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How to send bulk e-mail with attachments to external users using SharePoint 2013/Online workflow

, 9 Apr 2014 CPOL
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In this article I will show how to configure SharePoint 2013/Online workflow to send bulk email with attachments to external users using SharePoint 2013/Online workflow. For many business tasks it is required to send mass messages to customers or employees. Sometimes such messages has to contain att

In this article I will show how to configure SharePoint 2013/Online workflow to send bulk email with attachments to external users using SharePoint 2013/Online workflow. For many business tasks it is required to send mass messages to customers or employees. Sometimes such messages has to contain attachments. There are multiple use cases, look at just a few of them:
  • To send information about new releases to customers.
  • To notify customers about upcoming downtime.
  • To send documents for external users as attachments for approval.
  • To send corporate newsletter to external and internal subscribers as PDF attachment.
In this article I will show how to send corporate newsletter as PDF attachment to list of subscribers, but you can use my approach for any other mass mailing system.

I will create SharePoint document library to store PDF files, then I will create SharePoint list to store information about subscribers. Then I will configure SharePoint workflow to send messages. Finally I will show how to add custom menu item into document library's context menu. This menu item will be used to start the notification workflow.

As result end user will have to select document and click 'Send to subscribers' to send bulk e-mail to all subscribers:




Finally we have following steps:
  1. To create SharePoint list to store subscribers and document library to store corporate newsletter files
  2. To configure workflow for notifications:
    • To configure workflow action to get recipients from SharePoint list by CAML query.
    • To configure workflow action to send current document as attachment to subscribers.
  3. To create custom menu item to start workflow manually.
We will need to query all subscribers from list of subscribers using CAML query, then iterate through the list of subscribers and sent messages with attachments. SharePoint 2013 provides two types of workflows: SharePoint 2013 workflows (WF 4.5) and SharePoint 2010 workflows (WF 3.5). The best choice for us is SharePoint 2013 workflow, because it allows to use loops and we need loop to iterate through the list of our subscribers.

Out of the box workflow actions don't provide required functionality. I will use two workflow actions from paid Workflow Actions Pack which allow to query list items using CAML query and to send e-mails with attachments to external user:
You can also use Send e-mail with attachment (Exchange).

How to create list of subscribers and document library


To store subscribers I created new SharePoint list and named it 'Maillist'. The structure of the list is quite simple:


I added only one text column 'E-mail'. Internal name of this field is 'EMail'. You can create any additional columns, for example check box to unsubscribe. Then you can use it in the CAML query to exclude users from notification.

This is how my list of subscribers looks:


To store files of corporate newsletter I created document library and named it 'Corporate newsletter'. I didn't create any additional columns.

This is structure of lists and libraries with internal names and URLs:

Maillist – Generic SharePoint list to store e-mail addresses
Url: /Lists/MailingList
Additional columns: Email – single line of text

Corporate newsletter – Document library to store files of corporate newsletter.
URL: /CorporateNewsletter

How to configure workflow to send bulk e-mail

I want to send notifications for each corporate newsletter file separately, that is why I created list level workflow for 'Corporate newsletter' document library. This workflow will be executed on newsletter file and send this file as attachment to all subscribers from the 'Maillist'.


This is how the workflow looks:




To reproduce this workflow you need to know names of workflow variables with types:


In the first stage I initialize credentials. I will use them for SMTP settings. I also need credentials for SharePoint Online to query list by CAML. Workflow action for SharePoint 2013 on-premise doesn't require credentials to query list items.

Then I use Get items by query workflow action to get all subscribers. Next, I count subscribers and initialize index. I need to count subscribers to configure loop. The index is required to get subscriber by index withing loop.

Then I use loop to iterate through subscribers. I use out of the box Get an item from a Dictionary workflow action to get e-mail of current subscriber by index. Then I send e-mail to subscriber using Send e-mail with attachment (SMTP) workflow action. Finally I increment the index.

I described logic of workflow step by step. Now let me show how individual workflow actions are configured.

Get items by query workflow action configuration

This is how the workflow action is configured:

List: Maillist.
Save result items to variable: ‘Recepients’.
Caml query:
<View>
  <Query>
    <Where>
    </Where>
  </Query>
  <ViewFields>
    <FieldRef Name="EMail" />
  </ViewFields>
</View>



As you see I used quite simple CAML query ‘<Where></Where>’, it doesn't contain any conditions. I used such query because I don’t need to filter exclude subscribers from the list. I want to notify all of them, but feel free to add conditions in this query. For example you can add 'Unsubscribe' column into the list of subscribers and add condition into this query to exclude such subscribers.

Also look at <ViewFields> section. I added EMail column into view fields. This allows to get value of EMail column from results of query.

Get an item from a Dictionary workflow action configuration

The result or query will be stored in the variable ‘Recepients’. This is not obvious, but dictionary in SharePoint workflow can store collection of elements not only key value pairs.  To access single e-mail from collection of e-mails I use Get an item from a Dictionary workflow action. This is how the workflow action is configured:

Path: ([%Variable: LoopIndex%])/FieldValues/EMail
Save result to variable: 'Recepient'

As you can see I composed the path dynamically based on the current index within loop. I will get item from collection of subscriber by index using this path. EMail here is an internal name of the column. If you use other column, replace it with internal name of your column.

 

Send e-mail with attachment workflow action configuration


Great, now we have recipient. The next step is to send e-mail.

Firstly I configure general settings.

I use variable 'Recepient' as e-mail address. I also specified some subject and body. Then SMTP settings, you need to specify settings for your account.

To attach files I added link into AttachmentsUrls property. Look at the picture below for details:


For SharePoint Online it is also required to specify AdminLogin and AdminPassword properties. SharePoint 2013 on-premise doesn't require it.


That is all. The workflow is ready to send notifications based on mailing list.

How to create menu item for document library to start workflow manually

In the beginning of this article I mentioned that end user will be able to send notifications using context menu of the file. It looks like this:


To add custom action for document context menu you need to open 'Corporate newsletter' document library using SharePoint Designer. Select 'Custom Actions' section and click 'Custom action -> List Item Menu' in the ribbon. Then configure workflow action to initiate workflow:



Conclusion

In this article I described how to create simple mass mailing system using SharePoint 2013/Online workflow. You can use it as is or adapt for you needs. I hope you will use this knowledge for goodness and your clients will never receive annoying spam messages.

Should you have any difficulty following these instructions, feel free to leave your questions.

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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About the Author

Anton Khritonenkov
Technical Lead
Russian Federation Russian Federation
SharePoint expert                                                            
Co-founder of Plumsail: http://plumsail.com
My blog: http://plumsail.blogspot.com
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Comments and Discussions

 
QuestionSending emails with different PDF's in each email PinmemberMember 1110946925-Sep-14 3:57 
AnswerRe: Sending emails with different PDF's in each email PinmemberAnton Khritonenkov25-Sep-14 5:18 

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