If you're going to divide SharePoint into its basic units, one of the most essential is the workflow. Having the automated pipeline of a workflow, as well as the vast customization options provided by SharePoint designer, can reduce the time invested in simple organizational tasks – lowering your costs, allowing projects to be finished more quickly, and making it less likely that projects will got lost as they change hands.
One of the important steps in making your workflow work for you is having the appropriate column displays. This allows you to have all important information visible at a glance. SharePoint Designer has made the addition of new columns easy through their association columns.
What Are Association Columns?
Association columns are data columns (such as URL, workflow name, or any number of custom fields) that are displayed in a reusable workflow. Since the reusable workflow model can be used anywhere within SharePoint, the only columns displayed by defaults are "Created" and "Created By" (the fields that are common through all portions of the site). Any number of additional columns can be added to reusable workflows or to lists. In the case of being associated with lists, association columns will appear on any workflow associated with said list.
Adding Association Columns
To add association columns, just follow these steps:
- Click on the "Association Columns" icon in the SharePoint designer Ribbon toolbar.
- Click "OK" on the warning message that comes up.
- Choose either "Select Site Column" or "Add New Column" (dependent on whether you want to go with one of the default options or add your own).
- If you're using a default column, simply choose the appropriate option from the list provided.
- If you're adding your own column, fill out the field name, description, and data type.
- Once you've finished, push "OK" to complete the column addition.
Note that, because association columns are stored to your configuration files, you won't be able to edit the column after you've implemented it. You can, however, delete it and create a new one.