Programming workflows in Plone.


The DCWorkflow product manages the default Plone workflow system.

A workflow state is not directly stored on the object. Instead, a separate portal_workflow tool must be used to access a workflow state. Workflow look-ups involve an extra database fetch.

For more information, see

Creating workflows

The recommended method is to use portal_workflow in the Management Interface to construct the workflow through-the-web and then you can export it using GenericSetup’s portal_setup tool.

Include necessary parts from exported workflows.xml and workflows folder in your add-on product GenericSetup profile (add-on folder profiles/default).

Model the workflow online

Go to ‘’, copy and paste ‘simple_publication_workflow’, to have a skeleton for start-off, rename ‘copy_of_simple_publication_workflow’ to ‘your_workflow’ or add a new workflow via the dropdwon-menu and have a tabula rasa.

Add and remove states and transitions, assign permissions etc.

Putting it in your product

Go to ‘’, check ‘Workflow Tool’ and hit ‘Export selected steps’, unzip the downloaded file and put the definition.xml-file in ‘your/product/profiles/default/workflows/your_workflow/’ (you’ll need to create the latter two directories).

Configure workflow via GenericSetup

Assign a workflow

In your/product/profiles/default/workflows.xml, insert:

<?xml version="1.0" ?>
<object name="portal_workflow" meta_type="Plone Workflow Tool" purge="False">

            <object name="your_workflow" meta_type="Workflow" />


Assigning a workflow globally as default

In your/product/profiles/default/workflows.xml, add:

<object name="portal_workflow">
                            <bound-workflow workflow_id="simple_publication_workflow" />

Binding a workflow to a content type

Example with GenericSetup workflows.xml

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<object name="portal_workflow" meta_type="Plone Workflow Tool">
   <type type_id="Image">
     <bound-workflow workflow_id="plone_workflow" />

Disabling workflow for a content type

If a content type doesn’t have a workflow it uses its parent container security settings. By default, content types Image and File have no workflow.

Workflows can be disabled by leaving the workflow setting empty in portal_workflow in the Management Interface.

Example how to do it with GenericSetup workflows.xml

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<object name="portal_workflow" meta_type="Plone Workflow Tool">
    name="title">Contains workflow definitions for your portal</property>
  <!-- Bind nothing for these content types -->
  <type type_id="Image"/>
  <type type_id="File"/>

Updating security settings after changing workflow

Through the web this would be done by going to the Management Interface > portal_workflow > update security settings

To update security settings programmatically use the method updateRoleMappings. The snippet below demonstrates this:

from Products.CMFCore.utils import getToolByName
# Do this after installing all workflows
wf_tool = getToolByName(self, 'portal_workflow')


Getting the current workflow state


workflowTool = getToolByName(self.portal, "portal_workflow")
# Returns workflow state object
status = workflowTool.getStatusOf("plone_workflow", object)
# Plone workflows use variable called "review_state" to store state id
# of the object state
state = status["review_state"]
assert state == "published", "Got state:" + str(state)

Filtering content item list by workflow state

Here is an example how to iterate through content item list and let through only content items having certain state.


Usually you don’t want to do this, but use content aware folder listing method or portal_catalog query which does filtering by permission check.


portal_workflow = getToolByName(self.context, "portal_workflow")

# Get list of all objects
all_objects = [ obj for obj in self.all_content if ISubjectGroup.providedBy(obj) or IFeaturedCourses.providedBy(obj) == True ]

# Filter objects by workflow state (by hand)
for obj in all_objects:
    status = portal_workflow.getStatusOf("plone_workflow", obj)
    if status and status.get("review_state", None) == "published":
        yield obj

Changing workflow state

You cannot directly set the workflow to any state, but you must push it through legal state transitions.

Security warning: Workflows may have security assertations which are bypassed by admin user. Always test your workflow methods using a normal user.

Example how to publish content item banner:

from Products.CMFCore.WorkflowCore import WorkflowException

workflowTool = getToolByName(banner, "portal_workflow")
    workflowTool.doActionFor(banner, "publish")
except WorkflowException:
    # a workflow exception is risen if the state transition is not available
    # (the sampleProperty content is in a workflow state which
    # does not have a "submit" transition)"Could not publish:" + str(banner.getId()) + " already published?")

Example how to submit to review:

from Products.CMFCore.WorkflowCore import WorkflowException

portal.invokeFactory("SampleContent", id="sampleProperty")

workflowTool = getToolByName(context, "portal_workflow")
    workflowTool.doActionFor(portal.sampleProperty, "submit")
except WorkflowException:
    # a workflow exception is risen if the state transition is not available
    # (the sampleProperty content is in a workflow state which
    # does not have a "submit" transition)

Example how to cause specific transitions based on another event (e.g. a parent folder state change). This code must be part of your product’s trusted code not a workflow script because of the permission issues mentioned above. See also see Events

# Subscribe to the workflow transition completed action
from five import grok
from Products.DCWorkflow.interfaces import IAfterTransitionEvent
from Products.CMFCore.interfaces import IFolderish

@grok.subscribe(IFolderish, IAfterTransitionEvent)
def make_decisions_visible(context,event):
if (event.status['review_state'] != 'cycle_complete'):
    #nothing to do
children = context.getFolderContents()
wftool = context.portal_workflow
#loop through the children objects
for obj in children:
    state = obj.review_state
    if (state=="alternate_invisible"):
        # below is workaround for using getFolderContents() which provides a
        # 'brain' rather than an python object.  Inside if to avoid overhead
        # of getting object if do not need it.
        what = context[]
        wftool.doActionFor(what, 'to_alternate')
    elif (state=="denied_invisible"):
        what = context[]
        wftool.doActionFor(what, 'to_denied')
    elif (...

Gets the list of ids of all installed workflows

Useful to test if a particular workflow is installed:

# Get all site workflows
ids = workflowTool.getWorkflowIds()
self.assertIn('link_workflow', ids, "Had workflows " + str(ids))

Getting default workflow for a portal type

Get default workflow for the type:

chain = workflowTool.getChainForPortalType(ExpensiveLink.portal_type)
self.assertEqual(chain, ('link_workflow',), "Had workflow chain" + str(chain))

Getting workflows for an object

How to test which workflow the object has:

# See that we have a right workflow in place
workflowTool = getToolByName(context, "portal_workflow")
# Returns tuple of all workflows assigned for a context object
chain = workflowTool.getChainFor(context)

# there must be only one workflow for our object
self.assertEqual(len(chain), 1)

# this must must be the workflow name
self.assertEqual(chain[0], 'link_workflow', "Had workflow " + str(chain[0]))


Plone provides a workflow_action script which is able to trigger the status modification through an HTTP request (browser address bar).