Core concepts


In Elsa, variables play a crucial role as containers for storing and retrieving data throughout a workflow's lifecycle. They facilitate the transfer of data between activities and serve as storage for data utilized by these activities.

Structure of Variables

Each variable comprises the following components:

  • Name: A unique, case-sensitive identifier for the variable within a workflow.
  • Type: Defines the data type of the variable.
  • Default Value: An optional default value assigned to the variable upon creation.
  • Storage Provider: Specifies the location where the variable data is stored.

Detailed Components Description


The name of a variable is a unique identifier within a workflow, ensuring precise variable access and manipulation.

Default Value

A variable may possess a default value, used at the variable's initiation.

Types of Variables

Variables in Elsa Workflows can be of any type supported by .NET, enhancing the flexibility and versatility of data handling. Types include but are not limited to:

  • String
  • Number
  • Boolean
  • DateTime
  • Object
  • Array
  • Custom types

Storage Providers

Storage providers dictate where variables are housed. Elsa Workflows offers two built-in providers:

  • Memory: Variables are accessible only during the workflow's lifetime. Use this provider for storing temporary data and or data that is non-serializable.
  • Workflow Instance: Variables are preserved alongside the workflow instance. Use this provider for storing data that is serializable and needs to be preserved for the workflow's lifetime.

Important Information on Variable Storage

  • Workflow Instance Storage: Ensure that the variable type is serializable when using the Workflow Instance storage provider to avoid throwing an exception.
  • Memory Storage: Remember that values will be lost if your workflow is persisted and resumed later while using the Memory storage provider.


Custom Types

Elsa Workflows supports custom types, allowing developers to define their own types and utilize them as variables. For example, a custom type named Person can be defined as follows:

public class Person
    public string FirstName { get; set; }
    public string LastName { get; set; }

To use the custom type as a variable, simply define the variable as follows:

var person = builder.WithVariable<Person>().WithMemoryStorage();

To make the type available from the designer, register it with the management service:


services.AddElsa(elsa => 
    elsa.UseWorkflowManagement(management => 
        management.AddVariableType<Person>(category: "CRM");

Custom Storage Providers

For more advanced storage needs, create custom storage providers by implementing the IStorageDriver interface, containing:

  • WriteAsync: Invoked upon variable creation or update.
  • ReadAsync: Called when a variable is accessed.
  • DeleteAsync: Operates when a variable is deleted.

Below is a basic example showcasing the implementation of a custom storage provider:

public class MyStorageDriver : IStorageDriver
    public Task WriteAsync(string key, object value, CancellationToken cancellationToken = default)
        // Implementation for writing the value to a custom storage provider.

    public Task<object?> ReadAsync(string key, CancellationToken cancellationToken = default)
        // Implementation for reading the value from a custom storage provider.

    public Task DeleteAsync(string key, CancellationToken cancellationToken = default)
        // Implementation for deleting the value from a custom storage provider.

To register the custom storage provider:



Custom storage providers broaden the possibilities, allowing variables storage in various platforms such as databases, files, Redis, cloud storage providers, and more.

Defining Variables in Workflows

Seamlessly define variables in both programmatic and designed workflows to meet diverse development needs.

Programmatic Workflows

In programmatic workflows, utilize the Variable method to define variables. Below is an illustration of variable definition with Memory storage provider:

public class Greeter : WorkflowBase
    public void Build(IWorkflowBuilder builder)
        // Initialize a variable named "Message" with a default value of "Hello World!".
        var message = builder.WithVariable<string>("Hello World!").WithMemoryStorage();
        // Output the message to the console.
        builder.Root = new WriteLine(context => message.Get(context));

Designed Workflows

In designed workflows, employ the Variables panel for variable definition, as shown in the example below:



Understanding and effectively utilizing variables is paramount in optimizing the functionality and efficiency of Elsa Workflows. By mastering variable types, storage providers, and definition methods, enhance your workflow processes and ensure robust and reliable data handling throughout your Elsa Workflows.