All about Collect Signatures workflows

The workflows included with SharePoint products are features that you can use to automate your business processes, making them both more consistent and more efficient. You can use a SharePoint Collect Signatures workflow to route documents created in Microsoft Word 2013, Microsoft Excel 2013, or Microsoft InfoPath 2013 to one or more people for their signatures. And with a SharePoint workflow handling your process for you, you’ve got more time for all the other things you need to get done.

For more information, see About the workflows included with SharePoint.

 Important    By default, the Collect Signatures workflow is not activated and is not listed in the Select a workflow template list box of the association form. To make it available for use, a site administrator must activate them at the site collection level.

If all you need to do is complete a Collect Signatures workflow task    Just scroll down to the COMPLETE segment and expand it. You might not need any of the other segments for now.

Comparison of manual process with automated workflow

SharePoint workflows are:

  • Efficient and consistent    A Collect Signatures workflow automatically routes the document, assigns signature tasks, and tracks their progress. The activity in the workflow can be monitored and adjusted from a central status page, and the history of events in the workflow run is maintained for 60 days after completion.
  • Less work for you    A Collect Signatures workflow saves you and your colleagues both time and trouble, and at the same time streamlines and standardizes your signature process.

Here’s a diagram of a very simple version of the Collect Signatures workflow.

Flowchart of workflow process

Tips for using this article

The information in this article is presented in ten expandable segments.

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If all you need to do is complete a Collect Signatures workflow task    Just scroll down to the COMPLETE segment and expand it. You might not need any of the other segments for now.

If you want to add, start, monitor, and maintain workflows    If you aren’t already familiar with these tasks, you might find it useful to work your way through this article, segment by segment, the first time that you design and add a workflow. Once you’re familiar with the information and the article layout, you’ll be able to go straight to the segment you need on any return visits.

A note on the graphics    Screen images and conceptual diagrams in this series of workflow articles are generally based on the Approval workflow type. Wherever necessary for conceptual or instructional clarity, however, images and diagrams in this article have been customized for Collect Signatures workflows.

A word about printing this article    This is a long article. If you want to print only selected segments, make sure that only those segments are expanded when you print. (Also, if you want to include the complete graphics in your printed copy, print in landscape orientation and not portrait orientation.)

And a word about searching    Before you search for any text or term in this article, make sure that all of the segments in which you want to search are expanded.

What do you want to do?

Learn more about Collect Signatures workflows

A Collect Signatures workflow is a SharePoint products feature that routes a document or form created in Word 2013, Excel 2013, or InfoPath 2013 to one or more people for their signature. The workflow automates, streamlines, and standardizes the whole process.

Illustration of workflow routing

The basic Collect Signatures workflow that’s included with SharePoint products functions as a template. Using this template, you can add one or more Collect Signatures workflows to your sites. Each workflow that you add is a unique version of the basic Collect Signatures workflow, each with its own specialized way of working, based on the settings that you specify when you add it.

Sections in this segment

  1. What can a Collect Signatures workflow do for me?
  2. What can’t a Collect Signatures workflow do?
  3. Who can use this type of workflow?
  4. What are the benefits of using digital signatures?
  5. How do you plan, add, run, and maintain this type of workflow?

1. What can a Collect Signatures workflow do for me?

  • When you first add a Collect Signatures workflow to your list, library, or site collection, you can specify how many participants to include, and indicate whether their tasks are assigned one after another (in serial) or all at once (in parallel). You can even decide whether to divide the participants’ tasks into two or more separate stages. And each time that you start the workflow manually on a document, you can modify any of these settings.
  • The workflow assigns a task to each specified participant. Each participant chooses among several possible responses: to sign (or not sign) the document, to reassign the signature task, or to delete the task.
  • While the workflow is running, you can monitor progress and make adjustments (if needed) from a single, central Workflow Status page.
  • For 60 days after the workflow is completed, the list of all workflow events that occurred in the course of this run (or instance) of the workflow is still available on the Workflow Status page, for informal reference.

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2. What can’t a Collect Signatures workflow do?

The Collect Signatures workflow isn’t designed to collect approvals and rejections for a document, or to control webpage publishing for a website. If you want to add a workflow in which participants approve or reject the document that they review, see the article, All about Approval workflows, in the See Also section.

Also, Collect Signatures workflows aren’t designed to collect feedback. If you want to use a workflow to collect feedback about a document, see the article, All about Collect Feedback workflows, in the See Also section.

You can also use Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2013 to further customize any of the workflows included with SharePoint products.

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3. Who can use this type of workflow?

To add a workflow   By default, you must have the Manage Lists permission to add a workflow. (The Owners group has the Manage Lists permission by default; the Members group and the Visitors group do not.)

To start a workflow   Also by default, you must have the Edit Items permission to start a workflow that’s already been added. (The Members group and the Owners group both have the Edit Items permission by default; the Visitors group does not.)

Alternatively, Owners can choose to configure specific workflows so that they can be started only by members of the Owners group. (To do this, select the Require Manage Lists Permissions to start this workflow check box, on the first page of the association form.)

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4. What are the benefits of using digital signatures?

More and more business transactions are being conducted electronically. Consequently, digital signatures are being used increasingly to legally bind relying parties to their transactions. A digital signature is used to verify the identity of the person who signed the document, and confirms that the content was not modified after the digital signature was applied to the document. Digital signatures provide security that is based in encryption technologies, and help mitigate risk associated with electronic business transactions. With improvements to digital signing, Office aims to meet the information security needs of enterprises and public sector entities worldwide.

To create a digital signature, you must have a digital certificate, which proves your identity to relying parties, and which should be obtained from a reputable certificate authority (CA). If you do not have a digital certificate, Microsoft also has partners that provide digital certificates as well as other advanced signatures.

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5. How do you plan, add, run, and maintain this type of workflow?

These are the basic stages:

  • BEFORE the workflow runs (plan, add, start)   
    Before you add a workflow, you plan where you want to add it (for a single list or library, or for the entire site collection) and the details of how it will work. After you’ve added and configured the workflow, anyone with the necessary permissions can start the workflow on a specific document. The workflow can also be set up to run automatically. Automatic runs can be activated based on either or both of two triggering events: when any document is added to or created in a list or library, or when any document in a list or library is changed.
  • WHILE the workflow runs (complete, monitor, adjust)   
    While the workflow runs, individual participants complete their assigned tasks. Meanwhile, the progress of the workflow can be monitored from a central Workflow Status page for that particular instance of the workflow. Adjustments to the workflow while it runs can be made from that same page; and, if necessary, the workflow can be canceled or terminated from there.
  • AFTER the workflow runs (review, report, change)   
    When the workflow is complete, the whole history of that run (or instance) can be reviewed for up to 60 days on the Workflow Status page. If there’s ever anything that you want to change about the way the workflow functions, you can open and edit the association form that you completed when you first added the workflow.

The following flow chart illustrates these stages from the perspective of the person who is adding a new workflow.

Workflow Process

What’s next?

If you’re ready to plan a new Collect Signatures workflow, go on to the PLAN segment.

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Plan a new Collect Signatures workflow

In this segment, we identify the decisions you need to make and the information you need to assemble before you add a version of the Collect Signatures workflow.

If you’re already familiar with how to add this type of workflow and only need a reminder about the specific steps, you can go straight to the appropriate ADD segment (List/library or Site collection) of this article.

Sections in this segment

  1. Templates and versions
  2. Introducing the association form
  3. Nine questions to answer

1. Templates and versions

The workflows included with SharePoint products function as master templates on which the specific, individual workflows that you add to your lists, libraries, and site collection are based.

Each time that you add a Collect Signatures workflow, for example, you’re actually adding a version of the general Collect Signatures workflow template. You give each version its own name and its own settings, which you specify in the association form when you add that particular version. That way, you can add multiple workflows, each one a version based on the Collect Signatures workflow master template, but each version named and tailored for the specific way that you will use it.

In this illustration, three workflows based on the Approval workflow template have been added — one for all content types in a single library, one for a single content type in a single library, and one for a single content type in a whole site collection.

