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There are a lot of improvements for workflows in SharePoint 2013. First there is a brand-new workflow infrastructure and it's a significant improvement over prior versions. So we have a new Windows Workflow Foundation 4 that's sitting underneath SharePoint. But it's a little more complex than that. Actually there are three different possibilities and two different Windows workflow products. When you install SharePoint 2013, whether you're installing Foundation or SharePoint Server, SharePoint 2010 Workflow and Windows Workflow Foundation 3 is automatically installed.
So if you're running SharePoint 2013 server you might think, oh I get the new stuff. Well, not necessarily, because you also then need to install the Workflow Manager. It's a free download, it needs to be configured, but you need to add it on because that capability is not there with a simple install. With SharePoint 2013 you can build workflows that work with Microsoft Project Server. If you're going to do that, obviously you need to have Project Server installed as well, so two different workflow frameworks; three different possible installs for SharePoint Server.
When you have SharePoint 2013 Workflow installed however, it will then work with the new redesigned SharePoint Designer. Now SharePoint Designer 2013 can create SharePoint 2010 Workflows or SharePoint 2013 Workflows, either one. But there are some interesting things in the new design. Also there are new templates in Visio 2013. You can also use Visio to create SharePoint Workflows for 2010 and SharePoint Workflows for 2013.
But when you look at the difference, they are two very different creatures, because they work with two very different workflow engines. So SharePoint Designer and Visio are no code tools. If you use Visual Studio to create your workflows, you'll find fabulous support for SharePoint 2013 and Visual Studio 2012. The 2013 Workflow engine has new workflow actions. Because it's made to work with Project Server 2013, there are five new actions that are specific to that install that includes Project Server.
But there are over a dozen additional new workflow actions that will allow you to add functionality to your workflows that you can't in 2010. A few of them simply replace some of the workflow actions that will no longer be supported in SharePoint 2013, because they're specific to the way the workflow engine was working for SharePoint 2010. So a lot of new things that are possible with workflows, this is a feature to get familiar with early on.
First, because of the installation issues with needing to install the Workflow Manager, but also as you begin imagining how you can use workflows to automate your work in SharePoint, it will call on you to add different metadata to libraries unless than you might normally imagine. If you'd like to know more about workflows, I recommend SharePoint Designer: Building Custom Workflows in the lynda.com Library.
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