# Signals

Signals provide a mechanism to send data directly to a running workflow. Previously, you had two options for passing data to the workflow implementation:

  • Via start parameters
  • As return values from activities

With start parameters, we could only pass in values before workflow execution began.

Return values from activities allowed us to pass information to a running workflow, but this approach comes with its own complications. One major drawback is reliance on polling. This means that the data needs to be stored in a third-party location until it's ready to be picked up by the activity. Further, the lifecycle of this activity requires management, and the activity requires manual restart if it fails before acquiring the data.

Signals, on the other hand, provide a fully asynchronous and durable mechanism for providing data to a running workflow. When a signal is received for a running workflow, Cadence persists the event and the payload in the workflow history. The workflow can then process the signal at any time afterwards without the risk of losing the information. The workflow also has the option to stop execution by blocking on a signal channel.

var signalVal string
signalChan := workflow.GetSignalChannel(ctx, signalName)
s := workflow.NewSelector(ctx)
s.AddReceive(signalChan, func(c workflow.Channel, more bool) {
    c.Receive(ctx, &signalVal)
    workflow.GetLogger(ctx).Info("Received signal!", zap.String("signal", signalName), zap.String("value", signalVal))
if len(signalVal) > 0 && signalVal != "SOME_VALUE" {
    return errors.New("signalVal")

In the example above, the workflow code uses workflow.GetSignalChannel to open a workflow.Channel for the named signal. We then use a workflow.Selector to wait on this channel and process the payload received with the signal.

# SignalWithStart

You may not know if a workflow is running and can accept a signal. The client.SignalWithStartWorkflow (opens new window) API allows you to send a signal to the current workflow instance if one exists or to create a new run and then send the signal. SignalWithStartWorkflow therefore doesn't take a run ID as a parameter.