If you read my post on SharePoint Workflow and Limitations with the Standard Toolset, you'll be aware of "The 60 day surprise" that frustrates many users when they discover it for the first time.

One of the benefits of using Nintex to implement workflows in SharePoint is it handles the history for you and gets around the limitations of the 60 day surprise; however, it's important to note that Nintex doesn't change the out-of-the-box behaviour, but instead stores additional data in a separate SQL database that gets installed with Nintex Workflow.

What stays the same?

When you publish a new workflow using Nintex, by default you will get a new column added to the default view of your list or library that is titled with the workflow name. This is added by SharePoint and will contain a value with the workflow status (e.g., In Progress, Completed, Cancelled).

SharePoint Workflow Status Column

Clicking on the link will bring the user to the Workflow Status page that you'll be familiar with if you've worked with SharePoint workflows. It's important to note that this is the standard SharePoint Workflow Status page (/_layouts/WrkStat.aspx) and is not specific to Nintex Workflows. As such, the link to this page is subject to the 60 day clean-up. So if I want my users to have access to the Workflow History, including things like comments entered by an approver, I should not use this page.

SharePoint Workflow Status - 60 Days

The link to this page and the useful information on it (e.g., who approved the task and the comments they entered) will not be available to end users after 60 days.

What's different with Nintex?

When using Nintex Workflow, you should use the Nintex specific "View Workflow History" function available on the item menu:

Nintex Workflow History

This will provide the user with a complete history of all Nintex workflows that have run on the item including both text based and graphical views of the history. The history page (/_layouts/NintexWorkflow/WorkflowLog.aspx) contains three sections:


  • Action History
    • Stored in the Nintex SQL database and retained indefinitely
  • Task History
    • Stored in the Nintex SQL database and retained indefinitely
  • Workflow Messages
    • These messages come from SharePoint and will disappear after 60 days

Nintex Workflow Log Page - After 60 Days

A common scenario is to have a workflow with an Approval task where it is important that the Approver's comments (and Approval/Rejection status) are retained. With Nintex Workflow, this is retained indefinitely in the Task History section (and stored in the Nintex specific SQL database).

Using this in practice

In order to make it easy for your users to access this workflow history, I would suggest setting up a new column in your list or library to provide a link directly to the Nintex workflow history page for the item. This should be used to replace the SharePoint generated workflow status column in any relevant views so that users go to the Nintex page instead.

Another reason for providing a direct link is that in many workflows, there is a need to set an item's permission to Read Only (for example to prevent a user from changing the details of an expense request after it has been approved). When a user does not have permission to edit an item, they will no longer be able to access the "View Workflow History" link on the item's menu.

To set this up:

  1. Create a new column on your list/library with the type "Multiple lines of text" and allow "Rich Text" (you might be tempted to use the Hyperlink type; however, that type is limited to 255 characters and you'll often find that the Workflow Log URLs are longer than that)
    Nintex Workflow History Column
  2. Edit your workflow and add the workflow action "Set field value"
    Set the Workflow History column value (that you created in Step 1 above) to the Workflow Context "Workflow Log URL".
    Wrap it in HTML so that you display friendly link text (such as "View History"):
    Nintex Set Field Value - History Link
  3. Edit your views to include the Workflow History column you created and remove the default SharePoint workflow status column.

Now your users can easily get to the Nintex page that will display the details of the Action History and Task History indefinitely:

Link to Nintex Workflow History