SharePoint Workflows–first steps


This is the next in my series about SharePoint Workflows. Make sure you read my previous post before proceeding:

What are SharePoint Workflows?

I am going to use a test SharePoint site on my Office 365, as shown above, to demonstrate you how to use SharePoint Designer to connect up and start creating Workflows.

The articles after that will focus on how actually create a workflow.


You will firstly need to install and run the free SharePoint Designer 2013.

When you have done that select Open Site from the button on the left.


You’ll now need to enter the URL of the SharePoint site you wish to connect to as shown above and press the Open button.


If you see the above warning message about the server version being more recent firstly make sure you are using the right version of SharePoint Designer for the SharePoint you are accessing. Then make sure that all the patches and updates have been applied to SharePoint Designer on the desktop. See this knowledge base article for more information:

Failing that try using the Click to run version of SharePoint Designer that is provided with Office 365.


When you have opened you site you should see something like that shown above which displays the structure of your SharePoint site.


The third item on the menu on the left should be Workflows. Select this and the display will change to that shown above. Typically you will find no Workflows.


As I mentioned before, Workflows are normally attached to a SharePoint element, such as a Document Library. To view this option select the Lists and Libraries from the menu on the left (normally the item just above Workflows).

Now on the right you should see a complete list of every List or Library on your site. In this case select Documents under Document Libraries on the right.


You should now see a lot more detail about that particular Document Library on the right hand side.


If you scroll down the window on the right hand side you should find an area that says Workflows as shown above.


Pressing the Create button in the top right of this area will allow to create a Workflow attached to this SharePoint item (in this case a Document Library called Documents).

In the next post I’ll show you how to create a very basic workflow and what options are available. From there we’ll look at creating something a bit more involved as mentioned in my first post.

Melbourne next week

Next Wednesday kicks off the national breakfast road show for Microsoft and Express Data on the changes coming for Office 365 here in Australia. I’ll be assisting with all the presentation which kicks off in Melbourne next Wednesday the 26th of February.
If you are interested in attending you can still register via:
for the events in all capital cities.
While I’m in each location I plan to host an informal get together the night before somewhere in the city where people can come together and have a chat about technology, the cloud and business in general. We already have a few starters for Melbourne on Tuesday the 25th, so if you interested in attending this informal get together the night before the breakfast session please contact me to RSVP (
I look forward to seeing the folks in Melbourne either at the meet up or the breakfast the following day.

What are SharePoint Workflows?

Workflows are a powerful component that is built into all current versions of SharePoint including those available in Office 365. Workflows allow you to automate processes in SharePoint. So, for example you could create a workflow that takes some specific action when a new item is created in a list.

All versions of SharePoint have a number, and it varies between SharePoint versions, of workflows that you can create using the browser. The most common of these is the three-state workflow which you can learn about here:

Use a three state workflow

The workflows in the browser are fairly limited in what they can do but you do have the option of creating your own customized workflow using SharePoint Designer.

SharePoint Designer is a free download from Microsoft that allows you to customize SharePoint in a variety of ways. You need to use a different version of SharePoint Designer for each SharePoint platform that you are using. You can download these versions using the following links:

SharePoint Designer 2007

SharePoint Designer 2010

SharePoint Designer 2013

Thus, if you plan to work with SharePoint 2010 and 2013 you’ll need the 2010 and 2013 version of SharePoint Designer.

If you plan to work with SharePoint Online via Office 365 all you will need is SharePoint Designer 2013.

You need to think of SharePoint Designer as a tool that lies between the browser customizations and full blown coding. Importantly, it has a number of limitations in what it can be used to create. SharePoint Designer basically uses a flow chart style to create workflows. This means you can only work with a limited set of programming tools which can be extremely frustrating at times.

SharePoint Workflows are typically attached to an object (or app) in SharePoint. This means you typically create a Workflow attached to something like a list or document library. The Workflow will typically be initiated when something in this SharePoint object changes, for example, an item gets added, edited or deleted. This leads to another important point about SharePoint Workflows, they are change based typically. This means that they only progress when things change state, they can’t be made to wait until a certain time and date, they wait until something changes and then proceed.

Now before you even start programming your Workflow you need to sit down and work out exactly what it is going to do. The best way to achieve that is using a flowchart. Getting the process down on paper and understanding what you want to happen beforehand will save you many hours of frustration later on when you start using SharePoint Designer.

Let’s say that we want to create a basic vacation leave request Workflow. We’ll need to use a calendar item to attach the Workflow to and then we want employees to be able to enter an item into the calendar for when they want leave. From there we need to notify a specific manager about this request and have them approve or deny the request and for that to be communicated back to the employee.

In the next topic I’ll look at how to go about making all this happens with SharePoint Designer.

Getting Started With Lync Online 2013


I’ve just completed my latest eBook “Getting Started With Lync Online 2013” which is available from the CIAOPS publications page for AU$4.95.

Here’s what the book covers:

This book examines the basic operations of Lync Online 2013 available with all Office 365 plans. The book will take you step by step through working with Lync Online 2013 showing you items in detail, including screen shots. Using this book will help you operate and better understand the capabilities of Lync 2013 and the power that is can bring your business.

This booked is aimed at users who have never used Lync Online 2013.

You can download the table of contents to see what topics the book covers.

The book will shortly be available in both ePub and Kindle formats as well as being on the Kindle and iBook store.

If you enjoy the content on this blog then one of the ways that you can support it is is by purchasing a publication or referring others to my publications. All of these take many, many hours to create and produce so you assistance and support is always appreciated.

I hope you find the book of value and please let me know what you think of it.

‘Ask Us’ Webinar 2

Here’s the recording from our second Cloud Business Blueprint weekly ‘Ask Us’ webinar.

Remember it is free to attend so please register for the upcoming webinars at:

and let others know who maybe interested.

Also, if you can’t make it along then email your question to and we’ll do our best to answer it and get it into the next recording so you can view it at your leisure.

Cloud Business Podcast–Episode 10

The Cloud Business Podcast - Opportunity in the Cloud is only a Click Away with Robert Crane and Nigel Moore

We’ve broken into double figures with the 10th episode of the Cloud Business podcast now available for your listening pleasure on iTunes and at:

In this episode we talk about the bigger picture and setting specific long term goals and achieving them. We’ll give you some tips on how to set these as well as some great tool for managing them as well. There’s the usual Rob’s Rant and Questions and Answers as well so don’t miss this episode.

Remember as always, keen to hear you feedback on the above page or via an iTunes review or directly if you are shy. If you have any suggestions for topics you’d like to hear us cover, or maybe some guest you’d like to hear from then please let us know.

Stay tunes for upcoming episodes real soon.