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3 ways to notify a user of changes in a SharePoint list

SharePoint lists are great at storing non-document content like issues, tasks, events, contacts or any other info via a custom list. So here is a typical business scenario. Say, you add some content to the list and want to notify a user of changes in a SharePoint list. How do you make this happen? This post will explain the available options.

1. Alert

The first option that’s available on any list or library is the alert capability. The beauty about this is that it is a self-service feature and any user can set up an alert themselves in just a few seconds. I actually published a detailed post on the topic, so you can read more about alerts here. As a user, you can set up different triggers for the alerts (item addition, deletions or modifications), as well as the frequency. So it is quite flexible.

Once setup, a user will get an email notification that looks like this (and it shows what has changed about the item too!)

2. Assigned to Column

The next available option for user notifications is to use Assigned To column and configure it to send an email when the item is assigned to someone. This column is not available on any list.  It is only available on 2 web parts: Issue Tracking and Tasks. Both lists have the Assigned To column, but most importantly, a setting for email notification.

To configure email notification for Assigned To column:

  1. From Issues or Tasks Web part, click on List > List Settings
  2. Click on Advanced Settings
  3. Scroll to E-Mail Notification section. Change Send e-mail when ownership is assigned? radio button to Yesnotify a user of changes in a SharePoint list
  4. Click OK

Now that this notification is configured, users will see the following message when assigning tasks (or issues) to each other.

And once the task or issue is assigned, the following notification will be sent to user’s inbox:

3. Share an item

The last option available to you is to share an item in a list. It works pretty much like sharing individual documents from within a document library. Choose the item you want to notify someone about an item and click Share. You will also use this option if you want to set unique permissions on a given item within a list (essentially breaking the inheritance between the two). I described this feature in great detail in this post.

notify a user of changes in a SharePoint list

Once an item is shared, a user will get an email notification that looks like this.

notify a user of changes in a SharePoint list


All three options are valid options and will do a great job with notifications, so it really depends on personal preference and type of list you have. The first one (Alerts) is more of a pull notification (initiated by a receiver), while the other 2 (Assigned to Column and Share an Item) are push notifications, initiated by the Sender.

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