The workflow functionality of Snow Owl has been redesigned to support a more flexible approach allowing the assignment of multiple authors and reviewers to a task.

Introduction to the workflow

Task lifecycle

Snow Owl has been architected to author terminologies in a distributed and collaborative fashion. Users can work in the same location or can be geographically distributed. In order to coordinate the efforts of multiple authors concurrently editing the same ontology, separate tasks can be assigned to them.

Tasks have a lifecycle that spans from their initial creation through an authoring and reviewing stage to their final approval.

Task Lifecycle

Here is a short summary of the different stages in a typical task lifecycle.

  • New task is created. Team members can be assigned.
  • Task is activated. This means the team member started working on the task.
  • Work is performed.
  • Task is resolved as fixed. Author can select reviewers, or reviewers can self-select themselves for tasks that are resolved.
  • Task is reviewed. Changes have to be accepted or rejected.
  • Reviewer either marks the task as verified, or reopens the task.
  • Task is promoted and can be seen by everyone.

Work Scenarios

Work scenario in Snow Owl is flexible, so there’s no need to pre-define the scenario at the creation of the task. Once the task is created, the team member(s) can be assigned as author and/or reviewer. The reviewer or reviewers can be assigned later as well.

First steps: Setting up Snow Owl for collaborative mode

Snow Owl can operate in either standalone or collaborative mode. By default it starts up as a standalone application and uses an embedded repository. To work in collaborative mode, you need to connect to the terminology server, which is where your data is stored. Changes to the ontology will be routed through this server.

Connecting to the remote terminology repository

To work in collaborative mode:

  • Change the setting on your login screen to Remote repository… .
  • Enter the network address of the remote repository in the text field and click OK.

This will connect you to the terminology server. Working with the terminology server is fairly similar to working with a wiki page. You log in, and you can read or edit information, but the information is stored on the wiki page and not on your computer. The Snow Owl terminology server works the same way: Whenever you make changes to the ontology, they will be stored on the server, not on your computer. The data is also on the remote server on not on your computer like in the standalone version.

Repository Chooser Dialog

Repository Chooser Dialog

Creating new tasks

Tasks are used to share information with your team members. You need to have access to a shared task repository (Snow Owl server) to create and work with tasks.

To invoke the task wizard, click the button New task.png in the Task view.

On the first page of the wizard you are prompted to select

  • Code System
  • Summary: Enter a name for the task here. It will be used in the task view and in the title of the editor. The title can be edited later
  • Description: optionally a description can be specifiedCreate New Task Wizard

    The task list

    Introduction to the task list

    The task list is used to view and manage your tasks. You can create your own queries to group the tasks according to your needs.

    Task List View

    Task List View

    Double-click on a task in the task list to open the task editor. To activate a task, click on the circle in the editor toolbar. Active tasks are displayed in bold font in the Task view.

    At the top of the task list, you will find the following buttons and features:

    • New task.png: Snow Owl task: Create new Snow Owl task.
    • New task query.png Create New Query: Create new query to find tasks

    The text field allows searching for a task by summary, priority, code system, status, assignee and reviewers.

    Creating a query to organize your tasks

    You can use queries to organize tasks according to your needs. When you create a query, a folder will be added to your task list that contains only the tasks that meet your search parameters.

    To create a query

    • Click New task query.png button in the Task view toolbar

    The query form defines which tasks will be downloaded and displayed in the task list folder. You can specify different parameters as necessary to filter the query results.

    • Query name: Enter a name for your query, which will be used as the folder name in the task list.
    • (Task) summary: Query for terms from the task summary section in the task editor.
    • Priority: For example, display only tasks that have a high priority.
    • Code system: Select one from the available code systems.
    • Task status: You can query tasks by their status (e.g. resolved, verified)
    • Assignee: You can specify the assigned team member. If no assignee is specified, unassigned task can also be searched.
    • Reviewer: You can specify the name of the reviewer here. If no reviewer is specified, unassigned task can also be searched.

    Once you have set your specifications, click “Finish” to start the query. A new folder for your query will be displayed in your task list.

    Task view filter

    In addition to the task query, a filter search field is available in the Task view as well. This filter search allows users to search for tasks by their name and ID.