Three workflows based on the Approval workflow template

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2. Introducing the association form

Whenever you add a new workflow version based on one of the included workflow templates, you fill out an association form to specify the way that you want your new version to work.

In the following section, you’ll find a list of questions that will prepare you to complete the association form. First, though, take a moment or two to look over the form and its fields.

First page of the association form

First page of association form

Second page of the association form

Second page of association form

 Note    The fields on this second page also appear on the initiation form, which is presented each time that the workflow is started manually, and can be edited at that time for that single run only.

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3. Nine questions to answer

As soon as you have the answers to all of the questions in this section, you’re ready to add your workflow.

  1. Is this the right workflow type?
  2. One list or library, or the whole site collection? (and) One content type, or all content types?
  3. What’s a good name?
  4. Task lists and history lists: Existing or new?
  5. Who adds the signature lines, and when?
  6. How (and by whom) can this workflow be started?
  7. Do content types that inherit from this one also get this workflow?
  8. Participants: Which people, in which order?
  9. Who needs to be notified?

01. Is this the right workflow type?

This article concerns the workflow template that appears in the menu as Collect Signatures – SharePoint 2013. If you’re not sure that this workflow type is the best choice for you, refer back to the LEARN segment of this article. For further information about the other workflow templates that are available, see the article, About the workflows included with SharePoint, in the See Also section.

It’s important to know that signature lines of the type we’re discussing here can be inserted only in documents created in Word 2013, Excel 2013, or InfoPath 2013.

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02. One list or library, or the whole site collection? (and) One content type, or all content types?

You can make your new version of the Collect Signatures workflow available in a single list or library only, or you can make it available throughout the entire site collection.

  • If you add the workflow for a single list or library, you can set it up to run either on all content types or on a single content type only.
  • If you add the workflow for the entire site collection, however, you must set it up to run on a single site content type only.
  • In all cases, each document on which a Collect Signatures workflow is run must be a file that was created in Word 2013, Excel 2013, or InfoPath 2013.

Map of site collection with 3 ways to add explained

What’s a content type?

Each document or other item stored in a SharePoint list or library belongs to one or another content type. A content type can be as basic and generic as Document or Excel Spreadsheet, or as highly specialized as Legal Contract or Product Design Specification. Some content types are available in SharePoint products by default, but you can both customize these and add others that you create yourself.

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03. What’s a good name?

Give your workflow version a name that:

  • Clearly indicates what it’s used for.
  • Clearly distinguishes it from other workflows.
An example

Imagine that you’re a member of a group of editors. Your group wants to use two different Collect Feedback workflows:

  • You’ll run the first workflow on each document submitted by a member of your own group. This workflow collects feedback only from the manager of your group.
  • You’ll run the second workflow on each document submitted by people outside of your own group. This workflow collects feedback from every member of your group.

You might name the first workflow Inside Submission Feedback and the second one Outside Submission Feedback.

 Tip    As usual, it’s a good idea to establish consistent naming conventions, and to make sure that everyone involved with your workflows is familiar with those conventions.

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04. Task lists and history lists: Existing or new?

You can have your workflow use the site’s default Tasks list and History list, use other existing lists, or request new lists just for this workflow.

  • If your site will have numerous workflows, or if some workflows will involve numerous tasks, consider requesting new lists for each workflow. (Managing over-long lists is one of the things that can slow down performance. It’s faster and easier for the system to maintain several shorter lists than one very long one.)
  • If the tasks and history for this workflow will contain sensitive or confidential data that you’ll want to keep separated from the general lists, then you should definitely indicate that you want new, separate lists for this workflow. After you add the workflow, be sure that appropriate permissions are set for the new lists.

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05. Who adds the signature lines, and when?

Signature lines can be inserted in the document at either of two times:

  • Before the workflow is started on the document.
  • After the workflow is started, but before the first participant adds their signature to a signature line.

Adding a digital signature to a document is a two-step process:

  1. First, someone inserts a signature line in the body of the document.
    Signature line inserted but not yet signed
  2. Then someone adds their signature to the inserted line.
    Inserted signature line complete with signature

Keep this in mind    From the moment that the first participant adds their signature to the document, the document is locked against editing. Any further change to the document after that point — except other signers adding their signatures — invalidates or deletes all signatures that have been added. And because the insertion of a signature line counts as a change in the document, all signature lines must already be present in the document before the first participant adds their actual signature to one of those lines.

So, there are three simple ways to answer this question:

  • For either kind of start    The document is based on a template or form that already has signature lines in place, so that nobody has to add them for each individual workflow run.
  • For a manual start    The person who starts the workflow inserts all needed signature lines before starting the workflow.
  • For an automatic start    The first participant who opens the document inserts all needed signature lines before adding their own signature.

Here’s a rapid graphic summary of the main point.

Document without first signature and thus still open to changes

Document with first signature added, thus locked from changes

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06. How (and by whom) can this workflow be started?

A workflow can be set up to be started manually only, automatically only, or either way:

  • When you manually start a Collect Signatures workflow on a specific document, another form, the initiation form, is presented. The initiation form contains the settings from the second page only of the association form. That way, if the person who starts the workflow wants to change any of those settings (for the current instance only), they can do so before they click Start.
  • With an automatic start, of course, there’s no opportunity to present an initiation form, so the default settings specified in the association form are used without any change.

The following illustration shows the difference between manual starts and automatic starts.

Forms for manual and automatic start compared

Any changes that you make in the initiation form are applied only during the current instance of the workflow. To change the permanent, default settings of the workflow, you edit the original association form, as explained in the CHANGE segment of this article.

Manual starts

If you allow manual starts, anybody who has the necessary permissions can start the workflow on any eligible document at any time.

The advantages of a manual start are that you and your colleagues can run the workflow only when and if you choose to, and that each time you run it you’ll have the chance to change some settings by using the initiation form.

Of course, with a manual start somebody has to remember to run the workflow whenever it’s appropriate to do so.

Automatic starts

You can set up the workflow to be started automatically by either or each of the following events:

  • A new document is created in or uploaded to the list or library.
  • A document already stored in the list or library is changed.

The advantage of an automatic start is that no one has to remember to start the workflow. It runs every time a triggering event occurs.

Special considerations for automatic starts with Collect Signatures workflows

Unlike in some of the other included workflows, it isn’t possible to add more tasks after a Collect Signatures workflow has started. When the workflow starts automatically, it assigns only those signature tasks already specified in its default settings. Each of those tasks can indeed be reassigned during the workflow run, but no additional tasks can be created and assigned. In other words, a Collect Signatures workflow should only run automatically when the identity, or at least the number, of participants is known beforehand.

What is possible after an automatic start is to delete or cancel tasks that are already assigned — but note that canceling a task will not remove the associated signature line from the document.

Following are three scenarios in which an automatic start is used. Notice that in each scenario:

  • The workflow runs on a library to which people upload documents that need to be signed.
  • The set of people assigned signature tasks is stable over time, and doesn’t need to be reviewed or edited each time the workflow starts.

Of course, in each of these scenarios, if the item that is uploaded is a document or form that already contains the appropriate signature lines, there is no need for the workflow participants to insert signature lines during the workflow run.

Scenario 1: Single task, single signer

New expense claims need to be signed by Anna, so Anna creates a library named New Expense Claims. Anybody in the organization can create or upload a claim.

Anna creates a workflow and gives it the same name: New Expense Claims. The workflow runs automatically on each new document, assigning only one signature task — to Anna, of course.

Flowchart for workflow

Scenario 2: Multiple tasks, multiple signers

This time, contracts need to be signed by Anna and Sean and Frank — by all three of them.

Sean creates a library named Contracts for Signatures. She creates a Collect Signatures workflow named Signatures (annaANDseanANDfrank). The workflow runs automatically on each new document, assigning one signature task to each of the three people.

The first signer to open the document inserts the signature lines for all three signers before adding their own signature.

Flowchart for workflow

Scenario 3: Multiple tasks, single signer

In this version, contracts need to be signed by Anna or Sean or Frank — by only one of the three.

