint basics bottom-up. So I will start from the most basic element that a user will interact with it, then basic elements of a site and finally the broader terms which are used by a developer or site administrator.

Item: this is the most basic element in a SharePoint site. We refer to it in several cases. An item can be a record (row) in a list or a file (pdf, word, img, …) in a document library. Items keep in list or document libraries.

List: This is a place on your site that you can keep your data (as a record). The functionality is very similar to an excel list. You can keep a list of your tasks, project issues, contact list information or define your own custom list such as price list for cars. Lists are the basic element of sites.

Document Library: This is a place on your site that you can store and share your files there. So if you are using SharePoint as a document management system this would be one of the most parts of SharePoint (SP) which you will use. You can consider document library as a top level folder in your network share drive. You can have as many document library as you want on your site but you are not able to create nested document library. Each library can keep more than some million files so you don’t need to worry about capacity although from the performance perspective it is better to not keeping a large number of files in one library since it will decrease its speed. Document libraries are a subtype of lists so they both have common features and attributes. Document libraries are the basic element of sites.

Page: This is sometimes called web page. Pages keep in a page library (one type of document library). You will use this when using SharePoint as an intranet (Portal). Your portal will have many web pages. Each site has at least one web page which is its homepage. Site owners are able to show important information about a site on its homepage. Pages are one of the basic elements of a site.

Site: This is sometimes called subsite. Sites are a place to share documents and collaborate on a topic. We can have sites per project, per department, committee or working groups and so on. The site needs site admin who defines permission and gives access to other members and readers. Sites keep lists and libraries. We can have sites under a site which called subsite. Subsite and site have exactly same capabilities. The only consideration is subsite can inherit permission from their own parent site. The site owner can define who should access to a site. We will talk about site permission in another post. There are some different types of site template available such as team site, project site, publishing site, Search sites, BI site and more.

So within a SharePoint site, we have several document libraries and lists which we can store our files and records there. There would be a homepage for our site and if it is a portal (publishing site), it will have more pages.

I will explain remaining terms in next post as they are more useful for developers and administrators. Here is the list of them:

Site collection:

Web application:

Web Servers and other server types:


FAQ for further reading:

Here is boundaries and limits in SP onlineĀ  in Office 365 : read section “limit for site elements in SP online”.

How many files (records) can we store in one document library (list)? 30,000,000 per library in SharePoint 2013

so why shouldn’t save everything in one document library? because there is another threshold which will affect performance. List view threshold is 5,000 item per list or library. So you can keep up to 30 million files in one place but it is better to not doing that as it will affect performance and you have to do more administration task in the future.

How many document libraries (lists) can we add to one site? 2000 list or library per each site.

Can I have my folders within SharePoint? what is the drawback of using folders? I will explain it in detail in another post.

As you can see we can keep 60 billion items (file or record) in one site which is a huge number. So why we create more than one site? Why we have too many sites in our SP farm/tenant? I will explain about site collection and other terms in next post.


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