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

What is an agent?

The agent is a software component you install on the host machine so it can communicate with the server. The agent must be running on the host machine so that the host machine has access to the data it needs to execute robotic tasks. You can also start a robotic task execution directly on the host machine using the agent.

This page covers the steps to set up the agent and use it to monitor activity on the connected host machine.

To set up the agent, you need to:

  1. Configure the host machine
  2. Determine how to launch the agent
  3. Set up the agent on a Windows host machine or Mac host machine
  4. Check the agent is running

Configuring the host machine

A host machine is a PC or virtual machine where robotic tasks are executed. You can deploy, configure, and execute robots on one or several host machines. A robot requires an agent to be installed and running on the host machine in order to execute a robotic task. Every robot has a corresponding agent, which can only be used on one host machine.

You can create a virtual machine in the leading virtualization systems, such as Citrix, VMware or VirtualBox, to use as a host machine and execute robotic tasks.

To download an agent, first add a robot in the Appian RPA console. You should add a robot for each host machine you plan to use.

Be sure to add the host machines to your Appian environment's firewall allow list, if applicable. The robotic task may not be able to execute successfully if the firewall blocks communication between the agent, host machine, and server.

Determine how to launch the agent

Before a robotic task begins, a user session needs to be started on the host machine so that the agent can establish a connection with Appian. This user session can be started manually or automatically. In both cases, carefully consider which user account you want to use, because the agent will have the same privileges on the host machine as the OS user that's signed in when the agent is launched.

To launch the agent automatically, configure Appian to sign in to the host machine automatically as needed. You can configure Appian to sign in with a user account that has basic or administrator privileges.

If you prefer to launch the agent manually, first sign in to the host machine with a user account that has administrator privileges. The agent needs administrator privileges in case it needs to unblock any locked sessions on a virtual machine. The agent may also need administrator privileges to work with files on the host machine, as well as access the web driver for browser actions. See the FAQ for more information.

Set up the agent on a Windows host machine

Download the agent

You'll download the agent in the Appian RPA console from an available robot. To make setup easier, we recommend that you carry out the following steps on the host machine where you wish to install the agent.

Install and run only one agent per robot. The agent executable file is associated with the robot entry in the Appian RPA console. This file can only be used on one host machine. When you download the agent, any previously installations of the same agent are invalidated. There should be only one agent executable file per directory.

  1. Open the Appian RPA console.
  2. Go to the Robots tab.
  3. In the list, find and click the host machine where you are installing the agent.
  4. In the upper right-hand corner, click DOWNLOAD INSTALLER.

If you plan to run unattended robotic tasks, you may find it helpful to also allow Appian to sign in. When this option is enabled, the installer includes files to install the automatic sign-in service as well as the agent.

You'll need administrator privileges to complete installation when the installer includes the agent and automatic sign-in service.

Install the agent

  1. Open the installer to launch the agent installation wizard.
  2. After reading the License Agreement, click Next.
  3. Choose a Destination Folder located in the user folder of the user account that you'll use to launch the agent. For example, C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local. The installer will create a folder titled Appian RPA in this location with all the necessary files.
  4. Click Install to complete installation.
  5. On the final step of the installation wizard, click Show details to see an installation summary or click Close to finish.

The agent launches automatically after you complete installation.

Manually launch the agent

To launch the agent on a host machine, Java 8 or higher must be installed. You can download Java 8 from Oracle's website. If you don't know what version of Java you have installed, you can find the version in the Java Control Panel on Windows and Mac. For more detailed instructions on finding your version of Java, go to How can I find which version of Java is installed on the Java website.

Download the .msi Java installer from the Oracle website to install on your host machine. The .msi installer sets the Windows registry keys that the agent uses to determine if the correct version of Java is installed. The agent won't be able to detect the Java version if you use another installation file or package.

If you can't install JVM, it is possible to make the agent work using a version downloaded and located beside the agent itself. In this case, contact the Appian support team so they can provide a robot adapted to your needs.

