Today I want to share one of my favorite and most under-utilized features of SharePoint – SharePoint Alerts. This is a very useful and super-easy out-of-the-box feature to set up, and yet, I don’t see many users taking advantage of it. It is a simple, but very powerful little tool that can be used in a variety of business scenarios. Let me explain what SharePoint alerts are all about, how to create them and what are the business scenarios for its use.
What are SharePoint alerts?
SharePoint alerts are email notifications that are sent by SharePoint when something changes in a library or list. By library I mean a document library and by list – I mean any type of list in SharePoint. For example, Issues Log, Task List, Announcements, Contact List, some custom list you created and Calendar (yes, the calendar is a list in SharePoint) can all have alerts setup, and you can be notified of any changes made to them.
Where can I setup SharePoint alerts?
- Whole List or Library
- Individual Item (whole folder, document or an item like task or event)
- SharePoint Search (yes, you can setup an alert on search, I will cover this at the end)
You can setup a SharePoint alert on the whole library or list or you can setup an alert on an individual entity within that library or list. Let me clarify. If you have a document library, say with folders and documents, you can create an alert for the whole library (which will notify you of any changes in the whole library), you can create an alert for individual folder (which will notify you of changes in that folder only), or, you can create an alert for individual document. Same applies with lists (task list, calendar, etc.). You can set an alert on the whole list (calendar or task list) or just a particular item in the list (individual task or event).
How to create SharePoint alerts on the list or document library
Navigate to the list or library you want to set an alert for. From the top ribbon, click on Library Tab (this name depends on the list you are using, but you want to click the tab on the right side).
In the middle of the ribbon, click Alert me, then Set Alert on this Library (or list).
The screen that pops up; this is where all the magic happens. This is where you setup all the characteristics of the alert you are setting up. Let’s go over it:
- Alert Title: This is where you give a name for your alert so it is something meaningful to you (whatever the name you give here will appear in the subject and body of the email you will be getting later, so be creative)
- Send Alerts to: This is pretty obvious, but you can also add other users as well. The emails you specify have to be from users in the system (your organization) you can’t add just any emails in here. In most of the cases, you just skip this section as you are probably setting it up for yourself.
- Delivery method: this defaults to your email. You can also get text alert, but that requires additional admin configuration so let’s not get into that.
- Change Type: That’s where it gets interesting. Here you can specify what kind of behavior should trigger an alert. Say for example you are concerned about file deletions – just make sure you check off that option.
- Send alerts for these changes: This is where you can filter the alerts even further. Say for example you are just concerned about documents you created or modified. This is the area where you do this.
- When to Send Alerts: This is where you set the frequency. If you want an alert to be sent immediately or once a day/week – check off the appropriate radio button.
Don’t forget to click OK. That’s all – you Alert has been setup. You will get an email form the system conforming that you have successfully created an alert!
Now, go ahead and make a change of some sort in the library (i.e., delete a document). If you setup an alert to notify you about document deletions, and you set to immediate frequency- you will be getting an email that looks like one below where it will notify you of a change.
And by the way, you can even navigate to that library/list right form the body of the email. Convenient, isn’t’ it?
How to create SharePoint alerts on the single file, folder or an item (event or task, etc.)
The process for creating an alert for an individual item and not the whole list or library is pretty much identical except for the first step.
Click on Check box next to file or item you want to create SharePoint alert for. On the ribbon, now, select the tab on the left (file or item). Then choose Select an Alert on this document and from there just follow the steps as outlined above.
How to modify or delete existing SharePoint Alerts?
No problem, very easy. Just navigate to the ribbon as if you are setting up a new alert, and select Manage My Alerts option.
This will bring you to the page where you manage all alerts you ever created on this site! Very convenient. You can click on the name of alert you want to modify or hit a checkbox next to it and click delete, if you no longer want to receive notifications.
BONUS! How to create SharePoint Alerts on search
I don’t believe many SharePoint users know about this, but in addition to documents, lists and libraries, you can also set an alert on specific search criteria. Let me explain.
Say for example you are doing a keyword search using that search box in the top-right hand corner of the screen. In this example, I am searching for the keyword: policy.
I get a list of results which match the criteria (it searches for word policy in the file name, metadata as well as text inside of the file). Say you want to be notified when new content is added to your SharePoint (any site) which matches particular keyword you are looking for. Guess what, there is a way to do this!
Scroll all the way down of the search result page. Unless your SharePoint Administrator specifically disabled this option, you will see Alert me link. Click on it.
There, you will see an already familiar screen where you can customize your alert.
Business scenarios for SharePoint Alerts
There are plenty of business reasons why you would setup SharePoint alerts. Here are a few of them:
- You collaborate with the team on a particular document and want to be notified of changes to it
- You utilize a document library and want to know when team members upload new documents
- You set an alert on a shared calendar to be notified of new events added by your peers
- You want to keep an eye and assure your team members do not accidentally delete the file(s) from a document library – I actually set this sort of alert for myself when I roll out new SharePoint document libraries to the users to assure important content is not accidentally deleted by new users playing around with SharePoint features
- You want to monitor for activity/changes in a document library or list