How To Configure the Nintex Workflow Preview on Office 365

Anyone that has worked with my company, UnlimitedViz, knows that we’re unabashed fans of Nintex Workflow. As far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the most cost effective pieces of software I’ve ever come across. Projects that would require days or even weeks of consulting using the out of the box features in SharePoint can be accomplished in mere hours with Nintex Workflow, and what’s more, they can be accomplished by power users, not developers.

Another exceptional aspect of Nintex workflow is that is doesn’t replace the out of the box SharePoint workflow engine, it simply enhances it, through a browser based graphical designer/viewer, and multiple custom actions. This design approach really showed its value on several SharePoint/Nintex 2007 to SharePoint/Nintex 2010 upgrades that we’ve performed. We were able to upgrade entire farms and maintain in-flight workflows.

Unfortunately, as I wrote about previously, once we moved our organizational assets to Office 365, we were no longer able to use Nintex Workflow ourselves, because NWF is an on-premise solution. However, with a little redevelopment, changes in the SharePoint development model (for a reference, see Jeremy Thake’s excellent summary) open the doors for third party code to be used with Office 365 sites in addition to on-premise sites.

Happily, these changes have not gone unnoticed by the folks at Nintex, and they are one of the first vendors out of the gate with a solution in the SharePoint store. It’s just a preview of what will be coming very shortly after the release of SharePoint 2013, which is important, because Office 365 sites will be upgraded very shortly after release.

Walkthrough

It should go without saying, but in order to try the Workflow Preview, you’ll need to be using an on premises SharePoint farm that has been enabled for SharePoint 2013 workflows, or using the Office 365 preview. In our case, we’re using the Office 365 preview.

Firstly, you’ll need to add the app to the Office 365 App Catalogue. To do this, go to the Office 365 Admin screen  and click on apps.

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Next, click on Purchase Apps. You’ll see a yellow alert bar indicating that you don’t have permission to add apps, but as far as I can tell, it’s a bug. Click on the “Nintex Workflow Platform Preview” icon.

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Once that’s done, you’ll be presented with a summary screen. When ready, click the “Add It” button.

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You’ll then be presented with a summary screen indicating that you now have a site license.

At this point, you’ll need to navigate back to the site that will be using the workflows. Now that the app is available, you won’t be turning on features for a site anymore, you’ll be adding the app to any site that you want to use the workflow preview with. In this case, we’ll be adding the preview app to a basic team site. Assuming that you have the appropriate permissions, you’ll start by adding an app by clicking on Site Contents – Add an App.

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The Workflow Preview should appear in the “Apps you can add” section.

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Click it, and you’ll be asked if you trust it – of course you do! Click the Trust It button and in a moment the app will be added.

What’s actually happening behind the scenes is that an app subsite is being provisioned that will contain all of the assets needed for the app to work. This is done to keep the app itself isolated from the content of the site. It may take a minute, so have patience.

Once it’s ready, you’ll see “Nintex Workflow Platform Preview” comingled in with the other site lists and apps. Clicking on it takes you into the workflow designer where you can design a site workflow.

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Drag and drop actions to your heart’s content, and when ready, click Publish from the ribbon, give it a name, and save it. You can now run your Nintex site workflow in Office 365. You should note that this is a small subset of actions intended for preview only, but the Nintex Live actions are available, so you can translate items, use current exchange rates, etc.

If you want to design a list workflow, simply navigate to a library or list  within the site, and click on the appropriate list or library tab. Over on the right near the standard workflow button, you’ll find a “Nintex Workflow” button.

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Clicking on it will once again open the designer. If you examine the URL, you’ll notice that what it’s really doing is opening the isolated app subsite and linking back to the list where the workflow will be saved.

In this case, we’ll build a quick translation workflow that will take content from the English field, use the Bing Translation action available through Nintex Live, and then write the value to the French field.

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The workflow can be set to run on item creation, and then published. So that adding a new item:

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Then saving it, after a few moments results in a translated value appearing:

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This is early days, and we’re looking at previews on previews, but I’m quite encouraged with this. Not only will I be able to use Nintex workflows for our own Office 365 site shortly after launch, but in my opinion, this preview validates the new application model. Yes there are currently bumps, understandable, given that this is a preview on a preview, but this is functional and responsive. The folks at Nintex have been doing their homework, and appear to be hitting the ground running into the emerging Office 365 market.

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