Robotic Process Workflow
This content applies solely to Appian RPA, which must be purchased separately from the Appian base platform.

Robotic processes follow a workflow, or a sequence of tasks. The workflow is the guide that leads the robotic process's operation, determining its starting point and driving it through a series of tasks and actions.

The workflow of an Appian RPA robotic process can be compared to a sequence of tasks performed by a human. Visually, the workflow makes it easy to monitor a robotic process's operation from the console. It enables a global view of all execution phases and allows you to analyze what action the robot is on, when it began, its duration, and its result. The console draws the workflow as the corresponding robotic process operates.

For example, let's suppose one person should perform a task that involves gathering names and contact information from people who have sent their résumés through the company's website. This data then needs to be documented and saved on Notepad, using one line for each name.

Assuming that the data source will always contain at least one résumé, the workflow could look like:


The workflow mimics how a human would go through the process: The person would open Notepad first, then read a résumé, then write the candidate's name and contact information in Notepad. If there are more résumés, the cycle would go back and the person would read the next résumé. If there are no résumés left, the Notepad document would be be saved and closed, reaching the end of the whole process.

Defining the workflow is the first and one of the most important steps for building Appian RPA robotic processes. A good design will make the robot easier to develop.

Looking to speed up your low-code robotic process development? Use the task recorder to capture your interactions in a web browser and automatically create actions in the workflow.


An action represents a single task in the workflow. These actions fall into the following categories:

  • Start: The first or initial action, the starting point of the workflow.
  • Generic: An action by which the robot must perform some specific task before continuing with the next action.
  • Conditional: An action that represents a fork in the workflow. Based on the input, the workflow could proceed in different ways.
  • End: The final action and ending point of the workflow.

When you are developing a robotic process, typically, it's in the first action where variables are initialized and everything needed for the robotic process to accomplish its task is prepared. Then the process will go through each action in the workflow, until it reaches the last one, and the execution ends. The difference between an initial action and a final action lies in their transitions. An initial action has no input transition and one output transition. A final action has at least one input transition and no output transition.

The color of the action in the workflow depends on the method you associate with the action:

Workflow Color Action Type Association
rpa-action-grey.png start, generic, end No method
rpa-action-dark-grey.png conditional No method or any method from either the Methods or Workflow libraries groups
rpa-action-indigo.png generic A single method from either the Methods or Workflow libraries groups
rpa-action-turquoise.png any A single method from the Modules group
rpa-action-teal.png start, generic, end Multiple methods from any group
rpa-action-navy-blue.png start, generic, end A custom section of the workflow
2232714.png start, end The start or end method.

In the workflow, actions connect through arrows, representing the workflow's transitions.


Within your workflow, you must associate actions with the robotic process's code so that each action corresponds to a method in the class that implements it.

In the Appian RPA console, actions can be associated with methods from low-code modules, workflow libraries, or custom code you create.


In the console, low-code modules contain methods that you can easily configure without needing to go into your source code. These low-code modules provide a user interface where you can add values to parameters and store returning values in robotic process variables.

You can associate methods from low-code modules with generic and condition actions in a workflow.


Sections allow you to break down complex actions into a set of actions in their own workflow. You can then use sections as actions in the main workflow. Sections operate in a way that's similar to sub-processes in an Appian process model, except they can only be used within the robotic process where they're created. Sections help keep the main workflow organized and make it easier to understand what's happening at a high level.

Sections can be helpful when the robotic process is set up to repeat the same actions multiple times. For example, rather than building a loop with four actions in the workflow, you can instead create a section for those four actions. Then, you can add the section as one action in the main workflow.

By default, every workflow has a Setup, Main Section, and a Clean up section. You can define multiple additional sections inside the same workflow. There's no limit to the number of additional sections that can be incorporated into the workflow. You can create a section manually using the instruction below, or create a section automatically by importing a Selenium file or using the task recorder. When you save your recording in the task recorder, the tool creates a new section with the captured workflow actions.

Setup section

Certain tasks may need to be completed to prepare the resource for an item execution. You can define those actions in the setup section of the workflow.

If you use credentials in a setup section, the credentials are reserved and won't be released until the clean up section successfully completes. This may impact credential availability if the setup and clean up sections are skipped for consecutive executions. See Execution Settings to learn more about how the robotic process behaves when the setup and clean up sections are skipped for consecutive executions.