Sean creates a library named Contracts for Signature and a workflow named Signature (annaORseanORfrank). She also creates a mailing list or distribution group, also named annaORseanORfrank, which includes all three of them.

Again the workflow runs automatically on each new document in the library, but this time it assigns only one signature task, to the annaORseanORfrank group.

This sort of task is called a group task, and it works like this: The workflow sends an email task notification to each member of the group, but creates only a single task, which any individual member of the group can claim and complete on behalf of the whole group.

Flowchart for workflow

For instructions on claiming and completing a group task, see the COMPLETE segment of this article.

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07. Do content types that inherit from this one also get this workflow?

When you add a workflow to a content type for the entire site collection, you’re given the option of also adding the workflow to all other content types in the site collection that inherit from the content type you’re adding the workflow to. (Note that if you’re adding a workflow for a single list or library only, this option won’t appear.)


 Notes 

  • The operation that accomplishes all of the additional adding can take a long time to complete.
  • If inheritance has been broken for any sites or subsites where you want this workflow to be added to inheriting content types, make sure that you’re a member of the Owners group in each of those sites or subsites before you run this operation.

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08. Participants: Which people, in which order?

You’ll need to supply the name or email address for each person to whom a signature task will be assigned.

Group tasks or individual?    If you assign a task to a group or distribution list, a group task will be assigned: Each member of the group will receive a task notification, but only one member will need to claim and complete the task. For instructions on claiming and completing a group task, see the COMPLETE segment of this article.

One stage or multiple stages?   You can choose to have only one stage of signature tasks, or to have multiple stages. If you have more than one stage, the stages will be performed one after another.

Parallel reviews or serial reviews?   For the participants in any one stage, you can choose either to have their signature tasks assigned all at the same time (in parallel) or to have their tasks assigned one after another (in serial) in the order that you indicate. The serial option can be useful if, for example, one of the signers is the real decision-maker concerning the document and it doesn’t make sense for any of the other signers to complete their signature tasks if the decision-maker decides not to sign.

An example

This simple scenario illustrates a few of the advantages of both multiple stages and serial task assignments:

Imagine that Frank is adding a new Collect Signatures workflow for a contracts library. Because Frank is the real decision-maker, he wants to be the first person to sign each contract. If he decides not to sign, neither Anna nor Sean will be assigned a signature task. Frank can set this up in either of two ways:

  • By using a serial review   Frank sets up a single serial stage in which he is the first participant and Anna and Sean are the second and the third.
    Here’s how Frank sets up his single-stage serial review.
    Entries shown in form
  • By using two stages   If Frank wants Anna and Sean to be assigned their tasks at the same time, so that Sean doesn’t have to wait for Anna to add her signature before she can add her own, he can set up two stages in the workflow. The first stage includes only his own signature task, and the second is a parallel stage containing Anna and Sean’s tasks. If the first stage isn’t completed, the second stage won’t start.
    Here’s how Frank sets up his two-stage parallel review.
    Settings shown in form

Here are diagrams of both solutions. In both versions, if Frank does not complete his signature task, tasks are never assigned to either Anna or Sean.

Flowcharts of both versions

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09. Who needs to be notified?

In the CC field, on the second page of the association form, you can enter names or addresses for anyone who should be notified each time that this workflow starts or ends.

  • Entering a name here doesn’t result in the assignment of a workflow task to that person.
  • When the workflow is started manually, the person who starts it receives the start and stop notifications without needing to be specified in this field.
  • When the workflow is started automatically, the person who originally added it receives the start and stop notifications without needing to be specified in this field.

What’s next?

If you’re ready to add your new Collect Signatures workflow to your list, library, or site collection, go to the appropriate ADD segment (List/library or Site collection) of this article.

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Add a Collect Signatures workflow
(for only one list or library)

If you’re not yet familiar with adding workflows, you might find it useful to review the preceding LEARN and PLAN segments in this article before you proceed with the steps in this segment.

Sections in this segment

  1. Before you begin
  2. Add the workflow

1. Before you begin

Two matters need to be in order before you can add a workflow:

Email    In order for the workflow to send email notifications, email must be enabled for your SharePoint site. If you’re not sure that this has already been done, check with your SharePoint administrator.

Permissions    The SharePoint products default settings require that you have the Manage Lists permission to add workflows for lists, libraries, or site collections. (The Owners group has the Manage Lists permission by default; the Members group and the Visitors group do not. For more information about permissions, see the LEARN segment of this article.)

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2. Add the workflow

Follow these steps:

  1. Open the list or library for which you want to add the workflow.
  2. On the ribbon, click the List or Library tab.

     Note   The name of the tab can vary with the type of list or library. For example, in a calendar list this tab is named Calendar.

  3. In the Settings group, click Workflow Settings.
  4. On the Workflow Settings page, specify either a single content type for the workflow to run on or All (for all content types), and then click Add a workflow.

     Note    Collect Signatures workflows can be run only on documents created in created in Word 2013, Excel 2013, or InfoPath 2013.


    Add a workflow command with Document content type selected
  5. Complete the first page of the association form.
    (Instructions follow the illustration.)

First page of association form for a single list or library

Callout number one

Content type

Keep the default selection as All, or select a specific content type.

Callouot number two

Workflow

Select the Collect Signatures – SharePoint 2013 template.

 Note    If the Collect Signatures – SharePoint 2013 template doesn’t appear in the list, contact your SharePoint administrator to find out about having it activated for your site collection or workspace.

Callout number three

Name

Type a name for this workflow. The name will identify this workflow to users of this list or library.

For suggestions about naming your workflow, see the PLAN segment of this article.

Callout number four

Task List

Select a task list to use with this workflow. You can select an existing task list or click Tasks (new) to have a new list created.

For information about reasons for creating a new task list (as opposed to choosing an existing one), see the PLAN segment of this article.

Callout number 5

History List

Select a history list to use with this workflow. You can select an existing history list or click New history list to have a new list created.

For information about reasons for creating a new history list (as opposed to choosing an existing one), see the PLAN segment of this article.

Callout number six

Start Options

Specify the way or ways in which this workflow can be started.

For information about the various options, see the PLAN segment of this article.

  1. When all of the settings in this form are the way you want them, click Next.
  2. Complete the second page of the association form.
    (Instructions follow the illustration.)

     Note    SharePoint products presents you all of the options in this second page of the association form each time that you start the workflow manually, so that you can make changes to those options for just that one instance.

Second page of association form with options called out

Callout number one

Assign to

Enter names or addresses for the people you want the workflow to assign tasks to.

  • If the tasks will be assigned one at a time (in serial)   
    Enter the names or addresses in the order in which you want the tasks to be assigned.
  • If all of the tasks will be assigned at the same time (in parallel)   
    The order of the names or addresses doesn’t matter.
  • If you include a group or distribution list   
    A group task will be assigned: Each member of the group will receive a task notification, but only one member will need to claim and complete the task. For instructions on claiming and completing a group task, see the COMPLETE segment of this article.
Callouot number two

Order

Specify whether the tasks should be assigned one at a time (in serial) or all at once (in parallel).

For more information about using serial and parallel stages, see the PLAN segment of this article.

Callout number three

Add a new stage

Add any stages that you want beyond the first one that you’ve just configured.

  • To delete an entire stage, click in the Assign To field for that stage, and then press CTRL+DELETE.

For more information about using multiple stages, see the PLAN segment of this article.

Callout number four

CC

Enter the names or email addresses of anyone who should be notified each time the workflow starts or ends.

  • Entering a name here doesn’t result in the assignment of a workflow task.
  • When the workflow is started manually, the person who starts it receives the start and stop notifications without needing to be specified in this field.
  • When the workflow is started automatically, the person who originally added it receives the start and stop notifications without needing to be specified in this field.
  1. When you have all of the settings in this page the way you want them, click Save to create the workflow.

SharePoint products creates your new workflow version.

What’s next?

If you’re ready to start and test your new workflow, go to the START segment of this article.

