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How to provision SharePoint 2010 Managed Metadata columns

Tags: SharePoint 2010

This post will show you how to provision Site Columns that uses Managed Metadata in SharePoint 2010. Managed Metadata is one of the new and exciting features of SharePoint Server 2010. It allows you to centrally manage metadata terms and keywords. Creating Managed Metadata columns using the SharePoint web interface is a simple task but the problem is that it does not allow you to move your Site Columns from one farm to another that easily. The reason is that these Site Columns definitions contains references to the unique IDs of the terms in the current Managed Metadata Service Application (MMS).

Exporting Site Columns

If you export a Managed Metadata Column and a Content Type using it to Visual Studio (SharePoint Designer > Export > Visual Studio Import, you know the drill) then you end up with definitions like below.

The Site Column is based on the TaxonomyFieldType and contains a Customization element which contains an array of properties (I've omitted most of them here). These properties contains IDs of the Managed Metadata group, term store and service application. Since these are unique for each MMS this definition cannot be provisioned to another farm (for instance from dev to stage, stage to prod etc).

    DisplayName="Custom (web)" 
    Default />

And if you examine the XML further you will also notice that a second field is defined for this Site Column. This field is of the type Note and is hidden.

Field Type="Note" DisplayName="__Custom_0" StaticName="__CustomTaxHTField0" Name="__CustomTaxHTField0" 
    ID="{a6eae615-9835-4b75-97bf-d4e7a938b892}" ShowInViewForms="FALSE" Required="FALSE"     Hidden="TRUE" CanToggleHidden="TRUE" 
    SourceID="{5e68c9eb-5efe-4bcc-b8db-93d38d797fbe}" Overwrite="TRUE" />

A lot of XML but quite useless for reuse...

So how do I do then?

To provision the Site Columns and Content Types without these hardcoded Guids and IDs you basically have two options:

  1. Create an event receiver (or similar) that creates the Site Columns and Content Types programmatically
  2. A combination of declarative and the programmatic approach above

Solution ExplorerI prefer the second approach and I will show you how to do it (the first one can quite easily be done based on the code that will follow).

First you need to create a new SharePoint 2010 project in Visual Studio 2010, create a new Empty SharePoint project. Then add a new Content Type SharePoint Project Item (SPI) to the project and inherit it from the Item content type. Then add a new XML file to the SPI and name it Fields.xml. This elements manifest will contain the Site Column definition, but in order to make it into a manifest file you need to select the file and press F4 to edit the properties of the file. Change the Deplyment Type from NoDeployment to ElementManifest. Your solution should look like the image to the right. Also make sure to set the feature to be scoped to Site (Site Collection) level - we're talking about deploying Site Columns and Content Types here.

Then it is time to write the declarative part (i.e. the XML). You need to add a new Field element of the type TaxonomyFieldType (or TaxonomyFieldTypeMulti). Configure it as follows or as it suits your needs. Notice that I have set the ShowField attribute to Term1033, this is needed by the MMS to select the correct term value.

<>xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?> 
Elements xmlns=""> 
  Field ID="{749DA0D1-4649-4C25-871B-05F0C07221FC}" 
    DisplayName="Home Country" 

To add this field to the content type there is no rocket science, just do as you normally do:

FieldRef ID="{749DA0D1-4649-4C25-871B-05F0C07221FC}" Name="HomeCountry"/>

That's all that you can do declarative. If this would be deployed a field would be created of the type Managed Metadata but you have to manually connect it to the MMS.

Now we have to dig into some programming to connect the field to the MMS. This is done in an Event Receiver for the feature. Right-click the feature and select Add Event Receiver. Uncomment the FeatureActivated method and implement it as follows:

public override void FeatureActivated(SPFeatureReceiverProperties properties) { 
    SPSite site = properties.Feature.Parent as SPSite; 
    Guid fieldId = new Guid("{749DA0D1-4649-4C25-871B-05F0C07221FC}"); 
    if (site.RootWeb.Fields.Contains(fieldId)) { 
        TaxonomySession session = new TaxonomySession(site);

        if (session.TermStores.Count != 0) { 
            var termStore = session.TermStores["Managed Metadata Service"]; 
            var group = termStore.Groups.GetByName("Wictors Group"); 
            var termSet = group.TermSets["Countries"];

            TaxonomyField field = site.RootWeb.Fields[fieldId] as TaxonomyField;

            // Connect to MMS 
            field.SspId = termSet.TermStore.Id; 
            field.TermSetId = termSet.Id; 
            field.TargetTemplate = string.Empty; 
            field.AnchorId = Guid.Empty; 

