Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Emailing Documents as Attachments Workflow Activity for Sharepoint 2010

One of the most obvious use cases which is lacking from SharePoint is the ability to email documents as attachments directly from SharePoint, instead of just a hyperlink pointing to the selected document.
Currently, our SharePoint users requested to implement sending documents to external partners or suppliers through workflow approval. In order to enforce the security policies and protect IP, the documents will be converted to PDF with designed watermark using third party tool. The documents will be submitted to workflow approval process and the actions will be recorded for auditing purpose.
Now, the question is how we could incorporate the email documents as attachments into the workflow. The best option is to develop a workflow activity for reuse. Before jumping directly to the development, we found some useful commercial third party tools and free CodePlex functions we could use. 

Here is the summary for you to select if you do not want to develop yourself.

1. HarePointWorkflow Extension for SharePoint 2010 - provides over 180 new 'ready-to-use' activities for SharePoint workflow development. The product is fully supported by all Microsoft workflow development tools and there is no need to migrate and adapt current workflows to a new development environment, or to master and deploy new development tools. You can benefit from the power of the product in SharePoint Designer 2010, Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, and in Microsoft Visio 2010.

Here is the summary of the HarePoint workflow activity for email. 

2. Virto SharePoint 2010 Workflow Activities Kitno-code set of SharePoint activities for creating custom Workflow using SharePoint Workflow Designer. Virto Workflow Kit that can be used as an add-on for MS SharePoint 2010 includes extended activities for sending e-mails and SMS as well as messaging to Twitter, Jabber and Miranda. 

3. CodePlex SP Designer Activity - Send Email withAttachment - The new version adds support for Folders and Document Sets. If a user selects a folder or document set to run the workflow on this activity will get all items from the folder / document set and add them as attachments to the email.

The advantages of commercial third party tools are:
o  No-code and Ready-to-use Activities
o  Easy Deployment (just add them into your SharePoint Designer)
o  Enhanced Capabilities for your Custom Workflow Creation
o  Vendor support
The advantages of CodePlex tools are:
o  Free
o  Easy to modify since it comes with source code
o  User community support

Sometime, we found third party or CodePlex tools are working well on single SharePoint server. Even some big vendor products are not working consistently on three tier architecture with separate web front servers and application servers. As a result, please carefully evaluate the third party tools.

If you need to add email attachments directly to the list, you could check the following tools
 As always, you should implement email validation. The one in CodePlex should be very helpful.

We are in the process to select and implement this function and will share our experience when it’s done. If you have any experience on any of these tools, please let me know your input.

1 comment:

  1. Btw, HarePoint Workflow Extensions works in SharePoint 2010 and in SharePoint 2013 both, but only SharePoint 2010 workflow platfrom is supported now.