Finding the task properties pane in SharePoint 2013 workflows

(this post was written using a SharePoint online environment and SharePoint Designer 2013)

So here’s the scenario, there is a central list where users add items and once submitted a workflow runs that assigns tasks to separate task lists. No big deal right?

The scenario

Task actions in SharePoint 2013 workflows are a pretty standard thing, the example above just assigns tasks to different lists (think HR, IT, Pensions) for work to be completed. The additional requirement I had was for these tasks to not send any system generated assignment emails when the tasks are assigned.

Example of creating & assigning a task in a SharePoint 2013 workflow.

The problem

This one really had me pulling my hair, but in a nutshell there is no obvious way to turn on/ off the emails that are system generated at the point which a task is assigned.

When you double-click on a task, an “Assign a Task” window opens. Within this window there is an “Email options” drop down, but this only has the email editor for the task creation email and the ability to turn on/ off the task overdue email(s). It doesn’t have any settings for switching on/ off the initial emails themselves.

The Assign a Task window doesn’t contain the properties to switch off system generated emails.

The hidden task properties pane

So at this point I began thinking there is no way to do this and the design for this process is now fundamentally flawed…until I right-clicked!

If you right-click on the list within the assign task action (the ICT Task List Members bit underlined in the example below) a menu will appear. Normally this menu contains some simple options like moving an action up or down. However, with task actions there is an additional option called “properties”.

Hidden properties button within the “assign a task” action.

After clicking on the “Properties” button, you’ll find an additional “Assign a Task Properties” window which contains the following, hidden properties:

Hidden assign a task properties window.
  • PreserveIncompleteTasks: set to true if you want non-completed tasks to be deleted when the task process is complete.
  • WaiveAssignmentEmail: set to false if you want to have an email sent out to the assignee when a task is created
  • WaiveCancelationEmail: set to false if you want to have an email sent out to the assignee when a task is canceled.

By default, all of these properties that are set to “no” or “false”, so will send emails based on the above parameters. To change, just click on the drop down next to each option and update to “yes” or “true” and the emails will stop sending!

Save as site template missing or greyed out

(This post was written using a SharePoint 2010 environment)

I recently found myself needing to create a site template for a customer who required multiple sites created following a base format. So I decided to create a site template to achieve this to speed up the site creation process for said customer.

At first I went into the site settings of the site that the template would be based off to create it. I looked under look and feel in site settings, but alas the option to save as site template wasn’t there!

site-actions-no-site-template

Next, I accessed the site via SharePoint Designer, looked under the site ribbon menu and would you believe the save as template button was greyed out there also!

SPD-site-template-button-greyed

After researching online, it appears there can be problems creating templates from publishing sites in SharePoint 2010, however I found that following the steps below enabled me to create a new site template and activate it not problem!

  • Navigate to the site collection/ sub-site you wish to create the template from
  • Add the following to the URL at the end of the site name

/_layouts/savetmpl.aspx

  • Go back to the site collection or sub-site you wish to create new sites under
  • Site Actions – Site Settings – Look and Feel – Page Layouts and site templates
site-settings-site-templates
  • Find your newly created site template within the subsite templates list
  • Press Add
  • Press OK
adding-subsite-templates

Please note: if your sub-site is inheriting from the parent site, you will need to navigate to the parent and add the subsite template there for it to be available.

UPDATE 27/08/2019

Saving as site template is not a supported feature of SharePoint Online for modern sites. You will find for modern sites that this option is not available, but you have the ability to re-instate it via activating a feature. The official stance from Microsoft is:

Just to be clear. Using save-site-as-a-template with modern team sites or publishing sites is NOT supported. You can always find aways with tenant admin permissions to achieve things, but the fact that it’s doable does not mean it’s supported.

Any sites created with the template which has been produced with this method can have unexpected issues in the future, so provided steps should never be used.

Best regards,

Vesa Juvonen, Senior Program Manager, SharePoint Engineering, Microsoft.

