Document Workflows Using Annotations in WF4.5

Have you ever wondered why there is not a way to document your workflows? Yeah me too... Having a way to document workflows is a feature that is long overdue, but WF4.5 changes things by providing annotations, as a way to document or even over document workflows. Annotations can be added by right clicking on a workflow and selecting Add Annotations

After an annotation is added, its icon represents a little yellow sticky tab.

They even have a pinning option which can be toggled to show the full descriptions for annotations within a workflow  

Annotations can also be viewed within the workflow, I mention that the workflow can only have one annotation, but child workflows can have an annotation too

You guessed it... WF Variables and Arguments can also receive annotations

Annotations provide a great way for providing insight to your workflows for technical and non-technical people. Make sure to take advantage of using annotations and I think you will find that building workflows will become more productive. If squirrels had annotations, they probably would not have to dig so much!

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Posted by: BayerWhite
Posted on: 2/28/2012 at 2:22 PM
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Tree View for Workflows in WF4.5

Workflows become harder to manage visually as they grow, so the WF Team has provided another way to visual see and navigate through all of the components within a workflow. The workflow below

can be drilled into by double clicking on each of it's components, but if you want to see a tree view representation of the workflow at one time, the Document Outline window can be used, so that components within the workflow can be expanded, revealing a hierarchical view of the workflow. To view a workflow using the document outline window, make sure the workflow is open within the designer and then click on View->Other Windows->Document Outline

Each section of the workflow within the tree view can be expanded displaying additional activties represented within a hierarchical view. Below shows each of the "WaitForResponse" bookmark activities used within the triggers for transitions.

When an item within the tree view is clicked, the corresponding part of the workflow is represented with what was clicked on within the tree. Above, I clicked on the bookmark activity within the Else part of the If activity, for the "Start Engine" state, therefore that part of the workflow was highlighted within the designer. Take advantage of this new representation for navigating through a workflow in WF4.5 when workflows get so big they become tuff to navigate.

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Posted by: BayerWhite
Posted on: 2/23/2012 at 2:16 PM
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W3 Types Deprecated with WF4.5 Release

The WF Team has decided to deprecate the following WF3 types with the lastest release of WF4.5:

  • System.Workflow.Activities.dll
  • System.Workflow.ComponentModel.dll
  • System.Workflow.Runtime.dll
  • System.WorkflowServices.dll
  • Microsoft.Workflow.DebugController.dll
  • Microsoft.Workflow.Compiler.exe
  • Wfc.exe

At this point it will not affect workflows built using WF3 other than a build warning that is encountered saying, "Warning BC40000: TYPE is obsolete: 'WF 3 types are deprecated. Please use WF 4 instead'". The WF Team is saying that the types will eventually be removed (post-.Net 4.5), so this is a great indication to start converting those WF3.x workflows... If you need help you can always ping me:)

Since there is not a replacement in WF4.x for System.Workflow.Activities.Rules or the rules engine, they are not being deprecated, however there are other alternatives for building rules within WF4.x using the workflows themselves. The WF Team's official post about the deprecation can be found here.

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Posted on: 2/9/2012 at 1:43 AM
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New Drag and Drop Capabilities in WF4.5

One of the coolest operation features that any WF developer will notice is the ability to drag new activities on to the designer canvas without worring how it will fit. Before, if I had a custom activity that did not have a container for holding other activities, you would have to "cut" the existing activity out in order to add it in.

Below demonstrates a simple Exception activity that needs a TryCatch activity.

I can simply add the TryCatch activity by doing nothing more then I should, by dragging it from the toolbox. As I bring the TryCatch activity and hover over the Exception activity two bars appear, one over the Exception activity and one below. The bars help guide the position for the new activity by indicating if you want the new activity placed above or below the existing activity. If I place it above, I get a new Sequence activity, which contains mew new TryCatch and the existing Exception activity.

Very cool feature WF Team, can't wait to show off more!

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Posted by: BayerWhite
Posted on: 2/2/2012 at 4:28 AM
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Download the Visual Studio 2011 Developer Preview Training Kit

You can download the developer preview training kit for VS2011 here

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Posted by: BayerWhite
Posted on: 2/1/2012 at 6:13 AM
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