Interface Object

Overview

This page describes the features and functionality available when creating interfaces.

Interfaces can be designed, visually by dragging and dropping components, or programmatically, by generating components via expressions. If you are familiar with these concepts and want help in building your interface, see the pages in the Build section of this collection.

interface_designer_panes.png

For functional examples of different design patterns, see the Interface Recipes page. These examples will help you learn key component concepts and can be used as a starting point for your implementation.

Create an interface object

To create an interface object, select NEW > Interface in the Build view. Appian displays an interface ready for you to define.

Start with a template

When the interface has not yet been defined, a list of template options are available in design mode (shown below). These options give you a starting point from which to build your interface.

There are four categories of templates, (1) forms, (2) pages, (3) examples, and (4) builders.

Forms

interface-templates-forms

All forms come with at least a Submit and Cancel button. The different form options represent different arrangements of components and columns.

The Wizard-based templates each contain a functional, multi-page wizard with a confirmation at the end. To modify this for use in your interface, add your own components to the pre-defined pages and add new pages as necessary following the same pattern.

Outlines generate basic expressions for common layouts and use cases. These templates provide structural skeletons to use as a quick starting point that will be enhanced into a richer interface.

Pages

interface-templates-pages

Pages provide only simple arrangements of columns and sections.

Examples

interface templates and examples

Examples are fully-formed interfaces that demonstrate the richness, density, and dynamism that Appian interfaces can offer. These templates are a great way to get ideas on how to display data and to learn how to apply best practices. However, it is not advised to use these templates as a base that you edit to create your own interface. These examples are configured to use specific test data, and you would have to spend significant time editing the example template to adapt the expressions and inputs to your business case.

Builders

interface-templates-builders

Builders allow you to quickly create an interface using existing data in your system.

Create from data type

This option will populate an interface with fields corresponding to the definition in a Custom Data Type (CDT). Simply select a CDT, and choose whether you want the interface to be editable, read-only, or both—then the builder will do the rest. Once the builder is done (it's really fast), Appian displays the generated interface.

All fields defined in the CDT appear as components in the interface. The component type will be a best-match based on the data type of the corresponding field. For example, a text field will be represented with a Text Component in the interface; a date field will be a Date Time Component, etc.

To create an interface based on a CDT:

  1. In the Builders section of the templates pane, click Create from Data Type.
  2. In the Data Type field, start entering the name of the CDT you want to use, then select the CDT from the dropdown list that displays.
  3. Specify what type of action you want users to perform in the interface:
    • Editing Data: Users can edit the CDT data in the interface.
    • Displaying Data: Users can view CDT data in the interface.
    • Both: Users can either view or edit CDT data in the interface, based on whether or not the interface is in read-only mode.
  4. Click Generate. Appian displays the generated interface.

This generated interface contains the following components:

Component Editing Data Displaying Data Both
Layout Form Columns Form
Title The CDT name with prefix and underscores removed. none The CDT name with prefix and underscores removed.
Inputs An editable input component for each field in the selected CDT. A read-only input component for each field in the selected CDT. An input component for each field in the selected CDT. These input components are configured to be editable or read-only based on the readOnly rule input.
Buttons Cancel and Submit none Cancel and Submit
Rule Inputs selected CDT and cancel selected CDT selected CDT, cancel, and readOnly

These rule inputs and interface components are connected as follows:

  • selected CDT (CDT): All fields defined in the CDT are already connected to the pre-populated components, including the Submit button.
  • cancel (Boolean): This rule input is connected to the Cancel button.
  • readOnly (Boolean): This rule input is referenced by every component's Read Only parameter. When true, the components will not be editable. This is a common design pattern for reusing the same interface as both the input form and the display form. See Reusing Interfaces for more information.

