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Windows Workflow Foundation Web Workflow Approvals Starter Kit – A Review

As you might be aware Microsoft had released the WF web workflow approvals starter kit which is a Visual Studio 2005 project that demonstrates using Windows Workflow Foundation for simple task-oriented workflow in an ASP.NET Web application.

I decided to review the starter kit so as to understand how efficiently and easily this starter kit could be used to develop simple task-oriented workflows in ASP.NET web applications. Let me list down my viewpoints on the same.

  • For starters, I personally think that the starter kit code is a little complicated to understand for even a developer who has sufficient coding experience on the .Net platform and has basic knowledge of WF. The implementation needs to be simplified, if possible, so that a developer can easily understand the logic. I saw similar concerns being raised on other forums as well.
  • To worsen things, the 8 page documentation that comes with the starter kit gives just an overview about the project structure and its contents and doesn’t really help much in understanding the sample and its architecture in detail. A better documentation would really help. But the good news is that the WF team at Microsoft is soon going to release a whitepaper on the starter kit that describes the sample in more detail.
  • Another thing which I found interesting is the usage of a custom activity called “User activity”, when I think the out of the box HandleExternalEvent activity could have been used to achieve the same functionality and it would have made the sample look a little more simpler as well. Again this is another question which I found many people raising on different forums.
  • The workflow image viewer component that is part of the application is a component that would generate the workflow image at runtime with the currently executing activity highlighted; in PNG format. This I thought was really a cool feature and was something that caught my eye. But was something as advanced as this required in a starter kit? I am really not very sure.
  • From a core workflow perspective, things looked very simple and easy to understand; apart from the custom activity which I think could have been done away with.
All in all I feel that the starter kit could have been much simpler than what it actually is. But again if you are an experienced developer you would surely know what to take from these kits and what not Laughing. But I guess when the whitepaper on this starter kit comes out, some or all of these questions could get answered and we would get a much clearer picture. But I would encourage you to try the sample out. The starter kit can be downloaded from here. Try it out and let me know your viewpoints and opinions on the same.

Comments

I agree that the custom user activities are very confusing, and I cannot recreate them in Orcas Beta 2. The documentation is pathetic, and the app comments even worse when they exist.

I completely agree. I like the complexity but the lack of documentation makes is not usable. By the time you know wverything you need to know to understand it, you don't need it any more. Obvious example of how the lack of documentation can ensure failure of the great idea. Too bad.

Hello,
You mentioned there is a whitepaper on this starter kit.
Where can I find it?

Thanks a lot

Hi,
I'm very interested in the implementation of Windows Workflow Foundation Web Workflow Approvals Starter Kit. Is the whitepaper available ? Where can I find it ?
Thanks in advance.

Hi Bill and Maurizio,

I got the information about the whitepaper from Paul Andrew's Blog. But i dont think MS has released the same as yet. Thanks.

Lack of documentation of how to use workflow in web environment is killing me. Every example I see on the web has its own way of doing it.

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