Foundations of Workflow: An Introduction to Windows Workflow Foundation

Brian R. Myers, Apress, October 2006, 978-1-59059-718-7

Workflow is the one thing that most applications have in common.  If you’re building an ecommerce application you’ll have order fulfilment and this is just one of the numerous examples where you have a workflow that you need to implement.  The one problem, and the one thing that all the workflows have in common, is that they’re nearly always bespoke developments and built entirely in code.  What is needed is a “platform” for building workflows and this is exactly what Microsoft has provided with Windows Workflow Foundation (WF).

With any new technology that is introduced the first release of books tend to be incomplete and, like software, you’re better off waiting for the service pack.  Thankfully Brian Myers’ book doesn’t fall into this category.

The main goal with any book, and in particular with an introductory book such as this, is to explain from the ground up without assuming that you know anything about the topic.  Starting from an introduction to workflow Myer’s book gradually introduces all of the functionality in WF without asking you to learn everything in one fell swoop.

This is accomplished by splitting all of the Activities that WF provides into separate topics and spending a chapter at a time looking solely at that topic.  As well as looking at the different Activities in isolation each chapter also ties together the different Activities by building a real-world application (the obligatory purchase order system).

That isn’t all the book covers though.  As well as the basics the book also has chapters dealing with Web services, integrating with SharePoint and Office 2007, and Deployment.  There is also a chapter that builds an ASP.NET application and looks at the process from analysis all the way through to deployment.

Although this book is well worth the $34.99 cover price it isn’t without its faults.  It is as the title suggests an introductory book and in places you’ll want more detail.  You’ll also be disappointed if you’re a C# developer – the emphasis of the book is VB.NET and you’ll find places where there is no corresponding C# code.

As a beginner’s book you’ll find Foundations of WF ideal.  If you’re looking for something more advanced then I’d suggest waiting for Pro WF: Windows Workflow in .NET 3.0, also by Apress.

Damien Foggon, 15th January 2007