In this SharePoint Tutorial, We will discuss what is SharePoint Workflow, What are the various Out of box SharePoint workflows (Built-in workflows), What are the SharePoint workflow platforms. Also, We will see what are the different ways to create workflows in SharePoint and details about all the Workflow Basics.
We will also learn SharePoint workflow basics, SharePoint workflow actions, stages, conditions, workflow initiation forms, site workflows etc.
Introduction to SharePoint Workflow
SharePoint Workflow is an automated business process that is easy to develop. These workflows are preprogrammed mini-applications which is designed to save your time, money and also more efficiency to tasks that you can perform on a regular basis.
SharePoint workflows required less developer knowledge, which means you don’t need any technical knowledge to create SharePoint Workflow.
This SharePoint Workflow process helps to track the current status of any documented approval on a regular basis. By using SharePoint Workflow, You can keep your item or document as up to date.
Let’s take a simple business scenario, Suppose you want to approve a document from your Manager. Once you will put the document for approval, You should get notified in each and every stage of the flow either your manager approved the document or not. In this case, You can use SharePoint Workflow.
Now how you can get an idea about SharePoint Workflow, I will show you in the below topics.
Various Out of box workflows
In SharePoint Workflow, there are five different types of out-of-box workflows available which are built-in. These built-ins are helping to make better and simple workflows in the business process.
These are the below Out of box (built-in) workflows:
1. Approval Workflow
Approval Workflow is the type of SharePoint workflow which is used for only approval task purposes. In an organization, if an employee submits the document for approval to a specific person, then the process will stop till the specific person approves the document.
To know the details about Approval Workflow that how you can create and use it, You can refer to the below link:
2. Collect Feedback Workflow
Collect feedback workflow is the type of workflow which helps to collect the feedback of data from the many numbers of users and send it to the initiator who created the data.
To know the details about Collect Feedback Workflow that how you can create and use it, You can refer to the below link:
3. Collect Signature Workflow
The Collect signature workflow is a type of workflow which is used to share the various types of documents (Excel, Word) that can be shared with one or more people for collecting their signature.
To know the details about Collect Signature Workflow that how you can create and use, You can refer from the below link:
4. Publishing Approval Workflow
Publishing workflow is the type of workflow which is used for sharing the content to subject matter experts/Stakeholders for their approval and review.
5. Three-state Workflow
The Three-State workflow is an issue tracking flow that is used for tracking the workflow status of a list item or document in each and every transitional state of flow.
To know the details about Three-State Workflow that how you can create and use it, You can refer to the below link:
Two SharePoint workflow platforms
There are two types of SharePoint workflow platforms are present:
- SharePoint Workflow Designer 2013
- SharePoint Workflow Designer 2010
Different ways to create workflows in SharePoint
You can create SharePoint Workflows in various ways as through the below processes:
- Create a workflow by using SharePoint Designer 2013
- Create a workflow using Visual Studio
- Create Using Content Approval
- Create Using Alerts
- Out of Box Workflows
- Use Microsoft Flow
- Use 3rd Party tools
Create a workflow by using SharePoint Designer 2013
Microsoft has been introduced with SharePoint Designer 2013, which is a free tool preprogrammed application. This SharePoint Designer tool is used for creating or modifying the SharePoint Sites, Workflows and Web pages.
Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2013 is a type of application, which helps to build the workflow from a complicated one to simple and easy one. Also, this Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2013 helps for updating the workflow status in each and every stage of the workflow.
In the below screenshot, You can see a simple Approval Workflow using SharePoint Designer 2013.
To know further information that how we can create a workflow using SharePoint Designer 2013, then you can refer to the below link:
Advantage of SharePoint designer workflow over Out of box workflows
SharePoint out-of-box workflow is a predefined inbuilt workflow provide by Microsoft. Some time as per our business requirements the out of box workflow is not suitable. We can’t customize the out of box workflow.
There are various out of box workflow templates are available like below:
- SharePoint approval workflow
- Collect feedback workflow in SharePoint
- Collect signature workflow in SharePoint
- SharePoint publishing approval workflows
- SharePoint three-state workflow
If the business requirement does not fulfill the business requirement then you can create SharePoint designer 2013. Later in this article, we will see a sharepoint 2013 workflow example.
SharePoint designer workflow provides different actions and conditions. If the action is not available as per our requirement then also using visual studio we can develop the action.
Create a workflow using Visual Studio
Visual Studio is another approach to create the SharePoint workflow. Basically, Visual Studio supports three types of workflows as, Sequential workflow, Flow chart, and State Machine Workflow. These help to create custom workflows as similar to SharePoint Designer Workflow 2013.
