WSS Workflow Modification Form

It is easy to find WSS ASP.NET samples for Instantiation and Task Edit forms, but it is hard to find sample for Modification form. Maybe many people think there is no much difference, but is that true?

Modification form is quite useful in WSS work flow. For example, after a long running task has been assigned to an analyst, the analyst takes vacation for weeks. At this point, the Modification form can be used to reassign the task to another person.

You can define Modification form in Feature file with the similar way for Instantiation form. But how about the workflow part?

Instantiation form happens at the very beginning of a workflow, but Modification can happen anywhere in a scope.

A common way to define Modification in workflow is to put EnableWorkflowModification activity inside an EventHandlingScope activity. Other activities inside the same scope do the normal work. When Modification form is accessed, an event will raised to the workflow, so that the EventHandlingScope activity can handle the event and call event handler.

In Visual Studio, right-click the EventHandlingScope activity and select "view event handlers":

Then you can add OnWorkflowModified and UpdateTask activities to the EventHandlersActivity:

The Modification activities have their own ContextData and CorrelationToken, because they are actually outside the normal workflow.

One issue I saw: If there is an OnTaskChanged activity already defined in the EventHandlingScope (like below), you had better not add another OnTaskChanged activity inside the EventHandlersActivity; otherwise, you would be surprised to see only one OnTaskChanged activity is called.

WSS Content Type Was Not Updated

I tried to update a content type in WSS, but the system was still using the older version of content type somehow. After two-day frustration, I found out why :(

Here was what happened in the beginning: I created a simple content type like below:

<ContentType ID="0x01080100B7336179CFFE43e59B86E241C767010E" Name="GradingTask" Group="Grading" Description="Grading Task" Version="0" Hidden="FALSE">

The content type worked perfectly and I added several items of GradingTask type to a list. Then I thought: How about adding custom Edit/Display pages? So I added these lines to the configuration:

<XmlDocument NamespaceURI="">
<FormUrls xmlns="">

After I installed the updated content type and tried to edit a task, WSS kept showing me the default EditForm.aspx page, not the GradesTaskEditForm.aspx. Then I tried to deactivate and uninstall the content type for many times, but WSS still used the default page.

Finally, I saw a line in the "Real World SharePoint 2007" book: When you use Feature to install a new version of Content Type, WSS does not support cascading update if inherited content type is used somewhere. (No quote)

Oh ... That is the reason why I failed to overwrite the old content type definition -- WSS kept GradingTask's meta data for the list even after the Feature was uninstalled.

So I deleted all items of that GradingTask type, removed workflow setting, detached the content type from the list, deactivated/uninstalled the feature, deleted the list and then reinstalled/activated the feature, ... ... finally my lovely custom Edit page showed up :)

According to the book, to support cascading update I need write code using WSS object model API to force cascading update ... I would try that later.

[Updated 12/28/2007] I saw this great article this morning to deal with the mess of Content Type inheritance.

Can I use SharePoint Workflow on SPGridView?

Nowadays, it is quite easy to find articles about how beautiful it is to use Microsoft SharePoint 2007 Workflow and InfoPath to manage Documents or List.

But I am too poor to buy MOSS 2007 and InfoPath, is it possible to use WSS 3.0 Workflow frame to manage normal business objects (e.g. purchase orders, law suit cases) in an ASP.NET SPGridView on a WSS 3.0 site? Or to say, can I build a WSS Workflow and related ASP.NET pages (Workflow Association, Instatiation, Modification, and Task Edit pages) in Visual Studio, then use that workflow for each item of an ASP.NET SPGridView and modify data stored in a standalone database (not WSS Content database)?

From my current understanding, the answer is: No, because SharePoint Workflow processes SPListItem, not item of SPGridView; and of course, you are not supposed to create task from your code because the task is of SPWorkflowTask type that can only be created from SPWorkflow.

Ok ... fine. How about creating a SharePoint List to hold my business objects but I need save my business objects in a separate database?

Well ... To use SharePoint List, you have to create list columns inside SharePoint Content database, not in other databases.


So from my current understanding, if I want to use WSS 3.0 workflow framework for my own business objects in a standalone database (S_DB), I have to create a List and several columns (for display and search purposes) in WSS site. Those columns are duplicated because they are already defined in database S_DB.

When user starts workflow on the list item, the workflow (Instatiation) ASP.NET page will use ADO.NET code to load other fields from database S_DB. Then the ASP.NET page should save updated data back to S_DB, and at the same time save the data of the List columns to WSS Content database too.

Is there a better way to avoid data duplication in WSS Content database and the other standalone database?

Convert Access database to SQL Server 2005

In one of my projects, I need analyze data in an Access application. Frankly speaking, that is the best Access application I have seen so far: with many front-end Access forms, users can input data to the back-end single Access database.

But Access is not designed for client-server mode anyway. A lock file is needed to only allow one user to lock a table at one time. Sometimes, users have to wait for minutes for others to finish a simple data update operation.

For me, I am not a fan of Access, although I was amazed by how that Access application worked. So I decide to convert to SQL Server database.

But how? Although SQL Server Integration Service (SSIS) can import data from Access, it is hard to maintain database settings (e.g. foreign-key relationship, etc). Today, I found SQL Server Migration Assistant for Access from Microsoft. Now my life is easier :)