Plugins – The Power of Appian Extended

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Appian is a powerful software solution out-of- the-box, but the addition of plug-ins make the possibilities truly endless. Whether you are a client looking to see what is possible using available plug-ins or you are a developer looking to make use of plug-ins for functionality that is not available out-of- the-box, the sheer number of plug-ins available can make the task daunting. Think of this as your guide to the most commonly-used and powerful plug-ins freely available on Appian Forum.

Overview

There are two ways to make use of plug-ins. The simplest way is to download from the vast array of free plug-ins that are available by logging into Appian Forum and navigating to Records→Shared Components, via your Appian Forum ID. If you do not have an Appian Forum ID, you may also view a great deal of them on the public internet on the Appian's App Market. Here is an example of a Princeton Blue developed plug-in entitled “Financial Functions”: http://www.appian.com/appmarket/component/finance-functions/.

The second, and more involved, process would be to develop your own custom plug-in and make it available to the Appian community as well as for your own purposes. The ladder will be discussed in a future blog post as it deserves its own full write-up. Since your first option should always be to try to make use of a plug-in that has already been developed and tested, we will be focusing on a broad list of plug-ins that you should be aware of and try to make use of.

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Commonly Used Plug-ins

Appian Health Check Application

Allows you to check your application against Appian Best Practices. Easily discover issues that were missed during testing and make sure your application has a solid foundation. There is no reason not to run an Appian Health Check on every application you build.

Download Data Subset

As much as Appian would love to see clients replace the use of Microsoft Excel with Appian Reports and Records, that transition will of course take time. One of the most common requests by clients when they see a grid of information in Appian is ‘Can we export that to Excel?’ Now you know the answer to that question. This plug-in allows you to create a link in any SAIL form that will allow you to export desired information to Excel by calling either a process model (Cloud) or an
expression (On-Premise) to do the heavy lifting.

Advanced Document Templating

Very versatile plug-in for creating custom Microsoft Word documents using a template. Using the XDocReport library, this is a very flexible plug-in that allows much more than simply inputting text into the document from the process model. You can now integrate images as well as grids of data into your Word Template, making this a very powerful plug-in for clients that still rely on doing much of their work outside of Appian in a more familiar and powerful document software like Microsoft Word.

Dynamic Document Generator

This plug-in is a must whenever you need to convert documents to PDF or need to merge Microsoft Word documents. Many times, you end up using these Smart Services to work with documents created using the Advanced Document Templating plug-in.

Appian Regular Expression Functions

Exposes some commonly used Java Regular Expressions for use in string manipulation within Appian. Regular expressions can add a very powerful way to do pattern matching when working with strings.

Get and Set External Process Variables

Often times when working with related actions, you need to get or set the value of a process variable in the main process that you are taking action on. The out-of- the-box solution for this would be using messages. However, a far more efficient way of doing this from a performance stand-point would be by using this plug-in. Please keep in mind that the use of this plug-in does present issues with the audit history of changes made to the target process model, so only make use of this plug-in in situations where the audit history is not a concern or is being tracked by other means.

Read Excel Spreadsheet Utilities

This is the quickest and easiest way to import the data in an Excel spreadsheet into Appian. Simply create a custom CDT with the column headers in your spreadsheet template, and the plug-in imports in all data from the spreadsheet into Appian in the format of your CDT.

People Functions – Plug-in

Provides Appian User and Group functions for determining the relationships between users and groups based on various attributes. Some of the most common tasks completed using this plug-in are getting all users in a group or determining if a user is a part of a group. This plug-in is a must for all applications.

Process Management Services

Although processes should typically be ended or cancelled within their own process model, there are many reasons for why you may need to perform actions on processes from outside of that process model. That is where this plug-in comes in handy. Most commonly, you may want to be able to cancel a process as a related action, or run a process model that handles all management
of active processes. This can be done very simply by passing in the Appian Process ID into the appropriate Smart Service.

FitNesse for Appian

Allows you to create automated test scripts that will run through your application processes as if it were a user. Create test scripts once and you can simply and quickly regression test your entire application every time you make changes to any part of it. It may take you some time to initially create the test scripts, but imagine the time and effort that will be saved in the long run by being able to automate regression testing of your entire application every time a single change is made to it.

What Can Extending the Capabilities of Appian Using Plug-ins Do for Your Business?

Although Appian’s core software solution is capable of handling a majority of client requirements, for all those requests that currently aren’t possible out-of- the-box, the answer is typically that ‘there’s a plug-in for that’. This was really just a brief overview of some of the most commonly used plug-ins, but please look through the list of Shared Components on Appian Forum to see the list in its entirety.

Let us show you how we can put the power of Appian and its ever-growing library of plug-ins to use for your organization. Please visit our website at http://www.princetonblue.com and request to have us contact you, or you may reach out to us directly at (908)369-0961.

Jitendra Patel
Jitendra Patel
Jitendra Patel is a Consultant at Princeton Blue.

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