Selective Automatic Content Approval

This post applies to SharePoint 2007, 2010, 2013, Office 365 and also the free versions WSS and Foundation.

When using content approval in SharePoint lists and libraries, it is often requested that all content needs to be approved EXCEPT for content from this certain person, because it’s their list.  In this post, I’ll show you how to do that.

First of all, when I say “content approval”, I’m referring to the list and library setting in SharePoint under the Versioning Settings, called Content Approval, and it looks like this:

When you turn on content approval, this means that now each time an item is added or changed in the  list, it then has to be “approved” by someone designated, before it shows in public views for all to see.  People typically want all the other people’s content to be approved except for those one or two people who are in charge of the list.  They shouldn’t have to go through that extra step.

Setting up automatic content approval for those select individuals entails creating a simple workflow on that list or library.

  1. Create a new workflow in SharePoint Designer, associated with the list on which you’re using the content approval.
  2. Set up the workflow to be triggered on create and on change.
  3. Add a condition to the workflow.  The condition is called “Modified by a specific person”.
  4. Click the blue text specific person Pick that person’s name… the one who doesn’t want the content approval to apply to their content.
  5. Under the condition, add one action.  It’s called Set Content Approval Status.
  6. Select to set the content approval status to Approved, and then after “with”, just type in the text that you want to appear in the workflow history.

That’s it.  Save and publish the workflow, and now anything that the specific individual adds or edits in that list will automatically be set to Approved.  If you have one other individual for this to apply to, you can add another condition in the workflow.

Bonus:  Now with SharePoint 2010, you have the ability to create reusable workflows.  So, if you have content approval used in multiple places and you want to run this workflow in multiple lists and libraries, you can create a reusable workflow, associated it with “All” content types, and create it the same way.  That workflow can now be associated with multiple lists and libraries without having to create a bunch of separate workflows for each list.


  • This looks great Laura, but is it possible to accomplish something similar without using SP Designer? My organization disallows the use of SP Designer for workflows like this. I have a simple customized list, with Content Approval. And although the MS documentation indicates that items adding by Administrators (Manage List and Approve rights) will be automatically approved when added, it’s not the case. In testing, I find that new items always require a separate approval (or when edited) regardless of permissions of the person adding or editing. Any ideas?

  • Don, Sorry, this is the only way I know how to accomplish this.

  • Have just tried this out as it will be perfect for a calendar entry system. However I cannont get it to work. The workflow is cancelled with an access denied error. It only works if the user has approval rights. Any thoughts on a way around this?

  • Hi Mike,
    You’d have to use an Impersonation step in a 2010 workflow in order to make the workflow do something that the end user wouldn’t normally be able to do.

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