All data we work with in the real world is relational, most commonly in a single-to-multiple relationship. For instance, each department employs multiple people, each product category contains multiple products, and so on. Our SharePoint lists are supposed to represent this real world data in the truest and most convenient form. Unfortunately, SharePoint handles relationships in quite a rudimentary fashion. That's why years ago we developed our Associated Items column type, that allows creating relationships between lists that are handled seamlessly within regular SharePoint forms. Creating repeating items within a parent item became easy for everyone!
Since then we have introduced a vast number of improvements and features, to better suit the wide variety of our customers' needs. Be it sorting, paging, summaries, grid entry mode, the list just goes on.
The only issue that many new user would be stumbling upon was the initial configuration. We establish the relationship in two possible ways:
- Using our special content types ("Infowise Associated Item", "Infowise Associated Document", "Infowise Associated Task")
- Using a regular lookup column in the child list pointing to the parent
I won't be discussing pros and cons of each approach here, we have existing training documents that delve into this in great detail. I will just say that both approaches require quite a few manual steps to get things going and unexperienced users might find it a bit challenging at first.
We are now introducing a few feature that will make it so much simpler and streamlined. Now we can optionally perform all the manual tasks for you, when you create a new column, including creating the child list (or document library), replacing the content type and adding a lookup.
- Go into Associated Item column settings page in the main page of Ultimate Forms (you can also add columns directly in Form Designer, whatever is more convenient)
- Click on Add new column
- Enter the column title
- Under Data source, you can switch to New to create a new list.
- Choose from list type, we support Custom list, Document library or Tasks list.
- Provide a title for your list (in most cases, you want it to be the same as the column title, but it doesn't have to be). If you already have an existing list with the same title, you will be prompted to enter a different one.
- Optionally choose to use a lookup and provide a title for it. There are specific recommendations on what approach to use for the relationship, but in general, use a lookup when you want to export you data to Excel or other 3rd party applications and do not use it when you want to add child items in the New form of the parent (for instance, when creating an invoice, it is advisable to allow adding line items before you save the invoice, so don't use a lookup there).
- Under Optional settings tab, you can configure a number of settings related to styling and functionality
Generally, you don't have to change anything here, but I'd like to mention a couple of significant ones:
- Display in form format - instead of displaying child items in a table view, repeat them in their own form layout, stacked within the parent form.
- Allow adding new items - allow users adding new child items from the parent.
- Enter data using grid - new items are added in the grid itself, instead of using a pop-up form. Makes sense when your child list only contains a handful of simple columns.
- Open forms in a dialog - opens child items in a pop-up window instead of navigating to them.
- Once you save the column settings, it will generate the new list and then create the column to link it to the parent.
- Now you need to add the column to the form (I'm showing it in Form Designer for modern forms, which is the recommended approach for all new forms, but you can use classic forms as well, they are still fully supported)
- Once you open Form Designer, your new column will appear in the List Columns gallery on the left, ready to be dragged onto the form design canvas. You can now just click on Publish, next steps are for information purposes only.
- Click on the column to see the configuration settings on the right.
- You can change settings of any existing column directly from here.
- This is the exact same page we used earlier (of course, the New option is hidden as we are configuring an existing column here). See the option Design data entry form. It allows you to create a special form for the child list to be used with this column only. There are scenarios where you want to use a simpler shorter form when entering data into the child list from the parent, this is how you design such a form.
- Once you publish in Form Designer, you form is ready to be used. Here you can see the parent form item "Dairy" with the new Subcategories column and a number of child subcategories. We are in the middle of adding a new subcategory using a pop-up form.
As you can see, it's now so much easier to create a new relationship. I'm sure it's going to save you a lot of your precious time and allow you to focus on other tasks instead. Enjoy!
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