    Task View Filter

    Task View Filter

    Searching for task by task ID

    Searching for task by task ID

    Task editor

    The task consists of two pages: Overview, and Changes page, which can be switched by clicking the tabs on the bottom. Changes in the editor are automatically saved.

    Overview page

    The following functions can be accessed in the editor

    • ID: Task ID is automatically associated with each task. ID cannot be changed.
    • Summary: Displays the task summary. Summary can be changed at any point during working on the task.
    • Code System: Displays the code system selected during task creation. Code System cannot be changed.
    • Priority: Displays the priority of the task. Can be changed at any point during working on the task.
    • Task status: The task editor displays the task status.
    • Reporter: Displays the team member who created the given task.
    • Created at: Displays the date of creation of the task.
    • Modified at: Displays the date of the last modification of the task.
    • Assignees: Displays the name of the author(s).
    • Reviewers: Displays the name of the reviewer(s).
    • Conversation section: Displays comments specified by the team members working on the given task. At the bottom of this section, a small editor field is present to leave comments. Click the Comment button to send your comment, there’s no need to save it as it is saved automatically.
    • Actions section: Displays information on the available and performed actions.

    Tasks can be activated by clicking the Activating task.png button in the task editor toolbar. The task is activate when the button switched to green: Active task.png.

    Changes page

    The Changes (review) page displays changes that were made while the task was active. Changes page is organized into three sections.

    Change summary section

    The Change summary section displays an overview of the number of new, modified, and deleted components.

    Summary of the changes performed on the given task

    Summary of the changes performed on the given task

    Changed components

    The Changed components section displays a list of changed concepts. Decorators and font color indicate the nature of the change:

    • added Addition.png
    • modified Modification.png
    • removed Deletion.png

    Selecting a concept displays additional detailed information about the change in the right-hand section.

    List of the updated components

    List of the updated components

    Right-clicking on a concept displayed in the Changed components section, Open changed component in editor context menu option is displayed. This option is only available when the task is active.


    Opening changed component from Changes page of the task editor

    Change details section

    If you are interested in a particular concept, click on the concept in the Changed components section. This will display additional information about the change in the Change details section on the right side, which now contains the following columns:

    • Change: Type of change (new, modified, deleted)
    • Component: Component name
    • Component type (e.g. relationship, concept)
    • Property (e.g. status, effective time)
    • From: Previous state of the component (e.g. active)
    • To: New state of the component (e.g. inactive)
      Detailed information on the changes

      Detailed information on the changes


      This section gives an overview of the different stages of the workflow.

      Project manager: Assigning a task

      As a project manager your role is to create and assign tasks to your team members. The Assignees section of the task editor shows who is involved in the task. Several authors and reviewers can be assigned on a same task, but the same person cannot be assigned both as author and reviewer on a given task.

      Author: Working on a taskActivating a task

      Once you have decided to start working on a task, you need to activate that task. Only one task can be activated at a time. Activating the task means that you entered the collaborative mode, and the changes you are making are only visible to other users that have the same task activated. As long as a task is activated, all the changes that you are making to the ontology are being recorded and can be reviewed in the Changes page of the task editor. The review page displays the history of changes that were made to a task, it is not possible to delete information that was recorded there. Modifications will not be submitted to the main repository until the review process is completed, your changes will only be visible for those who are working on the same task and have activated it.

      To activate your task click on the circle in the toolbar of the task editor. The circle will become green.

      If you want to pause your work, you can inactivate the task by clicking on the respective icons. Activating a different task will inactivate your current task. This way you can switch between tasks.

      Completing work on a task

      Once you are finished working on your task, save your changes. Click the Resolve button.


      Reviewing a task

      If your role is a reviewer you first meet the task when it is already in a Fixed state. To push the workflow forward the following steps are necessary

      • Review the changes on the Changes tab. If you would like to check the new components in more detail, activate the task and look them up.
      • Accept or deny the changes.
      • If no other reviews are outstanding click the Verify button. The status will change to VERIFIED.

      If the reviewer is not happy with the work performed, it can be reopened in the editor for further changes.

      Promoting and closing a task

      After a task reached the Verified state it is ready to be promoted and committed into the main repository. You need to click the Promote button in the Actions section. If it is disabled that means that the task has not been reviewed and verified.

      After a successful promotion the lifecycle of the task gets to the end: the task is automatically inactivated. From this point it cannot be reopened anymore. On the task list the item will be crossed out.