itools.workflow – Workflow

The package itools.workflow provides a programming interface to define and implement workflow systems.

Workflow definition

We define a workflow as a finite state machine. This is to say, a combination of states, and transitions from one to other state.


A Basic publication workflow represented as a directed graph.

The code below defines the workflow represented by the figure:

from itools.workflow import Workflow

# Workflow definition
workflow = Workflow()
# Specify the workflow states
# Specify the workflow transitions
workflow.add_trans('publish', 'private', 'public')
workflow.add_trans('request', 'private', 'pending')
workflow.add_trans('reject', 'pending', 'private')
workflow.add_trans('accept', 'pending', 'public')
workflow.add_trans('retire', 'public', 'private')

The class Workflow is used to define the workflow system:

class itools.workflow.Workflow
add_state(name, **kw)

This method defines a state.

add_trans(name, state_from, state_to, **kw)

This method defines a transition from one state to another.


To define the initial state.

Both states and transitions are identified by a name. It is possible to have two or more transitions with the same name, if they start from different states. A transition may start and end in the same state.

Workflow Aware objects

class itools.workflow.WorkflowAware

A Workflow Aware object is one that inherits from the WorkflowAware class:

from itools.workflow import WorkflowAware

class Document(WorkflowAware):
WorkflowAware.enter_workflow(workflow=None, initstate=None, *args, **kw)
WorkflowAware.do_trans(transname, *args, **kw)

To make use of the workflow system we must initialize our workflow aware objects with a call to enter_workflow(); then we will be able to move the object from one state to another with do_trans():

>>> document = Document()
>>> document.enter_workflow(workflow)
>>> document.do_trans('request')
>>> document.do_trans('accept')
>>> print document.get_statename()

This method will return the name of the state the object is in.

Metadata & Introspection

It is possible to add arbitrary metadata to the states and transitions definition:

workflow.add_state('private', title=u'Private')
workflow.add_state('pending', title=u'Pending')
workflow.add_state('public', title=u'Public')

workflow.add_trans('publish', 'private', 'public',
workflow.add_trans('request', 'private', 'pending',
workflow.add_trans('reject', 'pending', 'private',
workflow.add_trans('accept', 'pending', 'public',
workflow.add_trans('retire', 'public', 'private',

In this example we have added a title to every state and transition, but we could have added anything else, like a description or access control information.

To get the metadata for an state we use the method get_state():

>>> state = document.get_state()
>>> print state['title']

The method get_state() returns the State object for the current workflow state. Then we can access its metadata with the mapping interface.

Something else we can do is to find out the transitions that leave from that state:

>>> for name, transition in state.transitions.items():
...    print '->', transition['title']
-> Retire


We can associate actions to different events. Every time a transition is done, if we have defined these actions, they will be automatically triggered. Here they are, in the order they are called:

  • onleave_statename Called at the beginning of the transition, where statename is the starting state.
  • ontrans_transname Called in the middle of the transition, where transname is the transition being executed.
  • onenter_statename Called at the end of the transition, where statename is the ending state.

And here the example, this is the way we define the actions:

class Document(WorkflowAware):

    def onleave_private(self):
        print 'LEAVE PRIVATE'

    def ontrans_request(self):
        print 'REQUEST'

    def onenter_pending(self):
        print 'ENTER PENDING'

And here we test the code:

>>> document = Document()
>>> document.enter_workflow(workflow)
>>> document.do_trans('request')

A much useful action would be, for example, to send an email to the reviewer every time the publication of a document is requested.