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Require approval of items in a site list or library

Applies to: SharePoint Online, SharePoint Server 2019, SharePoint Server 2016, SharePoint Server 2013, SharePoint Foundation 2010, SharePoint Server 2010.

Lists and libraries can often contain sensitive information, such as projected marketing campaigns or human resources initiatives. It can be important to have only “official” versions of items or files viewable by users. To do this you can require approval of an item or file before the content becomes visible to most site users. By requiring approval, the organisation can apply a significant level of quality and security to the content in the lists and libraries.

Online, 2019, 2016, 2013

What do you want to do?

Specify that items in a library require approval

  1. Go to the library for which you want to require approval.
  1. Click Settings, Library Settings. If you don’t see these menu items, click Library on the ribbon, and then click Library settings in the Settings group.
  1. Under General Settings, select Versioning settings to open the Versioning Settings page.
Library settings dialog with Versioning selected.
  1. In the Content Approval section, select Yes in answer to the Require content approval for submitted items? In the Document Version History section, specify whether you want SharePoint to create versions when a file is edited. You can also choose to limit the number of versions that are retained.
  1. In the Draft Item Security section, control which users can see draft items in the document library.
Versioning choices dialog box

Tip: If you require content approval for a list or library that already contains items, all of the items in the library are marked Approved.

  1. You can choose any of the following:
  • Users who can read items in the list;
  • Only users who can edit items in the list;
  • Only users who can approve items in the list, and the item author.
  1. Click OK.

Specify that items in a list require approval

  1. Go to the list for which you want to require approval.
  1. On the ribbon, click the List tab.
  1. Click List settings.
  1. Under General Settings, select Versioning settings to open the Versioning Settings page.
  1. In the Content Approval section, select Yes in answer to the Require content approval for submitted items? In the Item Version History section, specify whether you want SharePoint to create versions when an item is edited. You can also choose to limit the number of versions that are retained.
  1. In the Draft Item Security section, determine which users can see draft items in the list.

Tip:  If you require content approval for a list or library that already contains items, all of the items in the library are marked Approved.

  1. You can choose any of the following:
  • Users who can read items in the list;
  • Only users who can edit items in the list;
  • Only users who can approve items in the list, and the item author.
  1. Click OK.

Approval status

If someone submits an item to a list or library that requires approvals, it is in Pending status until someone (who has at least Manage Lists permissions level) approves it. During the period it is awaiting approval, it remains in Pending status.

Normally, when an item is in Pending status, only the item originator and the people who have permissions to manage lists and libraries can see it. After its status changes from Pending to Approved, it becomes visible to anyone who has permission to view the list or library. Rejected articles stay in the list or library until the originator—or someone else who has the necessary permissions—deletes them. Any items or files that already exist in the list or library are granted Approved status automatically.

Important:  If security in the site library is configured to allow any user to read items, then anyone who has Read permissions to the site can see all items in the list or library, whether the items are in Approved status.

Only persons who have Full Control or Design permissions can alter List or Library settings.

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