Product Numbering Standard: Moving to Lists

A few months ago I documented the Brettro Product Numbering Standard. Since then, Microsoft introduced Lists as part of Microsoft 365. After moving my editorial calendar to a list a few weeks ago, I decided to move the list where I kept and created product numbers for Brettro creative files from an Excel spreadsheet into Microsoft Lists.

Getting Ready

One option to create a new list is to import an Excel file. Since my current tracking document is an Excel spreadsheet I thought I’d give that a try. But I needed to do a few things before importing the list.

Prepping the Excel File

Every Microsoft List includes a “Title” column. It can be renamed to anything, but it starts as “Title.” My spreadsheet didn’t have a “Title” column, so I created one and populated it with the content in my “Slug” column. Looking back, it seems a bit duplicative to have done that, but it made sense at the time.

The next thing I needed to do was define a table in my spreadsheet. This was new to me, so I had to do a web search to learn how.

With that done, I needed to save the spreadsheet to my OneDrive. You have a choice to upload it to OneDrive during the import process, but I didn’t realize that until I’d started.

Create a SharePoint Document Library

Prior to creating this list, I was saving all Brettro’s creative files in my OneDrive. In planning the list, though, I realized I could use Power Automate to create folders to store the files related to the list entry automatically. I decided to have the Automate flow do that in a SharePoint document library, so I created a document library and using the “Move” function in OneDrive, I moved all my existing files to the library. And while this was overall pretty fast, it did take some time.

Now that the prep work is done, I can create my list!

Creating the List

The import-from-Excel process is very easy. In Microsoft Lists:

  1. Click New list button
    1. Choose From Excel
    2. Select the Excel file and click Next
    3. Assign column types to the columns; in my case:
      1. Set “Slug” column to Title
      2. Set “Product Category” column to Choice
      3. Set “Creation Date” to Do Not Import

And with that, the list was created.

Fine-Tuning the List

With the list created and the contents of my spreadsheet imported, I needed to do some fine tuning.

  • Confirmed that the “ID” column matches “Unique ID” column: all the product numbers I’d created previously had used a column in the spreadsheet called “ID.” It was important to make sure the unique ID number assigned to each entry matched that original ID column. A quick check determined that they matched.
  • Add all the choices to “Product Category”: the Product Numbering Standard has 20 different categories for products. I haven’t created a product in each category yet, so the “Product Category” column choices needed to be updated to include all of them.
  • Added the “Link to Folder” column: as I was preparing my Power Automate flow, I decided it would be nice to have a link in the list to the folder for the product. I added this column so that the flow could add that information once the folder was created.

Adding Some Automation

Microsoft’s Power Automate is an incredibly powerful automation tool for use in pretty much every Microsoft 365 product. I’m not going to go into detail about the Automate flow creation, except to say that the flow I created:

  • Populates the “Product Workspace & Filename” column in my list. The information is used to not only name the directory where files are stored but also the source document files.
  • Creates a folder in the directory structure. Using the “Product Category” column from the list, the flow can determine which directory in the directory structure to create a new folder and then create the folder with the correct filename.
  • Updates the list with a link to the folder. The list entry is then updated with a link to the newly created folder so that if you’re looking at the list, you can jump to the related files very quickly.

Changing the Standard

I developed my Product Numbering Standard before version control was really built-in to places where files were saved. SharePoint document libraries do have great version control, so with the move of all my creative files to SharePoint, I’ve removed the version number requirement from both the folder structure and the product ID.


Microsoft Lists have a great deal of potential. I have a few other ideas in mind for lists to create, though I’d like to someday do a deeper dive into how Lists, Microsoft Planner and Microsoft To Do all complement each other.

Blogging Workflow: Moving Editorial Calendar to Lists

When Lists launched as part of Microsoft 365 this past summer, one of the built-in templates included with it was a Content Scheduler. This template was the most interesting to me because, like I identify in my Website Content Workflow post, I currently use a table on a OneNote page to manage my editorial calendar.

So I decided to give this Lists template a try.

Creating the list is very easy. It’s a matter of clicking a few buttons, setting a name and a location and the list is created.

But I want to customize the list a little bit to use my terminology and workflow.

Customizing the List

The list comes pre-populated with nine fields, several of which I decided to customize:

  • Content Type
  • Content Image
  • Draft Due By
  • Publish By
  • Status

I also added a few columns to enhance my workflow.

‘Content Type’ to ‘Post Type’

Since the only thing I’m using this for is to track entries in my blog, I don’t need a “content type” column. But I do need a column to track the types of posts in my blog, so I changed this to “Post Type” and changed the options to:

  • Blog Post
  • Page
  • Portfolio
  • Event

I also changed this to only allow a single selection.

‘Content Image’ to ‘Featured Image’

I changed this to “Featured Image” to match the WordPress terminology.