To know further information that how we can create a workflow using Visual Studio, then you can refer to the below link:
Create Workflow Using Content Approval
You can also create a SharePoint Workflow using SharePoint Content Approval. SharePoint Content Approval is a feature that is used to publish all list items or documents of a list/library only by Approvers those who have the approver permission.
A document library owner can enable content approval for a document library and, optionally, can associate a workflow with the library to run the approval process.
To know the detailed information about the Content Approval Workflow, You can refer to the below link:
- SharePoint Content Approval – Approve/Reject documents or items
Use Microsoft Flow or Power Automate
Instead of SharePoint Designer Workflow, Now Microsoft has created Microsoft Flow which is the very simple and easiest way to create a flow.
Microsoft Flow is a cloud-based service that helps to create an automated business process in your Organization without help from any developers. This automated business process is called Flows.
For more information details about Microsoft Flow and its related examples, You can refer from the below Microsoft Flow links:
- What is Microsoft Flow [Step by Step Tutorial and Example in SharePoint Online Office 365]
- How to run Microsoft Flow on Schedule
- Microsoft Flow Example: When an item is created in SharePoint List, Send approval and create item
- Microsoft Flow Example: When a message is posted on a group, Create a SharePoint list item
- Microsoft Flow Example: Automatically create a profile for a new candidate
- Microsoft Flow Example: Copy new files from your PC to SharePoint Online Document Library
- Microsoft Flow Example: Copy Files from SharePoint to PC
- Microsoft Flow Example: Email notification after approval from a SharePoint list
Use 3rd Party tools
Nintex Workflow is the type of workflow which is used to build all the workflows within the SharePoint UI. Nintex Workflow for SharePoint is on-premises versions.
This workflow is also an automated business process where a user can use to create a simple workflow with just a few clicks without using any code.
To know the detailed information about the Nintex Workflow, You can refer to the below link:
To build a SharePoint Workflow, You should know about what are the basic instructions you have to follow.
SharePoint Workflow basics define all the rules and conditions which determine the task processes. Here, We will discuss what is the Workflow actions, Workflow Stages, and Conditions, What is the Workflow Initiation Form, and all about the Site Workflow.
There are five different types of Workflow Actions categories and each category is having several numbers of workflow actions. The five categories are:
1. Core actions:
This SharePoint Workflow Core actions category is having these below actions:
- Add a Comment:
Add a comment is an action that is used for adding valuable comments in the workflow designer for allusion purposes. Especially this comment action is used when there are other users participating in the SharePoint Designer Workflow.
- Add Time to Date:
This Add Time to Date action helps to add a specific time (minutes, hours, days, months). The output of this action stores as a variable. You can add the date as current data, specific date or a lookup in the SharePoint Designer Workflow.
Note:You can not add specific Year in the Add Time to Date action. Because this Year is not supported in this SharePoint Designer Workflow action.
- Build Dictionary:
Build Dictionary action helps to build a Dictionary variable of key or value pairs. This Build Dictionary action stores the data using JSON notation. To know more information about Build Dictionary, You can refer to the below link:
- Dictionary actions example in SharePoint Designer 2013
- Call HTTP Web Service:
Call HTTP Web Service action is a type of action that is used to make the request to a Web service and the data returns using the JSON format. By using the below link, You can get the full details of Call Http Web Service:
- Calling Rest API from A SharePoint 2013 Designer Workflow
- Count Items in a Dictionary:
Count Items in a Dictionary action helps to count the total number of items or variables which a Dictionary contains. The output of this action stores as an integer variable.
- Do Calculation:
In the SharePoint designer workflow, Do calculation action is used to do an arithmetic operation on the list item. We can also use Do Calculation when items belong to the same list.
By using this action, We can do all mathematical operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, etc.
- Get an Item from a Dictionary:
Get an Item from a Dictionary action is used to get the variable or number of items that is stored in the specified Dictionary.
- Log to History List:
Log to History action helps to write some messages to the Workflow History List. This message will help you to update the status of each and every stage of the workflow.
- Pause for Duration:
This Pause for Duration action allows pausing the executing workflow for a specific time interval (days, hours, and minutes).
- Pause Until Date:
This Pause Until Date action allows the workflow to pause executing until a specified date and time.
- Send an Email:
Send an Email is a type of action that is used to send an email message to a user or a group automatically. This Send an Email workflow action will execute when a specified workflow event occurs.
