Skip to content

Workflows (OrchardCore.Workflows)

The Workflows module provides a way for users to visually implement business rules using flowchart diagrams.

General Concepts

A workflow is a collection of activities that are connected to each other. These connections are called transitions.
Activities and their transitions are stored in a Workflow Definition.

A workflow is essentially a visual script, where each activity is a statement of that script.

There are two types of activities: Task and Event.
A Task activity typically performs an action, such as publishing a content item, while an Event activity typically listens for an event to happen before execution continues.

In order for a workflow to execute, at least one activity must be marked as the start of the workflow.
Only Event activities can be marked as the start of a workflow.
An example of such an event activity is Content Created, which executes whenever a content item is created.
A workflow can have more than one start event. This allows you to trigger (run) a workflow in response to various types of events.

Each activity has one or more outcomes, which represent a source endpoint from which a connection can be made to the next activity, which are called transitions.
By connecting activities, you are effectively creating a program that can be executed by Orchard in response to a multitude of events.

The workflow editor

  1. Activity Picker (Task / Event)
  2. Activity actions (click an activity to display activity actions)
  3. An activity configured as the starting activity of the workflow.
  4. An activity.
  5. An Outcome ("Done") of an activity.
  6. A transition between two activities (from "Content Created" via the "Done" outcome to the "Send Email" activity).
  7. The workflow editor design surface.
  8. Edit the workflow definition properties (Name, Enabled, etc.)
  9. List the workflow instances for this workflow definition.


When working with Orchard Workflows, you will encounter the following terms:

Workflow Definition

A document (as in a "document-DB" document) that contains all the necessary information about a workflow, such as its name, whether it's enabled or not, its set of activities and their transitions.

Workflow Instance

A document that represents an "instance" of a workflow definition. A workflow instance contains runtime-state of a workflow.
Whenever a workflow is started, a new workflow instance is created of a given workflow definition.


A step in a workflow definition.
An activity performs an action and provides zero or more outcomes, which are used to connect to the next activity to execute.
There are two types of activities: Task and Event.


A specialized type of activity. Tasks perform actions such as sending emails, publishing content and making HTTP requests.


A specialized type of activity.
Like tasks, events can perform actions, but typically all they do is halt the workflow, awaiting an event to happen before continuing on to the next activity.
When an event is configured as the starting activity of a workflow, that workflow is started when that event is triggered.

Workflow Editor

An editor that allows you to create and manage a workflow definition using a drag & drop visual interface.

Activity Editor

Most activities expose settings that can be configured via the activity editor.
To configure an activity, you can either double-click an activity on the design surface of the workflow editor, or click an activity once to activate a small popup that provides various actions you can perform on an activity.
One of these actions is the Edit action.

Activity Picker

When you are in the Workflow Editor, you use the Activity Picker to add activities to the design surface.
Open the activity picker by clicking Add Task or Add Event to add a task or event, respectively.


Each activity has zero or more outcomes. When an activity has executed, it yields control back to the workflow manager along with a list of outcomes.
The workflow manager uses this list of outcomes to determine which activities to execute next.

Although many activities support multiple outcomes, they typically return only one of them when done executing.
For example, the Send Email activity has two possible outcomes: "Done" and "Failed".
When the email was sent successfully, it yields "Done" as the outcome, and "Failed" otherwise.


A transition is the connection between the outcome of one activity to another activity. Transitions are created using drag & drop operations in the workflow editor.

Workflow Manager

A service class that can execute workflows. When a workflow is executed, it takes care of creating a workflow instance which is then executed.

Workflow Execution Context

When the Workflow Manager executes a workflow, it creates an object called the Workflow Execution Context. The Workflow Execution Context is a collection of all information relevant to workflow execution.
For example, it contains a reference to the workflow instance, workflow definition, correlation values, input, output and properties.
Each activity has access to this execution context.


Correlation is the act of associating a workflow instance with one or more identifiers. These identifiers can be anything.
For example, when a workflow has the Content Created event as its starting point, the workflow instance will be associated, or rather correlated to the content item ID that was just created.
This allows long-running workflow scenarios where only workflow instances associated with a given content item ID are resumed.


When a workflow is executed, the caller can provide input to the workflow instance. This input is stored in the Input dictionary of the workflow execution context.
This is analogous to providing arguments to a function.


