Creating a Workflow Initiation Form for Approvals

In SharePoint Designer workflows that are manually started, the initiation form is the page that has the “Start” button to kick off the workflow.  In this 11 minute video, I show how to create an approval workflow that can be manually triggered.

I walk you through:

  • Setting up the workflow so that after the approval process, the content approval status of the document automatically gets updated.
  • Customizing the initiation form in InfoPath, so that the needed approvers may be selected from a people picker, and the colors are modified.
  • Adding a “high priority” check box so that high priority item approvals are due in a more timely fashion than normal.

This solution applies to only the enterprise version of SharePoint and SharePoint online.  This does not include SharePoint Foundation because it uses browser-based forms, which are enterprise only.

How can you learn more?  This solution is actually an excerpt from chapter 10 of our book.

Click to buy the book:

InfoPath Book

Already own the book? Open it to Chapter 10, and follow the step by step instructions that start on page 256.


  • Hi Laura,

    Nice tutorial. I have yet to dive into SharePoint 2010 but was wondering if all the workflow forms are now InfoPath forms instead of an ASPX page like in 2007. Or does this only apply if you have form services? So would it apply to Sharepoint foundation 2010 as well?


  • Hi Brian,
    These InfoPath forms as part of the workflow apply to enterprise only. Foundation uses ASPX pages.

  • Hi Laura,

    I watched a YouTube video titled “Laura Rogers on InfoPath” ( where you show us a way to keep the approval process for a form inside InfoPath using Views. Is there a way to get the files you used in that presentation along with more detailed (technical) information? I’m very interested in how it works, but haven’t been able to replicate it. Your book “SharePoint 2010 Building Business Solutions with SharePoint” has some great information on Workflows and on InfoPath, but I haven’t been able to figure out how to recreate the InfoPath Approval process using Views.

    Any help is greatly appreciated!

    Thank you,


  • Awesome video, by far the best I have found on creating workflows. You did a great job understanding how people work and what they need instead of just explaining baseline workflows like every other tutorial.

  • Hi James,
    The entire Chapter 9 in my InfoPath book, which is about 70 pages, is dedicated to that exact solution. Thanks!

    Thanks so much, I really appreciate it!

  • This works great it you don’t have check-in/check-out enabled. But if you have check-in/check-out enabled, there is a Catch-22 when trying to set the Content Approval Status in SharePoint Designer workflow:
    – You must check out the document before you can change the Content Approval Status
    – You can’t change the Content Approval Status once the document in checked out

    Do you know of any workaround (OOB)?


  • My client use sharepoint foundation and we don’t have Inofpath.
    How to reach the same requirement using sharePoint foundation 2010 ? Thanks

  • Hi Laura,

    I purchased the Step by Step book and I am looking forward to reading it.

    I used the approval workflow based on your instruction above and it works great but my team now wants to setup an administrator approval group that could override an approval such as the CEO is unable to do the approval because he is out of town or such.

  • Cynthia,
    Sorry but I’ve never come across that one.

    You’d have to directly edit the ASPX initiation form from within SharePoint designer, and sorry but directly editing a web page is simply not going to give you the ease of use and interactivity that InfoPath will give you.

    Just use SharePoint groups for your approval levels. You can just type the name of the group in that “next approver” field. That way, everyone in the group gets it, so if the CEO goes out of town, you just put someone else in the CEO group.

  • Hi Laura –
    I customized the approval form in InfoPath, then saved and published it. I can see the customized form when I open a task, but other users still see the default form. Any clues?

  • Cynthia,
    That’s very strange. Are the other users using a different content type or something. Look at the list of content types in your task list and see if maybe they’re using a different one when they click the NEW button or something. (assuming you mean the task when you say “approval form”)

  • Hi Laura,

    Great tutorial. I was curious how to apply this on a library where the initiation is automatically started versus manually. I have a workflow where the stage one approvers are chosen by the person creating a new form and the second stage approvers are determined by a selection they choose on the form. Thank you.

  • Hi Laura,
    Nice info! What I am trying to do for my client is a bit different and haven’t found info that definitely says it is or is not possible.
    We have a form created. They want the form initiated from SharePoint, but for approvals, they would like the form to both submit to a form library AND send an email to an approver. They do not want a link to the form in the email, but want an actual way for the approver to approve or reject the request right from Outlook (with an optional comment).
    I found one thing on the MSTechNet that implied this may be possible with a trust certificate attached, but cannot get this to work.
    Is it possible to allow the approver to update the request form with their approval via Outlook while still being able to submit the form to a form library?
    Thank you.

  • Joseph,
    When workflows get started automatically, there is no need for an initiation form.

    I have not ever found a way to do that, except with 3rd party workflow products like Nintex and K2. Someone mentioned to me the other day that they had figured out a way. It entailed sending the approver an email with a hyperlink that created a new email. They’d type “approve” into that email and when they’d hit send, it would go to a document library that had been email enabled. This would then trigger a workflow that would move the approval process on to the next step. Pretty vague, but that’s all I know. You’d have to have incoming email set up, and you’d have to run some special powershell script on the server that would allow workflows to get triggered by the system account.

  • I bought the book and finally got my equipment form developed with approvals, digital signatures, and views but now the form takes a long time to open. I’m not using that many data connections so I am thinking the digital signatures may be causing the delays. Do you know how to make the form open faster.

