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Creating While Loops in SharePoint Designer Workflows using Stateful Workflows

with 14 comments

For an update on this topic please see this blog entry:

Amongst several significant limitations with SharePoint Designer workflows, perhaps the most important is the lack of looping. Therefore, expressing processes like “while not approved, rework” becomes difficult.

We have published a paper that describes how to implement while loops by emulating stateful workflows in Microsoft SharePoint Designer. You can download the paper here (PDF, Oct 2009). The technique uses our “Restart this workflow” custom action, which is part of our “Custom Activity Pack” which can be downloaded here for free.

Update: 10-Nov-2013. Source code and WSP now available in GitHub:

Written by Nick Grattan

October 6, 2009 at 10:00 am

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