I’ve had the opportunity to use most aspects of the new PaperVision WorkFlow Designer in the weeks since its release, and I’m happy to see that it’s a real step forward in design and development. There are one or two areas they need to address, but the foundation is there for future enhancements to make it a solid application workflow engine.

To start with, the look is vastly improved, providing a .NET user interface that looks the part. In fact, it’s a look upgrade that could be well applied to the overall PaperVision and ImageSilo sites – maybe tone down some of the sharp edges and make the toolbars more ribbon-like. But I’m no designer, not in that sense. Suffice it to say that it looks the part, but more importantly, it acts the part.

The text based interface provides detailed workstep and task definition information in a structure that is simple to navigate – each workstep laid out nicely with the older, tab-based design now broken down to folders and tables. Multiple workflow definitions can be loaded in the interface, which simplifies edits that take place across more than one project or workflow design. The old PaperVision designer was less navigable on that point, so that’s a great improvement. One minor complaint is that workstep items are purely alphabetical as opposed to being organized primarily by the workflow order and then by alpha – this might be more difficult than I’m making it out to be, though, but it would be an improvement to bring it more in line with other Microsoft workflow tools, like Dynamics CRM.

The graphical interface is still available, but it’s had a major facelift and the controls over individual properties is significantly improved. Gone are the random mapping changes that were such an irritant – assemble your flows visually as you see them in your head, not as the old PaperVision mapping tool decided they should be. So now we can group items, lay them out more intuitively and… well, that’s about it. We’re still missing things like labeling groups or functions, no ability to control the workstep connection, no smart connections, still a small graphics library. So it needs work but it’s a step in the right direction.

One of our users needed some updates done recently in their workflow design, and I took about a half day to ‘rebuild’ a 50-user/90-workstep ImageSilo workflow routine into a visually intuitive representation of the workflow. The end product is so much easier to update and to understand, it was well worth the effort.

So, great new release, really pleased, even if it lacks of few things on my wish list. I look forward to future developments on this WorkFlow Designer on both PaperVision and ImageSilo, and I’ll let you know about them right here.

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