You’ll find instructions for inserting signature lines into a document in the INSERT segment of this article.

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Add a Collect Signatures workflow
(for a whole site collection)

If you’re not yet familiar with adding workflows, you might find it useful to review the LEARN and PLAN segments in this article before you proceed with the steps in this segment.

Sections in this segment

  1. Before you begin
  2. Add the workflow

1. Before you begin

Two matters need to be in order before you can add a workflow:

Email   In order for the workflow to send email notifications, email must be enabled for your site. If you’re not sure that this has already been done, check with your SharePoint administrator.

Permissions    The SharePoint products default settings require that you have the Manage Lists permission to add workflows for lists, libraries, or site collections. (The Owners group has the Manage Lists permission by default; the Members group and the Visitors group do not. For more information about permissions, see the LEARN segment of this article.)

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2. Add the workflow

Follow these steps:

  1. Go to the home page for the site collection (not the home page for a site or subsite within the collection).
  2. Point to the Settings icon and then, on the drop-down menu, click Site Settings.
  3. On the Site Settings page, under Galleries, click Site Content Types.
    The Site contents type link under Galleries
  4. On the Site Content Types page, click the name of the site content type for which you want to add a workflow.

     Note    Collect Signatures workflows can be run only on documents created in created in Word 2013, Excel 2013, or InfoPath 2013.


    Document Content Types with type highlighted
  5. On the page for the selected content type, under Settings, click Workflow Settings.
    Workflow settings link in Settings section
  6. On the Workflow Settings page, click the Add a workflow link.
    Add a workflow link
  7. Complete the first page of the association form.
    (Instructions follow the illustration.)

First page of the association form with options called out

Callout number one

Workflow

Select the Collect Signatures – SharePoint 2013 template.

 Note    If the Collect Signatures – SharePoint 2013 template doesn’t appear in the list, contact your SharePoint administrator to find out about having it activated for your site collection or workspace.

Callouot number two

Name

Type a name for this workflow. The name will identify this workflow to users of this site collection.

For suggestions about naming your workflow, see the PLAN segment of this article.

Callout number three

Task List

Select a task list to use with this workflow. You can select an existing task list or click Tasks (new) to have a new list created.

For information about reasons for creating a new task list (as opposed to choosing an existing one), see the PLAN segment of this article.

Callout number four

History List

Select a history list to use with this workflow. You can select an existing history list or click New history list to have a new list created.

For information about reasons for creating a new history list (as opposed to choosing an existing one), see the PLAN segment of this article.

Callout number 5

Start Options

Specify the way or ways in which this workflow can be started.

For information about the various options, see the PLAN segment of this article.

Callout number six

Update list and site content types?

Specify whether this workflow should be added to (associated with) all other site and list content types that inherit from this content type.

  • The operation that accomplishes all of the additional adding can take a long time to complete.
  • If inheritance has been broken for any sites or subsites where you want this workflow added to inheriting content types, then make sure that you're a member of the Owners group in each of those sites or subsites before you run this operation.
  1. When all of the settings in this page are the way you want them, click Next.
  2. Complete the second page of the association form.
    (Instructions follow the illustration.)

     Note    SharePoint products presents you with all of the options in this second page of the association form each time that you start the workflow manually, so that you can make changes to these options for just that one instance.

Second page of association form with options called out

Callout number one

Assign to

Enter names or addresses for the people you want the workflow to assign tasks to.

  • If the tasks will be assigned one at a time (in serial)   
    Enter the names or addresses in the order in which you want the tasks to be assigned.
  • If all of the tasks will be assigned at the same time (in parallel)   
    The order of the names or addresses doesn’t matter.
  • If you include a group or distribution list   
    A group task will be assigned: Each member of the group will receive a task notification, but only one member will need to claim and complete the task. For instructions on claiming and completing a group task, see the COMPLETE segment of this article.
Callouot number two

Order

Specify whether the tasks in this stage should be assigned one at a time (in serial) or all at once (in parallel).

For more information about using serial and parallel stages, see the PLAN segment of this article.

Callout number three

Add a new stage

Add any stages that you want beyond the first one that you’ve just configured.

  • To delete an entire stage, click in the Assign To field for that stage, and then press CTRL+DELETE.

For more information about using multiple stages, see the PLAN segment of this article.

Callout number four

CC

Enter the names or email addresses of anyone who should be notified each time the workflow starts or ends.

  • Entering a name here doesn’t result in the assignment of a workflow task.
  • When the workflow is started manually, the person who starts it receives the start and stop notifications without needing to be specified in this field.
  • When the workflow is started automatically, the person who originally added it receives the start and stop notifications without needing to be specified in this field.
  1. When you have all of the settings in this page the way you want them, click Save to create the workflow.

SharePoint products creates your new workflow version.

What’s next?

If you’re ready to start and test your new workflow, go to the START segment of this article.

You’ll find instructions for inserting signature lines into a document in the INSERT segment of this article.

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Insert signature lines

Before a workflow participant can add their signature, a signature line must be inserted in the document. The inserting of the line and the adding of the signature itself are two separate actions.

It’s important to remember that:

  • Once a signature has been added to any signature line, the document is locked from all further changes except for the addition of further signatures to already-present signature lines.
  • If any change is made after the first signature has been added, all signatures already added are invalidated or removed from the document.
  • Insertions and deletions of signature lines are treated as changes in the document.
  • Therefore, before the first participant adds their signature, all additions and deletions of signature lines must already be complete.

Here’s a rapid graphic summary of all of that.

Document without first signature and thus still open to changes

Document with first signature added, thus locked from changes

What do you want to do?

  1. Insert or delete a signature line (Word or Excel)
  2. Insert or delete a signature line (InfoPath)

Insert or delete a signature line (Word or Excel)

To insert a signature line in Word 2013 or Excel 2013:

  1. In the document or worksheet, click to locate the cursor where you want to insert a signature line.
  2. On the Insert tab, in the Text group, click Signature Line.
    If you’re prompted to choose between Signature Services from the Office Marketplace and a Microsoft Office digital signature, click OK to insert a signature line. (If you don’t want to see this prompt in the future, select the Don’t show this message again check box.)
  3. In the Signature Setup dialog box, complete any, all, or none of these four fields:
    • Suggested signer   
      The signer's full name.
      (Displayed in the completed signature.)
    • Suggested signer's title   
      (Displayed in the completed signature.)
    • Suggested signer's e-mail address   
      (Not displayed in the completed signature.)
    • Instructions to the signer   
      Any useful or necessary information for the signer.
      (Not displayed in the completed signature.)
      Signature Setup dialog box
  4. Still in the same dialog box, select or clear the following check boxes:
    • Allow the signer to add comments in the Sign dialog box   
      Allow the signer to type their purpose for signing.
      (What the signer types will not be displayed in the completed signature.)
    • Show sign date in signature line   
      The date on which the signature is added.
      (Displayed in the completed signature.)
  5. Click OK.

Repeat the same procedure to add more signature lines.

To delete a signature line in Word 2013 or Excel 2013:

  1. Click the signature line to select it.
  2. Press DELETE.

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Insert or delete a signature line (InfoPath)

 Important    Signature lines can be inserted only in InfoPath Filler forms.

To insert a signature line in InfoPath 2013:

  1. In the form, click to locate the cursor where you want to insert a signature line.
  2. On the Home tab of the ribbon, in the Controls group, click Signature Line.
  3. Click the signature line to select it, then right-click it and, on the shortcut menu, click Signature Line Properties.
  4. In the Signature Line Properties dialog box, on the General tab, complete any, all, or none of these four fields:
  • Message that signers will see before signing   
    Any useful or necessary information for the signer.
    (Not displayed in the completed signature.)
  • Signer name   
    (Displayed in the completed signature.)
  • Signer title   
    (Displayed in the completed signature.)
  • Signer e-mail address   
    (Not displayed in the completed signature.)
    Signature Properties dialog box
  1. Make any adjustments that you want on the Size tab and the Advanced tab.
  2. Click OK.