When a workflow executes, each activity can provide output values to the workflow instance. This output is stored in the Output dictionary of the workflow execution context.
This is analogous to returning values from a function.


When a workflow executes, each activity can set property values to the workflow instance. These properties are stored in the Properties dictionary of the workflow execution context.
Each activity can set and access these properties, allowing a workflow to compute and retrieve information that can then be processed by other activities further down the chain.
This is analogous to a function setting local variables.

Workflow Execution

When a workflow executes, the Workflow Manager creates a Workflow Instance and a Workflow Execution Context.
A workflow instance maintains state about the execution, such as which activity to execute next and state that can be provided by individual activities.
A Workflow Instance is ultimately persisted in the underlying data storage provider, while a Workflow Execution Context exists only in memory for the duration of a workflow execution.
Workflows can be short-running as well as long-running.

Short-running workflows

When a workflow executes without encountering any blocking activities (i.e. activities that wait for an event to occur, such as Signal), the workflow will run to completion in one go.

Long-running workflows

When a workflow executes and encounters a blocking activity (such as an event), the workflow manager will halt execution and persist the workflow instance to the underlying persistence layer.
When the appropriate event is triggered (which could happen seconds, days, weeks or even years from now), the workflow manager will load the workflow instance from storage and resume execution.

Scripts and Expressions

Many activities have settings that can contain either JavaScript or Liquid syntax.
For example, when adding the Notify activity, its editor shows the following fields:
These type of fields allow you to enter Liquid markup, enabling access to system-wide variables and filters as well as variables from the workflow execution context.

JavaScript Functions

The following JavaScript functions are available by default to any activity that supports script expressions:

Function Description Signature
workflow Returns the WorkflowExecutionContext which provides access to all information related to the current workflow execution context. workflow(): WorkflowExecutionContext
workflowId Returns the unique workflow ID. workflowId(): String
input Returns the input parameter with the specified name. Input to the workflow is provided when the workflow is executed by the workflow manager. input(name: string): any
output Sets an output parameter with the specified name. Workflow output can be collected by the invoker of the workflow. output(name: string, value: any): void
property Returns the property value with the specified name. Properties are a dictionary that workflow activities can read and write information from and to. property(name: string): any
lastResult Returns the value that the previous activity provided, if any. lastResult(): any
correlationId Returns the correlation value of the workflow instance. correlationId(): string
signalUrl Returns workflow trigger URL with a protected SAS token into which the specified signal name is encoded. Use this to generate URLs that can be shared with trusted parties to trigger the current workflow if it is blocked on the Signal activity that is configured with the same signal name. signalUrl(signal: string): string

JavaScript Functions in HTTP activities

The following JavaScript functions are available by default to any HTTP activity that supports script expressions:

Function Description Signature
httpContext Returns the HttpContext which encapsulates all HTTP-specific information about an individual HTTP request. httpContext(): HttpContext
queryString Returns the entire query string (including the leading ?) when invoked with no arguments, or the value(s) of the parameter name passed in as an argument. queryString(): String
queryString(name: String): String or Array
responseWrite Writes the argument string directly to the HTTP response stream. responseWrite(text: String): void
absoluteUrl Returns the absolute URL for the relative path argument. absoluteUrl(relativePath: String): String
readBody Returns the raw HTTP request body. readBody(): String
requestForm Returns the value(s) of the form field name passed in as an argument. requestForm(): String
requestForm(name: String): String or Array
deserializeRequestData Deserializes the request data automatically for requests that send JSON or form data. Returns the entire request data as a JSON object. Replaces deprecated queryStringAsJson and requestFormAsJson methods deserializeRequestData(): { "field1": [ "field1-value1", "field1-value2" ], "field2": [ "field2-value1", "field2-value2" ], ... }

Liquid Expressions

The following Liquid tags, properties and filters are available by default to any activity that supports Liquid expressions:

Expression Type Description Example
Workflow.CorrelationId Property Returns the correlation value of the workflow instance. {{ Workflow.CorrelationId }}
Workflow.Input Property Returns the Input dictionary. {{ Workflow.Input["ContentItem"] }}
Workflow.Output Property Returns the Output dictionary. {{ Workflow.Output["SomeResult"] }}
Workflow.Properties Property Returns the Properties dictionary. {{ Workflow.Properties["Foo"] }}
signal_url Filter Returns the workflow trigger URL. You can use the input("Signal") JavaScript method to check which signal is triggered. {{ 'Approved' \| signal_url }}

