The end of SharePoint 2010 workflows

On July 6, Microsoft announced that they will be retiring SharePoint 2010 workflows from November 1, 2020. I decided when reading the news that I would hold fire on writing something just to let the dust settle a little bit.

So after being inspired by John Liu’s blog post, I’ve decided to keep my own rolling list of resources to help myself and hopefully others transition from SharePoint 2010 workflows to Power Automate.

Background

Microsoft had stated in 2016 that support would continue for SharePoint 2010 workflows until 2026, but with this month’s announced they specified that:

– Starting August 1st, 2020, SharePoint 2010 workflows will be turned off for newly created tenants.  

– Starting November 1st, 2020, Microsoft will begin to remove the ability to run or create SharePoint 2010 workflows from existing tenants.

Support update for SharePoint 2010 workflows in Microsoft 365

This applies to both out-the-box and custom SharePoint 2010 workflows, but only in Microsoft 365. If you are still on premises this does not apply to you as they are still being supported until 2026 at the time of writing, but I imagine you have your own issues to deal with!

For SharePoint 2013 workflows, Microsoft announced they will remain supported, but depreciated. So that means that SharePoint 2013 workflows will be turned off by default for new tenants starting in November 2020, but Microsoft will provide a PowerShell script to activate the workflow engine. 

What does this mean?

Unless Microsoft has a change of heart, what this means is that over the next 4 months all SharePoint 2010 workflows will need to be re-developed using Power Automate, Nintex or any other another third-party workflow solution.

Microsoft offer a modernization scanner that (amongst other things), will understand where “classic” workflow is being used and sort of grade them based on number of actions and complexity. However, this scanner only works for SharePoint Online, so if you’ve yet to migrate to Microsoft 365 you will need to use another assessment/ inventory tool to get this sort of information about your SharePoint 2010 workflows.

What I’m going to do

So for myself, my organisation has several SharePoint 2010 and Nintex workflows on premise that have yet to be migrated to Microsoft 365 and are largely still in use.

As part of discovery work conducted previously, I’ve used a combination of ShareGates site report to get the high level information about my sites(s), the SharePoint Migration Assessment Tool to get information about my SharePoint workflows and a PowerShell script to get similar information about the Nintex workflows.

Even with a complete list of SharePoint 2010 workflows, there is still some documented pain points that will require some thought to overcome – this won’t be a straight copy/ paste into Power Automate 😀

However, with that said the plan is essentially the same as before; assess the active workflows, consolidate where possible and re-build the SharePoint workflows in Power Automate – only in a much shorter time frame…

Resource list

I will keep updating this list as I see new articles, or information from Microsoft and others.

Background information

Guidance and other useful info

Tools

How to fix SharePoint workflow files that are checked out

I recently ran into an issue where I was getting the dreaded “failed on start” error for some of the workflows in a SharePoint 2010 environment. At first I was concerned that some sort of Microsoft KB had killed workflows again as described here and here.

However, that didn’t appear to be the case. After some investigation I noticed that the files that make up a particular list/ library workflow were checked out!

The problem(s)

This first issue was the “failed on start” error message in the workflow field within the list. It was a pretty niche edge case though as it appeared to only affect newer workflows that contained a send email action.

Another interesting issue was that when creating brand new workflows to test if the error persists brought its own set of problems. Once published, the new workflow would appear as normal to be ran manually for a new list item and would proceed to fail on start.

Workflows failing on start from within SharePoint 2010.

However, any new list items would not have the workflow listed to be ran against. Jumping back into SharePoint Designer proved equally useless as clicking on the workflow within the list just brought you to a SharePoint error.

Then I found that digging deeper into the workflow files within SharePoint Designer showed that some of the files that make up a workflow were in a checked out state – what?

You are unable to check these files in, as when you try you receive a message stating:

“Server error: you cannot discard check out because there is no checked in version of the document. please delete this document instead”.

After googling this, as I’d never seen this before led me to this brilliant post on SharePoint stack exchange which brought me to a resolution. Specifically, this comment:

I also would like to thank TashasEv for his answer. It provided the key clue I needed for troubleshooting a similar problem. In my case, it was not the Document content type which had the title set to Required, but the User Workflow Document content type.

This is one of two content types that are shown listed when (in SPD) you right-click on the Workflows folder in the left Navigation panel (the other being Folder). I used the Administration Web Page (it’s a button in SPD when on the Properties tab for the Workflows folder). Changing the Title property of this content type to Optional solved the issue.

https://sharepoint.stackexchange.com/questions/75978/workflow-files-wont-check-in-cant-undo-checkout

Solution

So as described in the above post, here are the steps involved:

1. Find the hidden properties menu

  • Open SharePoint Designer 2010 and open the site where you workflow is running
  • Press All Files > Workflows
Open Workflows from with All Files in SharePoint Designer.
In Workflows, after clicking on the affected workflow you will see all the files associated that are in a checked out state.
  • Right-click on any workflow (I selected the affected one) > press Properties
“Hidden” properties button can be found by right-clicking on a workflow.

2. Set the title of the user workflow document content type to optional

  • Within Properties, under Content Types > select User Workflow Document
  • Under Customization > press Edit content type columns
Within the User Workflow Document, press the edit content type columns button.
  • Select the Title column > then press Administration Web Page
  • This will open a browser window, under column settings set the column to Optional
Make the hidden title column optional from the administration web page.

3. Re-publish the affected workflow(s)

  • Navigate to the affected workflow(s) via the Lists and Libraries section
  • Open your workflow, make a small amend > Save and Publish

Now, when you run the workflow(s) affected they should complete as normal, and if you check the files within the All Files > Workflows section in SharePoint Designer they should be checked in and all OK.

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.