Clean up section

Whether the robotic process ended successfully or not, the end of an execution is a good moment to close the applications that the robotic process has opened or send the files generated during execution to the server. It's important to reset the resource to its previous conditions so subsequent robotic processes can execute successfully. Without consistent starting conditions, other robotic processes may not be able to start or complete.


In the clean up section, you can configure the steps the robotic process should take when it's complete, such as closing programs it opened. Remember that the steps you configure in this section only apply to the robotic process you're currently configuring.

You don't need to add the clean up section to your main workflow. The robotic process will always execute the clean up actions.

If the same robotic process executes multiple times consecutively, you have the option to skip the setup and clean up sections for faster executions.

Workflow checks

When saving a workflow, Appian RPA performs some checks. If the workflow fails these checks, Appian RPA saves the workflow, but displays a warning message.

Appian RPA checks that:

  • There are, at least, one initial action and one final action.
  • All actions have associated text.
  • All actions are interconnected through at least one transition.
  • All actions have one and only one output transition, except conditional actions.
  • All actions have one associated method.
  • All conditional action's outputs have one associated literal. These literals must match each possible value of the return instructions present in the code of the method used. You can leave one output with no literal definition, assuming this case is the empty string option (""). When the associated conditional method returns a boolean, the literal for the connections must be either "true" or "false".
  • Conditional actions' outputs are not repeated.

Configure a robotic process workflow

Required role: Developer or Administrator

You can undo the changes at any time by clicking on Undo 2232754.png in the workflow toolbar.

To configure a robotic process workflow:

  1. Go to the Robotic processes tab.
  2. Find the robotic process you want to configure in the list.
  3. Click Configure 2236505.png in the Actions column.
  4. Go to the Task tab of the robotic process configuration page.
  5. Find the Workflow. The workflow contains default elements depending on the template you used to create the robotic process. For example, the Blank workflow template includes Init and End actions by default.
  6. (Optional) Associate a library with the workflow.
  7. Add actions to the workflow.
  8. Configure the actions you added.
  9. Add transition arrows to make connections between actions.
  10. (Optional) Add sections to the workflow.
  11. Adjust the workflow to change the order or the visual presentation of actions.
  12. Click SAVE CHANGES in the page toolbar.
  13. (Optional) Review the workflow outside of the console. To download the workflow image in SVG format, click Download 2232749.png in the workflow toolbar.

While configuring a workflow, you can use the following icons in the workflow toolbar:

Icon Description
rpa-export-workflow.png Export the selected actions and relations of the workflow.
rpa-import-workflow.png Import actions and relations into the workflow.
2232733.png Import from file.

Associate a workflow library with the workflow

To associate a workflow library with the workflow:

  1. Click Workflow libraries 2232702.png in the workflow toolbar.
  2. In the Used workflow libraries field, select one or more workflow libraries available in your environment.
  3. Click OK.
  4. Click SAVE CHANGES in the page toolbar.

Add an action to a workflow

When you add an action to a workflow, no method is associated with the action until you configure the action.

To add an action to a workflow:

  1. In the workflow toolbar, click the icon for the type of action you want to add:

    Icon Description
    2232714.png Create a start/end action.
    rpa-task-icon.png Add a generic action (task).
    2232755.png Add a conditional action (decision).
  2. Name the action you added:
    • Double-click the action. A text box displays.
    • Type a name.
    • Click away from the text box to save the name.
  3. Click SAVE CHANGES in the page toolbar.

Configure an action

You can associate the action with any of the following:

  • No action (useful while your workflow design is in progress)
  • A single method
  • Multiple methods
  • A custom section of the workflow

To quickly configure many actions at once, you can record a series of interactions in the Task Recorder instead of configuring each manually.

To associate an action with one or more methods:

  1. In the workflow, click the action to select it.
  2. Click the list icon 951644.png. The action configuration window displays.


    In the Actions tree, methods display in the following groups:

    1. Methods: Methods written in the robotic process's source code, specifically in the class annotated with \@Robot.
    2. Modules: A list of low-code methods. Modules contain methods that are not developed by an Appian RPA developer in the source code. They can be seen as default actions on elements a robotic process interacts with. Each of the methods explain what they do and provide the necessary fields for each method.
    3. Libraries: Custom methods written by Appian RPA developers that are shared across multiple robots.