  1. Navigate to the virtual machine.

    Recommendation: Sign in as an administrator when you launch the agent to prevent connection disruptions in the future.

  2. Go to the folder where the agent is located.
  3. Open the file to launch the agent.
  4. Once the agent has started correctly, the Appian icon shows up in the taskbar.

You can check that the agent is running from the host machine and the console.

Set up the agent on a Mac host machine

Download the agent

You'll download the agent in the Appian RPA console from an available robot. To make setup easier, we recommend that you carry out the following steps on the host machine where you wish to install the agent.

Install and run only one agent per host machine. The agent executable file is associated with the robot entry in the Appian RPA console and can only be used on one host machine. When you download the agent, any previously installations of the same agent are invalidated. There should be only one agent executable file per directory.

  1. Open the Appian RPA console.
  2. Go to the Resources tab.
  3. In the list, find and click the host machine where you are installing the agent.
  4. In the upper right-hand corner, click DOWNLOAD AGENT.
  5. Save the agent file in an empty folder that's easy to access. For example, you could create a new folder AppianRPA on the desktop.

Launch the agent

To launch the agent on a host machine, Java 8 or higher must be installed. You can download Java 8 from Oracle's website. If you don't know what version of Java you have installed, you can find the version in the Java Control Panel on Windows and Mac. For more detailed instructions on finding your version of Java, go to How can I find which version of Java is installed on the Java website.

If you can't install JVM, it is possible to make the agent work using a version downloaded and located beside the agent itself. In this case, contact the Appian support team so they can provide a robot adapted to your needs.

To launch the agent on Mac or Linux:

  1. Navigate to the host machine.

    Recommendation: Sign in as an administrator when you launch the agent to prevent connection disruptions in the future.

  2. Open the terminal.
  3. Change the location to the directory where the agent is located.
  4. Grant permissions to the agent file using the command: chmod +x AppianRPAagent.run.
  5. Run the file using the command ./AppianRPAagent.run.
  6. Keep this terminal window open to maintain the connection to the console.

You can check that the agent is running from the host machine and the console.

Check the agent is running

To check that the agent is running on the host machine, look at the taskbar. The agent icon color appears blue when the agent is connected to the console.

rpa-agent-system-icon.png

You can also select Element inspector in the menu to check whether the connection is established or not.

To check that the agent is running on the console, go to the Robots tab. The robot's status is Online if the agent is properly connected and running.

Once the robot is configured, the agent is running and ready to execute robotic tasks.

Agent menu

To view the agent's menu, right-click on the agent icon. You'll see a number of options.

rpa-agent-menu.png

Robots

The Robots menu lists robotic tasks available for this host machine. Click on a robotic task to execute it. You should only run robotic tasks that do not have required input variables on their setup. If you launch a robotic task with required input variables in this way, the process won't run properly because it doesn't have the variables it needs to begin the execution.

Element inspector

The Element inspector shows information to help you develop your robotic task.

951556.png

The Element inspector is a tool that shows detailed information about the application elements with which your robotic tasks are going to interact (buttons, text fields, menus, etc.). The information provided is different depending on your robotic task's development strategy: keyboard commands, Windows API, image recognition, etc.

Additionally, this tool informs you of the connection status of the host machine with the server, the position of the mouse pointer on the screen, and information about the active windows and controls. This window is very helpful for finding out the position of any control that your robotic task needs to interact with.

Your robotic tasks can interact with Windows controls using their IDs, which the element inspector provides. To get the ID, place your mouse over the control on the active window. The ID appears in the Control > Identifier area of the element inspector. You can use the ID to reference that control from a robotic task and use it to read or enter data.

IDs may vary depending on the operating system version. Make sure you are running your robotic task on robots that use the same operating system version as the one used for its development.

Protect desktop

The Protect desktop option allows you to protect the desktop where the agent is running. This option obscures the screen so no one can see what's happening during execution. The window that appears covering the screen is an "invisible" window. If a user right-clicks on the screen, they would see the desktop menu.