To delete a signature line in InfoPath 2013:

  • Click the control to select it, and then press DELETE.

What’s next?

If you’re ready to test your new workflow, go to the START segment of this article.

If you’re completing a workflow task, go (or return) to the COMPLETE segment of this article.

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Start a Collect Signatures workflow

A reminder about the signatures process: All changes must be made to the document — including all insertions and deletions of signature lines — before the first participant adds their signature to a signature line. (For more details, see the PLAN segment in this article.)

Also, make sure that the people to whom the workflow will be assigning tasks understand how to add their signatures and complete their task forms. They might find the COMPLETE segment in this article useful.

Two ways to start a workflow    A workflow can be set up to be started manually only, automatically only, or either way:

  • Manually at any time, by anyone who has the necessary permissions.
  • Automatically whenever a specified triggering event occurs — that is, whenever a document is added to the list or library and/or whenever a document already in the list is changed in any way.
    (The triggering event or events are specified in the first page of the association form, during the original adding and configuring of the workflow. For more information, see the PLAN segment of this article.)

 Note    A workflow can’t start on any document that is currently checked out. (A document can be checked out after a workflow has been started on it; but after it’s checked out, no further workflows can be started on that document until it’s checked back in again.)

Sections in this segment

  1. Start the workflow automatically
  2. Start the workflow manually
  3. Start manually from the list or library
  4. Start manually from within a Microsoft Office program

1. Start the workflow automatically

If the workflow is configured to start automatically, then each time a triggering event occurs, the workflow runs on the document that triggered it.

When it starts, the workflow assigns the first task or tasks and sends a task notification to each assignee. Meanwhile, it also sends start notifications (distinct from task notifications) to the person who originally added the workflow and to anyone listed in the CC field of the second page of the association form.

If the necessary signature lines are not already present in the document before the triggering action starts the workflow, then they must be inserted before the first signature is added to the document.

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2. Start the workflow manually

A note on permissions    Ordinarily, you must have the Edit Items permission to start a workflow. (By default, the Members group and the Owners group both have this permission, but the Visitors group does not. However, an Owner can also choose, on a workflow-by-workflow basis, to require the Manage Lists permission for people who start the workflow. By choosing this option, Owners can essentially specify that only they and other Owners can start a particular workflow. For more details, see the Learn segment of this article.)

Two places to start from

You can start a workflow manually from either of two places:

  • From the list or library where the document is stored.
  • From inside the document itself, opened in the Microsoft Office program in which it was created. (Note that this must be the full, installed program, and not a web-application version.)

The remaining two sections in this segment provide instructions for both methods.

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3. Start manually from the list or library

  1. Either add all of the necessary signature lines to the document, or arrange with the workflow participants to make sure that all signature lines are present in the document before any participant adds their signature to one of the lines.
  2. Go to the list or library where the document that you want to run the workflow on is stored.
  3. Click the icon in front of the item name to select the item and then, on the Files tab of the ribbon, in the Workflows group, click Workflows.

  4. On the Workflows: Document Name page, under Start a New Workflow, click the workflow that you want to run.
    Link to start workflow
  5. In the initiation form, make any changes that you want to apply to this specific instance of the workflow.

     Note    Changes made here, in the initiation form, are used only during the current instance of the workflow. If you want to make any changes that will apply each time the workflow runs, or if you want to change workflow settings that don’t appear in this form, see the CHANGE segment of this article.

Second page of association form with options called out

Callout number one

Assign to

Make any changes to the list of people that you want the workflow to assign tasks to.

  • If the tasks will be assigned one at a time   
    Enter the names or addresses in the order in which the tasks should be assigned.
  • If all of the tasks will be assigned at the same time   
    The order of the names or addresses doesn’t matter.
  • If you include a group or distribution list   
    A group task will be assigned: Each member of the group will receive a task notification, but only one member will need to claim and complete the task. For instructions on claiming and completing a group task, see the COMPLETE segment of this article.
Callouot number two

Order

Make sure that the specifications concerning assigning the tasks in each segment one at a time (in serial) or all at once (in parallel) are how you want them.

For more information about using serial and parallel stages, see the PLAN segment of this article.

Callout number three

Add a new stage

Add any stages that you want beyond the one or ones that are currently configured.

  • To delete an entire stage, click in the Assign To field for that stage, and then press CTRL+DELETE.

For more information about using multiple stages, see the PLAN segment of this article.

Callout number four

CC

Make any additions or removals that you want. Remember that:

  • Entering a name here doesn’t result in the assignment of a workflow task.
  • When the workflow is started manually, the person who starts it receives the start and stop notifications without needing to be specified in this field.
  • When the workflow is started automatically, the person who originally added it receives the start and stop notifications without needing to be specified in this field.
  1. When you have all of the settings in the initiation form the way you want them, click Start to start the workflow.

The workflow assigns the first task or tasks, and meanwhile sends start notifications to you and to anyone listed in the CC field of the initiation form.

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4. Start manually from within a Microsoft Office program

  1. Either add all of the necessary signature lines to the document, or arrange with the workflow participants to make sure that all signature lines are present in the document before any participant adds their signature to one of the lines.
  2. Open the document in the installed Office program on your computer.

     Note    This method cannot be used when the document is open in a web application version of the Microsoft Office program. It must be open in the full, installed version of the program on your computer.

  3. In the open document, click the File tab, click Save & Send, and then click the workflow that you want to run on the document.
  4. If you see the following message, telling you that the workflow needs the file to be checked in, click the Check In button.
    (If you don’t see this message, go on to step 5.)
  5. Click the big Start Workflow button.
  6. On the Change a Workflow page, in the initiation form, make any changes that you want to apply to this specific instance of the workflow.

     Note    Changes made here, in the initiation form, are used only during the current instance of the workflow. If you want to make any changes that will apply each time the workflow runs, or if you want to change workflow settings that don’t appear in this form, see the CHANGE segment of this article.

Second page of association form with options called out

Callout number one

Assign to

Make any changes to the list of people that you want the workflow to assign tasks to.

  • If the tasks will be assigned one at a time   
    Enter the names or addresses in the order in which the tasks should be assigned.
  • If all of the tasks will be assigned at the same time   
    The order of the names or addresses doesn’t matter.
  • If you include a group or distribution list   
    A group task will be assigned: Each member of the group will receive a task notification, but only one member will need to claim and complete the task. For instructions on claiming and completing a group task, see the COMPLETE segment of this article.
Callouot number two

Order

Make sure that the specifications concerning assigning the tasks in each segment one at a time (in serial) or all at once (in parallel) are how you want them.

For more information about using serial and parallel stages, see the PLAN segment of this article.

Callout number three

Add a new stage

Add any stages that you want beyond the one or ones that are currently configured.

  • To delete an entire stage, click in the Assign To field for that stage, and then press CTRL+DELETE.

For more information about using multiple stages, see the PLAN segment of this article.

Callout number four

CC

Make any additions or removals that you want. Remember that:

  • Entering a name here doesn’t result in the assignment of a workflow task.
  • When the workflow is started manually, the person who starts it receives the start and stop notifications without needing to be specified in this field.
  • When the workflow is started automatically, the person who originally added it receives the start and stop notifications without needing to be specified in this field.
  1. When you have the settings in the initiation form the way you want them, click Start to start the workflow.

The workflow assigns the first task or tasks, and meanwhile sends start notifications to you and to anyone listed in the CC field of the initiation form.

What’s next?

  • If this is the first time that this workflow has been run, will the other participants need information and assistance in order to complete their assigned tasks? (They might find the COMPLETE segment of this article useful.)
  • Also, it’s a good idea to check whether participants are receiving their email notifications, and particularly that the notifications aren’t being mishandled by their junk email filters.
  • And of course, you might have one or more workflow tasks to complete yourself. Go to the COMPLETE segment of this article for the details.
  • Meanwhile, to find out how you can keep track of the progress of the current instance of the workflow, go to the MONITOR segment of this article.

