What is the Access Workflow Designer?

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The Microsoft Office Developer includes the Microsoft Access Workflow Designer for Microsoft SQL Server™, which provides technology and tools to make it possible for developers to build powerful tracking applications. These applications take advantage of the core solution services: workflow processing engine, offline replication, and integrated security. This set of tools and technologies make it much easier for teams to build extensible data-driven applications based on rich tracking application scenarios.

The end result of this technology, the team solution, might best be described as teamware-software that helps a team of individuals work together to accomplish a given process or series of tasks. More specifically, team solutions help improve the productivity of a team by managing workflow — the sequence of steps that make up a process. In addition, a team solution can ensure security and make it possible for users to work offline.

For example, suppose your team requires a mechanism for tracking expense reports. Your team's process might consist of several steps, such as entering the information into a database, submitting the report to a manager for approval, submitting the approved report to accounting for payment, updating accounting information, and reporting expense statistics. That is where the Access Workflow Designer comes in — you can use the designer's tools and technologies to create a customized team solution for organizing and tracking this kind of information.

By defining the workflow process in the team solution, each step of the process is enforced behind the scenes. For example, when a team member enters a new expense report and submits it, the report is automatically assigned to the member's manager based on the member's user information stored in the User Directory or based on rules that you define in script. When the manager approves the report and submits the report to the accounting team, the workflow process enforces the next step and the report is assigned to the appropriate accounting team member. You can even have e-mail sent to the person who submitted the report regarding its approval.

Security features are built in as well — you can control the ability to view or modify information based on a team member's database role. For example, once the expense report has been approved and assigned to the accounting team, you can make sure only the accounting team members have access to sensitive accounting data.

Access Workflow Designer also provides capabilities for team members to work offline. For example, a team member can take the application offline and enter expense report data while out in the field. Upon returning, he can synchronize his offline data with the online data and submit his report.

Of course, what you do with Access Workflow Designer depends on what your team must accomplish. From issue tracking to expense reporting to manufacturing processes, almost any business process that must be tracked can be improved by using Access Workflow Designer.

What's in Microsoft Access Workflow Designer?

There are three components of the Access Workflow Designer package: the server software, developer tools software, and end-user run-time software.

Depending on the components you install, you get the following:

  • An issue tracking team solution template that can be used directly out of the box as is or can be customized to create tracking solutions that are easy to customize and set up.

  • A data-driven, scriptable workflow engine that is extensible and has built-in functions.

  • Integrated support for offline, user directory, and security.

  • Several tools and wizards for creating and modifying team solutions.

Microsoft Office Developer comes with a wealth of documentation to help you create team solutions. The Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN™) Library, which contains volumes of information for developers, can be installed as part of the Microsoft Office Developer Visual Basic® for Applications tools installation. In addition to MSDN, the Access Workflow Designer has two online Help files: the Administrator's Guide and the Developer's Guide.

*Note* For the following links to work properly, you must have both the modAdminGuide.chm and modDevGuide.chm installed on your computer. They are both available on the Microsoft Office Developer CD-ROM.

The Administrator's Guide (modAdminGuide.chm)

The Access Workflow Designer Administrator's Guide is installed as part of both the Access Workflow Designer Server setup and the Tools setup. This documentation includes information required by server and solution managers to make team solutions available to the users.

In the Administrator's Guide, you will find information about:

The framework of the core services and technologies in Access Workflow Designer. The Team Solution Architecture
The functionality that Access Workflow Designer adds to your solution. Access Workflow Designer Core Services
The specific tools, wizards, and services provided by Microsoft Office Developer. Access Workflow Designer Tools
Setting up and managing the server. Managing the Server
Creating and managing team solutions on the server, including installing new solutions from a team template, importing and exporting template files, and managing user information in the User Directory. Managing Team Solutions

The Developer's Guide (modDevGuide.chm)

The Access Workflow Designer Developer's Guide is installed as part of the Access Workflow Designer Tools setup. This documentation includes information required by solution developers to create new team solutions.

In the Developer's Guide, you will find information about:

The framework of the core services and technologies in Access Workflow Designer. The Team Solution Architecture
The functionality that Access Workflow Designer adds to your solution. Access Workflow Designer Core Services
The specific tools, wizards, and services provided by Microsoft Office Developer. Access Workflow Designer Tools
An overview of the steps involved in developing team solutions.
Things to consider before developing a team solution.
The options available for creating new solutions.