To disable this window, click in the zone where the taskbar should be. When the taskbar appears, click on the agent again to deactivate desktop protection.

Create support image

You can use the agent to capture images and send them to robotic tasks that will use them as support files.

Learn more about this option on the Image Recognition module page.

Generate config file

The configuration file is optional. If one exists, it must be in the same folder as agent's executable file. Both the agent and the file must share the same name, ignoring the extensions: <name>.exe for the client, and <name>.l4j.ini for the file.

The purpose is to customize the agent's JVM with values that are unknown at the time of being used, or with values that are expected to change throughout the robotic task's life. The configuration file is basically a properties file, in which each property takes up one line with the same format as system properties definitions (-D\<name\>=\<value\>) when you launch a Java program from the command line.

The most common parameters used in this file include:

  • Debug in "Listen" mode:
    • -Xdebug
    • -Xrunjdwp:transport=dt_socket,server=y,suspend=n,address=[PORT]
  • Debug in "Attach" mode:
    • -Xdebug
    • -Xrunjdwp:transport=dt_socket,server=n,suspend=n,address=[X.X.X.X]:[PORT]
  • Most often used parameters for proxy connections:
    • -Dhttp.proxyUser=USER
    • -Dhttp.proxyPassword=PASSWORD (the password can be encrypted using the agent itself)
    • -Dhttp.proxyHost=DIRECTION_PROXY
    • -Dhttp.proxyPort=8080
  • Run the agent increasing its associated memory (for example, 1GB):
    • -Xmx1Gb

Password encryption

Select Password encryption in the menu to obtain a hash from a password in plain text. This enables you to include encrypted passwords in the jidoka.l4j.ini configuration file, if necessary. The agent can detect if it is an encrypted password and will process it accordingly, thus protecting sensitive information.

Agent directory hierarchy

When you launch a robotic task, the agent communicates with the server and downloads the libraries and artifacts needed for execution. This download is done only for the first execution of that robotic task, since at that time no library has been downloaded to the host machine. In later executions, these libraries should be available on the host machine, and they will be downloaded only if they are not found. The number of libraries to download depends on the dependencies and modules used during development.

It is important that the agent is in a folder whose full path has no blanks to prevent it from encountering any problem during a robotic task execution.

The directory hierarchy is described below, assuming the agent is in the folder C:\AppianRPA. Upon execution, the agent will create the correct files and folders within C:\AppianRPA and run the robotic task.

  • C:\AppianRPA: Host machine's root directory. You can find certain files here that serve as your robotic task's activity log files.
    • AppianRPAagent.exe: Agent's executable file.
    • .jidoka-cache: Libraries required for robotic task's executions.
    • Jidoka-workspace: Libraries and other files required by the robotic tasks.
    • example: Specific support files for the robotic task "example".
    • anotherRobot: Specific support files for the robotic task "anotherRobot".
  • .jidoka-cache: The folder in which the necessary libraries for the robotic task's proper operation will be stored.
  • Jidoka-workspace: Folder containing the individual directories of each robotic task. Within the folder Jidoka-workspace, there are as many subfolders as robotic tasks that have executed on the host machine. The folders use the robotic task's unique ID, consisting of letters and numbers. For example, a robot called abc123 would have an associated subfolder in C:\AppianRPA\Jidoka-workspace\abc123, which is the folder where all components required for its specific execution would be downloaded, and the files created during its execution would be stored. Appian RPA provides easy access to this folder programmatically.

Agent upgrade behavior

Whenever Appian RPA upgrades to the latest version, active agents do as well. During the upgrade process, you may see a concurrency warning in the Appian RPA console. This message is temporary and expected. If you see this warning during an upgrade, try back in a few minutes.

To ensure smoother and faster upgrades, Appian recommends robots have more than the minimum 2 GB RAM. View System Requirements to learn more about required Appian RPA configurations.

If the warning persists or you have other issues during an upgrade, contact Appian Support for help troubleshooting the issue.

Open in Github Built: Wed, Mar 22, 2023 (04:01:37 PM)

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