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Approvals column versus custom column

SharePoint iconIn two earlier articles we have looked at the built-in 'Approval status' column and how it can be used with and without a workflow in SharePoint document libraries.

Another option is to create a new, custom column for approvals, and in some cases that is actually necessary.

In this article Peter Kalmström, kalmstrom.com CEO and Systems Designer, compares these two column options.


When you enable approvals in a list or library and thus get an automatically added 'Approval Status' column, you can prevent other users than the author and the approver(s) from seeing the non-approved document versions. Not until the document has been approved, will it be visible to all users.

When you create your own column for approval status, there is no way to prevent all users from seeing the latest version of the document, even if it has not been approved.  

Version history

A drawback of using the built-in approval functionality is that the approval is not registered as a modification of the item. This means that the approval is not shown in the document's version history, so there is no easy way to see who made the approval.

When you use a custom column for approval status, you can see in the version history when it was approved and by whom.

Automatic updates

The automatically added 'Approval Status' column cannot be updated with a custom workflow or flow. For that, you need to use a custom approval status column.

I the SharePoint Flows Tips series, Peter shows how an approval flow works with built-in and custom columns.

Learn more

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