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5. Managing GUI > 5.9 Visual Workflows

5.9 Visual Workflows

Visual Workflows can provide an HTML based graphical interface that can be designed to produce a “Custom LIMS” on a single screen.  This functionality supports the following features from an HTML interface:

      Opening LIMS Windows (Folders, Managers, Sample Login, Result Entry etc)

      Running Reports via Query Tags.

      Running Subroutines.

      Running other Visual Workflows.

      Displaying Query Tag Results dynamically.


The following briefly outlines the advantage of using a Visual Workflow:

      Ease of use by casual users or those less familiar with computers; reduce training time for end users.

      Tighter control of what users can see and perform.

      Shielding users from the complexity of LIMS.

      Emulating menus familiar to the users from previous systems.


The following example displays a Visual Workflow from the Process Industry.

Figure 5-91 Visual Workflow Example


The Visual Workflow can also be used with WebLIMS:

Figure 5-92 Visual Workflow used with WebLIMS


NOTE: To create Visual Workflows, one must have a working knowledge of HTML.

5.9.1     Visual Workflow Functionality

A Visual Workflow uses an HTML page with defined hotspots to invoke LIMS functions.  Workflows can be opened by selecting the Workflow from the Workflows menu or using LIMS Basic.  Multiple Workflows can be open simultaneously.  Each workflow can be selected by clicking on the Workflow tab.  An example Workflow page is shown in the following figure.

Figure 5-93  Workflow Page


In this example, the blocks illustrated in green are the clickable areas or the hotspots.  In the HTML code, a hotspot refers to a hypertext reference (href) within an image map.  In standard HTML, the reference is usually set to the URL of a destination web page.  For Visual Workflows, the reference is named and defines an element for use with a Visual Workflow record that will assign functionality to the element.  The HTML for the previous example Visual Workflow is illustrated in the following figure. 

Figure 5-94 HTML for Visual Workflow Example




Refer to the section on Configuring Hotspots for more details on hotspots

5.9.2     Location of Visual Workflow HTML Files

The Visual Workflow Files External Link Directory defines the location of the HTML files and images used for Visual Workflows.  Select Configure > External Link Directories > Visual Workflow Files.  A Prompt Dialog will prompt you to enter the path to the visual workflow files directory.  

Figure 5-95 Prompt Dialog



Enter the path where the Visual Workflow HTML files are stored.  Image files for the Visual Workflows are also stored in this directory.  Ideally the images are stored in subdirectory called images and are referenced as such in the HTML e.g. SRC="images/VWF_Workflow1.jpg". 


NOTE: The use of the  images directory is a requirement if the Workflows will be used with WebLIMS.


5.9.3     Dynamic Visual Workflow

Query Tags can be embedded in an HTML page to display lists, values etc.  The workflow can be configured such that the HTML query tags are refreshed after a specified interval.    

The following example displays an HTML page containing reference to the LIMS query tags.   

Figure 5-96 HTML Page with embedded Query Tags



The HTML query tags (HTML_DATETIME and SAMPLE_LIST) are enclosed within chevrons « ».  Alternatively, two less than symbols, <<, followed by two greater than symbols, >>, (or the HTML equivalent) can be used.  

The resulting Dynamic Visual Workflow for the above example is shown in the following figure.

Figure 5-97 Dynamic Visual Workflow



NOTE: A dynamic workflow creates a “temporary” HTML file in the workflow directory (the directory where the workflow HTML file resides) the first time it is opened.  This file is updated every time the workflow is refreshed. 

The query tags can be set to refresh after a specified interval by setting the Update Frequency field in the Visual Workflow table. For more information on Update Frequency field refer to Table Configuration.  

Query tags can be inserted into HTML files using the HTML Query Tag Dialog.  The HTML Query Tag Dialog can be used to copy Query Tag names easily and effectively.  The main menu item Configure -> HTML Query Tags… when selected opens this dialog.

Figure 5-98 HTML Query Tag


The HTML Query Tag Dialog displays the name and description of all query tags available in the database.  On selecting a query tag, the query tag name enclosed within chevrons is made available to the windows buffer.  This value can be pasted into an HTML page; making creation of HTML query tag easier.  

5.9.4     NLS keys in Workflows

NLS keys can be used in workflows to allow text to be NLSed using a LIMS NLS file.  In the following example, the text in the red boxes is derived from a NLS file.   