Duplicate an interface

Developers with Viewer permissions to this object can duplicate it. There are two ways to duplicate an object:

  • From any view in an application, you can select the object you wish to duplicate and use the toolbar option to launch the duplication dialog. The duplicated object will be added to the application you're working in. This capability is only available for single object selections from the grid.
  • If you are in an interface, expression rule, integration or decision object, you can select Duplicate from the object's settings menu . From there, you can specify the target application for the new object.

Once you select the Duplicate option, you will see the following dialog:

object duplication dialog

You can only duplicate the most recent version of an object. If you have unsaved changes and attempt to duplicate the object from within the designer, the most recent saved version of the object will be duplicated without the unsaved changes. A banner appears when there are unsaved changes to remind you before duplicating.

object duplication dialog with unsaved changes

Set interface properties

To modify the interface properties, go to Properties in the Settings menu, as shown below.

screenshot of the Properties option selected in the Settings menu

This opens the Interface Properties dialog, where you can modify the description, folder, and make the interface available for offline use. For more information about offline interfaces, see our offline mobile overview.

Properties

Each interface has the following properties.

Property Description
Name The name that will be used when executing an interface. Names are case-insensitive, but we recommend following the recommended naming standard. Interfaces can be renamed in Appian Designer; see Renaming Design Objects for more information.
Description Supplemental information about the interface that is displayed in the expression editor and the objects grid of some Designer views.
Save In The rule folder that the interface is saved into.
Make Available Offline Makes an interface available for offline mobile. Only applicable if offline mobile is enabled for the environment in the Admin Console. Only enable if you have users who need to use the interface offline. On mobile, offline enabled forms will function as if they aren’t connected to the server, even when online. This may affect your interface design and functionality, so fully test offline interfaces on a mobile device. To learn about offline mobile and how it impacts interface design, check out the Offline Mobile Overview and our Design Best Practices for Offline Mobile.
Rule Inputs Rule inputs are used to pass data in and out of an interface. Rule inputs are configured within the interface object.
  • Name: The name that will be used when referencing the input within the interface definition, such as ri!input, or when passing arguments by keyword. Input names are case insensitive and must be unique within a given interface.
  • Description: Supplemental information about the rule input.
  • Type: Rule inputs can be either a system or custom data type.
  • Array: Rule inputs can be either a single value or an array of values.
Default Test Values A common test scenario that can be used when modifying or testing an interface. Default test values are configured within the interface object.
Interface Definition The interface is defined using an expression that returns one or more interface components. The definition is configured within the interface object, using either design mode or expression mode.

Editing rule inputs

As naming conventions and requirements evolve, you may need to update the names of your inputs to certain objects. Over time, rules and interfaces can gather many dependents. This can make manual changes to update any keyword references to rules and interfaces difficult and prone to human error.

If you update the name of an input while editing an expression rule or interface, Appian will update any keyword references to that rule input in dependent objects.

There are certain cases when Appian cannot update the dependent object(s):

  1. The design object is locked.
  2. The design object is not an expression rule or interface.
  3. The design object does not use keyword syntax.
  4. There are more than 20 direct dependents.

If there is a blue banner in the rule inputs pane, Appian is going to attempt an automatic update of the keyword references.

/rule-input-rename-info-banner

After you save your changes, a dialog will appear with a summary of what dependent objects were updated and any that you may need to update manually.

If you accidentally exit the rename dialog before you've completed all manual updates, use design guidance to find the remaining objects to update. Any object using the wrong keyword reference will be flagged with the invalid keyword syntax design guidance on the health dashboard.

All objects that are updated automatically as a result of the rename will show the developer who renamed the input as the last modifier for the dependent objects.

Edit an interface

When you save a new version of an interface, the latest version will be available immediately. This means that record views, reports, process tasks, and other interfaces that use this interface will immediately use the new version. It is important to carefully consider the impact on running processes when changing interface definitions.

Appian recommends the following best practices to help you manage changes to interfaces:

  • When calling rules in your interface definition, pass rule inputs by keyword.
  • Take advantage of database-backed records and design short-lived processes. See the Records Tutorial page for more information.
  • If you need the version of your interface to remain in sync with the version of your process, create new interfaces instead of new versions. If you need to create a new version of the interface, create conditional logic to execute the new behavior in the new version. Either approach will let older process instances continue to use the old interface behavior.

