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Getting Ready To Build a Bot: Understanding the Control Room

The Automation Anywhere Robotic Process Automation (RPA) platform enables users to automate common or repetitive tasks quickly and almost effortlessly. Users design automations by creating bots, then deploy those bots to the machine where the automation must run.

As you can imagine, there are several elements of bot creation that form the moving parts to this process. The first ones you’ll encounter are the Control Room, where you’ll create and manage bots, and the bot agent, which runs completed bots. In this article, you’ll get a tour of these tools and components required to create your automation successfully.

The Control Room

Think of the Automation Anywhere Enterprise Control Room as mission control for all your bots. It’s based in the cloud and accessed through your browser. You use the Control Room to create bots in the bot workbench, to deploy them to your local machines running the bot agent, and to monitor those deployed bots.

The Control Room home screen looks like this:

Let’s delve into the many helpful areas of the Control Room. From the profile section on the top right, you can access and edit your profile as well as change your password.

You can install and configure your local bot agent (more about this later) as well as update your device login credentials.

You can change the Control Room language to any of several supported languages. The help section displays links for documentation and walkthroughs, for contacting support, and for navigating to the Automation Anywhere website.

To the left, you can access the Control Room menu.

From here you can access the Dashboard, which allows you to view metrics for your bots, explore bot insights that provide real-time business and operational analytics, create new bots, and access recently visited pages.

The Activity menu shows the historical activity of your bots as well as bots that are currently in progress.

Clicking on the Bots menu item lets you view your bots, credentials, and packages.

This allows you to quickly and easily access the bots you’ve created and modify them as needed. When you view the bots you’ve created, you can access a rich set of information about them.

You can perform bot management tasks, such as creating and deleting a bot, creating subfolders, uploading files, refreshing the bot list, or customizing its display columns. You can also perform specific tasks for individual bots via the pop-out menu, including running, analysing, viewing, editing, copying, and deleting the bot.

The Credentials section allows you to configure the authentication information needed to be passed to the bots during execution.

The Packages section provides access to the collections (or packages) that contain the various actions a bot can use.

Clicking on the Email package, for example, lets you see the details and available actions (as well as iterators) for that package:

From here you can expand each individual action to see exactly what task is performed.

The My Devices menu item lets you view and manage your linked machines, add local bot agents to them, and run bots on specific machines.

The Administration section allows you to add and edit user details, and to disable individual users. This makes managing your users extremely flexible.

The bot agent

The bot agent is installed on your local machine and runs the bots you created in the Control Room on your local machine. You download and install the bot agent as part of the device registration process.

You can also add bot agents from the My Devices screen clicking the Add local bot agent menu item.

The bot agent can be installed on machines running Windows Server and Windows 10. This applies to the on-premises and cloud editions as well as to Automation Anywhere Community Edition.

The Google Chrome and Microsoft Internet Explorer browsers are supported.

Refer to the Bot agent compatibility documentation for more information.

User profile login information

Credentials stored in the Control Room are used to log a user into the Bot Runner automatically on the machine on which it’s deployed. The bot will therefore use the credentials stored in the Credential Vault to perform the auto-login.

Careful consideration needs to be taken when deploying bots in enterprise environments where password rotation or expiry policies are in practice. This means you’ll need to remember to update the login credentials in the Credentials Vault.

You can easily automate the process by using the Automation Anywhere Enterprise Control Room 11.1 API to create, update or delete the login credentials stored in the Credentials Vault. To do so, you invoke the Authentication API and then the Login Credentials API.

For more information, refer to the Enterprise Control Room API to manage bots login credentials documentation.

Bot creation tools

You create new bots by going to BOTS > My bots on the main menu and clicking on the Create a bot menu in the upper-right corner.

A popup window will be displayed:

Here you can provide a suitable name and description for your bot and select a folder in which to store it.

Clicking on Create & edit brings up the workbench:

There’s quite a lot going on here, so let’s look at the various UI elements.

The top menu lets you run, debug, or analyze the bot, as well as view relevant packages, dependencies, and properties.

As mentioned earlier, packages are collections of actions. They can be updated and installed separately from Automation Anywhere Enterprise A2019. The Automation Anywhere Package Development Kit provides instructions that enable you to design and develop custom actions to suit your specific needs.

Dependencies are files or other bots that your bot needs to run successfully. They give users the ability to separate workflow functions and to structure their bots logically. Refer to the Bot dependencies documentation for more information.

The second row of menu items appear just above the main designer.

These items let you view your bot design as a flow (think of Visio), as a list, or as a dual view combining both flow and list.

The next row of menu items allow you to copy or cut and paste items, to clear debugging breakpoints, redo and undo actions, change the device where the bot is deployed, and record bot actions.

You use the menu section to the left to select Actions, Triggers, and Variables.

Each menu item is expandable, enabling you to easily find actions for building your bot. Expanding the Actions menu exposes a rich set of actions to choose from, such as:

  • Boolean
  • Browser
  • Clipboard
  • Comment – used to add additional information in the task list
  • CSV/TXT
  • Email
  • File
  • Error handler

There are many more actions to choose from. To learn more about actions, refer to the Actions palette content for bot creation documentation.

You can also add Triggers, which are used to run a bot automatically when a specific event takes place, such as creating a file or opening a new window. To learn more, refer to the Triggers page.

Variables make bots more flexible

You can create variables for your bots, which let you store specific values to enter into action fields and use to create an automated task. You can choose either system variables or user-defined variables.

System variables contain information about the specific machine the bot is running on, such as the date and time. You can’t edit the values of these variables.

User-defined variables let you store information as the bot executes along its task list. These variables might include file paths, window titles, login credentials, or any other information that might be required by the bot at a later stage. To learn more about variables, refer to the Variables and credentials page.

Putting bots to work

When you deploy a bot, you download the completed bot to your registered local device.

Before you do this, you need to make sure the bot is functioning correctly. To test it, it’s helpful to set breakpoints. Breakpoints let you pause the execution of the tasks the bot performs and examine the state of the bot at that stage of execution. To enable breakpoints on the steps in the Flow, hover your mouse over the action until you see an ellipse icon displayed.

Clicking on the ellipse will pop up a context menu from which you can run the bot from that action, copy, cut, delete, or disable the action, or enable a breakpoint on that action.

Being able to debug your bots means you can quickly find problems and bugs in the bot logic. You can also collaborate with others on bots as you can export bots and import them into another Control Room.

Note, though, that only bots within a public workspace can be exported. Exporting bots is done from the BOTS > My bots menu. You navigate to the public workspace, then select the bot you want to export and click the Export bots icon.

Automation Anywhere Bot Store

The Automation Anywhere Bot Store™ is the world’s leading marketplace for ready-to-deploy bots and Digital Workers. You’ll find helpful, prebuilt bots in Bot Store that solve immediate RPA scenarios or provide the basis of your own custom bots. You can browse bots by specific categories, business processes, or applications, and you can also create your own packages to submit to Bot Store or also submit bot ideas.

Wrapping up

You should now be familiar enough with the Control Room and the workbench to get started creating your own bots. If you haven’t done so already, sign up for an account and start by trying to create a simple bot that displays a message box on your local machine, then writes an entry into a log file on that machine. This will give you some idea of how bots function.