Sharepoint 101: What Is a List and How to Create One

SharePoint 101: What Is a List and How to Create One

If you’re new to SharePoint, it’s important you understand what a list is and how to create one.

After all, it’s the best way to organize information within SharePoint in the most flexible way.

That’s why in this article, I will introduce you to SharePoint lists, use cases, and how to create one.

Let’s get started.

What is a SharePoint list?

Strictly speaking, a “list” is a container where you put data. Think of it as a complex database or spreadsheet that’s web-based.

There are three components in a list:

  • Fields – functions like the columns in a spreadsheet or database and may contain specific information or metadata
  • Items – the actual data or record within the list
  • Views – represents the methods to display the list items

For example, if you create a help desk solution within SharePoint, the fields can be issue and status, with specific items like “feature not working” and “high priority”, displayed as a compact list or grouped by status.

Create a free help desk solution lists with SharePoint's  Issue tracker template

In addition, you can store almost any type of information you can think of in a SharePoint list and even specify what data will be stored in that column.

In one SharePoint site, you can create as many lists as you want. Each list can have its own security settings too.

For example, you can indicate that only specific people can access a certain list while giving the same set of people complete access and control over another list.

It’s also possible to set up individual security settings on each list item. Meaning, different people may see different list items within one list.

How to Create a SharePoint List

The good news is that it’s really easy to create a list.

Whether you’re on a team site or a communication site, simply navigate to the home page.

Once there, click the “New” button and select “List” from the options.

How to add a new list in SharePoint

Create a SharePoint List From a Template

SharePoint has plug-and-play list templates you can use to create a list.

Currently, here are all the templates you can use:

  • Issue tracker
  • Employee onboarding
  • Event itinerary
  • Asset manager
  • Recruitment tracker
  • Travel requests
  • Work progress tracker
  • Content scheduler

To use a template, simply click on it on the window that appeared after you clicked on the option to add a new list.

Click the SharePoint list template to use it

You will then see a preview of that template, including all the columns it comes with.

Once you’re sure about creating a list from that template, click the “Use template” button below the window.

Click the "Use template" button to start the list creation process

Make a SharePoint List From Excel

Since a list is related to a spreadsheet, it’s quite possible to make a list directly out of a spreadsheet or an Excel file.

When adding a new list, simply select “From Excel”.

Select "From Excel" option

On the next page, you will see that you can either upload a new Excel file or select an existing file already on the site.

If the file has yet to be uploaded, click on the “Upload file” button.

On the other hand, if the spreadsheet is already on the site, simply select it and click the “Next” button.

Choose whether you want to upload a new Excel file or choose from an existing one

If you chose to upload a new file, a new window will open where you can select the file you want to upload.

Take note that the data in your spreadsheet must be formatted as a table first.

Otherwise, you will not be able to use it. SharePoint will also show you how to add a table in Excel.

SharePoint will let you know you don't have a defined table in the file

You will also get the results if you choose an Excel already uploaded on the site that doesn’t have a defined table.

Once you uploaded a spreadsheet or selected an uploaded file with a defined table, SharePoint will confirm with you what table to use in the file as well as the column types.

You can also change the type of column and even choose not to import that column on the list.

If all is good, all you need to do now is click the “Next” button to finally create the list.

Click "Next" to start creating a list from Excel

Create a List From an Existing List

It’s quite possible to create a new list from an existing list you have on your sites.

Yes, you can create a new list from a list that’s on another site. But you should own that site to do so.

Take note that this wouldn’t copy the list items over to the new list.

To continue, select “From existing list” when creating a new list and indicate the site and the specific list to copy from.

Select the site and list to make a template from

Then, you must give that new list a name, which must be different than the list you copied from.

You can also include a description if you like and indicate whether or not you want to show the new list on the site navigation bar.

Don’t forget to click the “Create” button to start the process.

Provide a name for the new list created from an existing list

Create a List From Scratch

You can also make a new list entirely from scratch.

To do so, simply click the “Blank list” option when adding a new list.

