Home » workflows » When is Visual Studio the Preferred Tool for Building Workflows for SharePoint 2013?

When is Visual Studio the Preferred Tool for Building Workflows for SharePoint 2013?

Readers may not be aware of the special cases where Visual Studio 2012, rather than SharePoint Designer, 2013, is the best tool for building workflows for SharePoint 2013. Microsoft® provides some of this information in an entry to the MSDN Library titled Develop SharePoint 2013 workflows using Visual Studio.

The version of Visual Studio, which is the subject of this entry, is Visual Studio 2012. The entry states: “what differs from previous versions [of Visual Studio] is that using Visual Studio no longer provides a code-based authoring strategy. Instead, both SharePoint Designer and Visual Studio provide a fully declarative, no-code authoring environment, regardless of the development tool you select.” The entry includes a definition of “declarative workflows”, including its foundation in XAML. Bottom line: organizations in need of a tool to build SharePoint 2013 workflows without any code will do equally well with either SharePoint Designer, 2013, or with Visual Studio 2012.

Visual Studio 2012 includes a “Workflow Designer” for what the MSDN library entry refers to as the manipulation of “workflow building blocks”. The entry defines “workflow building blocks” and, further, contrasts them with the “workflow design surface” provided by SharePoint Designer 2013.

The entry includes a “decision tree”, which readers can use to select the right tool (meaning either Visual Studio 2012, or SharePoint Designer 2013) for a workflow requirement. Branches of this tree include differentiating the “target users” of each tool, the “difficulty level” represented by each workflow development method, and, finally, the best application for each tool.

The MSDN library entry asserts the best reason to opt for developing workflows with SharePoint Designer 2013 is a need to attach a workflow to “a list, library or site using a no-code, text-based designer.” In contrast, the best reason to build workflows with Visual Studio 2012 is to “[let] developers include SharePoint workflows as part of a broader SharePoint solution or app for SharePoint.”

Another difference stakeholders will want to include in their decision criteria is the likelihood of needing to edit the workflow at some later time. The MSDN library entry point out SharePoint 2013 workflows can only be debugged with Visual Studio 2012.

SharePoint-Videos offers a very extensive set of video tutorial content on SharePoint 2013 workflows. This MSDN library entry, and content directly related to it (which can be found via the links included on the page on MSDN for the entry), should be a high value complement to the information our course leaders communicate in their presentations on this topic.

Ira Michael Blonder

©Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder 2014 All Rights Reserved