Instead of using the indexer syntax on the three workflow dictionaries Input, Output and Properties, you can also use dot notation, e.g.:

{{ Workflow.Input.ContentItem }}

Liquid Expressions and ContentItem Events

When handling content related events using a workflow, the content item in question is made available to the workflow via the Input dictionary.
For example, if you have a workflow that starts with the Content Created Event activity, you can send an email or make an HTTP request and reference the content item from liquid-enabled fields as follows:

{{ Workflow.Input.ContentItem | display_url }}
{{ Workflow.Input.ContentItem | display_text }}
{{ Workflow.Input.ContentItem.DisplayText }}

For more examples of supported content item filters, see the documentation on Liquid.

Activities out of the box

The following activities are available with any default Orchard installation:

Activity Type Description
Workflows * *
Correlate Task Correlate the current workflow instance with a value.
For Each Task Iterate over a list.
Fork Task Fork workflow execution into separate paths of execution.
For Loop Task Iterates for N times.
If / Else Task Evaluate a boolean condition and continues execution based on the outcome.
Join Task Join a forked workflow execution back into a single path of execution.
Log Task Write a log entry.
Notify Task Display a notification.
Script Task Execute script and continue execution based on the returned outcome.
Set Output Task Evaluate a script expression and store the result into the workflow's output.
Set Property Task Execute script and continue execution based on the returned outcome.
While Loop Task Iterate while a condition is true.
HTTP Workflow Activities * *
HTTP Redirect Task Redirect the user agent to the specified URL (301/302).
HTTP Request Task Perform a HTTP request to a given URL.
Filter Incoming HTTP Request Event Executes when the specified HTTP request comes in. Similar to an MVC Action Filter.
Signal Event Executes when a signal is triggered.
Email * *
Send Email Task Send an email.
Timer Workflow Activities * *
Timer Event Executes repeatedly according to a specified CRON expression.
Contents * *
Content Created Event Executes when content is created.
Content Deleted Event Executes when content is deleted.
Content Published Event Executes when content is published.
Content Unpublished Event Executes when content is unpublished.
Content Updated Event Executes when content is updated.
Content Versioned Event Executes when content is versioned.
Create Content Task Create a content item.
Delete Content Task Delete a content item.
Publish Content Task Publish a content item.
User * *
ValidateUser Task Used to check if the user is logged in and has the specified role(s).

Developing Custom Activities

Orchard is built to be extended, and the Workflows module is no different. When creating your own module, you can develop custom workflow activities.
Developing custom activities involve the following steps:

  1. Create a new class that directly or indirectly implements IActivity. In most cases, you either derive from TaskActivity or EventActivity, depending on whether your activity represents an event or not. Although not required, it is recommended to keep this class in a folder called Activities.
  2. Create a new display driver class that directly or indirectly implements IDisplayDriver. An activity display driver controls the activity's display on the workflow editor canvas, the activity picker and the activity editor. Although not required, it is recommended to keep this class in a folder called Drivers.
  3. Optionally implement a view model if your activity has properties that the user should be able to configure.
  4. Implement the various Razor views for the various shapes provided by the driver. Although not required, it is recommended to store these files in the Views/Items folder. Note that it is required for your views to be discoverable by the display engine.

Activity Display Types

An activity has the following display types:

  • Thumbnail
  • Design

Thumbnail Used when the activity is rendered as part of the activity picker.

Design Used when the activity is rendered as part of the workflow editor design surface.


