New to z/OSMF and workflows I was assigned a task where I needed to create a set of workflows, at least one potentially very large. So, I poured through the examples and documentation to learn how to create and run workflows, but luckily during this process I came across the Workflow Editor and skeptically decided to give it a try.

Normally comfortable with bits and bytes, I tend to shy away from bloated IDEs that I find hard to setup and offer not much real value than what a good syntax highlighting line editor and debugger combination can do. The z/OSMF Workflow Editor is a shining exception. It performs the function of editing workflows good enough that I almost never do any hand editing of the workflow xml files. Plus, you are guaranteed that when you create the workflow or template from your xml file, it does not have semantic/syntax errors.

The workflow editor intelligently manages the different parts of the workflow xml with separate panels that are tailored to the specific area you are working on and context sensitive to the choices you make in building up the characteristics of the area. Workflow Metadata, Steps and Variables have their own tabs tailored to the required and optional information for those areas.

When you create a new variable, you are presented with a panel where you enter basic information about the variable. Basic on the type of variable, integer, boolean, string, etc., you are then presented with a second panel where you enter constraint and default information that is specific to the variable type. Very nice. You don’t have to decide what information is valid or be presented with a panel with inputs and choices that don’t apply.

String example:

Integer example:

Boolean example:

Date example:

The variable listing panel is shown in a split pane. The list of variables is on the left, the specific information about the selected variable is on the right. Of course, the right-side changes depending on which variable is selected.

The Steps tab is where most of the action is and could easily have been confusing and complex, however in the Workflow Editor, information is categorized and properly grouped together in smaller pieces. On the left pane you are presented with a tree structure listing the parent and leaf steps in the workflow. Clicking on the plus next to a parent step expands the list to show its owning leaf steps. Selecting a step shows the information for the step on the right pane. This pane has multiple tabs Overview, Prerequisites, Instructions, Type, Conditions, Security, Variables, Feedback and Advanced which nicely breaks up and organizes the information into related blocks, keeping the scrolling down to a minimum. Depending on the step type some of the detailed information tabs on the right maybe disabled. Parent or leaf steps can be created and deleted at any time. Steps can be reordered. Leaf steps can be moved into and out of parent steps. Attempting these few operations on the raw xml can be challenging and probably will result in semantic or syntax errors if not done very carefully.

In summary, the Workflow Editor frees you up from the complexities of creating and maintaining workflows. Why bother even trying to figure out the format of the xml? Do all your workflow work in the workflow editor and be able to concentrate on what is important, the workflow content itself.

The workflow editor is ongoing project, continuously being enhanced with new features from feedback from users so be sure to check them out and voice your own experience.

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