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Bring Your Data to Life with SharePoint Lists

The Ultimate Tool for Organising, Visualising and Automating Information


Learn about the capabilities, use cases, and benefits of SharePoint lists, and how to create, customise, and integrate them with Power Automate and other services and applications.


Introduction


One of the most powerful and versatile features of SharePoint is the ability to create custom SharePoint lists that can store, organise, and display any kind of information. SharePoint lists are more than just tables of data; they are dynamic and interactive tools that can help you manage your work processes, collaborate with others, and automate common tasks.


We have been using SharePoint lists for many years and always viewed them as the hidden gem of SharePoint when most of the focus was on SharePoint’s great strengths around document management.


Thankfully Microsoft has now invested heavily in extending the power of SharePoint lists even further and in this blog post, we will explore some of the SharePoint list capabilities, use cases, and benefits, focusing on those recent improvements that make them even more user-friendly and useful.



What are SharePoint Lists?


A SharePoint list is a collection of items that share the same fields or columns of information. For example, you can create a list of contacts, tasks, projects, events, inventory, or anything else that you need to track.


Each item in the list has a unique SharePoint list ID and can have multiple SharePoint list properties, such as name, date, status, description, SharePoint list attachments, and so on.


You can customise the fields and SharePoint list data types that you want to store in your list, depending on your needs and preferences such as date fields, or choice columns. You can even have fields that reference other SharePoint lists so that you do not have to replicate data across lists.


A SharePoint list with custom column formatting


How to Use SharePoint Lists?


You can create a SharePoint list from scratch in any SharePoint site, or you can use one of the many SharePoint list templates that are available, such as calendar, issue tracking, survey, or announcement. You can also import data from an existing Excel spreadsheet, CSV file, or other sources, and convert it into a SharePoint list (not our recommended approach) and you can copy and paste data between Excel or other SharePoint lists.


Once you have created a SharePoint list, you can access it from any device and browser, and view it in different ways. You can sort, filter, group, and search your SharePoint list data, and apply conditional formatting to highlight important or critical items. You can create custom views that show only the data that you need and save them for future use or share them with others.


You can also edit your SharePoint list data directly in the browser or use the Quick Edit mode to make changes to multiple items at once. You can add, edit, or delete items, or copy and paste data from other sources.



SharePoint List Forms


A recent addition to SharePoint lists is the ability to create a customised form with just the fields you need to be completed by other users. You can then share the form with those users to capture information such as project feedback, support requests, or purchase orders. You can design your SharePoint list forms with different layouts, fields, and rules, and embed them in your SharePoint site or other web pages.


A SharePoint form with customise options



List Sharing


Another new feature that enhances the usability of SharePoint lists is the ability to share individual list items with other users, without giving them access to the whole list. This is useful when you want to collaborate on a specific item or send a link to someone who needs to see or update the information.


You can also control the permissions and expiration of the shared link and track the activity and history of the item. This is great to reduce duplication and replication of data across your organisation where the source information is in a secure place that is not accessible by everyone.



Version History


One of the most important aspects of using SharePoint lists is the version history, which allows you to see and restore previous versions of individual list items. This is especially helpful when you need to recover deleted or overwritten data, or compare changes made by different users. You can also enable alerts and notifications to keep yourself and your team informed of any changes or updates to your SharePoint list data.


Trying doing that in Excel!



The SharePoint Lists App


One of the newest features that enhances the functionality and accessibility of SharePoint lists is the SharePoint Lists app. This app allows you to create, view, edit, and share your lists from any device, whether it's a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. You can also sync your lists offline and work on them without an internet connection, and then sync them again when you're online.


The SharePoint Lists app also integrates with other Microsoft apps, such as Teams, Outlook, and OneDrive, so you can easily access and collaborate on your lists from different platforms and scenarios.


The SharePoint Lists app is a great addition to the SharePoint ecosystem, and it can help you create and manage your data more efficiently and effectively. Whether you need to track issues, manage inventory, plan events, or organise tasks, the SharePoint Lists app can help you do it with ease and convenience. You can download the SharePoint Lists app from the Microsoft Store, Google Play or the Apple Store and start using it today.



How to Integrate SharePoint Lists with Power Automate?


One of the biggest advantages of SharePoint lists is the ability to integrate them with Power Automate, the Microsoft platform that lets you create automated workflows and processes.


With Power Automate, you can connect your SharePoint list to hundreds of other services and applications, such as Outlook, Teams, OneDrive, Excel, Word, and more. You can also use pre-built Power Automate templates or create your own flows to automate common or repetitive tasks, such as sending emails, creating documents, updating statuses, or generating reports.


For example, you can use Power Automate to create a SharePoint list automation workflow that triggers when a new item is added to your SharePoint list, and then sends an email to the assigned person, creates a task in Planner, and posts a message in Teams. Or you can create a Power Automate workflow that triggers when an item is updated in your SharePoint list, and then updates the corresponding row in an Excel spreadsheet and generates a PDF document with the updated information.


