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SharePoint 2010 Workflows In Action

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Published by: Manning
ISBN: 9781935182719

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One Minute Bottom Line

A well written and easy to read book about what you can achieve through using workflows with SharePoint 2010.  The author does a great job - it is easy to understand and the examples are well presented allowing you to pick things up quickly.


The author delivers a thorough, clear, and well-written book that assumes that you have SharePoint 2010 loaded or have access to it – this makes sense as why would you be reading the book if not to know about SharePoint 2010 workflow capability!  The author also assumes that the reader has a little bit of prior knowledge, but this is not a bad thing as this is a book about one part of SharePoint – workflows – it’s not about SharePoint in general. 

The level of knowledge that the author has on the subject shines through.  He takes you on journey, from a simple out-of-the-box three state workflow that requires no programming knowledge and little configuration, to more complex state machine workflows developed using Visual Studio.  In this regard the author has done well.  As each workflow topic is covered the author provides a step by step example to aid your understanding.  These are easy to follow in the book via the text, the great diagrams and screen shots, and simple to follow using SharePoint 2010.

The first 2 parts of the book give in depth detail on building workflows without the need to code.  It’s aimed at IT professionals – those that write code and those that don’t.   I’d argue that IT professionals that haven’t written code would struggle with some of the ground covered in part 2.  Some knowledge of programming would not only enable you to grasp and understand what’s being said much more quickly, but also give you the confidence to try it.  For example, Part 2 covers using SharePoint Designer to configure and customize workflows.  Some of the examples use pseudo code logic to use when specifying conditional workflow steps.    The author makes things easier however by providing great tables that clearly describe the steps that are in a particular workflow.  There are three columns to these tables, headed Action, Steps and Result.  The Action describes what the step or steps will achieve, i.e. what’s the objective.  The Steps tell you how the Action will be realized – what steps will be followed to achieve the output.  Finally the Result tells you the outcome of those steps.

You can specify the requirements for a workflow by using the Microsoft SharePoint Workflow template in Visio 2010.  The template can be used to create a workflow that can then be imported into SP Designer for development and completion.  The author points out that you cannot develop a complete workflow in Visio, but it is a great way to easily put together the high level requirements for a workflow.  As an alternative to using Visio 2010, you can take an existing out-of-the-box workflow as a template for modifying into a new workflow using SharePoint Designer.  So there’s re-use – you don’t have to start from scratch.  This saves times, and helps the learning experience by enabling you to become productive faster.

The author’s skill at stepping you through examples really helps you understand what the use of workflows in SharePoint 2010 can offer.  For example, he highlights the strong relationship between forms and workflows; emphasizing the need to get the forms thought out before the workflow is completed.  I like that the author highlights the pros and cons of using the different types of forms – ones that are out-of-the-box, or developed using InfoPath or ASP.NET.  One of the strengths of InfoPath 2010 is that it can be used to customize an out-of-the-box form.

A good case for Visual Studio 2010 is presented, arguing that it is a step-up from its predecessors.  Developers will get the most out the final part of the book.  For those that are not developers, it will give you a taste of what’s possible when creating workflows for SharePoint 2010.  Again the author uses tables to his, and your, advantage.  For instance, through the use of a table the author represents the workflow activities in both descriptive and visual form – and to good effect.  The sequential and state machine workflows are discussed, and the author guides you through an example of each.  The more complex the requirements are, the more likely a state machine workflow will be employed to satisfy them.

 I like the book.  It is clearly written and tells you what's on offer with regard workflows when using SharePoint 2010.  A view of SharePoint's architecture is provided and you get an understanding of how it works with other applications like Visio, Visual Studio and InfoPath.  The author lets you know which out-of-the-box workflows come with which version of Sharepoint 2010.  The author's extensive experience and knowledge with the product presents itself through the book allowing you to understand how to get the best out SharePoint's workflow capability.

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Nick Winfield.

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