Details for “Copy List Item” Action

Want a challenge?  Do a search to try to find out how the Copy List Item action works within SharePoint Designer.  Find answers to questions like “Does it copy columns by name or by ordinal reference?” and “What column type do I need on my target list if the source column is a lookup column?”

Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

Ok, technically, I didn’t wait.  But if you did search you probably didn’t find much other than the post you’re reading right now.  If you did, please let me know.

From my experience I had an idea that the copy was done by column name, regardless of order.  But I wasn’t 100% positive.  I still haven’t found any documentation supporting it’s logic, but here have been my observations.  It indeed copies by column name, regardless of order.  If you’re bored, set up a couple lists, one a copy of the other (same column names, same column order).  For now, just use simple text fields and name each field the same from list to list.  Set up a workflow to copy from the first list to the second and run it.  You should see an exact copy come over after the workflow has complete.  Now move one of the columns.  Not within a view, but within the list itself.  Now run your workflow.  Same results…all the data copied over just fine.  Finally, rename one of the columns in the source list and run the workflow.  No dice.  The data that should be in the renamed column is not there.

Now for column types.  If your source column is a Lookup column, for instance, your target column must also be a Lookup column based on the same list.  If you set the target column as a simple text field, the data will not copy over.  Same for Choice, Person, etc.  Just make sure you’re using the same column types from the source.

If you can’t use the same list as the Lookup source, your next option is to set your target column type to text and use the Create List Item action.  The end result will be the same, but you’ll need to manually set the mappings within the action.  It also has the drawback of not automatically picking up list changes so if you add or remove a column you’ll need to open the workflow and tell it what to do.

By the way, the closest thing I found documenting each action was this post.  It’s a good overview of each action.  I didn’t do any searching in the SDK so there may be something in there, although I doubt it.

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