How to: Create a SharePoint List with External Data Columns

Applies to: SharePoint Server 2010

Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 provides a field type called External Data that is available to all regular SharePoint lists (except External lists). The External Data field type enables users to add data from external content types registered in the Business Data Connectivity (BDC) service metadata store to SharePoint lists. To decide whether you should create an external list or use external data columns in a regular SharePoint list, see this topic.

The following procedure shows how to add a external data column called "Customer" to a SharePoint Microsoft Word document library. Note that a document library is just a kind of list in SharePoint and that the steps to create external data columns are the same as for a regular SharePoint list.


  • Microsoft SQL Server 2005 or later installed on the server running SharePoint Server.

  • The Northwind SQL Server 2000 database installed on the server running SharePoint Server.

  • This topic assumes that you already created the Customer External Content Type based on the Northwind database. To learn about how to create external content types, see How to: Create an External Content Type Based on a SQL Server Table.

Create a SharePoint List with External Data Columns

  1. To create the document library on the server, perform the following steps on the client or the server computer:

    1. Browse to the SharePoint site where you want to create the list or document library.

    2. Click Site Actions, then click View all site content.

    3. Click Create, and then click Document Library.

    4. In the new page, specify a name for the document library, such as Contracts, and select the document template as Microsoft Office Word Document.

    5. Click Create.

  2. This will create the document library. To add an external data column, in the SharePoint Server Ribbon, click Library Settings.

  3. Then click Create Column in the Columns section. In the dialog box that opens, enter the name of the column as Customer and choose External Data as the column type. This displays the External Content Type Picker as shown in the figure below.

    External content type picker

  4. Click the picker and select the Customer external content type.

  5. You can choose any number of fields to be brought back from the external data source and displayed in the list or document library. For an example, click Select All Fields as shown below, and then click OK.

    Select all fields from the external data source

    This creates the document library.

  6. Navigate to the document library. Click Upload a document and then upload a Word document. Then, fill in the rest of the fields by selecting a customer by using the External Data Item Picker.

    Upload document

    Then select a customer from the picker (shown below) and click OK.

    External item picker for choosing a customer

    Click Save to save the document to the document library. You have now successfully created a SharePoint list (document library) with external data columns.