8: SharePoint Workflow in VS .NET

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8: SharePoint Workflow
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Figure 8-2: Simple state machine workflow
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As mentioned earlier, activities are the building blocks of every workflow and should be atomic and reusable The purpose of every activity is to complete a specific step in the workflow Visual Studio 2010 ships with about 30 general workflow activities and an additional 26 SharePoint-related activities These can be found in the Toolbox when a workflow is open in the Workflow designer in Visual Studio If all those activities are not enough for you or you need specific functionality you can implement your own activity or even a library of workflow activities In general we can separate activities into three groups
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Workflow Activities
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1 Control flow activities 2 Container activities 3 Standard activities
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Control Flow Activities Control flow activities are used as decision points in workflows and control the execution path within a workflow They have a condition attached to them; based on the evaluation of that condition an appropriate branch or path through the workflow is chosen Examples of control flow activities are the While and IfElse activities There are two types of conditions you can use in control flow activities, a declarative rule condition, and a code condition Declarative rule conditions are created using the rule condition editor and are stored in an XML file with a rules suffix, while code condition rules are created by writing NET code Container Activities Container Activities serve as a grouping mechanism and can contain multiple activities An example of a container activity would be the Sequence activity We could also consider activities like While and IfElse as container activities, because they contain other activities Standard Activities Standard activities are used to execute some task Tasks could be anything from method written in NET (Code activity) to invoking a web service (InvokeWebService activity) to terminating the workflow (Terminate activity) or even throwing an exception (Throw activity) Table 8-1 contains the list of general workflow activities in Visual Studio 2010 and their purposes
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8: SharePoint Workflow
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TABLE 8-1: Workflow Activities and Their Purposes
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Activity CallExternalMethod
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Description Activity is used to send data from the workflow to an external host application For executing NET code Used for creating data-driven workflows Delays the workflow for a specified duration Used for grouping an activity whose execution is started by an event Similar to Listen activity, but it allows events to be received multiple times This activity is heavily used in built-in SharePoint workflows Activity is used for handling exceptions in workflow Opposite to CallExternalMethod, this activity is used to send data from an external host application back to the workflow Behaves the same way as an if/else construct in C# or VB programming language; this activity is comprised of one or more branches that are executed based on the associated condition Branch conditions are evaluated and the first branch to evaluate to True is executed The other branches are not executed Activity is used for listening to an external event It contains multiple branches and the branch that receives the first event is executed Aside from other branches, there is a special timer branch If timer goes off before anything else, the timer branch is executed We could compare this activity to switch/case statement in VB or C# language, where multiple branches are case statements and timer branch is the default statement This activity supports a workflow pattern to wait for one or more responses and then timeout if a response is not received within a preset duration
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Code ConditionedActivityGroup Delay EventDriven
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EventHandlingScope
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FaultHandler
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IfElse
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Listen
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TABLE 8-1: Workflow Activities and Their Purposes (Continued)
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Activity Parallel
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Description Activity is used for executing two or more branches at the same time; before the activity is completed, it waits until execution is completed in each of the branches Activity is used to process or iterate through a number of elements in a serial or parallel fashion; if using serial execution, this activity is similar to the for each statement in VB or C# The activity is critical for a number of scenarios in which, for example, a document needs to be approved by multiple approvers, or e-mails need to be sent to multiple recipients This activity is heavily used in built-in SharePoint workflows A container used for grouping one or more activities that need to be sequentially executed Used to terminate a workflow This activity behaves the same as the while keyword in the C# or VB programming language The activity loops while the associated condition remains True