IActivity has the following members:

  • Name
  • Category
  • Properties
  • HasEditor
  • GetPossibleOutcomes
  • CanExecuteAsync
  • ExecuteAsync
  • ResumeAsync
  • OnInputReceivedAsync
  • OnWorkflowStartingAsync
  • OnWorkflowStartedAsync
  • OnWorkflowResumingAsync
  • OnWorkflowResumedAsync
  • OnActivityExecutingAsync
  • OnActivityExecutedAsync

The IEvent interface adds the following member:

  • CanStartWorkflow

The following is an example of a simple activity implementation that displays a notification:

public class NotifyTask : TaskActivity
    private readonly INotifier _notifier;
    private readonly IStringLocalizer S;
    private readonly IHtmlLocalizer H;

    public NotifyTask(INotifier notifier, IStringLocalizer<NotifyTask> s, IHtmlLocalizer<NotifyTask> h)
        _notifier = notifier;

        S = s;
        H = h;

    // The technical name of the activity. Activities on a workflow definition reference this name.
    public override string Name => nameof(NotifyTask);

    // The displayed name of the activity, so it can use localization.
    public override LocalizedString DisplayText => S["Notify Task"];

    // The category to which this activity belongs. The activity picker groups activities by this category.
    public override LocalizedString Category => S["UI"];

    // A description of this activity's purpose. 
    public override LocalizedString Description => S["Display a message."];

    // The notification type to display.
    public NotifyType NotificationType
        get => GetProperty<NotifyType>();
        set => SetProperty(value);

    // The message to display.
    public WorkflowExpression<string> Message
        get => GetProperty(() => new WorkflowExpression<string>());
        set => SetProperty(value);

    // Returns the possible outcomes of this activity.
    public override IEnumerable<Outcome> GetPossibleOutcomes(WorkflowContext workflowContext, ActivityContext activityContext)
        return Outcomes(S["Done"]);

    // This is the heart of the activity and actually performs the work to be done.
    public override async Task<ActivityExecutionResult> ExecuteAsync(WorkflowContext workflowContext, ActivityContext activityContext)
        var message = await workflowContext.EvaluateExpressionAsync(Message);
        _notifier.Add(NotificationType, H[message]);
        return Outcomes("Done");

The following is an example of a simple activity display driver:

public class NotifyTaskDisplayDriver : ActivityDisplayDriver<NotifyTask, NotifyTaskViewModel>
    protected override void EditActivity(NotifyTask activity, NotifyTaskViewModel model)
        model.NotificationType = activity.NotificationType;
        model.Message = activity.Message.Expression;

    protected override void UpdateActivity(NotifyTaskViewModel model, NotifyTask activity)
        activity.NotificationType = model.NotificationType;
        activity.Message = new WorkflowExpression<string>(model.Message);

The above code performs a simple mapping of a NotifyTask to a NotifyTaskViewModel and vice versa.
This simple implementation is possible because the actual creation of the necessary editor and display shapes are taken care of by ActivityDisplayDriver<TActivity, TEditViewModel>, which looks like this (modified to focus on the important parts):

public abstract class ActivityDisplayDriver<TActivity, TEditViewModel> : ActivityDisplayDriver<TActivity> where TActivity : class, IActivity where TEditViewModel : class, new()
    private static string ThumbnailshapeType = $"{typeof(TActivity).Name}_Fields_Thumbnail";
    private static string DesignShapeType = $"{typeof(TActivity).Name}_Fields_Design";
    private static string EditShapeType = $"{typeof(TActivity).Name}_Fields_Edit";

    public override IDisplayResult Display(TActivity activity)
        return Combine(
            Shape(ThumbnailshapeType, new ActivityViewModel<TActivity>(activity)).Location("Thumbnail", "Content"),
            Shape(DesignShapeType, new ActivityViewModel<TActivity>(activity)).Location("Design", "Content")

    public override IDisplayResult Edit(TActivity activity)
        return Initialize<TEditViewModel>(EditShapeType, model =>
            return EditActivityAsync(activity, model);

    public async override Task<IDisplayResult> UpdateAsync(TActivity activity, IUpdateModel updater)
        var viewModel = new TEditViewModel();
        if (await updater.TryUpdateModelAsync(viewModel, Prefix))
            await UpdateActivityAsync(viewModel, activity);

        return Edit(activity);

Notice that the shape names are derived from the activity type, effectively implementing a naming convention for the shape template names to use.
Continuing with the NotifyTask example, we now need to create the following Razor files:

  • NotifyTask.Fields.Design.cshtml
  • NotifyTask.Fields.Thumbnail.cshtml
  • NotifyTask.Fields.Edit.cshtml

Last update: July 5, 2021
Authors: Jasmin Savard, Tony Han