Content Approval Statuses

I keep getting questions from customers about what statuses are used in Publishing and Content Approval, and who can see what items in what status. It’s a little complex, as it depends entirely upon your configuration of content approval and versioning settings.

Content Approval is turned on on the list itself:


Publishing Statuses in SharePoint Libraries are controlled by the Content Approval features. This means that for certain users, they will only be able to see Approved content. Who those certain users are depends upon your draft item security settings.


So you can have it that:

  • Anyone can see the unapproved (or unpublished) content
  • Anyone who can create content can see the unapproved content
  • Only approvers and the original author can see the unapproved content.

This all works without versioning turned on. There are several versioning settings:


If versioning is off, or if versioning has been set to ‘Major’ only, then the available statuses for documents are:

  • Pending (Item has been saved, but is not visible to normal users)
  • Approved (Item has been approved and is generally visible)
  • Rejected (has been rejected, but is not visible to normal users)

If versioning has been set to ‘Major and Minor’ versions, then the available status are:

  • Draft (Item has been saved, but not submitted for approval. It is not visible to normal users)
  • Pending (Item has been submitted for approval, but is not visible to normal users)
  • Approved (Item has been approved and is generally visible)
  • Rejected (has been rejected, but is not visible to normal users)

For ‘Major and Minor’ versioning, draft versions are created as a minor version (i.e. the decimal). When a document it published, this created the first major version.
When a draft version is created differs depending upon whether documents must be checked out before they can be edited:


  • If document check-out is turned off, then each save of a document creates a new draft version.
  • If the document check-out is turned on, then a new draft version of the document is created when the document is checked back in again. This is useful, as some documents may be worked on and saved multiple times before the author is ready to create a new draft version.

Versioning numbers in this scenario do not reflect publication status, other than whole numbers (1.0, 2.0, etc.) are published (approved) versions, and decimal numbers (0.1, 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, etc.) are draft, pending, or rejected.

We find with our clients that document check-out is often turned on to prevent concurrent editting of documents. Often major/minor versioning is used to record draft/final versions of documents. Content approval is used sometimes, when other SharePoint users should be prevented from seeing ‘unapproved’ content.

Content Approval Statuses

11 thoughts on “Content Approval Statuses

  1. carl says:

    jsut been searching for just this q&a re Content approval for New ONLY, not Edits

    any other ideas besides c#????

    1. Hmm. Have you tried using the Content approval work? You might be able to start it for New items, and not for edits. ‘Course that might not solve it – maybe your edits still need approval, but don’t have a workflow…

      I can’t say it’s something that I’ve seen asked about before.

      You could write an event handler to catch the ItemUpdated event and automatically approve anything that’s being updated, not added.

  2. i am trying to configure a sharepoint with versioning and content approval. when a contributor makes a change to a document, all version become not viewable to other users. I want to configure it so that only the most recent version (unapproved) is not viewable. Is this possible? Maybe not, if microsoft was configured the approval in association with the document rather than at the level of the individual version?

  3. I’m not sure I understand.

    It is possible to have the most recent Approved version visible to viewers, while editors can see the latest version

  4. Matt says:

    Andy, I believe Craig and I are looking to do the same thing.

    To summarize:

    I have an out-of-the-box Approval workflow with major and minor versioning that begins when a user publishes a new major version of a document. This changes the document’s status to Pending/Draft and hides it. As a result, I’m looking to keep the most recent Approved version visible while hiding the Pending version. You mentioned that it is possible to do this, so I’d be grateful if you could explain how it’s done.


  5. Matt,

    Right, as I understand, the author does not publish a major version of the document. They create a draft (MINOR) version. They submit it to the workflow, and after the workflow finishes a new major version is (possibly) created.

    Draft versions are MINOR versions, so a normal user wouldn’t be able to see them, provided the ‘Draft Item Security’ is set appropriately. They would still be able to see the previous MAJOR version (published version) still.

    It’s only at the end of the Content Approval workflow where, if approved, the item is set to a new MAJOR (published) version.

    It’s worth noting that for a version 0.x draft, there is no previous published version, so a standard user wouldn’t see anything. For a 1.1 draft, a standard user would still be able to see the 1.0 draft.

    Hope that helps.

  6. Raji says:

    Has anyone been able to get the Draft item security to work for a doc library – either with or without content approval? I am on MOSS 2007 SP1.

    I did not have content approval set for the doc library. I set the draft item security to ‘anyone who can Edit’. Versioning is turned on with major & minor versions. Tried logging in as a user with read-only access & he still sees draft versions in the doc library.

    Next, I set content approval required for the same doc library. Left the draft item security to ‘anyone who can Edit’, versioning at major & minor. Tried with user who has read-only access & he still sees draft versions..

    any idea what else i need to check?

  7. Raji says:

    user error! The same user was part of one of the (many other) groups that had Contribute access to that document library! Once I removed the user from that group, he is now able to see only Approved items.

  8. Michael says:

    I have a custom list that is based on a list template activated by a feature. When I create a custom list based on this template and activate content approval. Sometimes random items will stay as pending even if I approve them. What is happending. I have tried setting it up with major and minor versioniong on and off

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