The Imixs-Workflow Plug-in API

The Imixs Plug-in API introduces an extensibility mechanism that allows to extend the standard functionality of the Imixs-Worklfow engine. A plug-in can provide business logic to influence the processing life-cycle of a process instance, as also platform specific technical functionality, to exchange data with its surrounding environment.

For example a plug-in can apply a business rule, send an E-Mail notification, or import business data from an external datasource. The Imixs-Workflow project already provides a set of plug-ins which covers a lot of standard functionality of a workflow engine. See the section Engine->Plug-Ins for further details about existing plug-ins.

Plug-ins are bound to the Imixs-Workflow model and can be easily added to an existing BPMN model using the Imixs-BPMN modeling tool.

Read more about modelling in the Imixs-BPMN user guide.

The Plug-In Architecture

Each plug-in represents an individual building block inside a Imixs-Workflow application. A plug-in can be reused in different workflow models for different applications. A plug-in, added to a workflow model, is controlled and executed by the WorkflowKernel. The WorkflowKernel calls the plug-in during the processing life-cycle and provides information about the running process instance and the worklfow event processed by the workflow engine.

This concept makes it easy to implement plug-ins providing additional business logic and custom functionality. A plug-in can validate a process instance and may also manipulate the business data. A plug-in can also interrupt the processing phase by throwing a PluginException - for example in case of a validation error.

The Two-Phase Commit

The Imixs Plug-in API defines three call-back methods, called by the WorkflowKernel for each plug-in in one single transaction during the processing life-cycle. This is the concept of a two-phase commit (2PC).

public void init(WorkflowContext workflowContext) throws PluginException;

public ItemCollection run(ItemCollection document,ItemCollection event) throws PluginException;

public void close(boolean rollbackTransaction) throws PluginException;

After the WorkflowKernel started a new transaction to process a workitem, first the init() method is called for each plug-in. A plug-in may setup necessary external resources or can indicate an invalid state by throwing a PluginException.

In the second phase, the WorkflowKernel executes each plug-in by calling the run() method. The WorkflowKernel provides the current process instance and also the event as parameters for this method. After a plug-in has executed its internal business logic, it should return the instance of the processed workitem to indicate that the processing life-cycle can be continued. If a plug-in returns null or throws a PluginException during the run() method, the current transaction will be rolled back by the WorkflowKernel.

In each case, the WorkflowKernel will finish its transaction by calling the call-back method close() for each plug-in by providing the roll-back-status. In case the transaction will be rolled back, the flag rollbackTransaction will be ‘true’. The close method allows a plug-in to tear down external resources or roll-back internal transactions. In a concept of a two-phase commit, the WorkflowKernal takes the role of the central coordinator.


The following example shows the general structure of a plug-in implementation:

public class MyPlugin implements Plugin {
   WorkflowContext workflowContext;

   public void init(WorkflowContext actx) throws Exception {
       workflowContext = actx;

    public ItemCollection run(ItemCollection workitem, ItemCollection event) throws Exception {
       try {
         // you business logic goes here....
       } catch (Exception e) {
         // signal exception....
         throw new PluginExeption(e);
       // signal success 
       return workitem;

    public void close(boolean rollbackTransaction) throws Exception {
       try {
         // restore changes?
         if (rollbackTransaction) {
          // role back....
         } else {
          // commit changes....
       } catch (Exception e) {

       finally {
         // close resources 

How to Access the Workflow Model

During the init() phase the WorkflowKernel provides the plug-in with an instance of the WorkflowContext. The WorkflowContext is an abstraction of the workflow environment and provides access to an instance of the Model interface. The following example illustrates how an instance of a model can be fetched during the initialization of a plug-in:

public void init(WorkflowContext ctx) throws Exception {
    if (ctx instanceof WorkflowService) {
       // yes we are running in a WorkflowService EJB
       workflowService = (WorkflowService) ctx;
       // get model
       Model model= workflowService.getModelManager().getModel(aModelVersion).

Plug-in Dependencies

A plug-in may optionally implement the interface ‘PluginDependency’ to indicate dependencies on other plug-ins. Plug-in dependencies are validated by the WorkflowKernel during processing a workflow event. If a plug-in defined by the BPMN model signals dependencies which are not reflected by the current model definition, a warning message is logged.

The interface PluginDependency only provide one method called ‘dependsOn’ returning a String array with plug-ins need to be called before this plug-in class can be executed by the WorkflowKernel.


See the following example:

public class MyPlugin implements Plugin, PluginDependecy {

public List<String> dependsOn {

    String[] depends = new String[] { "org.imixs.workflow.engine.plugins.AccessPlugin", "org.imixs.workflow.engine.plugins.RulePlugin" };
    return Arrays.asList(depends);