SharePoint Online Content approvals


Hi, in this post let us see how we can enable the content approval for document library and also let us see some configuration settings and options. Before that lets see why we need to have a content approval and whether its really needed for an organization or not.

Why Content Approval

Some are aware of content approval and some are not and some may have implemented it without knowing it fully.

From the name its clear that it is the approval process for content. Content in SharePoint refers to files, items or even pages. Many organization have their policies, procedures and some other documents stored in Online with restrict to certain group of people. These confidential or sensitive documents are not updated frequently but if they need an update and before publishing to the other users, the document should be reviewed by a single user or a group and it should be approved and then published to the end users.

So, in simple its just an approval process before publishing the contents to the entire organization or end users.

In earlier Online versions and on On-Premise versions, we are allowed to take leverage of Out-of-box workflows, SharePoint designer workflows, Visual Studio workflows and custom workflows to configure and maintain these approval process based on the organization requirements. But in the latest SharePoint Online version, though SharePoint designer is used but it is not recommended and Microsoft recommend to use Power Automate or OOB Content Approval workflow.

Note: Content Approval using Power Automate will be explained in the next post. This post covers only the out-of-box approval process.

How to configure Content Approval

There are few prerequisites to use the OOB Content Approval.

  • The approvers should have the ‘Approve Items’ permission
  • Library settings has to be modified to enable the Content Approval.

Some of the cons using OOB are below

  • Users who has the ‘Approve Items’ permission and contribute access to the document library will be able to approve/reject the content.
  • No email notifications triggered to the approvers.
  • No due email reminders to the approvers if it exceeds the approving date or time.
  • Cannot reassign to other users, only Approve or Reject is allowed.
  • No way to customize

Note: All the above cons can be solved when we use the Power Automate, which we will see in the next post.

Creation of SharePoint Group

If you are intend to use the SharePoint Group for approvers, then make sure to give the ‘Design‘ permission level which has the ‘Approve Items‘ permission level by default.

If you are intend to use a custom group with custom permission level, make sure to select the Approve Items permission along with the other permission levels.

Document Library Settings

Navigate to the Versioning Settings of the library and do the following as mentioned in the screenshot below.

Once the above settings are enabled, you should be able to see the Approval Status column added to the default view of the library.


Once all the above configurations and settings are done, try to upload a file to the document library. Once the file is uploaded, you should see the Approval Status as Pending or Draft based on the Minor or Major version property. In my case I had enabled only the major versions.

Now the document is waiting for the approver to approve/reject. Navigate to the document library using one of the approvers and use the context menu or the menu bar to approve/reject the content.

Once you select the approve/reject menu, there will be a dialog to make your choice of approval like the one shown below.

Based on the actions taken by the approvers, the content will then be published and available to the end users or users across the entire organization.

The process mentioned above is a simple and basic approval flow and I hope the above details are usefull.

Happy approvals…


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