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Friday, July 16, 2010

SharePoint Workflow – When To Use SharePoint Designer and When To Use Visual Studio

SharePoint Workflow
There are a few basic differences and assumptions between the two products and how they can produce workflow that should be kept in mind when deciding which tool to use.

* Ease of use – SharePoint Designer is focused on web designers and as such has a lower technical for entry and use than does Visual Studio which is purely developer focused.
* Portability – When you create a workflow in SharePoint Designer it is limited to an individual library or list. You cannot re-use the workflow elsewhere or globally. Workflow created in Visual Studio 2005 Designer on the other hand can be created as a re-usable template. You can then use/re-use that template across many sites/subsites as well as libraries and lists.
* Workflow variables/modifications/options – When you access the out of the box web based workflow templates you are able to make choices. That is because these re-usable templates were created using Visual Studio 2005 Designer. Workflow created in SharePoint Designer is fixed and does not allow for end user choices in the workflow.
* State and sequence – When creating a workflow within SharePoint Designer you can only create sequential ones. In Visual Studio 2005 Designer you can actually create sequential workflows as well as workflows based on state.

In general it should be clear that when creating complex, re-usable workflow for SharePoint the clear choice is Visual Studio 2005 Designer. However if you are not a developer but need to create a rich workflow for your particular application/site then SharePoint Designer is the way to go.

If you want to get your hands wet with a guided lab that will walk you through setting up workflow in SharePoint then see the online Technet lab Creating Workflows for Windows SharePoint Services. It's short and best of all its free so give it a whirl.

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