Anita Fritz

Making SharePoint Document Numbering Work the Way Users Expect

Assigning a unique document number or ID to each document as it is first saved is a fundamental aspect of any serious document management system. SharePoint has been able to assign unique Document IDs since SharePoint 2010. Unfortunately the OOB Unique Document Numbering that comes OOB with SharePoint 2010 and 2013 does not work the way that users expect, based on their previous experience with a non-SharePoint ‘traditional’ DM system.

The first point of difference is the structure of the unique Document IDs.  The unique Document IDs assigned by SharePoint have a 3-part coordinate structure: AlphaPrefix-Number1-Number2, where:

  • AlphaPrefix identifies the Site Collection,
  • Number1 identifies the list (library) wherein the document was first stored
  • Number2 identifies the row in the list where the document was first stored

Users familiar with traditional DM expect the documents to be numbered sequentially across the whole document store.

Those users also expect that the unique Document ID and other key reference details (such as current Version Number) should automatically be displayed in documents that are opened from SharePoint into Microsoft Office applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint.  A typical requirement is for a Document Reference comprised of unique Document ID and current Version Number to be displayed in the footer, although the Document Reference should also be available for display in other parts of the document.

The first thought that some folks have is that you can satisfy this requirement by embedding Quick Parts or Field Codes in the footers of Word documents.  The field codes display the value of the Document ID and Version properties that are automatically recorded on the document as it is opened from SharePoint.  Unfortunately this approach does not work:

  • The unique Document ID is not assigned until after a new document arrives in SharePoint, so the field codes in newly saved documents will be empty
  • Similarly the Version number is updated when a document arrives back in SharePoint after being checked in, so the version details shown by an embedded field code tend to lag the actual version number.

MacroView UDN Meets User Expectations

MacroView Unique Document Numbering is an optional module within the MacroView Document Management Framework (DMF) that addresses the full range of requirements associated with generating Unique Document IDs and displaying them in documents that are opened from SharePoint into Microsoft Office.

MacroView UDN replaces the Unique Numbering Provider that ships OOB with SharePoint with a custom Provider. This custom Provider can be configured to assign numbers sequentially across the whole  document store. This use of a Unique Numbering Provider ensures that all documents will be assigned a MacroView UDN-style document ID, regardless of how they are saved or uploaded to SharePoint. The advantages of the MacroView UDN custom Provider are:

  • Document Numbers are unique across a SharePoint Server Farm, not just within a Site Collection.
  • Enables more flexibility in the formatting of unique Document IDs
  • Provides the ability to start the sequence of Document numbers at other than 1 (which useful when migrating from another DM system)

Document References

With MacroView UDN an organization can define one or more Document Reference schemes. Each scheme defines a formatted concatenation of metadata (such as unique Document ID, Version Number, Library Title, etc). A scheme is associated with a Site Collection or site or document library. As a document is opened from SharePoint into Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint, MacroView UDN will retrieve the metadata values defined in the relevant Reference Scheme and insert them into the document.


Document Reference comprised of unique Document ID (MVLEGAL-23079037) and current version (0.2) inserted in the footer of a Word document.

The default insertion position is the left of the footer, but other insertion locations can be controlled by using a field code. The footer update performed by MacroView UDN can readily be configured – e.g. to have footers appears only on first page / only on last page or in different positions within the footer, etc.

MacroView UDN ensures that the Document Reference (e.g. in the footer) is always up-to-date. Even newly saved documents will contain a correct document reference.  You can retrieve a document from SharePoint and insert it as an attachment or link in an outgoing email, confident that the person receiving the document will be able to identify it accurately and know what version it is at.  The MacroView DMF can assist further in this regard by automatically updating the file name of attachments so that they contain their unique Document ID and / or Version Number.

MacroView UDN copes automatically with the differences between 2003 and 2007 / 2010 format documents, and will even remove out-of-date unique Numbering metadata in documents that have been converted from 2003 to 2007 / 2010 format.

MacroView UDN is an ideal complement to MacroView DMF. A good example is moving documents in a SharePoint store – if the move is performed using MacroView DMF, existing Documents IDs are preserved, even when moving to a library in another site collection. Attempting to do such moves in the browser UI leads to confusion as SharePoint treats the “move” as a copy then delete, which causes a new Document ID to be assigned. MacroView DMF also ensures that existing links (i.e. DocIDRedir-style links that include the unique Document ID) will continue to work, with no need to wait until the search search index has been updated.  This also applies to links to documents that have been renamed using MacroView DMF.