Document Set Metadata – How does it work?

I had a student ask me the other day, does a document set get the metadata at the document set level?  I didn't know the answer…until now!  Let's start with a simple search on for "docset", we get nothing

Enable document sets in the site collection via "Site Actions->Site Settings->Site Collection Features->Activate Document Sets". Create a document set called "My Document Set" with a column called "Custom"

  • Create a new column called "Custom" in the document set 
  • We then need to setup some sub content types that the document set will contain via the "Document Set settings" link on the Document Set management page
  • Assign the Document Set to a library (with allow management of content types enabled)

Create a new instance of the Document Set with the "Custom" column filled in with "docset"

  • Re-index the content via the Search Service Application

Re-running the orginal search, we get only the document set:

Running a search for a sub document we get both document set folder and the document back:

So that begs the question…why doesn't Document Set metadata filter down to the sub items?  I think it should, but in the current version, it doesn't seem too with out some magic.

You may be asking the question what are "Shared Columns":

Well, you would think maybe it would cause the metadata to cascade down, but it doesn't, it only adds the column to the sub documents, which is weird in the first place because every time you add a content type, all the columns are added to the entire list anyway!

UPDATE!  A comment posted earlier pointed out there is a Timer Job Service that runs to update the metadata in the subcolumns.  Firing this job will supposedly update the sub document data.  However, I found that it doesn't for my Farm.  It would also make sense that your sub-document content types have a column with the same name as the document set level (if you didn't do the Shared Columns approach) or I'd guess this Timer Job would not do anything.  None-the-less, even after adding the column to the sub level docs via Shared Columns and the sub content types, the Timer Job still didn't update them 🙁  Still some bugs to be worked out here…

So the answer to the students question is no, a document set folder does NOT cascade its metadata to sub documents by default, it has to be updated by a Timer Job (supposedly)!

Have fun exploring!

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