SharePoint Content Approval – Never ending workflow

The Content Approval feature permits you to create a list or a document library where items or files that are submitted by users are not visible to other site users until the items or the files are approved by a user (such as the site administrator) who belongs to a site group that has the Manage Lists right.

When you add a new item or when you modify an existing item in a list or a document library after you enable content approval for that list or document library, the item is marked as Pending. Pending items are only visible to the user who created or modified the item and to users with the Manage Lists right. Pending items are not visible to users until the item is approved. When an item is approved, it is marked as Approved and is visible to all users. When an item is rejected, it is marked as Rejected, and is returned to the user who created it.


Use a workflow to manage content approval for a library

You can use a workflow to manage content approval (also called moderation) in libraries for which content approval is required.

Enabling OOTB Approval workflow for a list:




The Problem : 

In a SharePoint list after you are done with enabling content approval and creating an OOTB approval workflow, you might experience a strange behavior during the approval process.

The workflow can run endlessly. Every time the workflow task is approved, it triggers a Item Updated event which in turn starts another instance of the workflow…So the item remains pending even after the approval ! (After the workflow instance completes another instance is started because of the item updated event triggered by the workflow approval.

This happens in the list. The reason for the difference in behavior is the way the workflow setup is done for the list and document library. We will come to the settings in the library shortly.

The workaround Solution:

The solution is to handle the ItemUpdated event and update the Moderation status programmatically after turning off the event. The code is listed below.


class UpdateWorkflowStatus : SPItemEventReceiver

       public override void ItemUpdating(SPItemEventProperties properties)
           EventLog m_EventLog = new EventLog("");
           m_EventLog.Source = "Approval Workflow Status Update";

               if (properties.AfterProperties["_ModerationStatus"] != null && properties.ListItem["_ModerationStatus"] != null)
                   if(properties.AfterProperties["_ModerationStatus"].ToString() != properties.ListItem["_ModerationStatus"].ToString())

                       properties.Status = SPEventReceiverStatus.CancelNoError;
                       properties.ListItem["_ModerationStatus"] = properties.AfterProperties["_ModerationStatus"].ToString();

           catch (Exception ex)
               m_EventLog.WriteEntry("Workflow Status Update Event Handler Error : " + ex.Message,EventLogEntryType.Error);


The reason why it won’t happen in a document library is that the way the settings are done. In a document library for the content approval minor and major version has to be enabled. And any edit that happens becomes a minor version and a workflow gets triggered only when the major version is published.



BUT ! there is a way to reproduce it in document library as well. You should create the workflow first and then enable content approval, you will end up in the same problem that I explained for the list !!!

SharePoint Document Library and List – File Upload

There are different ways you can add documents to a doc library or to list item as an attachment. You could use object model, built-in web service, custom web service that uses object model, or HTTP PUT method.

In this post I will be stepping through them in detail. Let us take the object model approach first. For the sake of simplicity I have created a simple windows forms app that will push documents in to the document library and list


Adding documents to a Document Library and updating document attributes :

   1: private void button1_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)

   2:         {

   3:             if (openFileDialog1.ShowDialog() == DialogResult.OK)

   4:             {

   5:                 try

   6:                 {

   7:                     FileStream myStream;

   8:                     string fullName;

   9:                     if ((myStream = (FileStream)openFileDialog1.OpenFile()) != null)

  10:                     {

  11:                         fullName = openFileDialog1.FileName;

  12:                         FileInfo myFileInfo = new FileInfo(fullName);

  13:                         using (myStream)

  14:                         {

  15:                             using (SPSite oSite = new SPSite("http://vslearnmoss/sites/FileUpload"))

  16:                             {

  17:                                 using (SPWeb oWeb = oSite.OpenWeb())

  18:                                 {

  19:                                     SPFolderCollection oFolders = oWeb.GetFolder("MyDocuments").SubFolders;

  20:                                     SPFolder oFolder = oFolders["Folder1"];

  21:                                     SPFileCollection oFileColl = oFolder.Files;

  22:                                     Hashtable oDocAttribs = new Hashtable { { "Field1", "Value1" }, { "Field2", "Value2" } };

  23:                                     SPFile oFile = oFileColl.Add(myFileInfo.Name, myStream, oDocAttribs, true);

  24:                                 }

  25:                             }


  27:                         }

  28:                     }

  29:                 }

  30:                 catch (Exception ex)

  31:                 {

  32:                     MessageBox.Show("Error: " + ex.Message);

  33:                 }

  34:             }


  36:         }

Adding document attachments to a list item  :

   1: private void button1_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)

   2:         {

   3:             if (openFileDialog1.ShowDialog() == DialogResult.OK)

   4:             {

   5:                 try

   6:                 {                    

   7:                     string fullName;

   8:                     fullName = openFileDialog1.FileName;

   9:                     FileInfo myFileInfo = new FileInfo(fullName);

  10:                     byte[] fileData = System.IO.File.ReadAllBytes(fullName);


  12:                     using (SPSite oSite = new SPSite("http://vslearnmoss/sites/FileUpload"))

