Enacting Taverna workflows via a web browser


The Taverna Web Interface Generator is a web application that allows a user to run arbitrary Taverna workflows through a web page. The bioinformatician finds the required Taverna workflow in the myExperiment repository and makes a note of that workflow’s identifier. Appending that identifier to our web application’s URL constucts the URL that can be shared with the end user. The latter visits the URL and is presented with that workflow’s web form interface, where he can configure and execute it. Behind the scenes, the web application acquires the workflow details from myExperiment and constructs the appropriate user interface using templates. The user interface acts as an intermediary between the user and the Taverna server (using the REST API).

The generator takes advantage of all available information in myExperiment to create an easy to understand interface for the user. For example, the workflow’s description is displayed together with tooltips for inputs’ descriptions as well as examples inputs. The users will have all the information they need, i.e. they need not be familiar with the workflow. Of course, that means that the generated interface is only as good as the available information that the workflow submitter provided. If information is missing in the repository it will also be missing from the interface. A link of the original workflow submission from myExperiment is provided if further information is required.

This web application won the Application Showcase Award at NBIC 2012. The prize was awarded for ''providing a real service that many people have been waiting for''. Its general high quality was appreciated and that we prioritized usefulness and stability over novelty.


  1. Taverna: a tool for building and running workflows of services. Duncan Hull, Katy Wolstencroft, Robert Stevens, Carole Goble, Mathew R. Pocock, Peter Li, Tom Oinn. Nucleic acids research, Vol. 34, Web Server issue, pp. W729-W732, 2006
  3. myExperiment: a repository and social network for the sharing of bioinformatics workflows. Nucleic acids research, Vol. 38 (suppl 2): W677-W682, 2010.

Installation and Requirements

The web application is implemented in Ruby, so a Ruby development environment needs to be available. Native packages of libxml, libopenssl and zlib may be required. Please use your favorite package manager to install them (an apt-get example is given). Note that some of the following native packages might already be installed in your system. For Debian-based systems, use this command:

  $ sudo apt-get install ruby rubygems gcc build-essential libxml-ruby libopenssl-ruby libxml2-dev zlib1g-dev

Needs to be updated for ruby version 1.9

To install the taverna web interface generator you only need the following command:

  $ sudo gem install t2-web


Start the web application by typing:

  $ cd `gem environment gemdir`/gems/t2-web-0.1.9/bin ; sudo `gem environment gemdir`/bin/thin -p 9595 start

Soon we will provide an executable to make running the webapp easier and without sudo priviledges.

Then go to your web browser and try, for example, the workflow with myExperiment id 74 by providing the following url:


Or, if you do not want to use the default taverna server do:


Or, if you do not want the newest version of workflow 74:



  • Mark Thompson -- m (dot) thompson (at) lumc (dot) nl (current maintainer and contact person)
  • Reinout van Schouwen -- r (dot) m (dot) van_schouwen (at) ( current developer )
  • Kostas Karasavvas -- kostas (dot) karasavvas (at) nbic (dot) nl
  • Marco Roos -- m (dot) roos1 (at) uva (dot) nl

Back to parent project elabfactory.

Last modified 7 years ago Last modified on Nov 12, 2012, 4:47:45 PM