Nick Grattan's Blog

About Microsoft SharePoint, .NET, Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning

Microsoft SharePoint Designer Workflows – Things is doesn’t do

with 11 comments

Creating workflows with the Microsoft SharePoint Designer is quick and simple. However, there are number of distinct limitations which you need to be aware of, such as:

  • Workflows have no looping or flow control statements. Workflows execute serially from the top to the bottom. Implementing flows such as “continue executing until approval is made” becomes problematic.

Update 25 Nov 2009: See this post for how while loops can be simulated using stateful workflows with Microsoft SharePoint Designer.

  • Workflows can only be associated with lists, not content types. This can be limiting when you allow, for example, users to select one of a number of InfoPath forms on the “New” menu and you want different workflows depending on the type of document created.

Update 25 Nov 2009: You will have to wait until SharePoint Designer 2010 and SharePoint 2010 for this!

  • Workflows are associated with a single list. You can, though, using the technique described here copy them to other lists.

This list doesn’t include limitations in the standard actions provided by Microsoft SharePoint designer – custom actions written in Visual Studio can help in this case.

Written by Nick Grattan

April 14, 2008 at 3:08 pm

11 Responses

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  1. While there are a few other nice-to-haves that a new version might address, it is possible to overcome some of these limitations.

    The method is cumbersome but viable, involving secondary lists and workflows, and using a “state” column. The secondary workflow is initiated by the main one (through creation of a new List Item), and then also are fired by changes to those items made by the second workflow.

    It is possible to create “while”, “for” and “for each” using this method.

    Mike Atkins

    June 17, 2008 at 12:23 pm

  2. Mike

    It’s *possible* to program a computer directly in binary as well but you’d be nuts to do it. In the 21st century hacks like this should not be needed.


    October 7, 2008 at 10:38 pm

  3. We are using MOSS 2007, which DOES allow selecting a content type and then selecting its workflow properties.

    And SharepointDesigner 2007 allows conditionals (but not loops) in workflows.

    Wes Groleau

    October 29, 2008 at 4:43 pm

  4. While Sharepoint Designer will not allow looping within workflows, I have worked around this limitation by creating multiple, smaller workflows and using the “Start Another Workflow” action when I needed to have a looping function.

    Using the Else If statements, I can direct the workflow to either start Different workflow A, or different workflow B.

    So, by utilizing multiple workflows, I have more control over the entire process.

    Roger E

    December 23, 2008 at 2:19 pm

  5. hi guys, im working with WSS 3.0 and Sharepoint designer and currently building worklfow applications. First i am still beginning to explore this new technology and i am not familiar with the small details of the platform.

    We are trying to limit any use of Visual studio and other development tools besides sharepoint deisgner. I belive this way, it will bring out the true potential of the product and be able to maximie it.

    I have listed the following concerns:

    1. Slow processing of the workflow – when inserting new item in the task list when my list is updated

    2. There was a case wherin the document automatically checked out by itself and the workflow terminated. – reason for this is a required field is empty. (i didnt even set any required field in my form)

    3. When infopath pulls data from a list, it pulls everything. No filtering can be made.

    thats it for now…again i am new to this and stillnot familiar, perhaps you guys can point me out tot he right direction. Are these limitations or there are things that have to be done? TIA for your comments…


    January 12, 2009 at 9:15 am

  6. “Start Another Workflow” is not an OOTB action. Is this correct?


    February 12, 2009 at 2:05 pm

  7. “Start a workflow” is not OOTB, you’re correct. Our Workflow Custom Activity pack contains an activity to do this. You can find it here:

    Nick Grattan

    February 13, 2009 at 8:25 am

  8. What about an action that allows one workflow to terminate another workflow (on the same list) that’s already running? I really need to do this!


    July 9, 2009 at 6:14 pm

  9. Nancy, Take a look at the HaltWorkflow activity in Regards, Nick.

    Nick Grattan

    July 9, 2009 at 6:59 pm

  10. Below is basically what I need to do before next week. I have created most of my workflows in SPS Designer. Below is a screen shot of one of the document libraries I need to create a workflow on. I just want to send an email to the approver of each subfolder. So EHS has an approver group set up in SPS, IT, HR ect..Do I need to create a workflow for each folder? I am stumped on this one because the workflows I designed already there was only one approver for the whole document library. So if a item in uploaded and published to a major version, I want the approver of that dept to get an email.

    can someone help?


    May 23, 2010 at 6:57 pm

  11. […] on SharePoint Designer Workflow “Nick Grattan Blog” […]

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