  13:                     {

  14:                         using (SPWeb oWeb = oSite.OpenWeb())

  15:                         {

  16:                             SPList oList = oWeb.Lists["MyList"];

  17:                             SPQuery oQuery = new SPQuery { Query = "0" };

  18:                             SPListItem oItem = oList.GetItems(oQuery).Add();

  19:                             oItem["Title"] = textBox1.Text;

  20:                             SPAttachmentCollection attachments = oItem.Attachments;

  21:                             attachments.Add(myFileInfo.Name, fileData);

  22:                             oItem.Update();

  23:                         }

  24:                     }

  25:                 }

  26:                 catch (Exception ex)

  27:                 {

  28:                     MessageBox.Show("Error: " + ex.Message);

  29:                 }


  31:             }

  32:         }

One thing to note when accessing the list for creating a new list item is to be mindful that when SPList.Items.Add is called it fetches all the items before creating a new item, one way to avoid is to make a blank query that fetches zero results and add a new list item to the collection. [Thanks to Rob Garret]

SPQuery oQuery = new SPQuery { Query = "0" };

SPListItem oItem = oList.GetItems(oQuery).Add();


You can look for more info about adding list item efficiently in this article by Rob Garret.

In the next part of this article, I will show you how to utilize web services or HTTP PUT method to push documents into the SharePoint document library.

How to overwrite SharePoint master page using a feature

I ran into a scenario where I had to overwrite an already existing master page using a feature.

In my elements.xml I had an entry for the custom master page like the following

   1: <Module Name="OSGMasterPages" Url="_catalogs/masterpage"   Path="MasterPages" RootWebOnly="TRUE">

   2: <File Url="default.master"   Type="GhostableInLibrary" >

I was unable to overwrite then found that the file has an additional attribute to specify what to do if the file already exists.

   1: <File   IgnoreIfAlreadyExists = "TRUE" | "FALSE"   

   2:    Name = "Text"   

   3:    NavBarHome = "TRUE" | "FALSE"  

   4:    Path = "Text"   

   5:    Type = "Text"   

   6:    Url = "Text >   

   7: </File>

IgnoreIfAlreadyExists – Optional Boolean. TRUE to provision the view even if the file aready exists at the specified URL; otherwise, FALSE.

I tried both TRUE and luck.

To add more twist to the problem I also got an error

error CS0030: Cannot convert type Microsoft.SharePoint.WebControls.EncodedLiteral’ to ‘System.Web.UI.IAttributeAccessor’

I tried to manually do the master page upload and then changed the site collection master page reference, it worked without any problem. Then I hit google found this site.

Investigated the custom master page and found lot of “_designer” variables which have been added through the SPD. If I remove this variables then the master page applied successfully and the site is alive.

Since this master page was also edited using the SPD i eagerly opened the page and luck… all the “designer “ variables looks like already commented out.

Note: Got a feedback from an anonymous user that if you go ahead and remove those variables the solution will work ! I am yet to try that

Thanks to the MSDN forums, Later I found that there is no way you can overwrite an existing file that is already provisioned by a feature. It has to be done programmatically !  and btw the IgnoreIfAlreadyExists attribute just lets the feature not error out if it hits that module and the file exists.

Feature event receiver is the right place to manage your provisioning of the updated master page. Following are the steps:

  • Find out if the master page that you want to replace is already checked out.
  • If yes then do a check in.
  • From the feature folder structure query for the master page file.
  • Add this file to the site collection master page gallery
  • Check in the file.
  • publish and approve the file.

The following is the sample code that does the same. This piece of code should be part of the Feature Activated Handler. You can modify the code so that you have the master page name parameterized.

       1: // Here we are trying to overwrite the default.master   

       2: oFile = oCurrentWeb.GetFile("_catalogs/masterpage/default.master");   

       3: oFolder = oCurrentWeb.Lists["Master Page Gallery"].RootFolder;   

       4: // Check In the file   

       5: if (oFile.CheckOutStatus != SPFile.SPCheckOutStatus.None)   

       6: oFile.CheckIn("auto checkin");   

       7: // Check Out the file for edit.   

       8: oFile.CheckOut();   

       9: string directory = oFeature.Definition.RootDirectory;  

      10: directory += @"\masterpages";  

      11: // Get the master page name from the feature properties as defined in the elements.xml  

      12: SPFeatureProperty oPropertyName = properties.Feature.Properties["MasterPageName"]; 


      14: // Get the file names from the specified directory matching the feature property value.  

      15: string[] templates = Directory.GetFiles(directory, oPropertyName.Value, System.IO.SearchOption.TopDirectoryOnly);  

      16: // templates should have all the matching file names. In this instance it whould be only one file name.  

      17: string MasterPageFile = templates[0];  

      18: FileInfo fileInfo = new FileInfo(MasterPageFile);  

      19: byte[] byteArr = System.IO.File.ReadAllBytes(MasterPageFile);  

      20: oFolder.Files.Add(fileInfo.Name, byteArr, true);  

      21: oFile.Update();  

      22: oFile.CheckIn("Check in");  

      23: oFile.Publish("Published");  

      24: oFile.Approve("Approved");

If your site collections is referencing this master page then on feature activation the master page gets updated and it gets reflected on the site collection sites which uses this master page.