Top of segment | Top of article

Complete a Collect Signatures workflow task

If this is the first time that you’ve been assigned a task in a Collect Signatures workflow, you might find it useful to review this segment of the article in full before you complete your task. That way, you’ll be aware of all of the options that may be open to you.

 Note    If you know that a workflow task has been assigned to you, but the notification message hasn’t appeared in your email Inbox, make sure that the notification hasn’t been misrouted by your junk email filter. If it has, adjust the settings of your filter accordingly.

First, make sure you’ve got the right article

Different types of workflows require different task actions.

So before you begin, make sure that the task you’ve been assigned is indeed a Collect Signatures workflow task, and not a task for some other type of workflow.

Look for the text This document requires your signature in any of the following locations:

  • In the Subject line of the task notification
    Identifying text in task notification
  • On the message bar in the document to be reviewed
    Identifying text in item to be reviewed
  • In the task title on the Workflow Status page
    Identifying text in task title on Workflow Status page

If you don’t see the This document requires your signature text in these locations, check with the person who started or originally added the workflow to find out which workflow template it’s based on — or whether it’s a custom workflow. You’ll find links to articles about how to use other types of workflows included with SharePoint products in the See Also section of this article.

If your task is a Collect Signatures task, however, keep right on reading!

Sections in this segment

  1. An overview of the process
  2. Get to the document and the task form from the task notification message
  3. Get to the document and the task form from the list or library
  4. Sign the document
  5. Complete and submit the task form
  6. Claim a group task before you complete it (optional)
  7. Reassign your task to someone else (optional)

1. An overview of the process

When you’re assigned a task in a workflow, you usually find out about the task in one of three ways:

  • You receive an email task notification.
  • You open a Microsoft Office document and see a message bar that informs you that you’ve been assigned a related task.
  • You check the SharePoint site and discover that one or more tasks are currently assigned to you.

When you find out that you’ve been assigned a Collect Signatures workflow task, you usually do two things:

  • Review the document    You open and review the document and, then sign it (or don’t).
  • Complete the task    You complete and submit the task form.

Often, therefore, the following three items are involved in your completion of the task:

  • The notification message (which you receive as email)
  • The document submitted for your signature (which you open and then sign, or don’t)
  • The task form (which you open, complete, and submit)

Here’s what those three items look like.

 Note    The Open this Task button on the ribbon in the task notification message appears only when the message is opened in the full, installed version of Outlook, and not when it’s opened in the Outlook Web Access web application.

Task notification message, item for review, and task form

 Note    The Open this Task button on the Ribbon in the task notification message appears only when the message is opened in the full, installed version of Outlook, and not when it’s opened in the Outlook Web Access web application.

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2. Get to the document and the task form from the task notification message

(Note that if the task is not assigned to you personally, but to a whole group or distribution list of which you are a member, then you should claim the task before completing it. For more information, see the Claim a group task before you complete it section in this segment.)

Follow these steps:

  1. In the task notification message, in the To complete this task instructions, click the link to the document.
  2. In the opened document, click the Open this task button on the message bar.
Accessing item and task form from email notification message

 Note    The Open this Task button on the ribbon in the task notification message (shown in the illustration at the top of the black arrow) appears only when the message is opened in the full, installed version of Outlook, and not when it’s opened in the Outlook Web Access web application.

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3. Get to the document and the task form from the list or library

(Note that if the task is not assigned to you personally, but to a whole group or distribution list of which you are a member, then you should claim the task before completing it. For more information, see the Claim a group task before you complete it section in this segment.)

Follow these steps:

  1. In the list or library where the document to be reviewed is stored, click the In Progress link associated with the document and workflow.
  2. On the Workflow Status page, click the title of your task.
  3. In the task form, in the This workflow task applies to message bar, click the link to the document.

Accessing item and task form from list or library

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4. Sign the document

Note that if the task is not assigned to you personally, but to a whole group or distribution list of which you are a member, then you should claim the task before completing it. For more information, see the Claim a group task before you complete it section in this segment.

Also be aware that if the signature line is set up for a specific user, and you sign it while logged on as a different user, the discrepancy might be visible in the signature line. In this example, the signature line was set up for Frank Martinez, but the signature was added by someone logged in as Anna Lidman.

Signature line showing different signer

In the following example, the document was created in Word 2013.

Item to review with three message bars

Notice the three yellow message bars at the top of the document:

Marked as Final   This message bar tells you that at least one person has already added their signature on a signature line.

 Important    From that point forward, any change in the document other than the adding of signatures to already-present signature lines results in the removal or invalidation of all signatures already added. (That is, the insertion or deletion of signature lines is not allowed at this point, only the addition of the signatures themselves.)

Signatures    You can click the View Signatures button to open the Signatures pane. Under Requested Signatures, click the arrow next to your name and then, on the drop-down menu, click Sign.


 Notes 

  • If your name appears more than once in the Requested Signatures list, then there’s more than one signature line for you to add you signature to. Use this same procedure to add each signature.
  • If you don’t see your name in the Requested signatures list, check with the person who started the workflow — or, if it started automatically, check with the person who originally added it.
  • InfoPath forms do not have a Signatures pane or a Requested Signatures list. Make sure that you have signed all of your signature lines before you save the document and complete your task.

Item with Signatures pane open

If you see a message about third-party digital signature service providers, click OK to continue. (To avoid seeing the message in the future, select the check box.)

The Sign dialog box opens.

Sign dialog box

To sign the document, just type your name in the box next to the big X, click Sign, and then click OK in the Signature Confirmation dialog box.

Remember: If your name appears more than once in the Requested Signatures list, then there’s more than one signature line for you to add your signature to. Use this same procedure to add each signature.

Workflow Task   When you’re ready to complete and submit the task form, click the Open this task button in the Workflow Task message bar.

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5. Complete and submit the task form

The task form for a Collect Signatures workflow task looks something like this.

Task form with options called out

Note that the first two controls (Delete Item and This workflow task applies to Document Title) don’t appear in the task form when it’s opened from inside the document to be signed. They appear only when the task form is opened directly from either the task notification message or the Task list on the Workflow Status page.

Callout number one

Delete Item

To delete this task from the current instance of the workflow, click the link here.

  • Deleting the task doesn’t delete the document to be signed.
  • A task that has been deleted no longer appears in the Tasks area of the Workflow Status page. (However, the deletion is still recorded in the History area of the page.)

 Note    If you didn’t start this instance of the workflow, you might want to check with the person who did start it — or, if it started automatically, the person who originally added it — before you delete the task.

Callouot number two

This workflow task applies to Document Title

To open the document to be signed, click the link here.

Callout number three

Status, Requested By, Consolidated Comments, Due Date

You cannot edit or change entries in these four fields, but you might find the information in them useful.

Notice that the Consolidated Comments box contains all comments submitted in the form by participants who have already completed their tasks in this same instance of the workflow.

In the same way, after you submit your own form, any text that you include in the Comments box (4) will also appear in the Consolidated Comments box for subsequent participants.

Callout number four

Comments

Any text that you enter here will be recorded in the Workflow History and will also appear in the Consolidated Comments field (3) for subsequent participants.

Callout number 5

Sign

When you’ve signed the document and typed any feedback that you want to contribute in the Comments field, click this button to submit the form and complete your task.

Callout number six

Cancel

To close the task form without saving any changes or responses, click this button. The task will remain incomplete and assigned to you.

Callout number seven

Reassign Task

To reassign this task to someone else, click this button.

For an illustration of the page where you’ll enter the details of the reassignment, and for further instructions, go to section 7 in this segment, Reassign your task to someone else.

 Note    This option might be turned off for some workflow tasks.

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6. Claim a group task before you complete it (optional)

If only a single task is assigned to an entire group that you belong to, then any member of the group can claim and complete that single task on behalf of the whole group.

Claim the task before you open and sign the document. As soon as you claim the task, it’s assigned to you, and no other member of the group can complete it. (This way, only one person does the necessary work.)

  1. On the Workflow Status page, point to the name of the task assigned to your group until an arrow appears.
  2. Click the arrow, click Edit Item and then, in the task form, click the Claim Task button.
    How to claim a group task

When the Workflow Status page is refreshed, you can see that the task is no longer assigned to the group, but now specifically to you.

