How to Create SharePoint Alerts

Gregory Zelfond

by Gregory Zelfond on 4/19/2016

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Date Revised:

Applies to:
change notification, delete alerts, Document libraries, Events, files, Lists, manage alerts, Search, SharePoint alerts

SharePoint alerts are a very useful and super-easy out-of-the-box feature to setup, and yet, I don’t see many users taking advantage of them. Alerts are a simple and 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 business scenarios to use them for.

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 obviously 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, 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 an individual document. The 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).

The video below shows the steps in a one-minute video. Read the article below for the details and business scenarios.

How to create SharePoint alerts on a list or document library

Navigate to the list or library you want to set an alert for. From the top ribbon, click the Library  tab, as shown in figure 1 (this name depends on the list you are using, but you want to click the tab on the right side).

Select the list or library. In the ribbon, select the Library tab.
Figure 1: To create an alert for a SharePoint library, select the list or library. In the ribbon, select the Library tab.

In the middle of the ribbon, click Alert me (figure 1), then Set Alert on this Library (or list) as shown in figure 2.

Choose Set alert on this library to create a new alert
Figure 2: With the document library selected, choose Set alert on this library to create a new alert.

The New Alert screen that pops up, (figure 3) 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:

Set up a SharePoint alert for the Documents library
Figure 3: Set up a SharePoint alert for the Documents library.

  • 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 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: In this option, things get 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 choose this option.
  • 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 – choose the appropriate radio button.

Don’t forget to click OK. That’s all! You will get an email from the system confirming 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 created the alert to notify you about document deletions, and you selected the option to notify you immediately, you should get an email that looks like figure 4.
And by the way, you can even navigate to that library/list right form the body of the email. Convenient, isn’t’ it?

A SharePoint alert that a file was deleted
Figure 4: A SharePoint alert that a file was deleted.

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 nearly identical except for the first step.

Start by navigating to the library that contains the file you want to set an alert for. In this example, we’ll set an alert for an individual file. Click the checkbox next to file or item you want to create a SharePoint alert for (figure 5). On the ribbon at the top of the page, select the Files tab. Choose the Alert Me icon, and from the menu that drops down, choose Set an alert on this document and from there, just follow the steps as outlined above to configure a SharePoint alert.

Set an alert in SharePoint for an individual file
Figure 5: You can set an alert in SharePoint for an individual file.

How do you modify or delete existing SharePoint alerts?

You can easily modify or delete an existing SharePoint alert. Just navigate in the SharePoint ribbon (figure 6) as if you are setting up new alert, and on the Alert Me button, select the Manage My Alerts item from the menu.

Choose Manage My Alerts to modify or delete a SharePoint alert
Figure 6: If you want to modify or delete a SharePoint alert, choose Manage My Alerts from the ribbon.

After you’ve clicked Manage My Alerts, SharePoint will bring you to the page where you manage all alerts you ever created on this site (figure 7)! Very convenient. You can click on the name of alert you want to modify or tick the checkbox next to an alert and then click delete, if you no longer want to receive notifications.

Add a new alert or delete an alert
Figure 7: When you click Manage My Alerts, you’ll see a page where you can add a new alert or delete an alert. If you click the alert (the one called Documents) you can modify it.

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 (figure 8) I am searching for keyword: policy.

Create an alert for a search keyword
Figure 8: You can create an alert for search criteria.

I get a list of results that match the criteria (it searches for the word policy in 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 (figure 9). Unless your SharePoint Administrator specifically disabled this option, you will see an Alert  Me link. Click on it.

You can create an alert for new documents that are added to the site that meet search criteria
Figure 9: If your administrator has not disabled it, you can create an alert for new documents that are added to the site that meet search criteria.

There, you will see an already familiar screen (figure 10) where you can customize your alert.

Adding a new alert for a search keyword
Figure 10: Adding a new alert for a search keyword.

Wow, isn’t SharePoint amazing?

Business scenarios for SharePoint alerts

There are plenty of business reasons why you would setup SharePoint alerts. Here are few of them:

  • You collaborate with a 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 be alerted if your team members accidentally delete 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

You can find Greg’s original blog post here.

Topic: Business Productivity

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