    If you selected a conditional action, only low-code modules that return boolean or string values appear in the Modules group.

    Want to call specific methods of the API to execute arbitrary code? Use the Execute code or Execute code with result methods in the Robot low-code module. Only Groovy scripts are supported.

  3. To associate a single method with the action, browse to and select a method in the Actions tree. The right-hand pane displays the method and any available parameters that can be added or values that can be stored.


  4. (Generic actions only) To associate multiple methods with the action, do the following for each method you want to associate with the action:
    • In the Actions tree, hover your mouse over a method. The Add action icon add_action_icon.png displays.
    • Click Add action add_action_icon.png. The method displays in the Multiple Actions section of the Actions tree, and the right-hand pane displays the method and its parameters.


    Methods are executed in the order they appear in the Multiple Actions section. Drag and drop methods within the section to change the order.

    To quickly duplicate a method in the Multiple Actions section, hover over the method, then click the Add action icon add_action_icon.png that displays. To remove a method from the Multiple Actions section, hover over the method, then click Delete 8028488.png that displays.

  5. If your selected method includes CONFIGURATION parameters, configure the parameters as appropriate:
    • Enter a static value.
    • Select a robotic process variable from a picker.
    • Use the Expression editor to write an Appian expression. You can reference a robotic process variable in the Expression editor using pv! and concatenate variables as needed.

    For example:


  6. If your selected method includes OUTPUT parameters, configure the following parameters:
    • Operator: Select an option to store the value as a single-value variable (is stored as) or add the value as a multiple-value variable (is appended to).
    • Target: Enter the name of the robotic process variable where you want to store or append the value. If your process variable is type CDT, you can specify which field of a CDT to store the value into using dot notation.
  7. Configure the AFTER COMPLETION parameters:
    • Wait before executing next action: Enter the number of seconds the robotic process waits before it continues to the next action in the workflow.
    • Take a screenshot: If you select this option, the robotic process takes a screenshot of the resource immediately after the action completes successfully.
  8. Click OK to save your changes to the action.
  9. Click SAVE CHANGES in the page toolbar.

To associate an action with a custom section:

  1. In the workflow, click the action to select it.
  2. Click the list icon 951644.png. The action configuration window displays.
  3. In the Actions tree, select a custom section from the Sections group.
  4. Click OK to save your changes to the action. The color of the action in the workflow changes to dark blue (rpa-task-icon.png).
  5. Click SAVE CHANGES in the page toolbar.

When you use the task recorder, your recorded actions appear as a new section in the workflow editor.

Add a transition arrow

In the workflow, actions connect through arrows, representing the workflow's transitions.

To add a transition arrow between actions:

  1. In the workflow, click the action where you want the arrow to originate.


  2. Click on any of the connector points on the originating action.
  3. Drag and drop onto the destination action. The editor assists you in "pasting" the arrow to the destination action.
  4. Click SAVE CHANGES in the page toolbar.

If you want to insert a new action between two existing actions, first delete the transition arrow by selecting the arrow and clicking delete on your keyboard. Move the action between the existing actions and connect the actions in a series.


To remove a transition arrow:

  1. In the workflow, click on the arrow to select it.
  2. Drag the arrow's connection point away from either of the connected actions. The arrow disappears.
  3. Click SAVE CHANGES in the page toolbar.

Create a section manually

To create a custom section in a workflow:

  1. Click Create section rpa-add-section-icon.png in the Workflow header. The Add section window appears.
  2. Enter a name for the custom section in the Title field.
  3. Click OK. The new, blank section displays.
  4. Design the section's workflow. You'll need to add at least two actions: initial (start) and final (end).
  5. Click SAVE CHANGES in the page toolbar.
  6. Associate the custom section with an action in the Main Section.

To edit a custom section in a workflow:

  1. Select the section you want to edit from the section dropdown in the workflow toolbar.
  2. Make your changes to the custom section.
  3. Click SAVE CHANGES in the page toolbar.