Later, if you want to release the task to the group again without completing it, use the same steps to return to the task form, but now click the Release Task button.

Release Task button on task form

Back to Sign the document

7. Reassign your task to someone else (optional)

If you want someone else to complete a workflow task that has been assigned to you, click the Reassign Task button in the workflow task form.

This form is displayed.

Task reassignment form

Callout number one

Reassign Task To

Enter the name or address of the person to whom you want to assign this task.

To assign this task to the person who started the workflow — or, if the workflow started automatically, to the person who originally added this workflow — leave this field blank.

Callouot number two

New Request

Supply any information that the person to whom you’re assigning the task will need to complete the task. (Any text that you enter here will be added in the Consolidated Comments area.)

Callout number three

New Duration

Do one of these three things:

  • To keep the existing due date   Leave this field blank.
  • To remove the due date entirely   Type the number 0.
  • To specify a new due date   Type a number here and then specify the duration units in the following field. Taken together, the two entries identify the period before the change task is due.

Note that by default, Collect Signatures tasks are not assigned due dates or task durations.

Callout number four

New Duration Units

If you’re specifying a new task duration, use this field in conjunction with the New Duration field to identify the period before the task is due. (For example: 3 Days or 1 Month or 2 weeks.)

When the form is complete, click Send. Your task is marked Completed, a new task is assigned to the person now responsible for the task, and a task notification is sent.

Any new information that you supplied is included in the Delegated by text in the new task notification (number 1 in the following illustration).

Task notification for reassigned task

Meanwhile, all of these changes are tracked and visible in the Tasks and History sections of the Workflow Status page, as shown here.

Tasks and History areas on Workflow Status page for reassigned task

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Monitor, adjust, or stop a running Collect Signatures workflow

The central location from which you can monitor, adjust, or stop a running workflow is the Workflow Status page for that instance of the workflow.

First we’ll show you how to get to that page, then we’ll show you how to use the options and information that you find there. Finally, we’ll show you two other pages where you can get additional monitoring information.

Sections in this segment

  1. Get to the Workflow Status page
  2. Use the Workflow Status page to monitor workflow progress
  3. Cancel or end this workflow run
  4. Find out which workflows are running on an item
  5. Monitor workflows for the whole site collection

1. Get to the Workflow Status page

In the list or library where the item is located, click the In Progress link for the item and workflow that you want.

In this example, the item is the document named Keynote Draft and the workflow is Approval 3.

Clicking workflow status link

The Workflow Status page opens.


 Notes 

  • If your list or library contains a large number of items, you can use sorting and/or filtering to find the item you’re looking for more quickly. If you find that you’re repeatedly sorting and/or filtering in the same way, you might find it useful to create a custom view that automates that particular arrangement.
  • To get to the Workflow Status page, you can also click either the View the status of this workflow link in a “has started” email notification or the View the workflow history link in a “has completed” email notification for the specific instance you’re interested in.

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2. Use the Workflow Status page to monitor workflow progress

Here, under the illustration of each section of the Workflow Status page, you’ll find the monitoring questions that the section answers.

Workflow Information section

Workflow Information section of Workflow Status page

Questions answered:

  • Who started this instance of the workflow?
  • When was this instance started?
  • When did the last action in this instance occur?
  • Which item is this instance running on?
  • What is the current status of this instance?

Tasks section

Tasks area of Workflow Status page

Questions answered:

  • Which tasks have already been created and assigned, and what is their current status?
  • Which tasks have already been completed, and what was the outcome for each of those tasks?
  • What is the due date for each task that has already been created and assigned? (Note that by default, Collect Signatures tasks are not assigned due dates or task durations.)

Tasks that have been deleted and tasks that haven’t yet been assigned don’t appear in this section.

Workflow History section

Workflow History section of Workflow Status page

Questions answered:

  • What events have already occurred in this instance of the workflow?
  • Note that overdue tasks and overdue-task notifications don’t appear in this area.

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3. Cancel or end this workflow run

There are two ways that you can stop a running workflow instance before its normal completion:

  • Cancel the workflow    All tasks are canceled, but are retained in the Tasks area of the Workflow Status page.
  • End this workflow    All tasks are canceled and are deleted from the Tasks area of the Workflow Status page. (They are, however, still reflected in the Workflow History area.)

Instructions for both methods follow.

Cancel (all tasks canceled but retained in both Tasks list and History)

If the current instance of a workflow is no longer needed, it can be canceled.

By default, this procedure can be performed by the person who started this instance of the workflow or by anyone who has the Manage Lists permission. (Again, the Owners group has the Manage Lists permission by default; the Members group and the Visitors group do not.)

  • On the Workflow Status page, in the area just below the Workflow Visualization, click the Cancel all Collect Signatures tasks link.

All current tasks are canceled, and the workflow ends with a status of Canceled. The canceled tasks are still listed both in the Tasks area and in the Workflow History area.

End (all tasks deleted from Tasks list but retained in History)

If an error occurs, or if the workflow stops and fails to respond, it can be ended.

By default, this procedure can be performed only by someone who has the Manage Lists permission. (Again, the Owners group has the Manage Lists permission by default; the Members group and the Visitors group do not.)

  • On the Workflow Status page, in the area just below the Workflow Visualization, click the End this workflow link.

All tasks created by the workflow are canceled and are deleted from the Tasks area on the Workflow Status page, though they’re still reflected in the Workflow History area. The workflow ends with a status of Canceled.

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4. Find out which workflows are running on an item

On the Workflows page for any item, you’ll find a list of the workflows currently running on that item.

  1. Go to the list or library where the item is stored.
  2. Point to the name of the item, click the arrow that appears, and then click Workflows in the drop-down menu.
  3. On the Workflows: Item Name page, under Running Workflows, you’ll find a list of workflow instances currently running on the item.

 Note    Note that multiple instances of a single workflow version cannot run on the same item at the same time. For example: Two workflows, both based on the Collect Signatures template, have been added. One is named Plan Feedback and the other is named Budget Feedback. On any one item at any one time, one instance each of Plan Feedback and Budget Feedback can be running, but not two instances of either workflow.

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5. Monitor workflows for the whole site collection

Site collection administrators can view at a glance:

  • How many workflows based on each workflow template currently exist in the site collection.
  • Whether each workflow template itself is currently active or inactive in the site collection.
  • How many instances of workflow versions based on each workflow template are currently running in the site collection.

Here’s how:

  1. Open the home page for the site collection (not the home page for a site or subsite within the collection).
  2. Click the Settings icon SharePoint Online Public Website Settings button and then click Site Settings.
    On the Site Settings page, under Site Administration, click Workflows.
    Workflows link under Site Administration heading

The Workflows page opens, displaying the information.

What’s next?

If this is the first time that this workflow version has run, you might want to use the instructions in the REVIEW segment of this article to view the events in the instance and discover whether the workflow functions as you want it to.

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Review Collect Signatures workflow results and create reports

After your workflow instance has completed, you can review the events recorded in its history. (You can access the record for any instance for up to 60 days after the instance completes.)

 Important    Note that the workflow history is provided for informal reference only. It cannot be used for official audits or for any other legal, evidentiary purpose.

You can also run reports about the overall performance of the workflow across instances.

Sections in this segment

  1. Review events in the most recent instance
  2. Access instance history for up to 60 days
  3. Create workflow performance reports

1. Review events in the most recent instance

As long as an item remains in the same list or library, and until the same workflow is run again on that same item, the history of the most recent instance can be accessed from the list or library.

To view the Workflow Status page for the most recent instance of a workflow run on any item:

  • In the list or library where the item is located, click the status link for the item and workflow that you want.

In this example, the item is the document titled Keynote draft and the workflow is New Doc Approval.

Click workflow status link

On the Workflow Status page, the Workflow History section is located near the bottom.

Workflow History section of Workflow Status page

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2. Access instance history for up to 60 days

What if you want to review the history of an instance after you’ve run the same workflow again on the same item?