- Set Time Portion of Date/Time Field:
In SharePoint Designer Workflow, Set Time Portion Of Date/Time Field action is used to set a time (in hours and minutes) or date (current date, specific date or lookup) value in a variable.
- Set Workflow Status:
This Set Workflow Status assists you to sets and updates the status of the workflow in the SharePoint Designer Workflow.
- Set Workflow Variable:
This Set Workflow Variable action assists you to set a workflow variable to value. You can use this workflow to assign data to a variable.
- Go to Stage:
In the SharePoint Designer Workflow, there is an action called Go to Stage which is used to control the workflow to each of the next stages.
2. List Actions:
This Workflow List actions category is having these below actions:
- Check In Item:
Check In Item is an action that is used to check the item/document that is checked out before. This action is used only for Document Library.
- Check Out Item:
Checks Out Item is an action that is used to check out the item/document from the Document Library. You can check out the item that is checked in before. Also, This action is used only for Document Library.
- Copy Document:
This Copy Document action helps to copy a document from the source document library to the destination document library.
- Create List Item:
Create List Item action assists you to create a new item in your specific SharePoint list or library. You can enter all the fields and values to the new list or library item.
- Delete Item:
Delete Item action helps to delete the specific item from the specific SharePoint list or library.
- Discard Check Out Item:
Discard Check Out Item action will help you to discard all the changes that you have been made in the Check Out time and make it to as previous.
- Set Field in Current Item:
Set Field in Current Item action helps to set a specific field in the current item to a specified value.
- Translate Document:
Translate Document action assists you to translate a document into an appropriate language.
- Update List Item:
This Update List Item action helps to update a specific item of a SharePoint list. By using this action, You can enter some new values to the list item fields.
- Wait for Event in List Item:
Wait for Event in List Item action helps to wait till the new item will create or item will change in the SharePoint List. This action works for two events as ItemAdded and ItemUpdated.
- Wait for Field Change in Current Item:
Wait for Field Change in Current Item action helps to wait for a field of the current item in a SharePoint List.
3. Project Actions:
- Create Project from Current Item:
Create Project from Current Item action is the type of project action which takes the Current item from the list and it creates a new project in the SharePoint farm PWA site.
- Set Project Field:
Set Project Field action helps to set the value for a specific field on the Project Server.
- Set Project Stage Status:
Set Project Stage Status action assists you to set the status of the Project Stage.
- Set status field in idea list:
Set status field in idea list action is used to update the original list item status which is involving to the current project.
- Wait for Project Event:
Wait for Project Event action helps to wait for the specific event of the project.
4. Task Actions:
This Workflow Task actions category is having only two task actions as:
- Assign a Task: Assign a task defines the task is assigned to a single person or single group. Below screenshot represents the view of Assign a task action.
To know the details about Assign a task action, You can refer from the below link:
- SharePoint designer 2013 Workflow: Assign a task to a group using Assign a task workflow action
- Start a Task Process: Start a task process defines the task is assigned to multiple person or multiple groups.
5. Utility Actions:
- Extract Substring from End of String:
Extract Substring from End of String is a utility action that is used to copy a particular number of characters starting from the end of a string. The output of this action will store in a variable.
- Extract Substring from Index of String:
Extract Substring from Index of String is a utility action that is used to copy a substring that will start at a particular index in the string and it places the value in a variable.
- Extract Substring from Start of String:
Extract Substring from Start of String is a utility action that is used to copy a particular number of characters starting of a string. The output of this action will store in a variable.
- Extract Substring of String from Index with Length:
Extract Substring of String from Index with Length is a utility action that is used to copy a particular number of characters wherever it is starting from the specified index in the string and it places the value in a variable.
- Find Interval Between Dates:
Find Interval Between Dates action helps to calculate the total interval of time in minutes, hours or days between the two dates. The output of this action will store in a variable.
- Trim String:
Trim String action helps to remove all white spaces from the starting to ending of the string.
- Find Substring in String:
Find Substring in String helps to find a specific substring from a string and it gives the index of the substring’s beginning position.
- Replace Substring in String:
Replace Substring in String action is used to replace a specific substring with the other substring.
Workflow Stages and Conditions
Here, We will know what is the Workflow Stages & what is its use, How we can add a Workflow Stage, How we can rename each and every stage in SharePoint Designer Workflow.
Also, we will get an idea that what are the various conditions using in SharePoint Designer Workflow.
What is SharePoint Designer Workflow Stages?
SharePoint Designer Workflow Stages helps to create activity flow from one stage to another stage. A stage can contain one or more workflow actions and as well as conditions.
