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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Saving workflow solution in site template.

Starting with release 1.5 Workbox allows you to save workflow definitions in site templates. This means that you can prepare a SharePoint site with multiple lists and workflows and deploy it to different locations. All you need to do is to save site as a template and use it to create other sites. Workflows will be deployed automatically on newly created site.

In order to get your workflows to work properly after you create new sites from STP, you need to prepare the STP correctly.

Follow these steps to create a properly working workflow solution:
  1. Configure a site that you want to save as template. Create all lists and workflows you need. Test if everything is working as it should.
  2. Delete all content you do not want to save inside the template.
  3. TURN OFF the Workbox feature.
  4. Save site as STP. REMEMBER TO CHECK THE “Save content” CHECKBOX.
When you want to deploy a solution:
  1. Create a new site using your STP as a site template.
  2. After the site is created, turn on the Workbox feature.
  3. Wait for the feature to activate.
  4. After all the workflows are matched, you will receive an e-mail with log of the match process. If there were any errors during lookup matching, you will get notification. This log is also accessible from the Workbox workflow administration page. Workflows that did not match correctly will be listed in the log and marked with red exclamation marks on the workflow list.
  5. If there were workflows which haven’t been matched properly, open each of them in Workbox Designer. You will be taken automatically to the matching form, where you would be able to manually match all the lookups that could not be matched automatically. When finished, deploy the workflow.
NOTE: Instances of running workflows are not saved. This means that if you have any working or completed workflows on items, these workflow instances will be lost. This includes workflow history for all items.

Here are few facts that will help you to understand the workflow deploying process:
  • Workbox workflows are dependent on object GUIDs. These are unique IDs that allow Workbox to identify SharePoint elements (sites, lists, items). When you create new site, these GUIDs are generated anew. This causes workflow definition to point to locations it cannot recognize. To fix this problem, workflow lookups must be matched again after the site is created.
  • Workbox tries to match workflow definitions when you turn on the Workbox feature. This is the same matching functionality you know from when you import workflow definition from file. When you turn the Workbox feature on, Workbox will automatically try to match all the workflows and deploy the workflows that were deployed when the template was created.
  • Workbox may be unable to match lookups automatically if your template is referring to some objects outside the site – other sites, permission levels, SharePoint groups – that do not exist in the new environment. In such case you need to match those lookups manually. Workbox will detect such situation and tag unmatched workflows. If you open them with Workbox Designer, the matching window will come up, allowing you to manually point the desired objects. When corrected, workflow must then be deployed.
  • Workflow definition is stored as a file on SharePoint library. To include the workflow into the site template, you must include the content in the site definition by checking the “Include content” checkbox.
  • Workflow instance data is stored outside the site. That’s why information about any running or completed workflows will be lost. We advise you to save to definition only the data that is necessary for the solution to work (e.g. workflow libraries, mail data, etc).
  • Aside from lookup matching, Workbox also performs authorization provider match. It determines whether you use Active Directory or Forms Authentication and tries to match domains or membership providers with those which can be found in a new environment. If it cannot find a domain or membership provider with the name provided in a workflow definition, it assumes the first found domain or membership provider, ignoring the internal NT AUTHORITY and SHAREPOINT domains.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Deleting list permissions vs. item permissions

We have received an issue report from one of our partners. They have encountered a situation where the Workbox 'List permissions’ activity changed an item security. After looking into this problem we have learned that this is a standard SharePoint behavior, but it needs a bit of explanation.

Workbox allows you to create a workflow that will set SharePoint list permissions. This is achieved through an activity called "List permissions". One of the activity parameters is the "Delete existing permissions" check-box. If you select it Workbox will remove all existing list permissions. This allows you to quickly clear the list permissions and set them exactly the way you want them.

There is one thing that you need to remember about if you break permission inheritance for an element. In general - if you remove a user from the list, then SharePoint will automatically remove this user's permissions from all items in this list. This is because user needs to have access to the list to have any permissions to the item. You can see this behavior if you add someone permissions to some item when they had no permissions assigned directly to the list. The user will get the "Limited access" permission to the list.

Having that in mind, when you select the "Delete existing permissions" check-box ALL permissions to the list will be deleted. This will result in deleting ALL permissions to the items with broken inheritance. So please be very careful in using this settings as it can mess your item permissions.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Workbox and SharePoint 2010

You are probably wondering what are our plans regarding Workbox compatibility with SharePoint 14.

The general answer is that we are definitely going to support SP2010 and we want to have it ready for the official release of SP14. Probably we will start some R&D next week, but we cannot promise the SP 14 compatible version this year.

Availability of Workbox for SP2010 depends on how much changes Microsoft has made in the API. We will need to change the references from the SP 12 to the SP 14 DLLs, but we are not sure if Microsoft pledge, that old application will work can be taken literally. The amount of work depends how many things we will need to adjust to the new API. We will post new information as soon as we know more on this issue.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Workbox on Twitter

Now you can quickly see what is going on with workbox - simply follow us on Twitter -

Friday, November 13, 2009

News about Workbox

Recently we have been very quiet about Workbox. This is because there have been a lot things going on that kept us from posting. In the previous weeks we were focused on making bigger impact with Workbox in the nearest future.

I can now reveal few things what you can expect soon.

The most important one is of course the new release. I know that you are waiting impatiently for the new features and I can assure you that we are just as impatient to give them to you. The changes we are introducing are very wide and require throughout testing on our side, so you have to wait a bit longer. We are now in the beta phase - polishing all details, checking different scenarios, focusing strongly on backward compatibility to make sure you workflows will work properly. One thing we haven't told you is that we are going to introduce Spanish version of Workbox.

The next thing is that we are preparing new web site, that will be strongly focused on Workbox. We are also going to be more active on the social sites to spread the word on Workbox and keep you informed. Below you can see how our main page will look like.

Third great area where we have invested is getting ready for the SharePoint 2010 and Project Server 2010. We have attended Project Ignite in Prague to get more details on workflows in PS 2010.

Blog commitment

In the recent weeks we all have been very busy getting the release finished.

Unfortunately there is also a lot to be done in related areas - partners, marketing, new opportunities - so this blog has suffered and no new updates appeared here.

That's why I have deceived to make a commitment to post at least 1 post weekly to keep you up to date on what's going on and also give you more insight on Workbox. You can expect new post by Friday each week.