    Also, I heard that infopath will soon be discontinued so I wondering if I should just go ahead and try to develop something on SharePoint using Nintex. Do you have any books with creating an approval process using SharePoint and Nintex. I love the new infopath form but customers do not like the long delay in waiting for the form to open.


  • Hi Donna, you mentioned digital signatures.. are you referring to actually inserting a real digital signature into the form, are you talking about my method of just grabbing the logged in person’s name and the date? As far as data connections, it’s not necessarily the number of data connections but the quantity of data that they’re pulling in on form load. Try setting the data connections to NOT automatically get the data when the form opens, and see if that makes a difference.

    Yes, Nintex would be a good way to go, but don’t worry, InfoPath will be around for another 9 years and WILL be included in the next version of SharePoint.

  • Yes, I am referring to inserting the real digital signature. I recently changed the form to just grabbing the logged in name and date and it seemed to help a little. I tried setting the data connections to NOT automatically get the data when the form opens but found that my external data connections are not populated when choosing this option.

    I really like the InfoPath forms now so I am glad to hear it will be around for awhile! 🙂 Your book is an excellent tool! I couldn’t have developed our form without it! We have a form with at least 6 different approval sections, lots of rules, page views, etc. I love it! 🙂

  • Hi, I had a few questions with regards to infopath and sharepoint 2010. First, I am currently building a server request form and often we receive extremely similar requests. Is there anyway in infopath that the user can submit duplicates without having to type everything again and can change small details here and there? Also, after the request is approved, I want to have the “Workflow context: current item url” be a different view. Is there anyway of changing that?

  • I want to modify a sharepoint designer workflow initiation form. I simply want to display the value of a couple fields from the current item upon which the workflow is being run.

    I open it in InfoPath but I do not see a way to access the data on the current list item. The only variable references are those on the initiation form which are for user input when workflow is run.

    I tried adding a data connection to the SP List, but the data that displays is simply the values of the first item in that list, having nothing to do with the item on which the workflow is running.

    I tried playing around with Form Load rules, but again, I did not see a way to access data on current workflow item.

    I am on Office 365, SPD 2013, InfoPath 2013. Although created in SPD 2013, the actual workflow is of type SPD2010.

  • addendum to my previous post on 3/9/2015
    twitter = @BettyBee59

    Someone suggested creating a data source to the list, and querying for the item whose ID matches the ID in the URL that called the workflow. I know the URL has this format:


    However, I do not know how to get InfoPath to extract a parameter value from the URL. Any ideas?

  • update to modifying a sharepoint designer workflow initiation form (InfoPath):

    I was told it could not be done 🙁

    Of course, if I were you, I would consider that a challenge 😉

  • You have said that InfoPath forms are for SharePoint 2010 enterprise only, what about SharePoint 2013 standard? Can you control using aspx or xsn forms? Does the offwfCommon hidden feature control this somehow? My twitter handle is @lewisjt

  • Maxie,
    You can create a data connection in the form that pulls from the same list/library. You could even do a specific query so that it only shows items related to the current user.
    Then, you create a rule on a drop-down box of items that they choose from, so that when they pick something, it does a “set field value” for all the different fields you want it to copy from the other item.
    OR if you’re using a form library form, you could use logic in your file name in your submit connection, so that if they change a value of a field that is part of your file name, it gets created as a different file name (form), which would make it be a copy of the original item.

    Yes, you’re right, it cannot be done. I had tried it a while back when 2010 first came out, and remember being frustrated about it.

  • Saani Sirajul Haque

    One question I have regarding workflow I had made approval workflow now I need to do auto approve that workflow with in 24 hour for example I have three approver A,B,C now I made a request it will go to Approver A ,now A didn’t took any action so with in 24hour it should get auto-approved and move to user B and so on the user are coming dynamically I have Used 0ffice 365 and SPD workflow
    here initiator will give the approver name from whon and all he need to get approve i have made serial approver process

    please do help me

    Can reply @

  • Hi Laura, I bought your book a few months ago and it’s been a tremendous help, but I have a situation that I can’t figure out. It’s two-part:

    1 – I created the workflow just as you directed in Chapter 11. Everything is fine with the exception of a request being rejected. If the first level approver rejects it, it works as it should. If the second level approver rejects it, it re-sends another email to accept or reject again. I created a rule in InfoPath that states if the request comes out of one “bucket”, it goes to a specific approver (no people picker used), and if it comes out of the other “bucket” it goes to the other approver. I checked to have no other remaining rules run if the condition is met. I’m still getting the double emails, instead of it just taking it as rejected and emailing the “created by” requestor with the email saying it was rejected and giving a formlink to the read-only view.

    2 – After that step of the workflow completes, I’d like to have another step where the workflow will email a specific person (if the form was approved at all levels) to order the requested items. I’ve tried everything, but I can’t get it to work properly. Either the email is sent and it’s blank, or no email is sent.

    Thanks in advance for any advice you can give. We’re upgrading (hopefully) soon. SP 2010 is difficult to work with when you’ve used 2013/Online before at a previous position.

    • You realize this is a post from 2012, right? 😉 Sorry but I don’t remember any of that at all. I think the workflow had a stage where status equals completed. I guess that’s where you’d send the email you’re trying to send. Hopefully you can move away from those really old technologies as soon as possible.

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