Speed up interface design with keyboard shortcuts.

Versions

Each time you modify and save an interface, a new version is created. All objects that use the interface will use the latest version. All developers that can view the interface can edit it, and interfaces can be reverted to a previous version at any time.

For information on how to manage object versions, see Managing Object Versions.

Design guidance

While editing your interfaces, you may encounter design guidance. Appian design guidance reinforces best practice design patterns that you should use in your objects. You'll see design guidance for interfaces while editing expressions within the interface or when updating an interface precedent.

When a recommendation or warning is triggered, you'll see an indicator icon in the header (A) and next to the corresponding line in the expression editor (B).

Click on the icon in the header to learn more about the suggested guidance (C) and how to address it.

If a recommendation isn't relevant, you can Dismiss (D) the recommendation. Learn more about recommendation dismissal.

Warnings cannot be dismissed and should always be addressed to avoid complications when the logic in the object is executed.

You can also find interface guidance on the Health Dashboard.

Design guidance is only provided for the interface's saved default test values. See design guidance for the full list of possible guidance.

Save interface as

If your interface is intended to be used as a report or an application action, you can configure that within the interface using Save as… in the Settings menu.

Some fields in the Save As form may be pre-populated with information based on your interface definition and the application that contains the interface.

Save as report

You can create a report directly from within the interface object. This automatically creates a report that calls the interface and makes it available from the Reports tab in Tempo.

To save an interface as a report, use the Report option in the Save Interface As dialog.

/interface object save interface as report

After clicking Save, you will be prompted to set security on your new report. The report will automatically be added to the selected application.

Save as application action

You can create an application action directly from within the interface object. When you do, Appian automatically creates a process model with a start form that calls the interface. The start form includes a process parameter for each input. Then, Appian creates an action on the selected application, making it available from the Actions tab in Tempo.

To save an interface as an action, use the Application Action option in the Save Interface As dialog.

/interface object save interface as application action

After clicking Save, you will be prompted to set security on your new process model. The process model will automatically be added to the selected application and the application will be published.

Interface object security

Any user can invoke any interface that is used by a process, record view, report, or site page they can access. For example, if a user is a member of a group that has Viewer permissions to a Tempo report, they will, by default, be able to view the report's interfaces.

For more information on how to secure Appian objects that can display interfaces to users, see Tempo Report Security, and Appian Records Security.

The security role map of an interface controls which developers can see or modify it and its properties. By default, interfaces inherit the security of the folder that they are saved in. See Editing Object Security to modify an interface's security.

The following table outlines the actions that can be completed for each permission level in an interface's security role map:

Actions Administrator Editor Viewer Deny
Evaluate the interface Yes Yes Yes Yes
View the interface definition Yes Yes Yes No
Duplicate the interface Yes Yes Yes No
Update the interface definition Yes Yes No No
View the security Yes Yes No No
Rename the interface Yes Yes No No
Delete the interface Yes No No No
Update the security Yes No No No

Data security

Security for the data displayed on an interface is based on the security of the underlying data source. Users must have at least Viewer permissions to the data to view it within an interface. If a user does not have Viewer permissions to part of the data on an interface, the interface may fail to load.

Hiding data through interface expression configurations does not secure the underlying data. It only determines what does not display on the interface.

For more information on how to configure the security of the underlying data source, see Data Store Security and Process Security.

Expression evaluation context

In general, the interface expression runs under the context of the user viewing the interface. In the specific case where a user is viewing a process task that has been accepted by another user, the interface expression runs under the context of the task owner (the user who accepted the task).

See the User Contexts for Expressions page for more information on what user context is used when evaluating activity class parameters.

Open in Github Built: Fri, Dec 02, 2022 (04:36:03 PM)

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