K2.NET [Black Pearl] – First Impressions

< Another grab-post from grumpywookie.com >

I’ve been eagerly awaiting a test/trial edition of the new K2.NET Black Pearl product. After a bit of fiddling & some minor hassles, I’ve been able to install K2.NET BlackPearl Beta Tech Refresh 2 (phew!).

Unfortunately, this is a tightly controlled Non Disclosure Agreement program (NDA) – but I can cover a few items & issues that I’ve seen & noticed thus far (only a few hours playtime thus far).

Also – the public site detailing “the upcoming release” will have more information than I can cover in my humble blog. See it here.

Integration with Visual Studio.NET 2005 – Process Designer

One of my gripes with K2.NET 2003 was that there was an entirely separate development environment – entitled “K2.NET Studio“. ($2 coin to whoever came up with THAT naming brain-storm !)

The new version is even more tightly integrated with .NET – to the extent that the underlying workflows created are compiled into DLLs using Windows Workflow Foundation (WF).

And further more, it’s entirely integrated INTO Visual Studio [btw – it’s no longer called Visual Studio.NET – as someone pointed out to me the other day].

Haven’t yet churned out any workflows – but just been poking about in VS.NET (BP-style). Here’s a quick screen-shot.

Lots of great new WPF looking wizards, and config screens, and the use of additional dockable toolbars is helpful – especially many of the tools that used to live on the “File” bar – a pain to get at in multiple succession.

There’s a really nifty “documenter” tool also – within Visual Studio. Must use something like the /// comment blocks to dynamically generate the text – and can then export to RTF. Great for developers.

Additional Designers

You can now (also) create workflows within Microsoft Visio 2007 (1 2) and a web-AJAX designer also – looking very much like the Nintex Workflow Designer. Will get to them later.

For “output” there are the Report Designers (1 2) which generate on-the-fly SQL Server Reporting Services reports) – and the Policy Designer, allowing business users to define “rules” outside of the workflow itself, to build a library of “SmartObjects”.

Lastly, there are the “Forms Designers” – which allow a user to interact with the workflow (otherwise, it’s just a big hunk of spinning digits, with nothing going in or out).

Within K2.NET 2003, this was achieved by coding ASP.NET forms – (optionally) using K2.NET SmartForms objects – which seem to have been deprecated.

You could also use InfoPath (Rich Client) and Sharepoint 2003 and/or 2007 – and WinForms, MCMS, etc.

Being (fully) MOSS-2007 enabled, this swag of forms has been extended to InfoPath Forms Server within MOSS. And the rich-client tools for desktop Office 2007 can now host K2.NET forms.

Of course, you can still use WinForms, and good ol’ ASP.NET forms, for the client event forms as required.

Servers

Not just ONE – there’s now FIVE ! There’s the Host server and Workflow server – as well as the SmartObject server and the SmartFunction server – and don’t forget the Category server (!) I’ll get into each and every one of these in due course.

Managing these servers & other info such as security, artifact library, environment library, etc is now via the Management Console implemented within the “Workspace” as an AJAX environment, rather than an MMC-snap-in (was often a little clunky in parts).

New, new and more New

Lots of stuff to cover, and I’m sure I’ve only just scraped the surface – there’s an entire mountain of detail to climb – I will never-rest until I know it all !

Sorry for the bad puns – that’s especially for those folk who know that “K2″ happens to be the second highest mountain in world – behind Everest.

Hopefully I can share a few of my discoveries and war stories over the coming weeks – without violating any NDA stipulations.

Full Story – K2 [blackpearl]

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