Select the "Blank list" option to create a list from scratch

Like the previous step, you will then need to give the new list a unique name and some description if you like.

You can also indicate whether or not to show it on the navigation bar of the site.

Give the new list a unique name and provide some description

How to Add or Delete Records in SharePoint List

In the old days, when SharePoint still ran in the classic experience, adding a new record, changing the settings, or anything really, is a little complicated.

But since the modern experience was released, things are much simpler.

For example, adding and deleting records can be done in a few clicks in a form-like manner.

Let’s say you want to add a new record to an issue tracker list.

Naturally, you must navigate to it first. Once there, all you need to do is click the “New” button first.

A left-hand pane will slide in from the right where you can add the details of the new record or list item.

After adding metadata, click the “Save” button (found both on the top and the bottom of the pane) to create the new list.

Click the new button and add information about that list item

On the other hand, if you want to delete a certain record or list item, simply hover your mouse over it and do a right-click.

Then, select the “Delete” option.

Right-click a list item first and select the delete option

If you want to delete records in bulk, select them first.

Once you select more than one list item, a “Delete” button will appear on the command bar.

To delete the entries, click on that button.

Select all records you want to delete first and click the delete button

How to Add Columns and Edit Them

Whether you created a list from a template or starting one from scratch, the process of adding columns and editing them is the same.

If you know how spreadsheets work, then you must already be familiar with what a column is.

In a way, columns help you organize metadata or information of your list items or records since one column can only have one type of data.

The type of information in a column can be:

  • A single line of text
  • Multiple lines of text
  • Choice
  • Number
  • Currency
  • Date and time
  • Lookup
  • Yes or No
  • Person or group
  • Hyperlink or picture
  • Calculated
  • Image
  • Task outcome
  • External data
  • Managed metadata

To add a column, navigate to your list and head over to the last column on the right.

There will be an option to add a column. Simply press on it and select which type of column you want to add.

If the type of column you want to add is not on the initial list, click on the “More” button to see more types of columns.

Click the add column button after the last column on the right

If the column you want to add is on the initial list, a right-hand pane will slide from the right.

Provide the information needed and click “Save”.

Note that different column types will require different information. A single line of text will ask for different information than a number or currency column.

The information required when creating a single line of text is simple and is quite different than the others

If you want to edit a specific column, click on the column header, hover your mouse over “Column settings”, and select “Edit”.

Different columns will show different options here. Some columns may show sorting and filtering functions. Others might show only column settings.

Go to the column settings by clicking on the column header

From there, you will see the same pane that slides in when you create a new column.

You can only edit the column settings for that specific type of column

The only difference will be the option on the bottom to delete the column.

Again, different columns will show different settings.

If you want to save the changes you made, simply click on the “Save” button.

If you need more advanced tutorials related to SharePoint columns, check these out:

How to Change the List View

To better understand the records in the list, SharePoint has a lot of views to show data. Every time you create a list, a default view gets created.

On the other hand, you can also change it however you like.

For example, you can set various filters to show only those that met certain criteria, or even view records grouped by certain criteria.

To place a filter on your view, simply click on the funnel icon on the command bar.

Click the funnel icon to see what filter options are available for your list

It will then show you all the possible options for filtering your list items.

You can also click “All Items” to view other list view-related options, including the default views automatically generated, the available groupings, as well as the option to save the current view.

Click the "All items" button to see all available view options and to save your current view as well

Organize Information with SharePoint Lists

SharePoint lists are a great way to organize data in your SharePoint site. They’re also easy to use, especially since the onset of the modern experience.

As you have learned earlier, there are various ways to create a list. Every time you need one, check if there is an available template for what you need.

It’s always easier to create a list from a template and simply modify it according to your needs.

I hope this was able to help you better understand one of SharePoint’s core features.

Do you have more questions related to SharePoint lists?

If so, drop them down below in the comment section. Feel free to reach me directly through my contact page if you need more help.

About Ryan

As the Principal Solutions Architect at Mr. SharePoint, I help companies of all sizes better leverage the Modern Workplace and Digital Process Automation investments.

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