Error : An unhandled exception occurred in the user interface.Exception Information: OSearch

You might receive this error if you have not qualified the user account with the domain name

I received this error while I was setting up Search Service on a MOSS machine.


I fixed it by setting the farm search service account qualified with a domain name.


Using SPQuery to filter lists by Domain User Account and SPUser ID

If you want to filter a list based on the value in the look up field that is of type ‘Person or Group’, We have to consider the following options:

  • Filter by the User Name.
  • Filter by SPUser ID Property
  • Filter by Domain User account

Filter by the User Name:

By default the settings for the ‘Person or Group’ column will have the following settings.


The Show Field will have the “Name with Presence” selected.

When we run a SPQuery search on the list using the following code we will be able to filter the list based on the fullname of the user.

   1: using (SPSite oSite = new SPSite("http://vslearnwss:801"))
   2:            {
   3:                using (SPWeb oWeb = oSite.OpenWeb())
   4:                {
   5:                    oList = oWeb.Lists["Project Tasks"];
   6:                    SPQuery query = new SPQuery();
   7:                    query.Query = "<Where><Eq><FieldRef Name='AssignedTo' /><Value Type='User'>Karthikeyan K</Value></Eq></Where>";
   8:                    SPListItemCollection items = oList.GetItems(query);
  10:                }
  11:            }

Filtering by SPUser ID :

If you want to filter the list based on the SPUser ID then follow the steps below.

  • Add an additional attribute ‘LookupId’ for the queried field in your CAML query
<FieldRef Name='AssignedTo' LookupId='TRUE'/>

The updated code is as follows.

   1: using (SPSite oSite = new SPSite("http://vslearnwss:801"))
   2:            {
   3:                using (SPWeb oWeb = oSite.OpenWeb())
   4:                {
   5:                    oList = oWeb.Lists["Project Tasks"];
   6:                    SPQuery query = new SPQuery();
   7:                    query.Query = "<Where><Eq><FieldRef Name='AssignedTo' LookupId='TRUE'/><Value Type='User'>7</Value></Eq></Where>";
   8:                    SPListItemCollection items = oList.GetItems(query);
   9:                }
  10:            }

Filtering by Domain User Account :

If you want to filter the list based on the Domain User Account then follow the steps below.

  • Change the ‘Show Field’ Settings of the Person or Group lookup column to ‘Account’









  • Modify your code to include the domain account in the filter value.
using (SPSite oSite = new SPSite("http://vslearnwss:801"))
                using (SPWeb oWeb = oSite.OpenWeb())
                    oList = oWeb.Lists["Project Tasks"];
                    SPQuery query = new SPQuery();
                    query.Query = "<Where><Eq><FieldRef Name='AssignedTo' /><Value Type='User'>learnmoss\vinod</Value></Eq></Where>";
                    SPListItemCollection items = oList.GetItems(query);

SharePoint Web Part Project – Post Build Commands

When you are building a web part project, you might want to do the following tasks :

  • Move the .dll to the GAC
  • Do a Application Pool Recycle

The following are the variables that we can use in our scripts.

Name Description
$(TargetPath) The full directory path to the output directory, including the project output filename. Example: D:\MyWorks\HelloWorld\bin\debug\HelloWorld.dll
$(TargetDir) The full directory path to the output directory. Example: D:\MyWorks\HelloWorld\bin\debug\
$(ProjectDir) The full directory path to where the project file exists. Example: D:\MyWorks\HelloWorld\

Moving the DLL to the GAC :

The location of the gacutil.exe utility in VS 2008  is different from the VS2005 environment.

VS2008 : C:\Program Files\Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v6.0A\Bin

Command : “%programfiles%\Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v6.0A\bin\GacUtil.exe” /if “$(TargetPath)” /nologo

VS2005 : C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 8\SDK\v2.0\Bin

Command : “%programfiles%\Microsoft Visual Studio 8\SDK\v2.0\Bin\GacUtil.exe” /if “$(TargetPath)” /nologo

Recycling Application Pool :

IIS 6 :

“%systemroot%\system32\iisapp.vbs” /a “sharepoint – 80” /r

if CSCRIPT is not the default host then

%windir%\system32\cscript.exe  “%systemroot%\system32\iisapp.vbs” /a “sharepoint – 80” /r

IIS 7:

“%systemroot%\system32\inetsrv\APPCMD” recycle apppools “Sharepoint – 80”

How to get to the web part maintenance page when your web part page fails?

Sometimes we get stuck with a webpart that crashes on load. And it won’t take you to the webparts maintenance page but will take you to an error page. The way out is to append your page url with querystring ” ?contents=1 “.

For example :  http://MyPortal/Pages/Default.aspx?contents=1

which will take you to http://MyPortal/_layouts/spcontnt.aspx?&url=%2fPages%2fDefault.aspx which is the default web parts maintenance page.