UPDATE 27/08/2019

Saving as site template is not a supported feature of SharePoint Online for modern sites. You will find for modern sites that this option is not available, but you have the ability to re-instate it via activating a feature. The official stance from Microsoft is:

” Just to be clear. Using save-site-as-a-template with modern team sites or publishing sites is NOT supported. You can always find aways with tenant admin permissions to achieve things, but the fact that it’s doable does not mean it’s supported.

Any sites created with the template which has been produced with this method can have unexpected issues in the future, so provided steps should never be used. “


– Vesa Juvonen, Senior Program Manager, SharePoint Engineering, Microsoft.

Creating a new item from SharePoint Workflow – trailing space issue

I wanted to post this as I was banging my head against a brick wall for hours recently with this issue. Full credit goes to this stack overflow thread that described pretty much exactly what I was experiencing:

However, my situation was a little different so thought I would post this in case it helps someone else in future!

The details

SharePoint 2010 environment using a standard SharePoint Designer workflow. Straight-forward workflow that runs once a list item is created, creates a document set in a separate library, then updates the list item with a link to the document set (plus some other item metadata). All this is wrapped up in an impersonation step that uses a site collection admin user account.

Why an impersonation step?

An impersonation step is being used because when you create a new list item using a workflow, that new item is created by the System Account. So on any new item created by a workflow, “Start workflow on create” will not work because system account is not allowed to start a workflow.

The problem

Intermittently the workflow would fail on creating the document set. The workflow status showed “The workflow could not create the list item. Make sure the list exists and the user has permissions to add items to the list.”. The outcome is “Unknown Error”.

After speaking with users this didn’t seem to affect everyone all of the time. It only affected some people occasionally but it was affecting one user way more than others.

This user was creating the list item in exactly the same way as others in the team. I overserved the user creating the list item and couldn’t see any problems with how it was being done. Yet each time we conducted a test copying field information from an existing item the workflow continued to error.

The solution

In my case, when I started to look at the list items where the workflow had failed, I noticed that the Name field for each list item contained a trailing space at the end of the text. I asked the user who this issue consistently affected to try creating new list items several times, copying the Name as normal but this time removing the trailing space and we no longer had issues!

Moral of the story…check for trailing spaces and beware!

Hide a SharePoint list or library from view all site contents

Have you ever been asked to hide a list or library from a SharePoint site? If so, you go straight for selecting ‘no’ to displaying the list or library on the Quick Launch or removing it from the navigation. However, your eagle eyed users notice the handy view all site contents option and see that it is still listed there – they want it gone!

Luckily, all you need is SharePoint Designer and it is as simple as a click of a button…

(These steps were created using SharePoint Server 2010)

  • Open the site that where list or library resides in SharePoint Designer
  • Under Lists and Libraries – Select the list or library you wish to hide
  • On the main list settings page – find the Settings section
    SPD
  • Check the Hide from browser option
    hidefrombrowser

Thats it! when you option the view all site content page now, that list or library will no longer be showing. Also, if you want to re-instate it at a later date, just un-check the box and it will re-appear.

This also works for SharePoint 2013, 2016 and SharePoint Online, under the site contents page.

Page declared a record or placed on hold and is read-only

If you’ve ever been in the situation where you try to edit a page in SharePoint and you see this seemingly unchangeable message appear at the top of the page stating:

“Page has been declared a record or placed on hold and is read-only”

Fear not! I’ve seen this message appear and it usually occurs when a user (or service account) is operating as a system account. This could have been set manually by said user if they have access to the web application via central admin:

If this is the case, you can overwrite the system account check in via SharePoint Designer. You’ll obviously need the correct permissions to access SPD beforehand! In the following example I’m using a SharePoint 2010 environment. To do this:

  1. Connect to your web application in SharePoint Designer
  2. Navigate to All Files – Pages
  3. Right-click on the page that is currently locked
  4. Undo checkout

NOTE: You won’t be able to view the individual pages within each Page Library if you navigate through Lists and Libraries. This space is used to view and manage the settings for each list type you have. All Files takes you to the ‘root’ of your web application, where you can see everything that sits under the web application.