How to use a ‘Link to a document’ in place of a real document in SharePoint.

From time to time you may need to give the effect of storing documents in SharePoint, without them actually being stored in SharePoint document libraries. Maybe you have a raft of documents in external systems that you want to make available with SharePoint or you have found an interesting blog post or video that you want to share with your colleagues. Creating Links to these documents opens up a raft of opportunities.

A document can be made available in SharePoint with a few easy steps using the 'Link To a Document' content type. This post will first illustrate how this is set-up and how to create a link. Then we will consider how to distribute that 'link' with DocRead so that you can request that users read and confirm the document by a deadline.

So - let's get started:

Allowing external links to be created

Navigate to the document library where you want to add the ‘Link to document’. From the Ribbon select ‘Library’ and choose ‘Library Settings’.

Library > Library settings menu

Now select ‘Advanced Settings’.

advanced settings option

Ensure ‘Allow management of content types’ is set to ‘Yes’ and click 'OK'.

content type option

Select ‘Add from existing site content types’.

add from existing site content types

Choose ‘Link to a Document’ from the list in the left and click ‘Add’ to move it into the right-hand column. Then click ‘Ok’.

select content types

Now that we have done this (you will only need to do it once per library), we are able to add ‘Links to a document’. So let’s try it!

Creating an external link to a Document

When you select ‘New Document’ from the Files tab, you will notice that a ‘Link to a document’ option is now available.

link to a document option

Select the 'Link to a Document' option.

Give your document a name and a url then click OK.

Note: The url can be *anything* such as a url from an Internet/Intranet web page, a document in another document library, YouTube video, document in another system and so on. In fact, as long as it can be navigated to by the end-user it can be linked to and stored in your document library. Use the link provided to test the URL details you enter.

document name and url details

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Using DocRead to ensure the right people read it and acknowledge it

Now you have your new link set up, you may need groups of people within your organization to read the document (or watch the YouTube/training video etc.). This can be arranged really easily using a third party tool like DocRead to assign all relevant people a task.

The first step is to ensure the DocRead properties are available in the Link to Document content types. (Note: if you are already using DocRead and have other links to documents within this library, chances are that these columns are already recognised by DocRead so you can skip to step 4).

1) From the Content Types section, select 'Link to a Document'.

link to a document

2) Then select 'Add from existing site or list columns'.

add from existing site or list columns

3) Select 'Reading Task Link', 'Recommended Audiences' and 'Required Audiences' from the Available columns box on the left hand side, then click 'Add' to move them into the right-hand side 'Columns to add' box and click 'OK'.

select columns

4) When you view the ‘Edit Properties’ screen for the link to your document, you will now see the Reading Task Link, and Recommended and Required Audiences elements (if not review the last 3 steps to make them visible)

Now you can tell DocRead which individuals or groups of people need to read it. You can achieve this by using the 'Recommended Audiences' and ‘Required Audiences’ boxes. Simply choose some groups and give them a set number of days to complete the task!

edit properties of document to set reading

Once the link is ‘Checked In’, ‘Published’ and ‘Approved’ (if workflow is enabled), DocRead will create ‘Reading Tasks’ to all of the people in the groups specified. (e.g ‘Health and Safety Group’ and ‘United Export Members’). Each person will then be given a set number of days to confirm reading the 'Top tips for ladder safety' document before it becomes overdue (in this case 7 days). Users will receive an email notifying them that they are required to read the document. In addition to this, the DocRead web part is usually placed in a prominent place in SharePoint so that users can never avoid their required reading!

The screen below is an example of what the end user sees when they click on the new reading tasks. They can view information about the document (which is really a link), and also click ‘View Document’ to view it. So in this case, when they click ‘View Document’ a new browser window will be shown with the Ladder page on it.

DocRead task detail window

Once the user is happy they have read the page, they are then required to confirm the document using the 3rd tab, by clicking the ‘I agree’ and clicking 'Confirm'

confirm task completed


I hope this post has shown how easy it is to incorporate external sources of information to your environment and also how to ensure users read a document that’s initially stored outside of SharePoint. 

I am sure you will agree - this is a really neat way to increase the number and types of documents that can be issued and tracked with DocRead.

Why not take a more in-depth look at DocRead by taking the tour ?

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DocRead has been helping our customers managing their policies and procedures in SharePoint for over 12 years.