Diving into SharePoint Online’s revamped Term Store and Content Type Gallery

Exploring the new modern Term Store and Content Type Gallery

In preparation for the release of Project Cortex a series of significant improvements have been introduced into SharePoint Online, including welcomed updates to the managed metadata service and a new tenant level content type gallery.

The Managed Metadata Service (MMS) in SharePoint Online is getting a new modern UI and lots of behind the scenes performance improvements. There is also a new tenant-wide content type gallery to assist with creating and administering content types which can then be pushed out to sites and hubs.

These improvements are all in preparation for the general release of Project Cortex coming later in 2020. At Intelogy we are all very excited to use it with our customers to empower their organisation.

“Project Cortex uses advanced AI to deliver insights and expertise in the apps you use every day, to harness collective knowledge and to empower people and teams to learn, upskill and innovate faster.”

The updated MMS service and the new content type gallery have been generally released as of late July and have been available in 365 tenants that are running on targeted release for the past few months.

Managed Metadata Improvements

The Managed Metadata Service (MMS) aka the modern term store has been given a visual makeover to use SharePoint Online’s ‘modern’ UI.  More importantly, there have also been several under-the-hood performance and user interface improvements which will undoubtably be given an enthusiastic welcome by Information experts. These updates are especially welcome as I do not believe there have been many significant updates to the existing MMS since it was first introduced with SharePoint 2010. The updates extend the existing MMS service in your tenancy and will require no migration or change to your existing terms.

The most significant updates to the Managed Metadata Service include:

  • A Modern Term management system in the SharePoint Admin Center. 

The new Modern Term Store can be found in a new ‘Content Services’ section in the SharePoint Admin Center. This provides modern, integrated controls for the creation and management of organisational taxonomies and existing global term sets to be managed.

The number of terms supported at tenant level has also been increased from 200,000 to 1,000,000 which indicates that along with increased use of MMS from Project Cortex, Microsoft sees the MMS as having increased importance in SharePoint in the future. While most organisations never got close to the former cap, this news will be warmly received by many out there – especially larger enterprises or those using the term store to provide unique references for each of their assets or projects.


I’ve also noticed how much more intuitive the new UI makes managing terms especially large term sets. Gone are the days of hovering the mouse to wait for an arrow to appear – we now instead have simple, clear buttons. This might seem insignificant, but especially in scenarios where management of terms has been delegated, I feel this change is going to reduce complexity and required training.

  • New Term Store analytics dashboard

This has not landed in my demo tenant yet, but it was mentioned at Microsoft Ignite and on a recent Project Cortex Office Hours webinar that there will be a new analytics dashboard. Here admin users will be able to view a breakdown of all regular and managed terms. This will enable them to find out how widely used the terms are used across sites & apps and offer suggestions to ensure healthy and useful managed metadata. There will also be the functionality to download reports in a CSV for further analysis.

To me this is a great addition to the suite, providing a simple overview of term store usage. I’m hoping that this report will extend to provide information around term usage – wouldn’t it be great to be able to select a term and see a breakdown of how much content it has been applied to and where that content is?

  • Improved tagging and filtering interface for MMS columns in lists and libraries.

This update has been in most 365 tenancies for a while now and brings managed metadata to the Modern UI in a SharePoint list or library. Before this, editing managed metadata fields had to be done in the SharePoint classic UI. The enhanced interface makes it a much easier process to use Term Stores values to assign content metadata to files or items. There have also been improvements in the list/library modern UI for filtering managed metadata so users can now filter on managed metadata values.

Content Type Gallery Improvements

Microsoft have now released a shiny new tenant level content type gallery which is located in the SharePoint admin center. This new gallery is going to quickly become the default place for managing both content types and metadata in SharePoint Online. While the core capabilities provided in this gallery have been available for around a decade now, this gallery finally provides a user-friendly interface that will bring these features to the fore.

Additionally, there have been several performance tweaks under the hood. It now considerably quicker for published content types to be available in sites.

The content type hub in SharePoint Online used to be installed by creating a site collection and then activating a site collection feature to install the content type hub. By and large, I imagine that it was only really used by developers – it was almost a hidden, back-end part of many architectures that admins rarely needed to venture into. The Content Type hub enabled admins to create content types from a central location and publish them to sites. However, publishing content types to sites relied on a SharePoint timer job which could take up to 4 hours and even then could be unreliable.

This legacy feature also used the Managed Metadata Service (MMS) and like MMS has also not received many updates since it was created in SharePoint 2010. So it is no surprise that both MMS and content type publishing process have been upgraded in preparation for Project Cortex.

  • A modern Content Type Gallery

The new gallery uses the modern UI experience and provides a centralised view over content types. It provides a new top-level interface to oversee content types across the breadth of SharePoint Online, which to me breathes new life into the entire concept of content types.

In the content type gallery, tenant wide content types can be created, administered, and the gallery also streamlines the process of adding, removing, or changing custom columns.

Content Type Gallery
Content Type Gallery

The content types can then be published and are then pushed down from the gallery to all SharePoint sites.

The content type can then be added as an optional step to lists and libraries in the site. In the near future Microsoft will be adding this functionality to the modern library/list UI so content types can be added directly. Previously to add content types to a list or library it required users to visit the list settings page which is still in the classic UI and add the content type. Also by adding the content type to a list/library a view will be created to display content matching the content type.

I also really like the new content type gallery where we can quickly publish content types/models to SharePoint sites. In my experience it is much more intuitive to administrate content types and much faster to publish than the previous content type hub.

Project Cortex will make use of the behind the scenes improvements from the content type gallery and use the distribution functionality to publish document understanding or form processing (AI) models to SharePoint sites. These models are stored as content types which are then associated to lists/libraries, in order to store the schema for the learning implemented in the model (e.g. find text after a phrase), a pattern (e.g. date), or proximity (e.g. position on the page).

Our team are buzzing about the potential of Project Cortex – so no doubt there will be plenty of blog posts and white papers being produced over the next few months . Why not follow us on the usual social media channels to make sure you don’t miss any of the insights from our team.

Please also get in touch if you would like to talk with us about getting your organisation ready for Project Cortex or want to discuss how it could benefit you.

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Leon Armston
Leon is an experienced Microsoft 365 Consultant with excellent knowledge and expertise. Always willing to share this to help others. A technology enthusiast who enjoys seeing in the workplace how technology can drive improvement and efficiency.
Published On: August 11th, 2020 Categories: Knowledge & Information Management

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