Figure 5-99 NLS Keys in Workflows



The HTML for this workflow looks like the following:

Figure 5-100  HTML for Workflow



The NLS keys from the HTML are listed in a NLS file, as shown in the following example.

Figure 5-101  NLS Keys




If there are no NLS keys then the workflow would appear as shown below:

Figure 5-101 NLS Workflow with no NLS entries



5.9.5     Automatically Launching a Web Page

If a file called Main.htm is placed in the directory with the LIMS exe file, this html code will automatically be displayed in the browser pane below the Main toolbar when the user logs into LIMS.  The following example illustrates the browser pane displaying the LabWare homepage.  It may be necessary to expand the Main Menu window to see the browser pain.

Figure 5-102  LabWare Home Page

VisualWorkflows_HomePage1       Configuring the HTML

The HTML page must be named main.htm.  This file must be placed in the same directory as the LIMS.exe.  The HTML can be configured to display a graphic image, as shown in the following example.

Figure 5-103 HTML Example of a Workflow



This HTML page results in the following display when Windows is launched.   The tab for this page is always labeled Home.

Figure 5-104 Example of Main.htm Home Page



To re-direct the browser to a default web page, the title and the web address of the required website needs to be entered in the file main.htm.  Below is an example of the code used to re-direct to the LabWare webpage.   

Figure 5-105: Redirection to a Default Web Page


5.9.6     Alternate Tag Formats

There are a large number of tags that can be incorporated in the HTML file.  Browse or Select type tags can put table information into context and Field tags can be used to retrieve additional field information from the records in context.  Also tags can execute subroutines and return variables from the code.  If the output of the subroutine includes HTML code the output is processed and displayed as HTML in the Visual Workflow.  SQL tags can be used to insert values and if more than one value is returned the result will automatically be displayed in a table.   

In addition to query tags, the following tag types are available:


Tag Type




Field tags



Used to retrieve information from a table record that is in context


You must first use a Browse or Select tag to put the table record into context

Browse tags



Use to browse a table and put a table record into context

 e.g. <<BROWSE.Sample.1>>


If a field is specified then a value will be returned by this tag.

Select tags


<<select.table.#.{key value}>>

Use to put a specific table record into context

e.g. <<select.sample.2.{2000}>>


If a field is specified then a value will be returned by this tag.

Subroutine tags



Used to execute subroutines and put single value variables from the subroutine into context

 e.g. <<subroutine.DAILY_LIST>> where DAILY_LIST is the name of the subroutine.


If the Return

Statement includes a variable, this

value of this

variable will be

inserted by the tag.

If the variable is an array, the array

Information will be

Inserted as a table.

Variable tags


<<var: variablename>>

Can be used to retrieve variable information from context. For example, single value variables from a subroutine

 e.g. <<var: sampNum>> where sampNum would be a variable defined by a subroutine.


You must first use the subroutine tag before using this tag.

SQL tags


<<SQL(Table_Format): Select statement>>

Used to run a SQL select statement and present results in a table format.  The Table_Format is optional.

e.g. <<SQL: Select name, description from analysis where changed_by = 'SYSTEM '>>



File tags


<<File: {Table.Field.#}>>

File tags are used to embed external files in the document  <<File: {Sample.ext_link.1}>>




Refer to the Document Generator (Module M0308) manual for more on these tag formats and the use of TABLE_FORMAT records with SQL tags.       Tag Example

The following example uses a variety of tag styles.

Figure 5-106 Tag Example



The following figure shows the HTML page used to generate the previous Workflow with the unprocessed tags.

Figure 5-107 Example of HTML to generate Workflow with unprocessed tags



5.9.7     Troubleshooting

Miscellaneous Issues


Possible Cause(s)/Solution(s)

How do I get a Visual Workflow on my Main Menu?

Create a Workflow in the table VISUAL_WORKFLOW.  Log off LIMS.  Logon again.  In the All Menus pane of the Configure Menu and Toolbar Dialog you will find an item., containing a list of workflows created.  For more details on using this dialog, refer to Menus and Toolbar section.

My images are not appearing in my Visual Workflow

The image files need to be located in the Visual Workflow Files External Link Directory. 

Also check the HTML to make sure the file reference does not include a path other than the images directory. For example the reference should look like the following example:


Make sure the image files are in the Images directory.



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