User Profiles in SharePoint 2013 (part 1) – User Profile Properties and Subtypes

A user profile consists of a series of attributes that define the profile of a given user known to SharePoint. User profiles effectively give individuals of the system—the users—substance in a SharePoint site by providing more details about a user than his or her username, e-mail address, and display name. A user profile is synonymous with a struct, or method-less class, in programming terms, that holds data in various fields. In fact, in the SharePoint API/Object Model, there exists a class to access user profile properties. In a similar vein, DBA folks would synonymize a user profile with a database record or SQL table.

With the basic principle of a user profile covered, the following sections will explore the various properties and subtypes of a user profile in SharePoint 2013, including organizational profiles and properties, as well as audiences and policy for user profiles.

1. User Profile Properties and Subtypes

SharePoint 2013 looks after user profile management via a dedicated managed service application.

  1. Open Central Administration.
  2. Click the Application Management link.
  3. Click Manage Service Applications in the Service Applications section.
  4. Scroll to the User Profile Service application—do not worry if you do not see one in the list.
  5. SharePoint shows the User Profile Service Admin page.
  6. Click the Manage User Properties link.
  7. You should see a page like that in Figure 1.

Figure 1. User profile properties

In Figure 1, notice the Mapped Attribute column, which shows how a profile property maps to an attribute in Active Directory, or other LDAP directory service, configured as part of User Profile Synchronization. Out of the box, SharePoint provides a default set of user profiles to describe an individual in an organization. Not all profile properties map nicely to Active Directory user attributes, which is why not all properties have a mapping.

Each profile property consists of a type, shown in the Property Type column in Figure 1. The property type indicates the type of value data a user profile instance might contain for the property. For example, the First Name property is a single String type, because first names typically contain alphanumeric characters and most names have a length less than 255 characters (the SharePoint limit for strings). Other property types used by SharePoint include integers, Booleans, date/time, unique identifiers, person, and binary.

Now to explore a user profile property—I will start with an easy one: the last name.

  1. Scroll down the page shown in Figure 1 and find the Last Name property.
  2. Hover over the name of the property.
  3. In the drop-down combo box, select Edit.
  4. You should see a page like that in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Editing user profile property settings

The Property Settings page displays a number of sections for editing specific details about the property. Table 1 details the various sections.

Table 1. User Profile Property Settings Page Sections

Section NameDetails
Property SettingsDefines the name, display name, property type, length, and whether the property maps to a term set in the term store
Subtype of ProfileThe subtype that this property associates (more on subtypes in a moment)
UsageThe number of active profiles in the user profile store that have data values in this property—this is important information because SharePoint search only indexes user profile properties that have data; if this value is 0, then this property will not show up in search mapping later
User DescriptionDescription of the property, displayed when users are asked to enter data for the property when editing their profile
PolicyPolicy for the profile property
Edit SettingsThese determine whether users can edit the data in this property or not
Display SettingsThe context of where this property displays
Search SettingsAlias and Index settings for user profile search
Property Mapping for SynchronizationI briefly discussed use of this section and the next section in configuring two-way profile synchronization—this section defines the property mappings to Active Directory and LDAP stores
Add New MappingSection to establish a new mapping to an existing Active Directory or LDAP store connection (configured in User Profile Synchronization)