Overview of Workflow Editor
The new workflow editor is the heart of K4 v6.
The biggest changes are the task orientation and the workflow tools. This is such a large subject that today I will provide an overview. I will cover specifics of the workflow edit in future postings.
In the Workflow in the K4 administer you will notice multiple workflow sets. Just as K4 will save multiple versions of layouts and articles, it saves multiple versions of your workflow. If you make a mistake you can revert to an earlier version or simply review how your workflow has evolved. However, having too many versions has its costs, in particular it increases the time required to duplicate a publication. But the power to experiment with a workflow with the option to revert to an earlier version is invaluable. Click on the image to the left to enlarge.
Any workflow version can be edited. A new workflow version is create only if you are editing the active workflow. You can delete workflow versions from K4. To edit a version just double-click on it. Moving tasks and status’ in the workflow is simple.
In the workflow editor you work in a graphical workflow. While this approach does have some shortcomings the power to visualize your workflow is essential. You can hide some of the elements while working on your workflow so you can concentrate on design. Click on the image to the left to enlarge.
The Workflow Elements
- Name. Simply the workflow name. You also set the type of workflow (e.g. article, layout, picture, etc) by choosing the icon associated with it. You can add a description and and the output channels (e.g. print, tablet). You can have multiple workflows for the same type of object. So you might want one workflow for features and another for departments.
- Output Channel. A output channel is the final product, such as print or web page and a workflow can have multiple channels. You define the file extensions (e.g. .icml), the number of versions to retain, the meta-data available and who can override task settings. Independent tasks, a subject for another day, are set here. This Output Channel is for print and has 2 independent tasks.
- Status. A status is similar to K4 5.9. A status, combined with the user category, controls who can read and/or write objects. Unlike K4 5.9 the user cannot set the status, the status is automatically set by the tasks completed.
- Task. A Status must have at least one task before it. If you want a K4 v6 workflow to duplicate a K4 5.9 workflow you can have just one task per status. To take advantage of K4 v6 you will can have multiple tasks per workflow. Tasks do not have to be linear, tasks can be in parallel to each other. A task is associated with user categories, what data can be changed, and default and emergency assignments.
- Rewind. A rewind allows a object to moved back up the workflow. These are predefined by the administrator.
The workflow editor itself is simple to use. Single-clicking on an element will cause buttons to appear, such as new status, new task, edit, or delete. Double-clicking on an element will allow editing.
Selecting a task offers additional options. The wheels above and below each task allows you to move the tasks input and output in the workflow. This takes some practice, when a task input is moved to another task the results will be a linear list of tasks, if moved to a status that already has a task following it the moved task will be parallel to the current task.
A parallel workflow structure can get quite complex. Click on the picture to the right to enlarge it. In the workflow sample t the right when the article reaches the status Ready for Art 2 parallel workflows appear. The Refine Text in Layout task immediately leads to the Final for Art status while the Copyeditor Approval task bypasses this status. This allows the copyeditor to approve the article before or after the designers are finished styling it.
The arrow pointing to the left is a rewind. You drag the arrow to a status that is before a task.
Select a status to create a dependency between workflows. A layout workflow status progression can be halted if the attached articles do not reach the status associated that sets up a dependency.
The workflow editor is power and simple to use but the workflow can be quite complex. Its low level of granularity is very seductive. While working on workflows I resist the urge to micromanage. There is a cost for having too many tasks, both in server performance and in user fatigue. The ability to work in a graphical environment is wonderful and new ideas arise all of the time. But it is important to experiment in InCopy and InDesign once you activate a workflow to ensure that it works as you expect. I found a number of unpleasant surprises in my first attempts.
The workflow editor isn’t perfect. I’ve encountered error messages while doing simple commands so the rule of the day is to save frequently and often. On occasion I’ve had to close my browser window and log back into K4 Administrator.
Unfortunately there is no way to get an overview of all of the settings for status’ and tasks. Some kind of text report would be very helpful. It might be possible to get this type of report with a SQL reporting tool but I haven’t tried yet. If you want to know the settings for any element you need to click on it, this can get annoying when you are reviewing a large workflow and need to thus edit many elements.
While multiple workflows for the same object type is very useful there is a cost, creating queries can be more complicated so you should carefully consider before adding more workflows.
Objects that are placed in K4 prior to a workflow change might not pick up all of the changes. I noticed that when I changed permissions for objects at specific statuses the objects would not pick up these new permissions.
The K4 v6 workflow editor is a terrific tool. It is the most important improvement over K4 5.9 and helps eliminate some of the ambiguity of a pure status based workflow.