‘Draft Due By’ to ‘Publish Date (Planned)’

My goal is to post a blog entry every month in both of my blogs. For this blog, my scheduled post date is the first Thursday of every month. At any given time I’m working on about four different blog entries, so having a “draft due” column isn’t useful to me. Knowing the planned publish date, however, is.

‘Publish By’ to ‘Publish Date (Actual)’

And sometimes I miss my publication goal, so I like to keep track of when I actually posted my blog entries.

Status Column

The choices included with the “Status” column didn’t match the statuses I’d developed for my workflow, so I changed them to what works for me:

  • Planned
  • In Progress
  • Final Review
  • Posted
  • Deferred


I added this column to be able to track content for both my blogs.


The slug is a three to four word phrase that succinctly describes the blog entry. It’s used by WordPress as part of the URL and I use it to create a folder for storing my Word document and any related graphics and images.

Customizing the View

Customizing and creating views of Lists are both very easy and very handy. The standard, default view is “All Items.” I edited that view order the entries by the “Publish Date (Planned)” column so the newest entries are at the top of the list.

I also created a view for the planned, in progress and final review statuses so I can quickly see where I need to focus my attention.

Lists also has a handy calendar view, but since I’m only posting two entries a month, it’s not particularly useful to me right now.

Creating a Folder

My Office 365 subscription includes access to Power Automate, Microsoft’s tool for automating tasks and workflows. Using the data from a few of my Editorial Calendar list columns, I created a flow that automatically creates the folder where I save content and assets for a specific blog entry. (An automation in Power Automate is called a “flow.”)

The flow concatenates the planned publish date column and the slug column to create the folder. For this entry, the folder’s name is entry – 2020-12-03 – editorial calendar to lists.

Power Automate is an incredibly robust automation engine. My folder creation flow, while a time saver for me, barely scratches the surface of its capabilities.

To List or Not to List…

Moving my editorial calendar from a clunky, manually created OneNote table to Microsoft Lists was very easy to do. And the functionality available in Lists makes it easy to quickly see where I stand in the writing of my blogs. So far, I really like it. And according to Microsoft’s Roadmap, they seem quite committed to the product. (An iOS app is slated for release in the next few months which will make working with lists even easier.) I see potential for Lists to replace other tracking tools I’m using, like Excel, for other areas of Brettro.

Website Content Workflow

As I’ve (slowly) began writing again, I struggled to remember my workflow for ideating, writing, editing, storing and posting content. It seems like a smart thing to document and doing so was a great reminder of my process. So, here it is. It very closely mirrors the workflow I established at my full-time gig and is a workflow works well for one person writing content—mostly blog entries—for a small website.

The workflow is simple:

  1. Ideate and Plan
  2. Write and Edit
  3. Publish

Ideate and Plan

I use OneNote to brainstorm, organize and schedule my blog entries. I have a section in my Brettro OneNote notebook called “Brettro Website Content.” Inside that section I created pages for each major section of the Brettro website:

  • Blog Entries
  • Pages
  • Portfolio

Each page is then split into two sections:


OneNote list for brainstorming content

This section is a freeform, bulleted list of ideas for entries; sometimes a bullet is just a word and sometimes it is a more in-depth, complete thought.


Planning table in OneNote

This section is a four-column table:

  • Title: the title of the entry
  • Description: the description is a more fleshed-out version of the brainstorm bullet and many times becomes the entry’s excerpt
  • Scheduled Post: anticipated posting date; my goal is to post every two weeks, but clearly that hasn’t been the case in 2019.
  • Actual Post: the date the entry is actually posted.

Like I said in my “My Creative Toolbox” entry, I love OneNote and went all-in on OneNote in 2014 and never looked back. It’s available on every device, it’s easy to send items to it from other apps and its interface is elegant.

Write and Edit

Brettro’s content template in Microsoft Word

Years ago I created a content template Word document that includes places for the excerpt, the meta description, meta tags (though those are less necessary now), the copy and custom text for both posting to Facebook and Twitter. The template has worked really well.

File Structure and Storage

In order to have my drafts and related imagery available everywhere, I keep my website content on my OneDrive. (I have an Office 365 subscription, which I find very useful.) I have a folder named “Brettro Web Content” with four folders inside it that match my OneNote pages—blogs, pages and portfolio—and then an additional one for graphics.

Inside each of those folders I create a unique folder for each blog entry, page or portfolio item (respectively) so that I can store the text and any graphics or photos together. For consistency, I use the following naming conventions for those content folders:

  • Blog entry: entry - YYYY-MM-DD - slug
  • Page: page - section - slug
  • Portfolio: project - YYYY-MM-DD - slug

The graphics folder contains template Photoshop and Illustrator files for sizing featured images and images in the content column correctly.


Posting an entry to WordPress is a copy-and-paste effort from the Word doc. On the Windows version of Word there is a “Post to Blog” functionality that, for whatever reason, isn’t available on the Mac. That’s disappointing because I think having that functionality would be nice. For the moment, I open my content entry in Word, open WordPress and then copy and paste the content and upload the images to create my entry.