As we don’t have State Machine Workflows in SharePoint Designer 2013, So instead of State Machine Workflow, We can use the Workflow Stages.
How we can add a Workflow Stage?
You can add the Workflow Stage by clicking on the Stage icon which is present in the ribbon (Under the Insert section).
Another way to add a Workflow Stage is, You can just right-click the orange color line mark (Ending of the first stage) and add it. You can see the Workflow Stage view in the below screenshot:
Go to Stage action helps you to structure the flow from one stage to another stage. To activity the flow one stage to other, You can add Go to Stage under the Transition to stage and mention the next stage name which you want to execute.
How we can rename each and every stage of Designer Workflow?
Also, you can rename your each and every stage of the workflow, So that it will easy to verify which stage it is and what is happening in that stage. To rename the Workflow Stage, just double click on the Stage place and specify a name for it as shown below.
Various Conditions in SharePoint Designer Workflow
There are two types of conditions present in SharePoint Designer Workflow.
- Common Conditions
- If any value equals value:
This If value equals value condition allows you to compare one value with other value. A value can be a dynamic string, SharePoint fields, lookup to variables, etc. In this condition, You can specify any operators to your condition as is equals to, is not equals to, is greater than, is less than, etc.
2. Other Conditions
- Created by a specific person:
Created by a specific person workflow condition helps to check whether an item is created by a specific SharePoint or Active Directory user or not.
- Created in a specific date span:
This Created in a specific date span condition helps you to check whether the item is created between the specified dates or not. Also, you can take the current date, a specific date or a look up.
- Modified by a specific person:
Modified by a specific person condition helps to check whether an item was modified by a specified SharePoint or Active Directory user or not.
- Modified in a specific date span:
Modified in a specific date span condition checks whether an item was modified between the specified dates or not. Also, you can take the current date, a specific date or a look up.
- Person is a Valid SharePoint user:
Person is a Valid SharePoint user helps to check whether the specific user is a member of the SharePoint site or not.
- Title field contains keywords:
Title field contains keywords condition checks whether the Title field for an item contains a specific word or not.
Workflow Initiation Form
When the workflow will start manually, in each time, a page will open which is simply a SharePoint page. This SharePoint page is called Initiation form. This initiation form is used to make the workflow as much as a simple and easier structure rather than the complex one.
To know further information about Workflow Initiation Form, You may follow the below article:
- SharePoint Online Site Workflow and Initiation Form Parameters example using SharePoint designer workflow
In this topic, We will discuss what is Site Workflow and how we can create and also run a Site Workflow in SharePoint Designer Workflow.
What is Site Workflow?
Wherever List workflow is associating with any particular SharePoint List/Library. Similarly, Site Workflows are associated with the whole SharePoint Site.
One important thing about Site Workflow is, this Site Workflow does not have a trigger. It can be run manually or scheduled.
Create Site Workflow in SharePoint Designer
To create a Site Workflow in SharePoint Designer, Go to Workflows from Navigation. Click on Site Workflow from the ribbon. Once you will click on the Site Workflow, below page will appear where you have to enter the Site Workflow Name, Description and also the Platform Type.
To know further information about Site Workflow, You may follow the below article:
- SharePoint Online Site Workflow and Initiation Form Parameters example using SharePoint designer workflow
Run a Site Workflow
As I said before, Site Workflow does not have a trigger, this workflow only will run manually or scheduled.
To run the Site Workflow in your existing site, Go to Settings (Gear icon)-> Site contents as shown below.
In the Site content page, Click on Site workflows which is present in the command bar.
In this Site Workflow page, You can see the Site workflow will be present there which you created before. Just click on it.
Once you will click the Site workflow, then the running Workflow Internal status will appear as like below screenshot. That means, your workflow started and at that time the Status will be Stage 1.
After a while, You can see that your Workflow Internal Status will be completed once you refresh the Site Workflow page which you can see in the below screenshot. Workflow Internal Status is completed means your workflow is already executed and the event is generated.
Hence in this SharePoint Tutorial, We discussed what is SharePoint Workflow, What are the various Out of box workflows (Built-in workflows), What are the SharePoint workflow platforms.
Also, We saw what are the different ways to create workflows in SharePoint and details about all the Workflow Basics.
I am Bijay a Microsoft MVP (8 times – My MVP Profile) in SharePoint and have more than 15 years of expertise in SharePoint Online Office 365, SharePoint subscription edition, and SharePoint 2019/2016/2013. Currently working in my own venture TSInfo Technologies a SharePoint development, consulting, and training company. I also run the popular SharePoint website EnjoySharePoint.com