MMS configurationThis method will first check if the field has been deployed. The field is retrieved using the Guid of the Field, defined in the XML. Once that is confirmed that the field exists a TaxonomySession object is acquired using the SPSite object. The TaxonomySession object is declared in the Microsoft.SharePoint.Taxonomy assembly - so you have to add a reference to that assembly first. To connect the field to the MMS you need to retrieve the Term Store, Group and Term Set. All this is done using the names of them as defined in the MMS. The image to the right shows how the MMS looks like that this code is connecting the field to. It is very likely that you have the same structure of the MMS in your different environments - if not you have to come up with a more configurable way :-)

Note the GetByName method used above is a custom extension that looks like this:

public static Group GetByName(this GroupCollection groupCollection, string name) { 
    if (String.IsNullOrEmpty(name)) { 
        throw new ArgumentException("Not a valid group name", "name"); 
    foreach (var group in groupCollection) { 
        if (group.Name == name) { 
            return group; 
    throw new ArgumentOutOfRangeException("name", name, "Could not find the group"); 

Once you have a hold on the taxonomy objects then it is time to convert the Field to a TaxonomyField object. This object is then configured with a set of properties. Specifically the ID of the Term Store and Term Set is set. Finally the field is updated to reflect the changes.

The Result!

That's it. All you now have to do is deploy it and test it out.

Final result


  • Trackback said

    This post continues in the same neighborhood as yesterdays post about provisioning Managed Metadata columns. This time we take a look at the Ratings in lists (and while we're at it check out another e...

  • Sajeewa said

    Hi Wictor, Thanks for sharing this. But when I use the option 2 to create TaxonomyFields, I found that they are not appearing in the Refinement panel of the search. So, I use the option 1 and it worked. Any thoughts on this?

  • Peter Steffensen said

    Hi Victor. I have tried this approach, but has the same problem as Sajewa that the refinement panel dows not show the managed metadata. Do you know any fix for this?

  • Paul Pascha said

    Hi Wictor, I followed the steps you described but when editing a list item based on the ContentType with the ManagedMetadata field I got the following error: Failed to get value of the "MyField" column from the "Managed Metadata" field type control. To prevent this error you have to add en configure an additional Note field as described in the following forum post:

  • Daniel said

    In order for the taxonomy field to work properly with the Note field it has to be coupled in the feature activation function of your code example. Couple the fields by setting the TextField property of the taxonomy field to the guid of the note field. In this example it would be: field.TextField = new Guid({a6eae615-9835-4b75-97bf-d4e7a938b892});

  • Trackback said

    An intense Twitter conversation initiated by Fabian about how Managed Metadata is updated in SharePoint 2010 gave me the idea to note down a few interesting bits about the Taxonomy Fields and how they...

  • Tim said

    This was a great article and it confirmed my suspicion that you can't "provision" a managed metadata column into a sandbox as the Taxonomy assembly is not supported in a sandbox :(. That will peave a few devs in the upcoming Office 365.

  • Ari Bakker said

    @Sajeewa and @Peter Steffensen - to get the managed metadata column automatically showing up in the refinement panel you need to add in several extra columns. I've detailed the steps at @Wictor - great article

  • Petrica said

    Hi I followed your recipe and got everything working. But then suddenly field became read only. I can't even find where it gets defined being read only.

  • Petrica said

    Hi I followed your recipe and got everything working. But then suddenly field became read only. I can't even find where it gets defined being read only.

  • lupodjam said

    when updating the field, the update method must be used with true to propagate the changes through the lists, otherwise the filed will be disabled.

  • Rene said

    Just saw the following blog post and thought it looked very familiar:

  • Riccardo Gozzi said

    For anyone having the UnauthorizedAccessException issue when provisioning a custom list definition with taxonomy fields in a sub-site you need to include the following in the taxonomyfieldtype.


  • Marcin Robaszynski said

    There's one more thing - user must have at least "Read" permission to the hidden list "TaxonomyHiddenList". It's available under "Lists/TaxonomyHiddenList" url. This list has (at least in my case) broken permissions, so even granting someone full control to site collection didn't help.

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  • Bill said

    I am trying to follow your example. Most of it is working, I can select the term I want and click the save button. But the meta data is not saved. I hooked up the TaxonomyItemEventReceiver, and used .Net Reflector to debug thru it. The problem is that the ItemUpdating method is splitting the URL on "/" and looks at the second one. If it says "Forms", it runs. In my code, the second item in the array is "Lists" not forms, so the SyncHiddenField method never runs. Any ideas?

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About Wictor...

Wictor Wilén is a Director and SharePoint Architect working at Connecta AB. Wictor has achieved the Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) - SharePoint 2010, Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) - SharePoint  and Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) - SharePoint 2010 certifications. He has also been awarded Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for four consecutive years.

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