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What's new in workflow in SharePoint Server 2013

SharePoint 2013

Published: July 16, 2012

Summary: Learn about the new components and concepts in SharePoint Server 2013 workflow.

Applies to:  SharePoint Server 2013 

SharePoint Server 2013 brings a major advancement to workflow: enterprise features such as fully declarative authoring, REST and Service Bus messaging, elastic scalability, and managed service reliability.

SharePoint Server 2013 can use a new workflow service built on the Windows Workflow Foundation components of the .NET Framework 4.5. This new service is called Workflow Manager and it is designed to play a central role in the enterprise. Processes are central to any organization and workflow is the orchestrator of processes.

In this article:

  • Two SharePoint workflow platforms

  • SharePoint Designer enhancements

  • Workflow Manager capabilities

  • Windows PowerShell cmdlets that manage workflow

Two SharePoint workflow platforms

The SharePoint 2010 Workflow platform has been carried forward to SharePoint Server 2013. All of your workflows that were built by using SharePoint Server 2010 will continue to work in SharePoint Server 2013.

In SharePoint Server 2010 the workflow engine installed automatically with the product. This continues to be the case with the SharePoint 2010 Workflow platform in SharePoint Server 2013. If you simply install SharePoint Server 2013 and do not install and configure Workflow Manager then you will have a nearly identical experience with building workflows as you did in SharePoint Server 2010.

The SharePoint 2013 Workflow platform only becomes available to you, and your tools, after you download and install the new Workflow Manager service and configure it to communicate with your SharePoint Server 2013 farm. For a detailed guide on this process, see How to: Set up and configure SharePoint 2013 workflows.

The figure illustrates the concept.

Figure: Architectural changes in SharePoint Workflow

Architectural changes in workflow

SharePoint Designer enhancements

SharePoint Designer 2013 includes new functionality designed specifically for Workflow Manager. In SharePoint Designer 2013 this new platform is known as the SharePoint 2013 Workflow platform. These new features include:

  • A visual workflow development experience that uses a Visio 2013 add-in

  • A new action that enables no-code web service calls from within a workflow

  • New actions for creating a task and starting a task process

  • New coordination actions that let you start a workflow built on the SharePoint 2010 Workflow platform from a workflow built on the SharePoint 2013 Workflow platform

  • A new Dictionary type

  • New workflow building blocks such as Stage, Loop, and App Step

When you create a workflow in SharePoint Designer 2013, you have the option of choosing the platform on which you wish to build a workflow in the workflow creation dialog as shown in the figure.

Create a workflow using SharePoint Designer 2013.

Workflow Manager capabilities

Workflow Manager brings a new class of workflow to SharePoint Server 2013. Workflows built by using Workflow Manager can take advantage of several new capabilities. These include enterprise features such as:

  • High Density and Multi-Tenancy

  • Elastic Scale

  • Activity / Workflow Artifact Management

  • Tracking and Monitoring

  • Instance Management

  • Fully Declarative Authoring

  • REST and Service Bus Messaging

  • Managed Service Reliability

To learn more about Workflow Manager, see Workflow Manager on MSDN.

Windows PowerShell cmdlets that manage workflow

As a SharePoint Server 2013 workflow administrator you should be familiar with Windows PowerShell. After you have installed the Workflow Manager service you will need to configure it to communicate with your SharePoint Server 2013 farm. This pairing is accomplished by using Windows PowerShell cmdlets. Windows PowerShell is used exclusively when you manage and monitor Workflow Manager.

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