Target external content with Office365 and DocRead

Microsoft 365 / SharePoint Online is an amazing place to store documents and important information. Documents and links are searchable, sharable and secure. SharePoint security ensures any sensitive information does not get into the wrong hands.

From time to time you may need to give the effect of storing documents in SharePoint Online, without them actually being stored in SharePoint Online document libraries. Maybe you have documents in external systems that you want to make available with SharePoint Online 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 whole new world of opportunities.

Documents can be made available in SharePoint Online with a few easy steps using the 'Link To a Document' content type. This 'How to' 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.

Using DocRead will mean that you can request that users read and confirm the document by a deadline. The video also shows this in action.

Allowing external links to be created

Navigate to the document library where you want to add the ‘Link to document’. Select the "Cog" icon in the top right corner of your screen and then the ‘Library Settings’ option.

Image showing the Library setting option in SharePoint

Now select ‘Advanced Settings’.

Image showing the advanced settings option

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

Image showing the content type option box

Select ‘Add from existing site content types’.

Image showing the add from existing site content types option

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

Image showing how to select content types

Note: you will only need to do this once per library.

Now that we have done this, we are able to add ‘Links to a document’. So let’s try it!

Creating an external link to a Document

Firstly, navigate to the document library where you want to add the ‘Link to document’. From the + New menu select ‘Link to a Document’.

Image showing how to select the Link to a Document option from the +New menu

Add the document name and provide a URL (use the test option to check that it works)

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.

The links to documents are stored in the same libraries as your normal SharePoint documents.

Image showing where to add document name and url details

Now you have your link to a document, you may want to target the external content to different people in your organization. Other employees may find this information useful and want to use the link and read the information it contains. DocRead can help you assign the information to groups of users and also provides dashboard reports so you can track who has/has not read it.

Interested in DocRead for Office 365?

Using DocRead to target the external links to the right people

In a document library that you have already activated DocRead on, select "+New" and then "Link to a Document".

Image showing the new link to a document option in Office365

Add the details of the document (or website address) that you want to create a link to.

Image showing where to add the document details for the link

Then click the ellipsis for the link to access the DocRead settings for the link you have just created.

This will open the DocRead settings window where you can create the audience you want the item to be assigned to.

Image showing the create a document audience screen

Once the item is ‘Checked In’, ‘Published’ and ‘Approved’ (if workflow is enabled), DocRead will create ‘Reading Assignments’ for all of the people in the groups specified. Each person will then be given a set number of days to confirm reading the item before it falls overdue. Users will also 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 Online 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 access it. 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'.


I hope this post has shown how easy it is to incorporate external sources of information to your SharePoint environment and also how to target external content to users. Using DocRead can help ensure that specific groups of 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.

Interested in DocRead for Office 365?

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