Let the Work Flow: Making list workflows exportable in SharePoint Designer 2010

By Alex B.

One of the biggest problems with working with List Workflows is that they are not a very portable solution for the modern SharePoint environment. This is even more apparent when you are working with SharePoint Designer’s base tool set. So let’s talk about a quick workaround to be able to rapidly import/export a list workflow.

Looking over the Options one has in designer, we see something a little bit interesting: Export to Visio.


Figure 1 – SharePoint Designer

So what does that actually do? Well it rebuilds the workflow to be used as a Visio: Professional SharePoint workflow. The information about the workflow itself is contained in the Visio file, now because Microsoft us *.cab format files with their Files we can rename the formatting and take a peak on the inside.

 exporting to visio

Figure 2 – Exporting to Visio, Renaming the file type

Let’s open it up and see what is on the inside.


Figure 3 – The inside of a Visio workflow file

So, in this workflow, we have we have the content types, the workflow, and the configuration. You can actually make changes to this workflow configuration file such as replacing it with a blank file (Generated  from a blank workflow),  set a new configuration file there, or even deleting the file and making SharePoint regenerate a new one. When you are done with your tinkering, revert the file back to a *.vwi and then import it to your list from SharePoint Designer. What you’ve done is you’ve stripped the references to the list it was using and applied it to a non-existing content type. You can then re-apply it to the list you want, and you will need to go through and clean up the lines that make reference to the list, in the workflow. Over all this saves quite a bit of time when you just need to get something done and you’re able to just push straight to production.


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