SharePoint Document Approval Process

Document Approval

Document Approval in MOSS is pretty straightforward to setup and configure. First you must enable Content Approval in the document library settings.


After doing this, SharePoint automatically adds a column called “Approval Status” to the list.

  • Approved
  • Rejected
  • Pending
  • Draft

Keep in mind that SharePoint stores the values of this field as an integer. Therefore, if you want to access the field value through code you will need to use the corresponding integer.

  • Approved - 0
  • Rejected - 1
  • Pending - 2
  • Draft – 3

While contributors are working on the document, it is considered in a Draft status and cannot be seen by readers until the document has been approved.

SharePoint also adds a new view to the list called “Approve/reject items” which shows all documents and their approval status. Users with permissions to approve documents can approve or reject the document making it available for all readers.

Adding an approval workflow

So far this process works fine for simple approval processes, but you may need a slightly more complicated process for approving your documents. For example, rather than having the users who approve your documents check the Approve/reject items view and keep up with approving document manually, you may want to push tasks to these specific users that make them accountable for approving these documents in a timely manner.

If you enter the Workflow settings page under Document Settings, you can associate the out-of-the-box Approval Workflow to the library. You want to check the box labeled “Start this workflow to approve publishing a major version of an item.” After click Next you will be asked to set some defaults for the workflow.


Moving forward, when users check-in a document to this library they will be asked - “What kind of version would you like to check in?” I think this process is confusing to most users who are not experienced with SharePoint Document Approval. If you want to check-in the document while keeping the changes unavailable to general readers, you will want to check-in as a minor version. Readers will still see the most recent “published” version of the document while contributors will be able to read and work on the most recent Draft version of the document. If the document is ready to be viewed by everyone who has read access to the library, you will want to publish as a major version.


Since we associated the Approval workflow to the library and set it to run when a document is published, the user will next see a screen that lets them initiate the workflow. Any default values or settings you applied while associating the workflow with the library will apply here.


Once the workflow is started each approver will receive a task to review and approve/reject the document. The Approval Status field will also be set to “Pending”. Once all approvers have approved the document, the Approval Status will be set to “Approved” and the document version will be incremented to the next major version. Readers will then see the published changes when they view the document.

Common Questions

Q) Can I modify the out-of-the-box Approval workflow?

A) In SharePoint 2007, you cannot modify the out-of-the-box Approval workflow beyond setting the default values. In the upcoming SharePoint 2010, you will be able to modify out-of-the-box workflows using SharePoint Designer!

Q) Can I send multiple documents through a single workflow to be processed

A) In SharePoint 2007, you can only send one document at a time through any workflow. SharePoint 2010 introduces Document Sets, which will allow us to initiate a workflow on multiple documents at once!

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