To delete a custom section in a workflow:

  1. Select the selection you want to delete from the section dropdown in the Workflow header.
  2. Click Remove section rpa-delete-icon.png in the workflow toolbar.
  3. Click SAVE CHANGES in the page toolbar.

Create a workflow section using Selenium

Appian RPA has a native task recorder that makes automatically developing a section even faster.

Robotic processes are designed to interact with interfaces in the same way as human beings. To emulate a human being's actions on the screen, a developer needs to consider every step in the process: every click, every pause, and every text input. It can be difficult to trace every single step you take when interacting with a website or program. Selenium IDE is a browser automation tool you can use to build a script that captures these actions. You can import the Selenium script to Appian RPA to automatically create workflow actions to match the ones you recorded.

Appian doesn't support the Selenium tool itself, only the ability to import Selenium files to auto-generate a section. This documentation describes the steps and best practices to create a file to import in Appian RPA. For help and support, consult the Selenium documentation.

You can add Selenium IDE as an extension to your preferred browser for quick access. To get started, download Selenium IDE.

Best practices

Before you record a workflow, keep these tips in mind:

  • Determine the key steps in the process. One benefit of robotic process automation is repeatedly handling routine tasks. Each step in the process impacts how long the robotic process takes to complete the execution. Before you record your actions in Selenium, think through your movements and interactions on the screen so they are as efficient as possible. An efficient Selenium script makes your robotic process efficient as well.
  • Be mindful of limitations. Appian RPA accepts Selenium files (.side) with up to 10 tests and 50 commands per test. Plan your recordings with these limitations in mind.

Supported actions

Use the following table to see how Selenium actions will be configured as Appian RPA actions. If a Selenium action isn't listed, it's ignored during import. Learn more about Selenium Commands and Browser module methods.

Selenium Action Browser Action
Add selection Interact with element
Assert checked Wait for attribute
Assert editable Wait for attribute
Assert not checked Wait for attribute
Assert not editable Wait for attribute
Assert not selected value Get attribute
Assert not text Get attribute
Assert selected label Get attribute
Assert selected value Get attribute
Assert text Wait for attribute
Assert value Wait for attribute
Check Interact with element
Click Interact with element
Double click Interact with element
Edit content Interact with element
Remove selection Interact with element
Select frame Select frame
Selection Interact with element
Store attribute Get attribute
Store text Get attribute
Store value Get attribute
Type Interact with element
Uncheck Interact with element
Verify checked Wait for attribute
Verify editable Wait for attribute
Verify not checked Wait for attribute
Verify not editable Wait for attribute
Verify not selected value Get attribute
Verify not text Get attribute
Verify selected label Get attribute
Verify selected value Get attribute
Verify text Wait for attribute
Verify value Wait for attribute

Capture a workflow using Selenium

  1. Launch the Selenium IDE.
  2. If this is your first test, select Record new test in a new project.
  3. Enter a Project Name.
  4. Enter a Base URL. This is where your test will start recording.
  5. Click Start recording. A new browser window opens, navigates to the base URL you specified, and begins recording. During recording, you can see the actions captured in the Selenium IDE window. rpa-selenium-recording.png
  6. When you're finished recording, save the project. You're prompted to save it to your computer as a .side file.

Selenium lets you modify recorded commands and insert additional commands for actions that aren't easily captured during your recording. If you insert or modify commands, refer to the Supported Actions table to make sure the actions will be imported properly.

Before you import the workflow to Appian RPA, it's a good idea to use Selenium's playback tool to confirm the script acts as you expect. Make changes to the Selenium script before importing to Appian RPA to save time debugging.

Import a Selenium script to Appian RPA

Import the Selenium file to automatically create actions in a robotic process workflow in Appian RPA.

