Five minute Introduction to Cromwell


  • A Unix-based operating system (yes, that includes Mac!)
  • A Java 11 runtime environment
    • You can see what you have by running $ java -version on a terminal.
    • If not, you can download Java here.
    • You might need to update the export JAVA_HOME in your bash profile to point to your JAVA install location.
  • A sense of adventure!


At the end of this five minute introduction you will have:

  • Downloaded Cromwell!
  • Written your first workflow
  • Run it through Cromwell

Step 1: Downloading Cromwell

We host our Cromwell releases on GitHub! You can find the latest version on our Releases page.

  • Look for the latest version at the top of the page, and find the link to download the jar. It'll have a name like cromwell-XY.jar where XY is the version. Download the jar file.
  • WARNING! If you're on a Mac, the security settings might try to stop you from running Cromwell! Don't worry, if this happens just go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General and find the cromwell jar listed on the page. Click Open anyway. The cromwell-XY.jar will now automatically download to your Downloads directory.
  • Put your downloaded Cromwell somewhere you can find it later, like in a Cromwell directory in your home directory.

For example, in a terminal:

cd ~
mkdir cromwell
cp ~/Downloads/cromwell-XY.jar cromwell/
cd cromwell/

(if you're not using a Mac, the final command might be different for you)

Step 2: Writing your first workflow description

This bit is easy, you're just going to copy and paste something from the internet.

Open your favorite editor. Paste in the following content and save it as myWorkflow.wdl in your new cromwell directory:

# Example workflow
# Declare WDL version 1.0 if working in Terra
version 1.0
workflow myWorkflow {
    call myTask

task myTask {
    command <<<
        echo "hello world"
    output {
        String out = read_string(stdout())

Don't worry, you don't need to understand too much about the workflow contents to continue for now. In brief, it tells Cromwell to run a task to run echo "hello world", and then return the output as a String. If you'd like to learn more about how to author WDL, you can find all the WDL resources you could ever want here.

Step 3: Running the workflow

Ok, we have Cromwell, we have a workflow, let's put it all together!

Make sure you're in the cromwell directory with the .jar file and the .wdl file. Now type in:

java -jar cromwell-XY.jar run myWorkflow.wdl

Cromwell will print out a fair old chunk of logging information, which can be configured (once you've completed this tutorial and Configuration Files, you might want to investigate the Logging page)

Ultimately, the workflow should succeed and you'll end up with the following output printed out when Cromwell finishes:

    "myWorkflow.myTask.out": "hello world"

Ok, you can stop your timer! You just installed and ran your first workflow in Cromwell, congratulations!

Next Steps

Pat yourself on the back for completing this tutorial, bravo! Then continue on to one of the follow pages: