K2 blackpoint Q&A at MOSSIG

Was a great turnout for MOSSIG tonight – to see the demo+prezzo by Jey Srikantha from jEyLaBs.

Jey covered much of the functionality of K2 blackpoint; there’s just soooo much involved, that it’s tricky to show it all in detail.

Just as a quick overview of what was shown :

  • K2 Web Designer – add a new process, and use a “template” of Approve, Decline, Re-Work – and include some events & user tasks (uses a Silverlight plug-in)
  • K2 Studio – rich-client (desktop) which includes additional designer templates in an Office-2007 style designer
  • K2 Process Portals – SharePoint webparts & site templates for managing the processes deployed within K2 blackpoint. 
  • K2 Worklist + ViewFlow – user interaction and reporting views

While I’d seen much of the functionality already, but was good to see/hear the reaction from attendees – and there were lots of questions.

I wanted to provide a further “take” on the whole blackpoint/blackpearl equation – and “document” some of the questions+answers…>

What is blackpoint and what is blackpearl ?

One of the analogies I like to use (for developers) is the “Visual Studio” approach.   Firstly, think of Visual Studio Express, and then Visual Studio Professional.  Each of these products have a bunch of project-types & functionality that you create.  

And – while the projects you can create in “Express” is limited, you can easily upgrade to “Professional” – and open the same projects and continue – with more features & functions.

The analogy here is :

  • K2 blackpoint is akin to Visual Studio Express
  • K2 blackpearl is akin to Visual Studio Professional

Another way to say it – is that one is a subset – and the other is the super-set :

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Can you include code / is there an API / can you add new activities ?

Some of the discussion related to being able to start workflows via code, or being able to add new activities to the designer, and so forth.  

In essence, what’s the “extensibility” level of K2 blackpoint ?    (for developers)

Much of the answer was simply “uuum, No – you’d need K2 blackpearl for that”.  

And yes, sorry to disappoint, but the K2 blackpoint product is intended to provide a huge wealth of functionality for SharePoint workflow – that doesn’t NEED to delve into any code – and there’s a LOT you can do within the bounds of the functionality.

If you need to “outgrow” the bounds of what K2 blackpoint can provide, then you may need to consider looking at K2 blackpearl instead.

Just like the analogy of Visual Studio – the different versions of the product have different inclusions – eg. if you need Source Code control, you need to use “Professional” instead of “Express”

What’s the upgrade path ?

As above, there (will be) the ability to simply do an in-place upgrade from K2 blackpoint to K2 blackpearl.   This will mean that the new features of “pearl” will be immediately available.  This includes the following :

  • Licensing upgrade – the principle is that this will be a simply “license key” change.  Obviously there will be some licensing fees involved – this can be determined on a case-by-case basis from K2.
  • Installation upgrade – in principle (again), this will be a simple “SETUP.EXE” installation.   At present, this is not really an option – until the K2 blackpearl product has a minor update to include the K2 Studio, K2 Silverlight Designer and K2 Process Portals.  This is expected very soon – the latest I’d heard is that there is a BETA release due in April (ie. next month).  This will also support the 2008 stack (Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 – and Visual Studio 2008) – will be a big release indeed !

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If there are any other questions/comments about the session at MOSSIG – or K2 blackpoint in general, pls. feel free to enter a comment…>

Click here to see some more info :

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Thanks Jey for tonight’s session at MOSSIG…!

🙂

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K2 WorkList Item Email – How To Change The Mail Template

With K2, there is (most likely) the need to create a user task – ie. a client event of some kind – using InfoPath, ASP.NET, etc. 

And – all you have to do is tick a box and an email will automatically be sent to the user when the task (client event) is created.

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When the user task happens, the user will then get an email looking like this :

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But – if you need to (or want to) CHANGE the look and feel of the email template – how can I does this ??    Well, I’m glad you asked…>

🙂

Deep (deep) within the bowels of the K2 “Program Files” folder, there are a number of EXE’s and CONFIG files – and there’s also a file called…     (take a deep breath !) :

SourceCode.EventBus.ClientRecorder.DLL.mailTemplate

*phew*

The file location is :

C:\Program Files\K2 blackpearl\Host Server\Bin\

This file contains the HTML definition of what that email looks like (above).   And so – you can use your favourite HTML editor to change it all about – I just fiddle away in Visual Studio – the one tool of choice for me…

Quick tip – append a “.HTML” extension and will then have a proper editing experience in Visual Studio – colour coded & preview – just need to fix up some XHTML.

And – make sure you remember to remove the “.HTML” when you’re completed.

Here’s one I’ve prepared for the “DENALLIX” corporation (seen in Visual Studio) :

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IMPORTANT – be sure you take a backup copy of the file – and you MUST retain the value within the text : [UrlWithSN]    This is replaced with the URL to the client event page – ie. an ASPX / Forms Server page.

After saving the file in place with the new layout & so forth – all is done for the template. 

Time to give it a whirl.

  • So – users should see this new layout from now on, right ??    WRONG
  • Just a simple re-start of the K2 Server should pick it up, eh ??   WRONG
  • Re-boot the server (Windows & all) – should pick it up, eh ??   WRONG

Jeez – what do I have to do to use my new mail template !!??!

In fact – this mail template is only loaded when a new client event is created in Visual Studio.  

So – any NEW processes that are developed – and deployed – will have the correct mail format.

BUT – not any process instances that already are underway – or for any new instances of an already deployed process definition.

😦

To demonstrate the concept, I’ll create a new process (very simple) – and we’ll worry about the OTHER process mail templates a bit later (read more below).

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  • Add a “Default Client Event” – just put something like http://www.abcdefg.com for the address – who cares, just want an email to come through.
  • Just need the default action (“Task Completed”)
  • Add a “Default Server Event (Code)” – and add in a line to complete (as above)
  • Deploy the process
  • Jump over to K2 Workspace, and start up a new instance.

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Then – should get an email arrive – just like this :

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That looks great, eh ?    Being HTML, you can configure anything really – including STYLE, height, layout – anything really !   

This is definitely something that you should do BEFORE creating any new K2 processes – but there’s a really clever (MacGuyver) trick for “refreshing” the existing processes that you’ve deployed.  

Meaning that you don’t have to re-edit / re-deploy them all – and any currently running instances will get the fancy new email template / layout.

This involves either of the following :

  • Use the K2 Workspace to view the email “Notification Event” to change what the format of the email will be.   This is a “manual” step – and has to be done one-by-one – I had over 80 listed on my K2 Server – and so I wanted to find an easier way
  • You can use (an unsupported) SQL Server update to “reset/update” the email templates for any “existing” processes – including those underway, and those deployed already.

But – will have to leave that for now.  I’ll detail THOSE approaches in the NEXT post…