Application Building Tutorial

The walk-through on this page will help you build your first application for the Appian Application Platform. We will be building a very basic application while learning basic concepts related to application and object security, but we won't be diving into details about designing interfaces, processes, or data. Those topics are covered in detail in other tutorials.

Conceptual Overview

Applications are built using design objects that together form the user interfaces, logic, processes, and data users interact with while doing work in Appian. Every application that you build in Appian should represent a business solution. For example, you would build separate applications for customer relationship management and human resources.

All design objects in Appian are secured separately, including the application object itself. This tutorial walks you through setting up basic security as we go along. As you start to build applications on your own, you should keep in mind that each of the objects that you create won't be available to users unless security is configured correctly. With that said, keep the following things in mind as we work through this tutorial:

  • An application functionally groups the design objects associated with it.
  • Design objects may belong to zero, one, or many applications.
  • To make an application's tasks, records, reports, and actions available to users you must configure security for the design objects, such as processes.

Create the Appian Tutorial Application

We will be creating the Appian Tutorial application for this tutorial. The Appian Tutorial application is the reference application that is used in all of Appian's tutorials. This means that you can reuse this application as you work through the other tutorials.

To create the Appian Tutorial application

  1. Log in to Appian Designer (for example, myappiansite.com/suite/design).
  2. Click New Application.
  3. In the Name field, type Appian Tutorial.
  4. Optionally, in the Description field, add a short description.
  5. Click Create.
    The application contents view displays.

Right now the application is empty. Each design object that you create during the course of this tutorial will appear in this list and automatically be associated with the tutorial application.

It is a best practice to add descriptions to all design objects. However, to save a little time, we are skipping describing how to add descriptions during this tutorial.

It is a best practice to create an object from the context of the application that uses it. For example, we will add a process model to this application in a later step. Since we will create it from the application contents view, it is automatically associated with the Appian Tutorial application.

Add Groups to the Application

One of the first things that you need to do for each new application is to create at least two groups: one for the users who can initiate the action and one for the application's administrators. Groups are important building blocks of an application because they allow you to organize users and assign permissions to the groups of users as you add objects.

Let's create two groups for this application so that we can add security as we go along:

  • AT Action Initiators
  • AT Administrators

To create a group

  1. From the application contents view of the Appian Tutorial application, click New, and then click Group.
  2. In the Create Group dialog, complete the following fields:
    • For Name, type AT Action Initiators
    • Leave the default settings for everything else
  3. Click Create.

Repeat these steps to create the AT Administrators group. You should now have two group objects in your application contents list.

Notice that we used a prefix, AT, in both of the group names. It is a best practice to use a short, unique prefix to identify your application. Initialisms, such as CRM for a customer relationship application, work well as prefixes. This prefix is then used when naming all objects related to the application.

You may have also noticed that we didn't add any members to the groups. You can read more about managing groups and users on the Group Management page.

Create a Process Model

Next, we are going to create a basic process model called AT My First Action and save it in a new folder called AT Process Models. This process model won't include any smart services or user input tasks, but we will publish it so that we can add it as an action later in the tutorial.

To create a process model

  1. Open the application contents view of the Appian Tutorial application.
  2. Click New, and then click Process Model.
  3. In the Create Process Model dialog, complete the following fields:
    • For Name, type AT My First Action
    • Click Create New Process Model Folder, and then name the folder AT Process Models (you do not need to specify a parent folder)
  4. Click Create & Edit.

The process model opens in a new window. If this is your first time using the Process Modeler, you will be given an option to select Process Analyst or Process Designer. We want to select Process Designer so that we can work with the process model. You should see something similar to the process model pictured below after selecting the designer view.

Now let's save and publish the process model. This step is necessary because process models must be published before they can be added as actions.

To publish the process model

  1. Click File, and then click Save & Publish (Ctrl+Alt+S).
  2. Close the Process Modeler.

Add Security to the Process Model

It is a good idea to add security to the process model early on so that you can verify the permissions of various users as you test the process itself. We will grant the following permissions.

Group Permissions Result
AT Action Initiators Initiator Members of this group can start the action
AT Administrators Administrator Members of this group are administrators of the process

To add security to the process model

  1. Select the checkbox of the AT My First Action process model, and the click Security.
  2. In the Process Model Security dialog, click +Users or Groups.
  3. In the Add Users or Groups dialog, complete the following:
    • For Users or Groups, use the picker to select the AT Action Initiators and AT Administrator groups
    • For Permission Level, set the permission level as shown in the table above
    • Click Add
      This is what you will see after you have added both groups.
  4. Click Save Changes.

Add Security to the Application

We should also address the security of the application before we move on. Just like other design objects, the application object needs to have security configured in order to ensure that the right users have access to it. For now, we will grant the following security permissions.

Group Permissions Result
AT Action Initiators Viewer Members of this group can see the action
AT Administrators Administrator Members of this group are administrators of the application

To add security to the application

  1. Click Settings, and then click Application Security.
  2. In the Application Security dialog, click Add User or Group, and then add the groups as described in the table above.
  3. Click Save Changes.

It is important to note that the security of the application object is unrelated to the security of each of the objects contained within the application. This means that you will need to set security permissions for every object in an application in addition to the application object itself. See Securing Applications information about security permissions for the application object.

Add an Action to the Application

Now we are finally ready to add an action to this application. Once the application is published, users who belong to the AT Action Initiators group will be able to see and start this action from a user interface, such as Tempo.

To add the AT My First Action process model as an action

  1. From the Settings Menu, click Application Actions.
  2. In the Actions dialog, click New Action, and then complete the following:
    • For Display Label, type My First Action
    • For Description, type This is a sample description
    • For Process Model, use the picker to select AT My First Action
  3. Click Save Actions

We need to publish the application before we will be able to see the action in Tempo:

  • From the Settings Menu, click Publish Application.

Now that we've created the action, let's navigate to the Actions tab in Tempo and check it out:

  1. Click your user picture, and then click Tempo.
  2. Click Actions.
  3. In the left-hand pane, under Applications, click Appian Tutorial.
    You should see your new action in the list as shown below.

This action won't actually do anything since we haven't added anything to the process model or created any interfaces. Check out the other tutorials for more information about building functionality into applications.

Troubleshooting Tips

If you don't see your action, you should check the security settings and verify that the process model and application are both published:

Export the Application

Now that we have verified the action, we have completed the first stage of development on our application. Normally at this stage, a designer would be ready to export the application from a development environment into a staging environment for testing and validation. Let's see how this process works, even though we aren't going to import this tutorial application into another environment.

To export an application

  1. Click the Settings menu, and then click Export Application.
  2. In the Export Application dialog, leave the default File Name, and then click Export.
  3. After the export completes, click Download package.
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