Development Environment Overview

Who is this guide for?

Appian RPA's robotic processes are written in Java. Consequently, you need some knowledge of general programming and Java to develop robotic processes. We also recommend that you're familiar with the technologies and techniques most frequently used in Java programming.

It is also highly recommended some expertise on an IDE like Eclipse or IntelliJ or, at least, a code editor. For robotic process packaging and deployment, you need some knowledge of Maven: function, structure, command operation, etc.

Appian RPA Components

Appian RPA consists of multiple components:

  • a browser-based Console that provides visual information about the processes' execution
  • a server that coordinates all the actions related to robotic process deployment
  • a resource is any computer, piece of equipment or virtual machine running robotic processes
  • an agent to establish communication between the resource and the console to execute robotic processes

The robotic processes run under the strictest security protocols, using encrypted communications (SSL) and protecting resources by using profiles and permissions.

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Please note that agent must be running on the resource, allowing communication with the server, making it possible to interact with the robotic process from the console.

The server, in turn, must be connected to a Nexus repository, where robotic process's binaries are kept. To run a robotic process on a resource, that process must be registered in the Appian RPA Console. By registering it, you are associating the process's binaries with its setup within the console. This relationship is shown in the following picture.

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Resources

The resource is the physical or virtual machine on which a robotic process runs. An agent must be installed and configured on a resource for it to be connected to the Appian RPA Console and properly execute robotic processes.

In the Appian RPA Console, you can setup resources, see information about existing resources, and perform actions.

Learn more about how to setup and use resources.

Agents

The agent is a software component that must be running on the machine where the robots are to be deployed and executed. It keeps the communication with the server to interact with the robotic process from the console.

Learn more about how to setup and use an agent.

Appian RPA Console

The console is the "control room" of robotic processes and execution resources. It is a web application that enables you to control and manage the robotic processes that are registered on the server.

Among other things, it allows you to define, execute/query the robots, set up execution parameters and start/stop executions. It also provides an execution log. From the Console, you can guide the robotic processes' tasks by following a workflow. You can also determine if one resource can be used by a specific process.

Learn more about the Appian RPA Console.

Nexus artifacts repository

Within Appian RPA, there is a repository for binaries, or Nexus artifacts.

This is an essential component because the necessary dependencies to develop and operate your robots are stored in Nexus. You will deploy your robotic porcess in this repository when it's finished, making it available for the console and enabling it to be managed or sent to the agent to run in the resource.

For help with Nexus, visit the Sonatype Help site.

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Development environment

Appian recommends the following development environment for creating robotic processes.

RPA development resource

Appian RPA lets you to deploy, set up and execute robotic processes on one or several resources. A resource is a computer, piece of equipment or virtual machine in which robots can run.

Although you could use the same machine to develop and execute robotic processes, it is recommended that the development environment and the execution environment should be on different resources.

A development resource is the machine in which robotic processes run during the development phase. You need an appropriate license to use a development resource. Please contact your company's Appian RPA administrator.

We recommend separating the development machine (programmer's own computer) from the development resource because the robotic process interacts with the keyboard, mouse, and clipboard in the same way as a human user would, making it more difficult to use in debugging. It is somewhat like two people trying to work on the same machine at the same time.

Appian RPA is compatible with the main virtualization systems, such as Citrix, VMware or VirtualBox.

Every time a resource is mentioned in this guide, it will be referring to the resource in which the robotic process will run.

Checking the environment

Robotic processes can be developed in any environment supporting Java 1.8 or higher, such as Linux, Mac, or Windows. As mentioned earlier, the IDE to be used is Eclipse. The development resource will be a virtual machine running Windows 7. Additionally, development requires the creation of a Maven project.

Let's assume our development environment is the one recommended above. Before you get started, check that your environment is set up appropriately. Below, we'll check the Java JDK version, as well as the Maven version and its integration in Eclipse.

Java JDK

As already noted, regardless of what operating system runs in the machine in which your robots will execute, any environment with Java version 1.8 or higher installed will be enough for you to develop your robots.

Let's begin by opening a terminal session. Enter the command javac -version. If your Java JDK version meets the requirements (version 1.8 or higher), you're good to go. If your version isn't correct, refer to the Configurator topic to learn how to fix it.

You might find that javac is not available in the Path system's environment variable. In such case, you should use the command java --version instead, provided you have a JDK installed. As an alternative, you can navigate to the JDK installation folder and locate the javac executable file.

Maven

To check you Maven version, let's enter the command mvn --version.

This command shows information about the Maven version and what Java version you have installed, and their paths, as well as other information about the operating system.

Eclipse

You can verify that Eclipse is properly integrated and set up with Java and Maven in the preferences window in Eclipse.

  1. In Eclipse, click on Window > Preferences.
  2. Display the Java item and check the Compiler subsection. You should see at Compiler compliance level that the value 1.8 is selected.
  3. Click on the Installed JREs menu and check that the Java 8 JDK is set up.

Now let's check the Maven integration in Eclipse.

  1. Still on the Preferences window, click on Maven.
  2. Go to the Installations section to check that Maven 3 is selected and configured.

It is important that the proper version (3.0 or higher) and the proper installation folder of Maven are set up. In the example above, the installation folder is /usr/share/maven.

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