To import a Selenium file as a section in a workflow:

  1. Click Import section from Selenium file 2232766.png in the Workflow header.
  2. Click Upload to browse for the .side file, or drag and drop it in the Import section dialog. The import tool only accepts .side files with a maximum of 10 tests and 50 commands per test. Appian RPA alerts you to these errors if the file exceeds the limits, is the incorrect type, or contains invalid content.
  3. Click Continue to proceed to Configure section(s). Here, you'll see any commands that aren't supported and won't be imported. You can also rename the section.
  4. Click Import. Appian RPA parses the Selenium file to actions in a new workflow section.
  5. Open each of the actions in the workflow to confirm the parsing.
  6. (Optional) Change the section name. The section's name matches your recording name and is saved automatically.
  7. Configure additional options in the workflow's actions, such as storing outputs to variables. You may also want to configure wait, failure, and screenshot options.
  8. (Optional) Add more actions to the workflow. You'll need to manually add actions for steps that weren't imported or easily recorded, such as conditional actions.
  9. When you're finished and ready to use the section in the main workflow, click SAVE CHANGES in the page toolbar.

Use the new section in your workflow

In the main workflow, you can associate the section with an action.

Adjust the workflow

To adjust the order or visual presentation of a workflow, you can use the following icons in the workflow toolbar:

Icon Description
2232766.png Add an informative note to the workflow. The note does not affect the workflow itself. You can configure the display aspects of the note.
2232768.png Select all actions of the workflow and their relations.
2232701.png Reset the workflow's size.
2232722.png Set the workflow's zoom level at 100%.
2232685.png Zoom out of the workflow.
2232684.png Zoom in on the workflow.
2232763.png Aligns to the left all the selected elements in the workflow.
2232718.png Centers horizontally all the selected elements in the workflow.
2232771.png Aligns to the right all the selected elements in the workflow.
2232767.png Aligns to the top all the selected elements in the workflow.
2232774.png Centers vertically all the selected elements in the workflow.
2232725.png Aligns to the bottom all the selected elements in the workflow.

You can resize an individual action by selecting the action, then clicking and dragging on the double-arrow icon 951643.png.

For example, a modified workflow could look like the following:


When you import actions into a workflow, their original position in the editor is kept. Therefore, some actions could overlap with others, even hiding those previously in the editor. In these cases, you should select them and move them apart to check if the import was successful.

Move an action

To move a single action within a workflow section, drag and drop the action to a new position. After moving an action, you might need to adjust the transition arrows for that action.

You can also select multiple actions, then drag and drop the actions as a group.

Select multiple actions

You can select two or more actions at the same time, which can be useful when moving, deleting, or exporting actions in a workflow.

To select more than one action simultaneously, hold the Ctrl key (Windows) or Command key (Mac) and click each action to select. To select all actions, click Select all 2232768.png in the workflow toolbar.

When you export multiple actions, Appian RPA makes the selected actions serialized, producing a string that can be stored in a file or shared by any means that allows plain text communications. You can use this string to import multiple actions at a later time. A text field will ask you to enter the values serialized by the export option.

Delete an action

  1. In the workflow, click the action to select it.
  2. Press the Delete or Backspace key on your keyboard.
  3. Click SAVE CHANGES in the page toolbar.

Configure an informative note

You can change the background color and text color for an informative note action.

To configure an informative note:

  1. Click the note action.
  2. Click the list icon 951644.png. The action configuration window displays.
  3. To change the background color for the note:
    • Click the Background icon.
    • Click the color option you want to select.
  4. To change the text color for the note:
    • Click the Text icon.
    • Click the color option you want to select.
  5. Click OK.
  6. Click SAVE CHANGES in the page toolbar.

Import a workflow

You can also import a workflow from a BPMN file. When processing the BPMN file, the console reads the BPMN tags defined in the file and map them to the appropriate workflow components:

Tag Workflow component
bpmn:process Section
bpmn:subProcess Section
bpmn:startEvent Init
bpmn:endEvent End
bpmn:task Action
bpmn:globalTask Action
bpmn:intermediateThrowEvent Action
bpmn:intermediateCatchEvent Action
bpmn:exclusiveGateway Conditional Action
bpmn:sequenceFlow Arrow
bpmn:dataObject Note
bpmn:dataStore Note
bpmn:dataObjectReference Note
bpmn:dataStoreReference Note
bpmn:message Note
bpmn:collaboration Note
bpmn:textAnnotation Note
bpmn:text Note

To import a workflow from a BPMN file:

  1. Click Import from file 2232733.png in the workflow toolbar.
  2. Browse to and select the BPMN file you want to import.
  3. Click OK. The console processes the file, and the imported workflow appears in the Workflow area.
  4. Click SAVE CHANGES in the page toolbar.
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