Slinger's Thoughts

October 25, 2010

The properties of Actions in SharePoint Designer 2010 Workflows

Filed under: 2010, SharePoint, SharePoint Designer, Workflow — Tags: , — slingeronline @ 9:18 am

A while back I posted about how to get a workflow to copy a file or list item to another library or list, using SharePoint Designer 2007’s Copy List Item Activity, here.  Well, in SharePoint Designer 2010, some people have found it a little difficult to find the files to edit to make this work. There is also the chance that you may get the text wrong rendering your workflow useless. Apparently the SharePoint people have realized that people may want to tweak their workflows a little more that what the UI in SharePoint Designer offers.

If you remember from the previous article I wrote, and a few others cruising around the web, in order to change certain properties of SharePoint Designer Workflows you had to go digging into the workflow’s xoml files.  If you got the syntax wrong on the property you were trying to change, the workflow wouldn’t quite work properly, if it still worked at all. In SharePoint Designer 2010 they have solved this by giving users a dialog where they can choose the setting for the property that needs to be changed instead of entering it manually. To those of us who love tinkering with workflows this is awesome. We can still dig into the xoml file if we want to, but there really shouldn’t be much need for it anymore. Here is how to get to those properties that used to be a pain to change.

Fire up SharePoint Designer and go ahead and create your workflow just like you normally would. Add any conditions or actions that you want to add, and save your workflow.  In the past it would be at this point that we would start to hunt for that property we wanted to change in the xoml files.  Just for nostalgia’s sake, click on “All Files” on the Navigation tree on the left.

ScreenCapture_2 2010-10-25 09.48.17

There is a familiar folder structure listed in the right pane now. Click on Workflows, then on the name of the workflow we just created, and now we should see our Workflow’s xoml files. Just like before, if we click on the file, we will get the workflow designer.  In order to view the code for the file, right click on it, and select “Open with” and then “Open as XML.”  This all should be familiar. There is our XML, just like we wanted! Now we could go changing it all from here just like we did before.

ScreenCapture_5 2010-10-25 09.56.56


I’ve highlighted that little bit of formerly problematic code that we changed before. Yes, it is still there. Yes it still defaults to False, which means that each time the list item is copied, it will create a new file with a time stamp in the filename clogging our content databases. We could change it here if we wanted to, but that wouldn’t be new and innovative would it? Let’s go back to our workflow designer, and see what we have now.

If you click on the condition or action in the workflow, on the drop down menu that appears, the last option is “Properties.” Go ahead and click on properties and a new dialog window should appear, with some familiar settings.


ScreenCapture_9 2010-10-25 10.04.45

There it is. That pesky “Overwrite = False” setting, in language that is a little easier to understand. Change it from “No” to “Yes” and click OK and then save your workflow. If you go back and check the xoml file, you will notice that the setting has been changed from Overwrite=”False” to Overwrite=”True”.  Awesome!  I don’t have to go tinkering with xoml files anymore or worry about typos or syntax! SPD 2010 has me covered. I did a little bit of checking, and it allows me to edit the BCC field for the “Send an Email” activity. So that one is covered now as well. Apparently they have added the properties to all of the workflow conditions and activities.  No more guessing which properties you should and should not edit, or how to add a property that wasn’t included by default.  Stay tuned, next week I will list every editable property of every Condition and Action that exists in SPD2010.



  1. Great article!
    My question is what permission is needed to be able to see ‘All Files’, Seems ‘Owner – Full control’ is not enough.

    Comment by Chris Miller — August 1, 2011 @ 8:42 am

    • I did a little bit of checking, and apparently you need to have at least Site Collection Administrator permissions to see the folder, so Site Collection Admin, Web Application Full Control Policy, or Farm Admin credentials and you should be able to see the all items folder.

      Comment by Jay Strickland — August 1, 2011 @ 9:38 am

  2. Great! Thanks for the information.

    Comment by Chris Miller — August 1, 2011 @ 9:43 am

  3. Hi again,
    Is there a way to have the copy become a new version instead of completely overwriting? I have versioning turned on.

    Comment by Chris Miller — August 1, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

    • As far as I know there is a way to do it, but not through SharePoint Designer. You would need to fire up a copy of VisualStudio 2010 and do developer stuff. I’m not a developer so I don’t know what exactly it will take, but I do know that creating a workflow through VisualStudio gives you a lot more flexibility. At least I think so. I’m not sure.

      Comment by Jay Strickland — August 1, 2011 @ 2:26 pm

  4. Hi Jay,
    I’ve been trying to figure out this issue for the past two days and to no avail. I followed your instructions exactly and made sure that Overwrite=”True”, but my workflow is still creating new items instead of overwriting existing ones. Is there something I’m missing?

    Comment by Andrew — February 7, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

    • Hrmm. This should be pretty straightforward. Which version of SharePoint are you using? If you give me a little more detail about what you are trying to do, I could probably help you out more. If I can’t help you I’m sure I can point you to someone who can.

      Comment by Jay Strickland — February 7, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

      • I’m using Sharepoint 2010 and Designer 2010.
        I have two lists. Sales team, and Fulfillment team. When the sales team sells a QS package, I need the list item to copy to the Fulfillment team list. Looking into the future, the sales team may make changes to existing items and having new items created in the fulfillment team’s list would create confusion.
        This is the workflow that I created:

        If Current Item:QS is greater than 0
        Copy item in Current Item to Fulfillment team list

        And then I made sure overwrite is changed to Yes.
        Let me know if I can provide you with any more info.

        Comment by Andrew — February 7, 2012 @ 2:25 pm

      • I’m not sure. After you have saved and closed the workflow in SPD, when you open it again, is the change persisted?

        Comment by Jay Strickland — February 8, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

      • Yup, the changes stay after I close designer

        Comment by Andrew — February 8, 2012 @ 2:14 pm

      • Dang. The only other thing I can think of is potentially an environment issue. Unfortunately without being able to poke my head under the hood my self this will be really difficult for me to diagnose. (Can you get this to work on another Site Collection in the farm? Will it work on another site in the same collection? Will it work on different lists on the same site? are these lists or a libraries?)

        Comment by Jay Strickland — February 8, 2012 @ 2:30 pm

  5. Jay thank you sooo much for this. You’re AWESOME!!

    Comment by SH — May 17, 2012 @ 10:42 am

    • Jay, I am having the same issue, overwrite does not seem to overwrite but makes a copy. I checked XOMl. it is set to true.

      I am using a custom list in SharePoint 2010 and Designer 2010. breaking my head over it ! looks very simple but very frustrating.
      Thanks for your help in advance.

      Comment by priya — August 1, 2012 @ 3:54 pm

      • And also, i did a quick test with Document library and overwrite works great! Is there something else I need to do for a custom list (imported excel sheet). I will test with different kinds of list like discussions or calender to see if there is any difference. :)

        Comment by priya — August 1, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

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