Create a custom #SharePoint Designer Workflow action

I always encourage the power users to build their own applications by using the out-of-the-box tools. The more advanced applications need the assistant of SharePoint Designer to create workflows. In some cases the OOTB workflow actions are to limited.

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It is possible to create you own SPD workflow actions and let your (power) users use them. To create a custom action you need Visual Studio and some coding experience.

Creating the custom action

Create a new “Workflow activity Library” project in VS.

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In my example the activity queries a database to get the name of the course of a student. I named my activity “StudentEmail” (I’ll use the email of the student as key to get the information).

Add a reference to the Microsoft.SharePoint and Microsoft.SharePoint.Workflow assemblies.

A custom SPD workflow action can contain some parameters. In my case I need the emailaddress of the user and the output parameter will give me the name of the course. Those parameters are visible in SPD when you select the workflow:

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I’ll show you later how you can edit this sentence.

You have to register each property you want to use in you workflow in this way:

Public Shared EmailProperty As DependencyProperty = DependencyProperty.Register("Email", GetType(String), GetType(StudentEmail))
<DesignerSerializationVisibility(DesignerSerializationVisibility.Visible)> _
Public Property Email() As String
    Get
        Return MyBase.GetValue(StudentEmail.EmailProperty)
    End Get
    Set(ByVal value As String)
        MyBase.SetValue(StudentEmail.EmailProperty, value)
    End Set
End Property

The actual code of your workflow you can put in the Execute method:

Protected Overrides Function Execute(ByVal executionContext As System.Workflow.ComponentModel.ActivityExecutionContext) As System.Workflow.ComponentModel.ActivityExecutionStatus
    Try

        ‘do your stuff here

        ‘…

    Catch ex As Exception : Me.Opleiding = ex.Message
    End Try

    Return ActivityExecutionStatus.Closed
End Function

To enable this in SPD you need to do a few more things:

Create a .ACTIONS file

The custom actions are described in a .ACTIONS file. You can find those files in the 12hive folder  on your SharePoint server:

X:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\web server extensions\12\TEMPLATE\[LANGUAGE CODE]\Workflow

The .ACTIONS file contains something like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<WorkflowInfo>
  <Actions Sequential="daarna" Parallel="en">
    <Action Name="Get the course of a given student (email)"
            ClassName="Howest.SPDActions.Bamaflex.StudentEmail"
            Assembly="Howest.SPDActions.Bamaflex, Version=1.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=c401f7f296f6b46d"
            AppliesTo="all"
            Category="Howest custom Actions">
      <RuleDesigner Sentence="Get the course for studentemail: %1 (save it in %2)">
        <FieldBind Field="Email" DesignerType="TextArea" Text=”email” Id="1"/>
        <FieldBind Field="Course" DesignerType="ParameterNames" Text="CourseName" Id="2"/>
      </RuleDesigner>
      <Parameters>
        <Parameter Name="Email" Type="System.String, mscorlib" Direction="In" />
        <Parameter Name="Course" Type="System.String, mscorlib" Direction="Out" />
      </Parameters>
    </Action>
  </Actions>
</WorkflowInfo>

The action name attribute describes the sentence you see in the actions selection window. The RuleDesigner Sentence attribute is the sentence you see when you select your action. The parameters are set as %1 and %2 (and so on). More information about the .Actions file you can find here.

Be sure you sign your assembly and add the PublicKeyToken and the assemblyname in this file. When the action is not shown in SharePoint Designer it is often the case that the assembly signature is incorrect.

Modify web.config

The next step is to modify the web.config (on each front end server). You have to add a new AuthorizedType.

<authorizedType Assembly="Howest.SPDActions.Bamaflex, Version=1.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=c401f7f296f6b46d" Namespace="Howest.SPDActions.Bamaflex" TypeName="StudentEmail" Authorized="True" />

Again, be sure you add the right assembly signature. And do not forget to add the assembly in the GAC (c:\windows\assembly) on you SharePoint servers.

At the end you should get a custom workflow action!