Thursday, April 05, 2007

Windows Workflow Foundation - Love at First Sight

I am falling in love with Windows Workflow Foundation (WF). Formely known as WinFX, it is recently released as part of .NET 3.0, becoming a core for a number of Microsoft products, and actively promoted by Microsoft Evangelists along with WCF and WPC.
I took a dive at Windows WF, and loved it. Microsoft got it right. Well, mostly. Here is where they I think they missed:

1) Designer is terrible. Yes it is polished and pretty, but it is a usability disaster. It’s not worse then a typical BMPN product, though. They are all guilty of overwhelming a user with all the complexity of notations and workflow patterns. As a result, most workflow tools suck just like UML based code generators. Too bad Microsoft chose to suck with the most.

A minor usability issue: Activities for a traditional sequential workflow and a state machine workflow are all mixed in the same toolbox. Can I drag this activity to this workflow? Makes a beginner to guess, makes an expert to remember.

2) Enterprise level high availability is either not addressed or hidden. I have not found any stories about failover, clustering, and load balancing.

3) Workflow in web clients is not there yet. But looks like it’s coming, check out

Despite these points, I love Windows WF, at least at first sight. This love is easy to test: just have a second sight. That is what I am going for – a good second sight at Windows WF along with WCF. Meet me at Redmond next week.

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