The possibilities are limitless, and you can customise your Power Automate flows to suit your specific needs and scenarios.



Power and Flexibility of SharePoint List Views


Another advantage of SharePoint lists is that they allow you to create different views of your data, depending on your needs and preferences. SharePoint list views are simply different ways of displaying the same information, using filters, sorting, grouping, columns, and other options. For example, you can create a view that shows only the items that are assigned to you, or a view that groups the items by status, or a view that sorts the items by due date or a combination of all the above.


Dialogue box to create a new SharePoint view


Yes, Excel lets you sort, filter and group data, but the one big benefit over Excel is that you can then save your view, preserving all of those filters, sorting and grouping rules and then either make the view available to all of your colleagues to save them doing this or just create a personal view for your own use.


A calendar SharePoint view showing filters


SharePoint offers several types of list views, such as standard, datasheet, calendar, Gantt, and gallery. For the technically minded, you can also create custom SharePoint views using JSON formatting, which gives you more control over the appearance and behaviour of your list. You can use custom formatting to add conditional colours, icons, buttons, progress bars, tooltips, and more. You can also use custom view layouts to change the way your list is arranged on the page, such as tiles, accordion, or tabs. The possibilities are limitless.



One of the newest and most powerful features of SharePoint lists is the dashboard view, which allows you to create interactive and dynamic dashboards that visualise your data in charts, graphs, maps, and gauges. You can use SharePoint dashboard views to create reports, summaries, trends, and insights from your list data, and share them with your team or stakeholders. You can also customise dashboard views using JSON formatting, and add filters, slicers, and drilldowns to make your dashboard more interactive and responsive.


SharePoint lists dashboard view


Can I export the view?

Yes, you can also export your SharePoint view to Excel or other formats if you need to manipulate or analyse the data in the view in a different way or use the data in another system such as your accounting platform. The export process will honour the filters you have applied to your view so only the data you need to be exported is exported.



When to Use SharePoint Lists Instead of Excel Spreadsheets?


SharePoint lists and Excel spreadsheets are both useful tools for storing and managing data, but they have different strengths and weaknesses. Depending on your situation and requirements, you may find one more suitable than the other. Here are some factors to consider when choosing between SharePoint lists and Excel spreadsheets:


  • Collaboration If you need to share your data with multiple people and work on it together, SharePoint lists are a better option, as they allow concurrent editing, version control, and granular permissions. Excel spreadsheets, on the other hand, are more prone to conflicts, errors, and security issues when multiple users access them at the same time.


  • Functionality If you need to perform complex calculations, analysis, or visualisation of your data, Excel spreadsheets are a better option, as they offer more advanced features and functions, such as formulas, charts, pivot tables, and macros. SharePoint lists, on the other hand, are more limited in terms of functionality, and may require additional tools or integrations to achieve the same results.


  • Integration If you need to connect your data to other services and applications, and automate your workflows and processes, SharePoint lists are a better option, as they can easily integrate with Power Automate, and other Microsoft and third-party products. Excel spreadsheets, on the other hand, are more isolated and require more manual work or custom solutions to integrate with other systems.



Conclusion


SharePoint lists are a powerful and versatile feature that can help you store, organise, and display any kind of information. They offer many SharePoint list benefits, such as easy access, SharePoint list customisation, SharePoint list collaboration, version control, and SharePoint list integration with Power Automate and other services and applications. They are also constantly improving, with new features and enhancements that make them more user-friendly and useful.


However, SharePoint lists are not always the best solution for every situation, and sometimes Excel spreadsheets may be more suitable or efficient. Therefore, it is important to evaluate your needs and requirements, and choose the tool that works best for you and your data.


As a reminder, some of the benefits of using the SharePoint Lists are:


Mobility

You can take your lists with you wherever you go, and work on them anytime and anywhere. You can also use your device's camera, microphone, location, and barcode scanner to capture and add data to your lists.


Simplicity

You can create and customise your lists with a few taps, using templates, views, filters, and sorts. You can also use natural language to search and find your lists or use voice commands to interact with them.


Productivity

You can streamline your workflows and processes by connecting your lists to Power Automate, which can automate actions and notifications based on triggers and conditions. You can also use Power Apps to create custom forms and apps for your lists or use Power BI to visualise and analyse your data.


Collaboration

You can share your lists with your colleagues and co-workers and work together on them in real time. You can also comment on items, mention people, and track changes and versions. You can also use the SharePoint Lists app within Teams, where you can chat, call, and meet with your team members while working on your lists.




Ready to elevate your SharePoint experience?


If you're looking to harness the full potential of SharePoint lists, our team is here to help. From comprehensive training to personalised adoption strategies, we've got you covered.


Contact us to explore how SharePoint lists can revolutionise your data management, or explore our Services pages for more information.




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