Working with Windows Workflow Foundation in ASP.NET

In september 2005 Microsoft unleashed Windows Workflow Foundation (Windows WF) at its semi-annual Professional Developer’s Conference. As one of the pillars of the WinFX APIs, Windows WF provides developers with a common framework on which to develop process driven and workflow-centric applications.

Currently, when organizations wish to automate business processes the standard answer is to assemble a team of developers to write the appropriate code. While this approach has generally served organizations well, it has some inherent problems. To understand why, you need to understand some fundamental characteristics of a workflow.

A workflow is essentially a way of documenting the activities involved in completing a unit of work. Typically, work “flows” through one or more activities during processing. These activities can be performed by either machines or by people, and can be as simple as defining the sequence of pages in an Internet application, or as complex as managing documents or products that must be seen, altered, and approved by any number of people.

Because so many workflows must allow for human involvement, they can take long periods of time to complete, ranging from hours to months or longer. For example, people involved in the process may be unavailable, out-of-town, or busy with other tasks; therefore, workflows must be able to persist themselves during periods of inactivity. Furthermore, processes implemented solely using code can be difficult for non-technical people to understand and for developers to change. This and other factors are the target of generic workflow frameworks such as Windows WF, which aim to make creating, altering, and managing workflows easier, both by giving them a visual interface and by defining a common API.

You can host Windows WF workflows in any type of .NET application, including Windows Forms, console applications, Windows Services, and ASP.NET Web applications.

You can download Windows WF at www.windowsworkflow.net

.NET 3.0 Stack

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