In fact, you can do so for up to 60 days, from either of two entry points: the list or library, or the workflow completion notification. (Sixty days is how long SharePoint products retains task history for workflows.)

From the list or library

  1. Go to the list or library where the item is stored.
  2. Click the icon in front of the item name to select the item and then, on the Files tab of the ribbon, in the Workflows group, click Workflows.
  3. On the Workflows: Item Name page, under Completed Workflows, click the name or status of the workflow instance that you want to review.
    Completed Workflows list on Workflows page for item
    The Workflow Status page for that instance opens.

From the workflow completion notification

  • Open the workflow completion notification for the instance that you want to review, and then click the View the workflow history link.

Workflow completed notification with history link highlighted
The Workflow Status page for that instance opens.

In order to retain all of your completion notifications, you might want to create an Outlook rule. Set up the rule to copy all incoming messages that have the text has completed on in the Subject line into their own, separate folder. (Make sure that your Outlook rule copies the incoming messages and doesn’t simply move them, or they won’t also appear in your Inbox.)

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3. Create workflow performance reports

To learn how one of your workflow versions is performing generally — over time and over multiple instances — you can create either or both of two predefined reports:

  • Activity Duration Report    Use this report to see averages of how long it’s taking for each activity within a workflow to complete, as well as how long it takes each complete run or instance of that workflow to complete.
  • Cancellation and Error Report    Use this report to see whether a workflow is frequently being canceled or encountering errors before completion.

Create the available reports for a workflow

  1. In the list or library, in the Status column for that workflow, click any status information link.
    Clicking workflow status
  2. On the Workflow Status page, under Workflow History, click View workflow reports.
    Clicking View workflow reports link in Workflow History section
  3. Locate the workflow for which you want to view a report, and then click the name of the report that you want to view.
    Clicking link for Activity Duration Report
  4. On the Customize page, either keep or change the location where the report file will be created, and then click OK.
    Clicking OK on the file-save location
    The report is created and saved to the specified location.
  5. When the report is complete, you can click the link shown in the following illustration to view it. Otherwise, click OK to finish and close the dialog box. (Later, when you’re ready to view the report, you’ll find it at the location you specified in the preceding step.)
    Clicking link to view report

What’s next?

If your workflow functions just the way you want it to, you’re all set to start using it.

If there’s anything you want to change about how it works, see the CHANGE segment of this article.

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Change, disable, or remove a Collect Signatures workflow

After you run the first instance of your new Collect Signatures workflow and review the results, you might want to make one or more changes to the way the workflow is configured.

Also, you might at various times in the future want to make further changes to the configuration.

Finally, you might at some point wish to disable the workflow for a shorter or longer period, but not remove it — or you might, indeed, choose to remove it entirely.

Sections in this segment

  1. Change permanent settings for a workflow
  2. Disable or remove a workflow

1. Change permanent settings for a workflow

To make permanent changes to the settings for an existing workflow, you open and edit the association form that was originally used to add it.

If the workflow runs in only one list or library

  1. Open the list or library in which the workflow runs.
  2. On the Ribbon, click the List or Library tab.

     Note   The name of the tab can vary with the type of list or library. For example, in a calendar list this tab is named Calendar.

  3. In the Settings group, click Workflow Settings.
  4. On the Workflow Settings page, under Workflow Name (click to change settings), click the name of the workflow that you want to change settings for.

     Note    If the Collect Signatures workflow that you want doesn’t appear in the list, it might be associated with only one content type. Which workflows appear in this list is controlled by the Show workflow associations of this type control, located just above the list. (See the illustration.) Click through the content-type options in the drop-down menu to discover which one displays the workflow that you want. When the workflow you want appears in the list, click the workflow’s name.

  5. In the same two-page association form that was originally used to add the workflow, make and save the changes that you want.

     Note    For more information about the fields and controls in the association form, see the PLAN segment and the appropriate ADD segment (List/library or Site collection) of this article.

If the workflow runs in all lists and libraries in the site collection

  1. Open the home page for the site collection (not the home page for a site or subsite within the collection).
  2. Click the Settings icon SharePoint Online Public Website Settings button and then click Site Settings.

On the Site Settings page, under Galleries, click Site Content Types.
The Site contents type link under Galleries

  1. On the Site Content Types page, click the name of the site content type on which the workflow runs.
    Document Content Types with type highlighted
  2. On the page for the selected content type, under Settings, click Workflow Settings.
    Workflow settings link in Settings section
  3. On the Workflow Settings page, under Workflow Name (click to change settings), click the name of the workflow that you want to change settings for.
  4. In the same two-page association form that was originally used to add the workflow, make and save the changes that you want.

     Note    For more information about the fields and controls in the association form, see the PLAN segment and the appropriate ADD segment (List/library or Site collection) of this article.

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2. Disable or remove a workflow

If the workflow runs in only one list or library

  1. Open the list or library in which the workflow runs.
  2. On the Ribbon, click the List or Library tab.

     Note   The name of the tab can vary with the type of list or library. For example, in a calendar list this tab is named Calendar.

  3. In the Settings group, click Workflow Settings
  4. On the Workflow Settings page, click the Remove a workflow link.
  5. Use the form on the Remove Workflows page to disable, re-enable, or remove workflows.
    Form on the Remove Workflows page

There are five columns in the form:

  • Workflow    Name of the workflow.
  • Instances    Number of instances of the workflow currently running on items.
  • Allow    Option that enables the workflow to continue to operate normally.
  • No New Instances    Option that allows any currently-running instances of the workflow to complete, but disables the workflow by making it unavailable to run any new instances. (This action is reversible. To re-enable the workflow later, return to this page and select Allow.)
  • Remove    Option that removes the workflow from the list or library altogether. All running instances are immediately terminated, and the column for that workflow no longer appears on the page for the list or library. (This action isn’t reversible.)

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If the workflow runs in all lists and libraries in the site collection

  1. Open the home page for the site collection (not the home page for a site or subsite within the collection).
  2. Click the Settings icon SharePoint Online Public Website Settings button and then click Site Settings.
  3. On the Site Settings page, under Galleries, click Site Content Types.
    The Site contents type link under Galleries
  4. On the Site Content Types page, click the name of the site content type on which the workflow runs.
    Document Content Types with type highlighted
  5. On the page for the selected content type, under Settings, click Workflow Settings.
  6. On the Workflow Settings page, click the Remove a workflow link.
  7. Use the form on the Remove Workflows page to disable, re-enable, or remove workflows.
    Form on the Remove Workflows page

There are five columns in the form:

  • Workflow    Name of the workflow.
  • Instances    Number of instances of the workflow currently running on items.
  • Allow    Option that enables the workflow to continue to operate normally.
  • No New Instances    Option that allows any currently-running instances of the workflow to complete, but disables the workflow by making it unavailable to run any new instances. (This action is reversible. To re-enable the workflow later, return to this page and select Allow.)
  • Remove    Option that removes the workflow from the site collection altogether. All running instances are immediately terminated, and the column for that workflow no longer appears on the page for the list or library. (This action isnt reversible.)

What’s next?

If you’ve made any changes, run a test instance of the workflow to double-check the effects of the changes.

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Customizing further

There are a wide variety of ways to further customize the workflows included with SharePoint products.

You can even create custom workflows from scratch.

You can use any or all of the following programs:

  • SharePoint Designer 2013    Customize workflow forms, actions, and behaviors.
  • Microsoft Visual Studio    Build your own custom workflow actions.

For more information, see the Microsoft Software Developer Network (MSDN) Help system.

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Applies to:
SharePoint Online Enterprise (E1), SharePoint Online Enterprise (E3 & E4), SharePoint Online Midsized Business, SharePoint Online operated by 21Vianet - Enterprise (E1 & E2), SharePoint Online operated by 21Vianet - Enterprise (E3 & E4), SharePoint Online operated by 21Vianet - Midsized Business, SharePoint Online operated by 21Vianet - Small Business, SharePoint Online Small Business, SharePoint Server 2013 Enterprise