Location data is one of the most valuable and one of the most exploitable types of data which you can capture. It can be used to provide data to the end users so they know where something should be delivered. It can be used by analysts to look for patterns in the geographic spread of sales. It's such a simple thing to capture, that we very much take for granted, but can be such a beneficial type of data.
There are numerous areas across O365 where location data can be exploited:
- PowerBI has a mapping tile which allows you to display geographic data
- PowerApps has the ability to capture GPS data live from the mobile device
- Power Automate has the ability to trigger based on a geographic location
- Outlook will show mapping data based on the geographic location of a meeting.
Everything now within Office 365 has some sort of geographic data associated with it, and SharePoint is no exception. A while ago (don't ask me when, since having kids, time has warped) a new data type was rolled out to the SharePoint user interface, which allowed the user to enter some basic location data and therefore allowed SharePoint to populate more specific meta data. This data type was called Location.
This isn't new, so why am I writing about this? I'm writing about this because I recently saw a SharePoint admin, using SharePoint Online, creating and populating lots of location data manually across multiple defined columns. This led me to decide that the location data type still isn't as widely known as the other types.
How do I create a location field?
Location fields are created primary through the user interface. At the time of writing this blog, they can only be created through the modern interface, which means that I can't create it as a site column or add it to a site content type.
When I navigate to a modern list and the click "Add column" one of the options which I have available to me is location.
When selected, the create column blade appears on the right hand side of the screen and allows me to select what data I want to display as a result of using the location data type. It will also allow me to add the content type to the List Content Type, so it can still be used within the context of context of content types at this level.
The whole idea behind the field is to provide the maximum amount of data to the user with the minimum of input. So by the user inputting just some basic address detail SharePoint will be able to determine the following:
- Street Address
- Country or Region
- Postal Code
By breaking out all of this data into it's constituent parts, we are then able to feed all of the other areas of O365 that work from mapping data. So I enter 10 Downing Street as my address, the remaining data will be determined for me. When you start typing into the location field, it will use lookups to try and determine which address you want to add to the list item.
Based on the location info that you select from the address selector, SharePoint will go away and find everything else for me. The level of detail that you get back depends on the address that you select. For example, I get more information for 221B Baker Street, the home of Sherlock Holmes, compared to if I select 10 Downing Street.
Now that I have this data within my SharePoint list, I can then start to dissect this within my views, filtering, grouping and all of the good stuff that comes with using a SharePoint list.
The biggest thing to be aware of is that, out of the box, there are no conditional formatting options available for the columns created by the location data type. I find this to be a real shame as we could have so much fun with the formatting here. I have raised a user voice for this to be added:
But beyond the conditional formatting, the data type is there, does the job and does a good job of providing maximum return for minimal input.
The Location data type has been in SharePoint Online for quite a while, but many still don't seem to know that it exists. It is design to take the minimum user input for a location and to provide extended metadata as a result such as the co-ordinates, or the individual elements of the address.
It can currently only be created at list level, therefore can't be created a Site Column or added to a Site Content type. Once it's been added to the list, it can however be added to a List Content Type.
The key piece of functionality missing from the columns, is the ability to add any type of formatting to it. It would have been nice to just take the co-ordinates as an example and to generate a map. This has now been raised on User Voice to see if we can get this added.
I hope you found this blog useful, and as always feedback is welcome.